Fishing in this region can be tough. We’re a half hour from Reno, under 2 hours from Sacramento and a little over 3 hours from the S.F. bay area. That’s a lot of people less then a days drive away, and we get a lot of good fisherman on the water, whether locals or visitors. We also get a lot of not-so-good fisherman, weekend warriors trying to let off a little steam. Not everyone can be a serious angler type, and I’m kind of glad that most people aren’t. Of all these different fisherman, the vast majority are respectful, nice folks just trying to have fun. Still, amidst the masses there’s a few bad apples. I’ve been running into a lot of evidence of poaching on our rivers. Fish beyond the size limit that have been filleted on the river side so a game warden wont be able to measure them, bait in artificial only zones, barbed lures, hooks and line left in a tangle on the riverside. I clean it up and go about my business, but I get a bit annoyed. With California’s budget cuts, our understaffed game wardens are fighting an uphill battle. If you encounter an act of poaching, put your smartphone to work and take some photos and call – 1 888 DFG-CALTIP (888 334-2258)Don’t confront individuals, situations can escalate quickly.
Here’s a dandy leftover on one of my favorite stretches of river that’s been getting hit pretty hard lately. A triple barbed, baited hook and a tangle of line left on a stick on the bank. This is on a picturesque, barbless, artificial only wild-trout river. This river isn’t stocked, so when people crop fish repeatedly it takes a while for the system to repopulate with adult fish. This stretch is a little off the beaten path, but its pretty much no man’s land regarding trout lately, compared to the other stretches of the river that have people around more regularly. Anyways, to everyone out there, try to keep things clean and legal on the river and do what you can to make up for other peoples choices.
Well, got that out of the system, time for some fun stuff. On that same river, but miles upstream, I got lucky. (not that lucky you dirty-minded people) but I ran into the front end of a drake hatch with a client and we had almost the entire river to ourselves. The drake hatch can be like winning the lotto. You rarely win, when you do its not not a lot, but it’s still a pretty good feeling. When you’re the lucky schmuck that wins big, its amazing. Me and my client had a day like that a week ago and pretty much every fish in the river wanted to smash our size 8 green drake dry fly. And not just the little guys, but some of the biggest fish in the system were smashing it. We probably raised 20-25 fish that day and landed close to half that. It all came about by accident. I had my client drifting a PMD mayfly nymph through a deep run where I knew a few nice rainbows usually like to lie. Halfway through the drift, I see a 20 inch bow, drift up from off the bottom, in slow motion. At the last second he makes a swipe at a bug on the top and misses! I see a big drake bounce and flutter away, narrowly escaping his demise. Me and my client gasp “Did you see that?!” in stereo. We did one more drift with the nymph rig after we knew exactly where in the seam the fish was. No dice. “Ok, screw this I’m putting on a drake” First drift, big bow comes up in slow-mo off the bottom just like before and BAM!! eats it. Client brings up the rod, sticks him and its off to the races. It was a short lived fight though, and the fish spit the hook almost right off the bat. Client had good pressure and a good angle, it just came loose. “That was cool!” Exactly my thought, I don’t care if we land them as much as seeing that big ole head come up and eat a dry fly almost the size of a ping pong ball. That’s the best part. We go down the run and proceed to bang fish everywhere. Behind every rock, there’s a fish looking for that big drake. We land a few, lose a few, take a quick pic or 2 of some of the prettier locals.
We head upstream to another set of runs. We encounter a nice gentleman that wasn’t the biggest entomologist. “Have you seen all those stoneflies buzzing around?! The fish are crazy for them but I can’t get them to eat mine.”
“Those aren’t stoneflies, those are green drake mayflies”
“Mayflies get that big?!”
I give him an extra drake and he very politely lets us fish the run with him. We get another grab, but no hook up, so we head upstream. Before we do, the man in the run said “This fly you gave me isn’t really all that green…”
“Neither are the real ones, at least most of the ones around here aren’t” He gives me a sage like nod, understanding some of the wisdom behind the fly.
We keep on task, head upstream and pull five fish out of the next riffle. One was another huge bow that got off. It went like this for the rest of the day. Probably the best client dry fly day I’ve had in years. In the last pool before the trail back to the car we hook into a nice, kyped out bow pushing 20 inches. Killer.
Now in this pool there’s a small tree that lies part way into the river with an undercut of current blowing past it. I explained to my client, that most trout will feed in the main seams, almost socially until they reach a certain size. Then the biggest, most aggressive of them will start to position themselves in areas they can ambush larger prey. They don’t necessarily hang in the same seams anymore. I tell him to throw the fly, almost suicidally as tight into the tree as he can get it, and tell him not to worry about the fly. First cast is a little far to the side. “Tighter” I say. He throws it all up into the tree, it even lands amidst the wood, but miraculously falls out without hooking it. Streaking out from under the tree at mach 5 came a giant bow, 3-4 inches larger and quite a bit thicker then the fat toady we just released. He gets a solid hook set, pulls him away from the snag like I tell him and keeps fighting him for around 30-40 seconds. Right when we think he’s getting a bit tired and we might get a net under him, he makes another dash to the tree. My new-found friend/client tries to put the breaks on him and the fly pulls out. Doesn’t break off, just pulls out. Oh well, %$#^ happens. We had our fun and headed back to the truck.
Over the course of the next week I take out people trying to capture that same lightning in a bottle. The first day after was pretty good, with maybe 9 or 10 nice fish coming up for dries, the next day, more like 6 or 7 and the last day I went there we had less then that. The hatch isn’t nearly as thick as it was, and the fish are now much wiser and come up and tap our flies with their noses. Also the word has gotten out and the parking lots are starting to pack with people. Oh well, I can look back on that first day, being at the beginning on the hatch, with fish looking for our dries, behind every rock…
Our local Truckee Trout Unlimited chapter is holding a barbeque this weekend at the Boyington Mill campground just past Boca reservoir. Aimed at promoting habitat relief work in the local area, entry is 15 dollars and you get a tri-tip sandwich and drinks. We’re also raffling off a lifetime fishing license, a guide trip(s), and a bunch of other cool prizes. Its a good cause and it should be a blast.