Monday, July 31, 2023

Summer of Bass Continues

July 31, 2023

On Sunday I tentatively planned to fish a local for some easy trout but when forecast called for 100°F my fishing partner backed out.  No worries as I was fishing with Luc the following day.  Forecasts were much better as much of the morning would be overcast.  So we had high hopes for a good day.  After launching we drifted the east side this time and within the first 1000 yards I put my fly, into the tules.  Since it was only only attached to one reed I figured it should have slid off easily but instead my leader broke.  I was fairly pissed as this was the fly I tied the night prior and was all out.  I switched to another popper slightly smaller but the action simply wasn't the same although it was the same design.  It just wouldn't give me an aggressive pop.  So I switched to another same size and body shape but this one was more to my likening.  The wind picked up early and so Luc decided to move us across the lake to the west side to protect us from it.
This seemed to help and Luc would hook into several fish before I managed to get my first.  It must have been the laziest take I've ever witnessed.  It porpoised it in what seemed like slow motion.  I set the hook and it gave a half-hearted fight up until it realized it wanted to play.  Not a big fish at all but healthy.  Every fish has been so this year.  Even the juveniles are fat and muscular.  Luc would end the day with at least 15 blowups half or so landed.   I had 8-10 blowups with 4 to hand.  The last fish form e had some sort of wort on it's tail.  Never seen that but Luc has a few times.  Jet skiers were out in force today with at least 6 boats making their run with more launching when we were leaving. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

In Your Face

July 24, 2023

Another outing with Luc.  This time a bit longer than expected as skiers and wakeboarders didn't show up this time.  Perhaps still dealing with the after effects of the weekend hangover.  The day prior was cool and overcast all day.  It would have been the perfect time to fish.  Sadly none of that weather stayed when we arrived.  Fished from 5am to 9:20am.  Luc was getting bit early but most fish failed to stay on.  We had an angler launch right after us so we didn't have the water all to ourselves.  This would make things a bit difficult as fishing options will now be limited.  It took some time but I finally had my first bite after Luc's half dozen or so.  I would end with 3 or 4 to hand out of half a dozen or so bites.  No fish were terribly remarkable with the biggest of the day maybe a pound and a half.  Most notable fish was the one I managed to launch into the air with my ten weight that hit me in the face.  I think all the big fish have moved out of the shallows and into the depths and since we only fish topwater  they'll most likely be out of our reach for the rest of the summer.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Short Session

 July 12, 2023

It's been a few weeks since I've fished with Luc and since then the heat has arrived.  From now on it's only getting hotter.  June gloom is gone as well so morning cloud cover is almost nonexistent.  That means topwater action will be very limited from now on.  Once that sun peaks over and hits the water our fishing is for the most part finished.  In addition with school out and summer now in full swing skiers and wakeboarders are out in force.  With that in mind quick sessions of only a few hours are now in the cards.  Got a text from Luc if I wanted to join him on Wednesday.  Of course I responded yes.  We fished from 5am-8:30am.  He had fished the day prior and fishing was great up until the sun came out.  Once that happened it was game over.  While launching the boat Luc asked where I wanted to fish.  Refish the area he fished yesterday or go bypass the area and fish further down.  I elected the later for  a couple reasons.  One:  It unfished waters.  Two:  That area was where Justin nabbed three 5lbers.  It took twenty minutes to get there so in retrospect it may have not been the greatest idea as that costs us twenty minutes of precious limited time.  It wouldn't be long before we'd have some strikes and the then some hook ups.  Any fished that did get hooked spit the hook out after the first jump.  I ended up with only one.  A small one.  Missing or losing six.  Luc surprisingly went zero for eight.  Not sure why the poor hook up rate.  Wakeboarders were already out by 6:50am.  Skiers showed up not long afterwards.  Fishing days will Luc will now be very short ones from now on.

Friday, July 7, 2023

Local Mountain Recon

July 5, 2023

All year I've been waiting patiently to fish for some wild trout.  All rivers have been blown out from the fallout of our incredible winter.  With most if not all the snow finally off our local mountains it was time to take a look on how they've been doing.  Water levels still high but manageable but I'd recommend only confident and strong waders go out now.  I'd say in about a month it should be accessible to all abilities.  All water crossings have been roped so at least you have  a guideline to aid you if you need it.  Ed and I didn't really need them.  
I haven't fished with Ed in years.  I don't even recall when the last time was but when he told me he was free this week I told him let's head out.  Having wanted to check out our locals I suggested one with rather easy access.  The plan was to meet at 8:15am at a nearby shopping center and caravan up the mountain.  I wanted to stay out all day and go in as deep as possible but that plan changed when I was told I'd need to be with my father at 3:30.  So I needed to scratch that plan.  We decided to meet an hour earlier so we could get just that much more fishing in.  I thought given it was the day after Independence Day it would have been relatively quiet.  Boy was I wrong.  The road into the mountain was a shitshow.  Holiday campers were still there.  With their mess.  By the time we reached the trailhead parking lot it was 3/4ths full.  While at the parking lot putting on my wading boots, Ed tells me he might start off with nymphs and I just stared at him at shook my head in disgust.  Then he pulls out a tenkara rod and places it in his backpack.  Then I shook my head and put my head down in shame.  Ed's lucky he can easily kick my ass otherwise he wouldn't have heard the end of it.  At least he had the good sense while we were fishing together to only fish dry flies.  When we got split up then he switched up to less "desirable" methods of fishing.  It was a hot one and it was good to finally feel the cold water on my legs.  I love this time of year.  Wet wading casting dries is probably my favorite way to fish.  Water is still fast and glacial looking with a turquoise hue.  Fish are there and I must have had at least 40 rises with maybe 10 of those that came to hand.  None were local trophies unfortunately but the fish that were caught were all fat bellied and healthy.  So they are on their way to becoming future local "lunkers." 
We started our way back around noon fishing on our way out.  When we reached the parking lot a high school kid comes up to Ed and asks for help.  He and his buddies left their key in their car and asked when we come off the mountain if we could call AAA for them.  We offered to take them into town but they thought that this was the best plan so we obliged.  While we were packing up he came back to our car and told us not to bother as they didn't want to wait anymore and decided to break open a window with a stick or rock.  I told him I had a better tool to do that.  I keep a Resqme tool in all my vehicles for emergency situations where I may get stuck in my car such as flipping my truck.  After a tutorial  he started making his way back to his car.  Half way there I shout to him to hold on.  I wanted to see this tool in action.  I've never had a chance to use it so I wanted to see if it really does what it claims.  So after deciding which window to break he put the device on the glass and pressed it, shattering the glass safely.  From there they got into their car to get their keys. 

Friday, June 30, 2023

Barret Lake Rented Out All For Ourselves- A Bit Diappointing

 June 23, 2023

Barrett Lake is typically only open Wednesday (not all Wednesdays though) and weekends from May through September.  On Wednesday June 21st I see a Facebook post from a friend if anyone wants to fish Barrett Lake on Friday.  His casting club had rented the lake out and now it's open to nonmembers.  I hadn't fished this lake since Sept of 2014, quitting after that because of a multiple reasons: drought, low number counts, fish die offs, and the complexity of getting to fish here.  Given my nearly decade long absence and with the all the water we received this winter I was intrigued to see how the old place was fishing.  So I called my fishing partner to see if he might be interested but stated I only will go if we can find a battery for my trolling motor.  Mine has been sitting idle for the past nine years and likely dead; I was not about to spend money to buy a new one.  After a few calls he said his friend had one we could use.  So we were in and place our reservation online for $100 for the boat and an additional $45/angler.  

By Thursday I get a text stating he can't get the battery in time as his buddy is in Lancaster all day and will not be home until late.  So I go through the Rolodex to see who I could possibly ask.  Then I see Roy's number. He's got to have one if not we could pull it from his boat.  I call him and he says his boats are docked in Cerritos but he's got a spare in the garage.  He puts it in the charger and tells to come over and pick it up whenever.  I run some errands and go to his house a couple hours later to pick it up.  Go home put it in my charger and prep for the next day.  I soon realize that Barrett is barbless only and they are militant about it.  I had already placed a bunch of boxes in my tackle bag so I go through them to see how many have been debarbed.  Maybe 50/50.  I decided to start taking flies I know I want to fish out and putting them into a separate box.  I know while fishing I'll forget to check and end up fishing a barbed hook.  Last thing I need is a $500 fine.  In addition most of my bass flies are tied on Gamakatsu B10S hooks and they don't debarb by crimping.  The barb breaks and leaves a burr so they must be filed.  I spent the next hour or so dremeling all the flies I planned on fishing.  After dinner I look on the battery to see how its charging, I notice that it is missing a wingnut on the positive terminal. I remove the wingnut on my old battery and see if it fits.  It does not.  So I remove the remaining wingnut on Roy's battery and go to Home Depot.  I'm home in about half an hour and test the fitting.  It doesn't fit.  WHAT?!  I test both wingnuts, new and old.  Neither fit but both fit in the negative terminal.  The positive is larger.  I'm pissed.  Not wanting to go back to HD I start calling neighbors to see if they have a spare but none do.  After several calls I give up and head back to the store battery in hand this time.  I didn't want to do this as it costs me about of half an hour of charge time on a battery that needs very bit of time on the charger.  I get the right size rush home put the battery back on the charger.  I prep my lunch for the next day and finishing loading the truck.  I head to bed at midnight with the expectation Chul will be arriving at my house at 3:15am.

At 3am I get a text saying he's running late.  This irritates me somewhat as Barret has specific entry requirements as the road goes through private property.  Lake staff open the gate at specific times and escort you into the lake.  If you miss the specific train in you must wait until the next one usually an hour later.  Not sure if this is still the case but it used to be this way and since I've not been here in so long I have no clue.  I just wanted to make sure we aren't waiting around an hour just because we were five minutes late.  I planned some wiggle room in our time frame for such issues but not much.  The other issue is I've completely forgotten how to get there, I checked my iphone and it gave me an alternative route than I used to take, supposedly shorter and quicker.  I know from reading past threads that certain gps will lead you astray.  I didn't save the thread so I don't recall which ones do that or if that bug was resolved.  This was another reason why I gave ourselves more latitude in time in case we got lost.  These concerns though proved unwarranted as we make the gate in time.  Much of the club were already lined up waiting.  I checked in with the club lead and then spoke with Steve.  The club had rented the place from 6am-3pm.  Start time is an hour later than on normal working hours.  Which meant the very little topwater time will be even less.  Forecast called for a sunny day so we maybe only had at best an hour of popper fishing.
Luckily the staff let us in at around 5:30am.  I parked the truck and began offloading.  Chul was ready and I told him to start loading the boat but make sure to pick a boat that starts up easily since we basically have the pick of the litter.  Only three or four other anglers rented boats.  The rest were on float tubes or kayaks.  Only 14 anglers showed up for the day.  The marina staff let him know that any boat with a Yamaha motor is good and will start up fine.  Recently I purchased a mobile fish finder and the suction wouldn't stay on.  One trick I learned from my old man back in the day is to put Vasoline over the suction.  It prevents air and water from breaking the suction.  Problem is I totally forgot it on my desk.  I was pissed.  The suction simply wouldn't hold.  I decided to deal with it later and it was time to get going.  So I ripped the cord on the motor and buckled over in pain.  For the past year I've had a shoulder injury (on both shoulders).  For a long time I wasn't able to lift my should past a certain height.  Up until this week it started to feel a lot better.  Good enough to start a very light weight lifting regime.  Now I just reaggravated it.  I was in so much pain I jumped out of the boat onto the dock and leaned over the storage box that contains the life jackets. I told Chul he'd need to start the motors now.  I was worried that I couldn't cast for the day.  I began messaging my shoulder and the pain slowly dissipated.   I got on the motor and went to my usual starting spot for poppers.  By this time it was about 6am, not much time left before the sun will be shining on most if not all of the lake. 
We fished for just under an hour and I managed my first fish on a popper.  I was using a SW crystal popper 2/0 body on a 3/0 hook.  It's been my go to this year.   Finally I was able to get my first fish on my new set up- TFO BC Big Game 10 weight rod and TFO NTR reel.  When the sun was cresting above the mountains I manage another one much smaller that came loose.   Once we made our way into the Hauser arm I switched to my nine weight and an intermediate line and a spinnerbait fly but with no success.  Eventually I moved to my Scott seven weight paired with a full fast full sink line and a Iwai Minnow.  With this set up I felt a bump and set the hook.  It was a bluegill that I hooked in the head.  By this time Chul switched flies to imitate a bluegill.  Few moments later he was on a nice bass that he lost at the boat.  I then switched back to my 10 weight and changed out the reel to my other NTR lined with a sinking line.  With that set up I tied an EP bluegill fly.  It wouldn't be long before I would be on my next bass.  By around 10 am the winds began to be problematic.  By this time the trolling motor died. 
I would end up with around 10 fish for the day.  My shoulder would act up throughout the day and around midday because he hadn't landed a fish yet I spent most the next few hours trying to get him his first landed fish.  I would have to maneuver the boat with the main motor now the trolling motor was useless. By around noon in a protected cove bass began exploding on damselflies.  Of course neither of us had any damsel dries with us anyways.   So we tied on some unweighted wooly buggers to see if we could entice them.  It didn't work.  All my old spots were not producing. The lake is at 90% capacity last I checked.  I've fished it this full in the past at this capacity and still had memorable days.  This time it was much harder.  Chul would eventually get his landed fish around 2pm.  He went one for three or four for the day.  We'd quit just before three and headed home.  Around the lake fried egg poppies were in full bloom which was quite pretty to see.  On our way home we'd stop at Dana Point at Jon's Fish Market for fish "n" chips and clam chowder.  I haven't been here in ages while still good it wasn't as good a s I remember it.  It was a long day and I'd be home around 7pm where I'd shower and hit the pillow for the night.  Given we essentially had the lake all to ourselves I was extremely disappointed how poorly it fished.  Not sure why.  It's making me want revenge on the place but I doubt that will happen this year.  The hassle of the reservation system and the long hot days in the coming months will likely prevent a return but we'll see.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Was It A Fluke?

 June 12, 2023

After my last trip Luc went out again with Justin and had him fish the fly I gave Luc.  The night before I looked through my inventory and I told Luc I only had two of those popper bodies left.  I get a text that afternoon and Luc tells me if I ever want to fish with him again I'll need to bring at least half a dozen of those with me.  Justin apparently managed 3 five pounders with that fly that day.  Marriott's didn't have any of those foam bodies in stock but did have the hard body versions.  I picked those up but also placed an order online for some soft bodies as well.
I tied the last soft bodies I had and a couple of the new hard foam ones as well.  I ran out of mylar tubing so I'd have to wait until my order came to tie anymore but I had enough for the day.  The morning started out with a bang.  I already had four blowups within the first 10 minutes.  Missed the first three but connected with fourth with a four pounder.  Four minutes later I had another blowup.  After that Luc started to get in the actions. 
Early in the outing Luc commented that he liked these flies since the seem to rarely go unbuttoned.  I tended to agree as on the last outing I had a hard time removing the flies from the bass.  On several occasions I had to use pliers to get it out.  Not sure if Luc's comment put the jinx on me as several good fish of mine would become unglued after he mentioned that.  Not sure if it was the jinx or if it was because I had dremeled the barb off the hook this time to aid in a quicker and safer releases.  After the first two hours the fishing slowed down a bit but we'd get fish here and there.  I rewatched the GoPro footage I shot for the day and I counted 19 blowups before my batteries died and that was before we crossed the lake to fish the other side while making our way back to the launch ramp.
Between the two of us we'd get another half dozen or so and that was with Luc sitting most of that fishing session out to rest some nagging injuries.  It was one of the best outings we'd had in a long time.  Fish were upwards of four pounds.  All quality.  All hard fighting.  On the way home took to a new burger joint to try it out.  Wasn't bad. 

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Old is Now New

June 7, 2023

Sometimes we get so caught up into the new thing, we often forget the old is often the best choice.  The last few outings I've been experimenting with various flies.  This had resulted in some mixed bag of results even when my partner Luc was doing fantastic.  Being sick of not doing well I decided to forgo experimentation and go back to fishing  proven patterns.  With that in mind I decided to to tie an old bass patterns that did me so well 20 years ago.  I'm not sure why I quit tying them but I did.  Most likely because they were so simple.  Back in the day I tied them without weedguards so I made a few with them for added protection.  Also the old flies were epoxy coated and they've yellowed over time.  Still fishable but ugly so I wanted a fresh batch.
While rigging my fly set up the night before I thought of starting with the CJ Freaky Frog, the fly I landed my hog on the last trip, but decided against it and try old faithful.  On the ride to the lake Luc told me on his last outing he caught a few bass that spit up shad in the 5 inch range.  Since my fly was within this range I thought I made a good choice.  It proved to be the right choice.  Within 25 minutes from when we launched I was on my first bass of the day.  It took so delicately and didn't fight much I thought it a small fish but once landed proved to be much bigger that we initially thought.  A few casts later I was on another fish that took explosively and fought much harder for its size.  The rest of the day takes and fights would be more like this.  I would get fish after fish for the first hour or so. When I tied this fly I rushed it and forgot to super glue the body to the hook and only the mylar tubing was holding it to the hook.  I forwent the epoxy but put a small bead of UV resin around the eyes and base of the fly.  After each fly I have to readjust the popper body back into place.  It was some apparent the fly wouldn't likely last the day.  In one cove I hooked up on one that felt heavier than the previous four or five and after a brief fight the hook flew back at me without the popper body.  I had only tied two flies for this trip and by this time Luc was fishing the other (this one glued properly).  He gave me his fly because he wanted to try something else.  Fishing slowed when the wakeboarders came out and started to create waves.  Manged to get at least a dozen blowups landing at least half of those with fish ranging from 2lbs to pushing 4lb.  Luc went one for three.  Losing two very good sized ones from bass breaking off on structure and the other on jagged boulders.  We had a short session less than four hours.  I was beyond satisfied and since my shoulder was acting up I didn't mind calling it early.   I left the fly for Luc to use on his next outing and promised to tie more for the next time.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Top Water Bass on the Fly Personal Best

May 24, 2023

My past few outings I've been testing new flies.  Some work.  Some are fails.  I decided to test one more but I planned to switch early if I wasn't feeling it or if Luc hooked up before me.  After a few casts, when Luc landed the first fish, a two pounder,  I gave up and put on a CJ's Freaky Frog I tied the night prior.  I have several of these in my box but I tied this one specifically for this day.  It took me over an hour to tie it.  Not because it is particularly difficult to tie but because I could not find my rubber legs. Late last year I rearranged all my tying material into a more "organized" boxes.  Having not tied much in the past few months I've forgotten where some of the materials are despite labeling the boxes.  It took me forever to find those damn legs but I did.  Like I said I have plenty of freaky frogs in my box but none have weedguards so I tied one with it.  I knew I would need it on this outing.  I only had time to tie one so I better not lose it on the first cast.  It was still alittle too dark when we started but just as it began to brighten up I was on a fish.  It was big.  At first by the bend of my rod Luc thought it might be a catfish as it refused to come up and just dug down.  I managed to get him to surface and he saw it wasn't a catfish but a lunker bass.  With help form Luc we landed the pig and weighted it with the digital scale.  6lbs 11 oz my personal best on topwater beating out my previous 5lbs best. 
Shad were spawning and splashed around banks with occasional chase from bass.  That stopped after an hour or so of light.  The rest of the day we'd get strikes here and there.  Missing more than landing.  Did end up with a fish in the 3.5-3.75lbs range.  On the previous day Luc and his partner for the day had over a dozen blow ups by very few connections.  We fished the lily pads and it was there I finally lost my fly despite the weedguard.  Once the sun was out it was tough fishing adn we quit around 10am. 

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Canyon Lake Sloooooowdown

May 17, 2023

Got another shot at Canyon again with Luc. I was excited to see what was going to happen this time as the fishing has been excellent. Unfortunately this day was slow. Not sure why. The day before it was slow for Luc and he wasn't too motivated to go out fishing in this day. We had action early. Luc's came off at the boat. I had a blow up but the fish didn't hook. I was fishing my new popper with a swimbait hook so if the bass doesn't gulp the fly it won't hook up. That would be the story of the day for me. Two more blow ups and none hooked. Luc had at least a dozen blowups and two or three to hand. All takes are early morning. Once the sun hits the water its all but over even in the shady parts. No other anglers on the water the day before and only one angler later in the morning. Do they know something we don't? We spoke with that conventional angler and he only had 5 and he's a good angler who is also fishing jigs where we are only fishing topwater. He should have done alot better.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Location X with Luc

May 10, 2023

Luc fished Location X yesterday with his brother and did very well so he invited me over to try it.  Launching here in darkness is a bit sketchy especially if you are unfamiliar with the ramp.  There is little room for error and if you do screw up you'll be thrashing the boat onto jagged boulders.  But after a couple attempts we got the boat on the water.   It's nice fishing natural structure again.  Casts though need to be accurate and flies definitely need weedguards.
Luc did well again and had at least a dozen blowups with a 3.5 pound bass in the mix.  It took me several hours and toward the end of the day for me to finally get on some fish.  I was still trying out new flies and all of which failed to provoke.  I switched to one of Luc's poppers and then and only then did I get into some action.  First largemouth was small maybe a pound.  The second was much more respectable but still hardly impressive. All in all a fun place to fish and a welcome change.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Scouting Raging River

 May 7, 2023

Initially we planned to fish Dixon Lake but we had a change of heart since the weather moved toward the cold side.  So we decided to do some local mountain scouting to see if the water is fishable yet. Not surprisingly the water was still raging.  I think its going to be sometime before we wet our feet and catch some local trout.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Snow's Off the Mountains

April 28, 2023

Chul had planned to drive in the morning but since he had a flat that he could not repair in time I drove.  Not planning on that I didn't realize I was nearly out of gas in the morning which meant I would have to divert to the gas station causing me to be 20 minutes behind schedule.  So I picked him up and went to our new breakfast spot for burritos.  We were on the lake by 10am.  Chul spotted a nice 3lber from the trail along the shoreline.  He stayed there while I made myself around the lake until I could start spotting them myself.  None were big.   I started with a micro jerkhanger but soon realized that even though it was turning fish, it didn't resemble any forage in the lake.  So I switched to an olive balanced leech and managed two until I came to the conclusion that the fly was sinking too fast.   I would get the fishes attention, turn them but once they came to inspect it I was already on the bottom before the fish committed.  The fly would annoyingly pick up moss.  Looking though my box, I switched to an unweighted olive damsel nymph.
Now that the fly would suspend longer in the water column I plucked out five or six more.  All bass were dinks none especially impressive but I was expecting that in this lake and that is why I chose to bring my five weight.  Chul made is way toward me and told me he hadn't gotten any so I gave him a damsel fly and he manged to get three before calling it a day.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

It's Finally Popper Season!

April 25, 2023

Morning water temps have reached 71°F so it's finally time to cast topwater.  It's about time.  Fishing sinking lines can be such a slog.  Now that the warm weather has arrived Luc has been killing it and he finally gave me the call up to the Bigs.  I was at his house by 5:30am.  After launching from the Main Lake we headed toward to the East side.  With popper season among us I wanted to test a few concept flies.  I would start with a variation of my Rattletail tied on a Ahrex swimbait hook to make it weedless.  I used to tie all my bass flies with a mono weed guard but ever since my buddy Webb pooh-poohed it, as it hinders hook ups, I never tied with one again.  Not until I met Luc who encourages the use of one at his lake.  The thing is since I've developed the memory of tying without them I always forget to add one until I'm just about to finish the fly.  Basically when its too late to add it.  I figured if I use a hook that is already weedless I wouldn't have to remember the mono.
It wouldn't be long, maybe a handful of casts until the fly proved its worth.  I was the first to hook up with Luc following suit soon afterwards.  He'd continue throughout the day getting several more and several misses.  Not until later on in the day would I be able to get another fish.  Luc seemed to have the magic touch this day; he could do no wrong.  He even accidentally caught a fish on his popper while "trolling" to the next spot.  This happened when he simple gave up on a spot quit fishing an kept his fly in the water and while we moved around a dock he had a fish explode on it.  Not sure why I didn't do as well as him but I was testing several new flies.  That could have been it or perhaps it was the fact that he was fishing 15lb while I was fishing 20lb.  Although I've never felt these fish were particularly leader shy but who knows.  Some days you're on some days you're not.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Return to Brownlining. Still hate it.

 April 15, 2023

When I got back from Taiwan I had a conversation about the crazy winter we had in California.  I missed almost all of it being in Asia at the time but Joel told me it sucked.  He was stuck home all winter and couldn't do anything.  Then for one brief period it cleared up and was sunny.  His entire street was outside in their front yards and enjoying the sun.  He told me, it was just like his days growing up in Pennsylvania, when once the weather broke the entire town would get outside.     I sympathize with those who live in areas that are snowed in all winter.  It must be so boring. Cabin fever is a thing.  That said we wanted to fish but with snow melt and cold condition fisheries were simply not productive. 

Desperate times calls for desperate measures. We decided to check out some local brown water for carp.  I've done my fair share of this and if you've read the early posts of this blog you'll know I've spent a lot of time urban carpin'.  Quite frankly I grew out of that stage and really came to dislike this style of fishing.  I haven't done in in over a decade.Given this was really the only option we decided to check out how the local urban river was doing.  We spotted a few but not as many as we'd hoped.  We only made a few casts and realized it was not worth anymore effort.  There simply was too much material in the water for a decent drift and without waders we couldn't get a proper angle or drift on them  Water visibility also made it near impossible so we gave up rather quickly.  The outing only proved once again why I stopped doing this type of fishing.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Scouting the Alpines

April 7, 2023

Fishing options are extremely limited due to the crazy winter.  Trout is out of the question so we decided to take a look at a high elevation lake for some bass.  With snow still on the mountains, we hiked to the lake.  The lake is quite full.  In fact I never seen it with this much water.  Bass were sunning themselves.  None were on beds though.  Still too cold for that.
Dead juvenile bass were everywhere.  I saw at least five or six.  Alive ones were lethargic and unwilling to eat.  We didn't spend too much time here as this was more exploratory than anything else.  Casted a few flies but these fish were unmotivated to do anything.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Long Time No See

April 4, 2023

All summer my buddy Luc would text me if I wanted to stop by the lake and fish.  I couldn't and after a while and multiple declines I told him I hate declining so much and it would be best and wait for me to ask.  Unfortunately I never had the chance and soon the year passed.  After my return from Taiwan I was getting cabin fever and wanted to fish.  I texted Luc and we made plans.  Still with the haze of jetlag I didn't realize the date we chose a family member's birthday so I had to cancel.  With rain in the forecast and a full calendar I couldn't get back to the lake until much later.
Once the weather stabilized we set the date.  By 7am I was at Luc's home and we set off to launch the boat.  Popper season has yet to commence.  We needed the water temps to increase a few more degrees.  Probably a couple more weeks.  So that meant full sinking lines until then.  I've had a few experimental flies I wanted to try out and this was the time to give them a shot.  Unfortunately none seemed to produce.  So I switched to one of Luc's EP shad flies after he managed a few.  All in all he ended the day with at least nine.  I did manage one at the end of the day.  Takes were super subtle.  As Luc described it it feels as if you finger flick your line.  Barely fishing last year, I'm completely out of practice and have lost the "feel."  Reaction times are slow and my casts are poor; I'm completely out of my groove.  Need to change that.


Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Taiwanese Mahseer Part II: Trophy Hunting

March 11, 2023

When I arrived in Taiwan in January, I contacted my friend Danny to see if he was available to fish.  He was preparing for a trip to New Zealand and wouldn't be available until the later part of my trip in Taiwan.  When he came back we set up a time to fish.  With my last trip with Cash a bust due to the cold weather, I was hoping for better weather and a better outing.  Days prior to our planned trip, we checked the weather and the forecasts called for rain but luckily as the date approached the front seemed to move and it looked as if we may get an ideal day.

On March 11, the plan was to meet Danny and his friend Jarro at the Haishan Station at 6:30am and from there we would drive the two hours east on the Pacific side of the island.   I woke up at 5am and got out of the house to make the 6:03am train.  I arrived at the Haishan by 6:27am and met Danny at Exit One.  After some pleasantries we walked to met Jarro at his car parked just outside the station.  Whenever I go abroad to fish with someone I bring a small gift.  For the Donny, Cash and Danny I gave them each a mini game changer kit and body wrap.  I didn't have anymore since I didn't intend on fishing with anyone else.  Luckily I brought a Simms hat (still with tags) with me and decided to give that to Jarro.  It seemed to work out as he was stoked about it since he was going to buy a new cap anyways.  

One the long drive we'd talk fishing of course and about Danny's NZ trip.  And when we reached Nan'ao we'd stop for breakfast at a local stand for the local take on the danbing which is an egg omelette pancake.  The difference here is its made with rice flour that gives a chewy texture to the batter.  To wash it down sweetened soymilk.  These are staple Taiwanese breakfast items.  After the meal we headed off back to car but not before Jarro picked up some fantuan (Taiwanese rice balls) to pack for lunch.  

We drove into the mountains.  We'd fish the same location I fished with Cash but this time we'd head further up the mountain.  The plan was for Jarro to drop us off a kilometer ahead of where he planned to park.  From there Danny and I will fish together while Jarro would be behind us and far enough that any fish we disturbed would have plenty of time to reset when he finally reach them.  And eventually since he could move faster as a solo angler he'd eventually meet up with us.  Once we hooked back up at the predetermined destination we'd get off the trail and onto the road and hike the hour or so back to the car.

Weather was warm and sunny, much better on this day than when I came with Cash.  In fact it was consistently warm and sunny for the few days prior.  So I hope high hopes things should be good.  When Danny and I reached the water I only made a few casts before I got my first rise.  Unfortunately I was unable to connect.  Despite missing the fish, the early rise gave us hope and Danny said it should be a good day if we are already getting a response.  Water temps were 20°C (60°F) in the morning.  According to Danny it needed to be warmer than that for lights out fishing.  I was fishing a black beetle size 12 that Jarro gave me on a 3x leader.  This combo is the most productive for mahseer in Taiwan.  I would eventually connect early with a fish in the 12 inch range.  I didn't even bother taking a picture as I've caught several of those before in past trips.  Danny's goal was to guide me on a fish in 50cm range (20 inch).  Throughout the morning I would miss several more fish including ones in the 40 and 50cm range.  I was getting frustrated.  I was having a hard time seeing my fly and so I was slow whenever the fish took.   Danny would call it out and even then I was slow to set the hook.  Most Taiwanese fly tyers I've notice do not add any indicator on their beetle flies.  Jarro's was the same.  Personally I don't know why they don't.  The fish is unlikely to see it and it makes the fly so much more visible.  I tie mine with a white calf tail wing for that purpose.  I didn't bring too many as I thought most of any fishing I'd be doing would most likely be subsurface as I was there late winter, early spring.  Not that it mattered anyways as I fished Jarro's fly the whole time.
Fishing wasn't as red hot as Danny had anticipated but it was good.  Danny is known for 100 fish days but on this day it was only a fraction of that.  According to both Cash and Danny water levels are extremely low compared to previous years.  This obviously had an effect on the fishing.  As the day got warmer so did the fishing.  We'd catch fish here and there.  Danny was waiting for it to really turn on but unfortunately it never really did.  There were enough fish here and there to make things interesting though.  We took a break around noon for a stream side lunch of fan tuan (a Taiwanese rice ball)  in the hopes the sun would warm up the water a bit more.
After lunch we came across a pair of conventional anglers, a father and son duo that were fishing for another species.  We hiked past them and starting fishing.  When they came across us again they warned us that above on the cliff of the far bank in the trees was a nest of Asian Giant Hornets.  As it was late winter early spring the colony was dormant.  These little rascals are not to be reckoning with.  I commented to Danny that I've never seen one.  His response was " YOU NEVER WANT TO MEET ONE!"  These vicious little things with mark you with a pheromone and colony will attack you and chase you for miles.  Once disturbed thy will indiscriminately attack anyone in their way.  Given the boulders and the tough terrain you wouldn't be able to out run them here.  Danny told me he was chased once and had to dive in the water and hide head to toe swimming away from them.
Eventually we would reach a spot where Danny usually starts his fishing adventures.  There was a big hole that he told me to take and told me there should be some big fish in there.  I casted into a pool were I thought they'd be and sure enough I managed a fish under 40cm. 
Fishing for Taiwan Mahseer is quite different than for fishing for trout.  Your mentality needs to change.  Spots that you are inclined to fish as a trout hunter is completely opposite when trying to catch a mahseer.  Slow dead water are your target particularly behind rocks or boulders.  Unlike fishing for rainbows swift currents or foam lines rarely produce.  It's best to take the mentality as if your fishing for cutthroats or big browns. These fish tend to like the lazier areas. 
Eventually Jarro caught up with us and let us know how he did.  Jarro, like Danny, is capable of 100 fish days but that would not be the case on this day.  Although he did do better than us.  Danny hypothesized that when he reached the early waters we fished the water temps were beginning to increase getting the fish more active.
Danny was still on the quest of getting me on a 50cm mahseer.  I had a few opportunites up until now but had failed to connect on those occasions.  It was getting late in the day and in a big slow pool on the far bank over a rather swift rapid, I launched my fly in that directions.  An explosion erupted almost immediately and I was on.  Danny screaming 50! 50! He finally guided me on the trophy.  In a rather precarious spot with little room to room and rapid at our feet I fought the fish trying to get him to avoid the rapids as best I could.  Danny grabbed the net off my pack and we waited for the fish to tire so that Danny could land the thing.
After landing the fish we fished a few more holes before it was time to start our hour long hike back to the car.  First we needed to get out of the canyon, bushwhacking through the jungle up the steep side of the mountain.  We'd get onto the road above an make the long walk back. 

Since my first fishing outing this trip I knew my boots were on borrowed time.  I've kept a pair of Korkers in a family residence since 2018.  I knew I would not want to lug wading boots every time I came here to visit. But since 2019 due to the worldwide lockdowns I was unable to return during those four years my boots have been in a closet in a home that is uninhabited and so it had degraded in the humid conditions.  From day on arriving I knew the glue keeping theses boots together was starting to delaminate.  It had always been on my mind every outing.  By this my third outing I knew I may be pushing my luck.  I keep a roll of gorilla tape on my pack and before fishing I taped the boot together.  This was only a stop gap but I hoped it would hold enough for the day.  As expected after constantly being in the water it began to fail.  I would redress the tape every so often until I ran out.  Keeping elastic shock cord in my pack as well, I wrapped that around my feet too.  This in combination with the tape seemed to work out well enough.  I had to made some readjustments every so often but it got me off the mountain that day. 
We logged about seven tough miles for the day and when we got into town we headed to a local seafood restaurant for various dishes.  Most interesting was something I never had, pufferfish fried then spiced.  Its a tasty fish but a very boney which probably wouldn't please too many westerners.  With the boot now done for, this would be my last fishing outing on this Taiwan trip.  My desire to catch a snakehead and an Indo-Pacific tarpon went unrealized.  I guess that will have to wait until next time to try cross those species off my list.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Taiwanese Masheer Part I: Not Today

March 3, 2023

I was supposed to meet my friend Cash to fish the eastern part of Taiwan on February 9th but I got a text that morning saying not to forget my waders and rain jacket.  After a few texts it was concluded that it would be best to postpone the trip until the weather improves.

We wouldn't be able to get together until a month later and we fished March 3rd.  While conditions were slightly better it still was not ideal.  At least there was no rain but it was cloudy and cold.  I took the Express bus out of Taipei and met Cash in his hometown of Luodong.  We would fish for mahseer in the mountains and on the way back we'd head into the city to try for tarpon.

Fishing was poor and Cash managed two mahseer and while I got a couple rises I missed all my opportunities.  We tried dry flies the whole time but in retrospect conditions really called for fishing subsurface.  After a couple hours of surface fishing I decided that was the proper course of action was to go deep, I dug through my backpack only to realize left my streamer box in Cash's car.  After fishing most of the day we left and returned back to the city to attempt to land a Indo-Pacific Tarpon.  We'd fish a river located within the city for about an hour but my heart wasn't really into it as I felt rushed as I got a phone call earlier that day stating I needed to be home by 6pm for my father's doctor's appointment.  While we timed our fishing adventure to coincide with bus schedule to allow me to make that appointment. It made me feel pressured and I simply couldn't get in the zone.  We left after about an hour and I was on the bus home to make it on time.

To Be Continued...

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Barbel Steed In Taiwan

February 13, 2023

After a month in Taiwan I was able to finally go out and fish with my friend Donny Wang.   Donny was one of the first fly anglers I befriended in Taiwan and he's been kind enough to take out several times.  On this trip I wanted cross off a couple new species off my list.  For a long time, after discovering them  I wanted to catch a barbel. In Japan they are referred to as nigoi.  When I learned about them I emailed my friend Koji to ask about fishing for them.  He responded in Japan you can't really target them and catches are more of a chance encounter.  So when I learned that Taiwan had a healthy population of them and were regularly caught and targeted on a the fly I asked Donny if he could take me out.  He gladly responded in the affirmative and we set a time and date.  From there he'd take me on his scooter down the road to fish.
The date was set for February 13 and I would met him in the southern part of Taipei.  He couldn't pick me up since his car was being used by his son.  That meant that I would need to get a taxi to get down there.  The problem was hailing a taxi at 5:40am would not be easy.  So the night before I tried contacting the taxi company to schedule an early pick up.  After three attempts and being put on hold and then disconnected I gave up.  I then downloaded the taxi companies app and would try to use it the next morning.  When morning came the first attempt at the app was fail as the hailed cab ended up having engine problems and told me to rehail another cab.  That one worked fine and in no time a cab was in front of the building.  After a 20 minute drive I met Donny at 7-11.  The cab fare was a $240NTD roughly $8USD.
Donny took me on his scooter down the road and we parked and off loaded our gear to make our walk down to the river.  Once there we wadered up, rigged our lines with dry flies and made our way down to his favorite fishing point.  Once there we began fishing.  I was told to fish the slow edges and not to bother with the faster current.  We stood far from the banks made our casts into the water.  Donny was the first to be on with a Barbel.
The night before Donny recommended a three or four weight for these fish.  I had both rods with me in Taiwan,  a nine foot four weight that I keep in country and 7'9" three weight I brought in case I was able to fly over to Japan and fish for yamame.  But since he mentioned that we could possibly run into carp I opted to fish my 5 weight. Tilapia and barbels would be most of the fish we'd run into.  While I've only tried for Tilapia once here stateside at Mission Viejo Lake, it was a half-hearted attempt and I failed to get one.  My first fish of the day was a tilapia, a fish smuggled into the country from Singapore back in 1946.   This was my first tilapia I've ever landed but not the first I caught.  On one of my previous trips to Taiwan I managed to catch a large fat platter sized tilapia and got it to my feet before it popped off.  This time I'd actually land a few but none as big as the one I lost.
I would manage several more before I could actually get a barbel to bite.  Initially I'd either lost or broke off on every barbel I'd hook.  It took several attempts to finally land my first but not before adding new tippet to my leader.   I'm not quite sure why I kept breaking off.  I think the leader I was using was past due.  I was about to change the leader completely when Donny  told me not to and he just added some new tippet.  It seemed to hold from then on out and didn't have a break off from then on out.   Barbel  typically were slightly further from shore than the tilapia.  So you'd have to cast past the tilapia to reach our desired target.  We stood far off the banks and the drifting angle would often times drift into the tilapia zones.  After some adjusting I'd start landing some barbels.
These are a weird fish.  First they're spooky but not at the same time.  Donny said not to let them see you as they wouldn't bite if they did but at the same time you could line them and they wouldn't care.  On several occasions the fly would stab the body and they didn't seem to care.  Of course I wasn't doing this intentionally but they were podded up so densely it was almost impossible not to.    These barbels look like a freshwater bonefish but they are far from bonefish at least from a gamefish standpoint.  They have very little fight in them  They will give a very weak initial run and then quit.  They just become dead weight afterwards.  I landed my first and after taking pics I let him go.  It swam two feet from me and just stood still.  Perplexed I tried to scare him off but he wasn't moving.  I'd never seen such a thing.  I soon realized that the fish was still hooked as I didn't remove the fly and I was standing on the the leader.  I dragged him back and released him properly.  After a while fishing the slow edges of the current I  started seeing fish rise in the swifter parts of the river.  As my fly would drift into the zone barbels would rise and cloop like  a carp but would miss almost every time.  Even after missing the fish would chase the fly down the river clooping along the way trying to slurp the fly.  It looked like pac-man eating dots trying to get to the power pellets.  I never did get get one of these fish to actually eat my fly this way.  I think they just gave up after a foot or so.  This behavior I hypothesized is because the fish can't actually see the fly.  These barbels are bottom feeders and their mouths are located on the bottom of their heads.  When they rise for a fly I don't believe they actually see it and they probably use some judgement and other senses to estimate the location.  If they fail they just continue gulping until they reach the intended target.  At least that's the story I'm going with.

I'd get a mix bag of both species after landing my first few barbels.  Donny would get frustrated when hooking onto tilapia but I didn't mind as they were actually more fun to fish and fought harder.  Barbels, at least in this water, would pod up in large groups maybe 20 or more and stay in the same location.  They didn't move much from there even when spooked or when fish were caught.  They're an oddball fish.  Now that I've crossed them off the list of species I doubt I'd ever return to fishing them or I should say they won't be a priority species for me anytime soon.  If one wants to target this fish in Taipei, Donny tells me the "season" is December to March.  After that the fish don't take flies.  Donny isn't sure why but that's been his experience.  We fish all dry flies from size 20-10 with colors ranging from white, yellow to dark.  I don't think they are very picky.  My leader was a nine foot 5x.

To Be Continued...