Back to the Basics II

I came from a small, unique town. Everyone I know that grew up in LaHonda had a childhood full of adventures and exploration. Whether riding bikes, motorcycles, horses or just your feet, the hills and gullys had to be explored. In the middle of town is a little pond. It’s called “Reflection Lake” but as kids we all just called it “The Duck Pond.” My brothers and I spent many an afternoon crawling through the bushes and chasing the bass and bluegill at the duck pond. Most of my initial insights into angling came from these excursions. Hard fought lessons earned through blood, from fighting back the relentless brambles and blackberry bushes.

Eventually I grew up and moved away. The bass and little panfish moved to the backburner while I chased new and different species of fish in new and different places. I became a guide and started teaching other people how to catch fish. Many of the lessons I shared,  I had learned on that little pond.

Recently I came off the mountain to give a talk to a Fly Club in Sacramento (The California Fly Fishers Unlimited, great group of folks.) The day after the talk, I stayed in the area to sneak in a little me time. I had just guided the last 8-9 days in a row and wanted to try some fishing, particularly something a little different then the trout I guided daily. One of the members had a brother with a little pond on his property, full of feisty bass and panfish. I broke out a 4weight fiberglass fly rod I had built a few years ago and went to town. Wow that took me back, and was just what the doctor ordered. Stalking around a pond, dropping in little nymphs and teasing the local denizens into striking. The one on one relationship is what it’s all about. Seeing the fish and reading its body language and making it happen.


Chunky little bluegill



To me, a light glass fly rod is the perfect pond rod. That bend was from one of the smaller ‘gills!



This pond had some stout redear sunfish. I’m a fairly tall fellow with above average sized hands, and I could barely get a grip on them.




I’m guessing maybe a redear/green sunfish hybrid




As usual with these little ponds, there was one “mama bass” that was big enough to eat the rest, and it had gotten pretty big, maybe 5-6 pounds feeding on the armies of panfish. The rest of the bass were little fellows, maybe a pound or so, but still fun on light tackle.



After the invigorating return to the fishing ways of my youth, I went into downtown Sacramento to meet some friends for an evening on the American River.  I had never caught a shad before and they were our evenings quarry. As we rowed out, we threw flies for some of the big striped bass that hung out in the river, feeding on the shad. We got a few smaller schoolie fish, but nothing major. I saw some tanks under the boat pushing 4 feet long, but they wanted nothing to do with our flies. Once in the river we casted for the shad and they were quick to respond. They reminded me a lot of the bluegill in the pond from the morning. Not exactly bright, but they fought well for their size, and used their leverage to dig to the side and down, making me need to apply extra force to turn them up to the boat. The big stripers reminded me of the “mama bass” waiting on the outskirts, ready to pick off an unsuspecting fish.


My first shad with Andy Guibord. Andy is one of the true gentlemen of the sport, if you’re looking for a guide in the Sacramento area, Andy is among the best of the best.



Cool looking fish, but they sure are tough to get a grip on



Pulling strong shad up through the currents to the boat




As the afternoon turned to evening, we were treated with a sunset to remember.



A long time friend and former customer from my Truckee River Outfitters fly shop days, John Daniels joined us. Ready with a sharp wit and a few cigars.



Towards the end, Andy and I would trade off, taking turns hooking shad into the night. What an awesome day.



One of my best friends growing up has this little lady in his house now. She’s showing off her dads new license plate. You can’t take the LaHonda out of any of us. To all you LaHonda rats out there, keep exploring. I look forward to hearing about your adventures.




6 thoughts on “Back to the Basics II

  1. Nice trip Dan. I grew up in downtown Sacramento. Fished every inch of the lower American growing up. It was nice to see you having fun with the shad. A smooth social way to fish. Have fun

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