Monday, May 20, 2013

A Decade Long Wait To Return- Canyon Lake

Canyon Lake is an affluent gated community located in Riverside County. Since high school I have had access to this lake as one of my best childhood friends has a residence here. Back in college when I started fly fishing it was here I cut my teeth fishing for bass on the fly. Also I believe it was here I caught some of my first species on the fly. Throughout the first part of this century I fished quite a bit as my buddy would come to his home here several times a year inviting me almost every time. In 2004 or so he stopped coming here regularly as work and family obligations took more of his time. That was the last time I fished here until today my new buddy Luc who invited me to fish.  All it cost me were a few flies which I was more than happy to give away.

I met Luc at 5am at his house. We loaded his boat with my gear and headed to the launch ramp. Saturday there was a bass tournament so Luc was preparing me for a tough day. Topwater was first on the agenda. Luc likes fishing big flies and he started with a 10 weight and a big hard bodied popper. Armed with my 8 weight XP, I started with a hard bodied frog pattern that Luc suggested. It proved to big for my rod and later switched to a diver Luc suggested. After a few drifts past several banks it too proved to cumbersome for the 8 weight so I moved to Webb's Folded Foamhead. Several hours past without any takes.
Luc gets the skunk off the boat with a topwater take
Luc finally managed a topwater rise. It was a 2 or 2.5 pound bass. Finally the skunk was off the boat. Now with the sun out in full force we moved to subsurface presentations.  Hours past and I was constantly changing flies looking for the right presentation.

It took what seemed like eternity to get any bites. I kept missing fish. Luc was shocked that we were having such a hard time. Each cove, according to him, should have produced at least one bass many times more. I told him my bad luck just rubbed off on him and he shouldn't have invited me.   He just laughed it off but I was serious. Its not been my week. We were fishing some deep areas so I borrowed one for his rigs.  A 7 weight Sage RPL+  with a Airflow Depthfinder fast sinking line and his favorite fly an unweighted olive woolly bugger.  Luc likes fishing unweighted flies and letting the line take the fly down.
An average Canyon Lake bass 3 pounds.
I must have switched flies more than a dozen times.  As we started moving toward the shallower portion of the lake and a deep sinking line was not needed I moved from one side of the boat to the other.  In the process, with all the line stripped to the floor, I tangled Luc's line badly.  I spent the next 30 minutes or so trying to untangle the line.  Luc told me to just forget it and fish my other rig.  Not knowing Luc well enough, I didn't want to leave it for him to fix.  Eventually I just gave up and left it in frustration.  I picked up my favorite 5 weight and tried several flies before tying my Fugly S.O.B. in purple.  Soon enough I was on.  My first bass was a 3 pounder.  Luc let me know this is about an average fish here.  Back in my day, I would have given my left nut for a 3 pounder.  Ten years ago or so my personal best was maybe one and half.  Of course then I was just an novice/intermediate fly fisherman but I never saw a bass like that here.  If this is the average the lake has definitely gotten better from when I was fishing it.  It must be the fact that shad is everywhere.  You can see them swimming and Luc was showing me how to read his fish finder and sure enough they were everywhere.
A nice Canyon Lake representative.
Despite being a private access lake, these bass are heavily pressured.  There is a bass tournament every other week.  So fishing can be tough like any public lake.  But the bass here are special, unlike most of public bass, these bass do not lay up once they are caught.  Canyon Lake bass seem to give more runs than headshakes.  They have no quit in them.  Takes were slight grabs and many times I thought I was hung up rather than on a fish.  I managed another equal size bass casting at the opposite side of a dock I caught the last fish this time on the way out of the cove we were fishing.
My first Catfish on a fly
Earlier in the day Luc had mentioned if I casted and fished in particular areas I'd likely hook up on a catfish.  Sure enough toward the end of the day I hooked up.  Initially I thought it was a bass.  It felt like a bass with multiple headshakes but when I got him up in the top layer I noticed it was no bass but a catfish.  My first on a fly just like Luc told me earlier.  This guy was about 3 pounds and quite a good time on my medium flex 5 weight.
Taking flight.
This area is loaded with fish, mostly shad with crappie and bass mixed in.
I had an absolutely great time despite what Luc called disappointing.  No matter, I have a special place in my heart for this lake as it was where my fly fishing path started.  Fishing today brought back a lot of fond memories some of which I shared with Luc.  One story was back in those days, the lakehouse was party central for my buddies and since most of us were either just out of college or in college most of them came just to drink and party.  I didn't care for that I came for the fishing and one of the rules of the house, my buddy set, was to prove your party animal status was you couldn't go to sleep until I woke up to go fishing at 5 or 6 in the morning.  Only then would you have proven your worth.  I remember numerous times fishing on my buddy's dock looking up after hearing the sliding door open only to see one of my buddies leaning over the balcony puking his guts out.  Good times.

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