Sunday, February 27, 2022

The Decline

February 25, 2022

If the start of the day was any indication of what was to follow it wasn't going to be a disappointment.  I got a late start and headed to the bakery to pick up something to pack in for lunch.  When I arrived I realized I left my phone at home so after picking up my lunch and went back home to retrieve it.  On the the way back I took the wrong route that goes through an elementary school.  I was stuck behind traffic as parents were dropping off their kids.  After 10 minutes of that cluster I made it home to get my phone and was off.  As I made it up the mountain I looked down to see the river below and it was chocolate milk.  It was 10am by the time I started down the trail.  The water here looked clear and glacial turquoise but it was low.  Real low.  Unless we get several more storms by summer this place will not be fishable. 
Back when I started fly fishing this was one of my go-to spots.  It always produced a lot of fish but  almost never anything of any significant size.  Most fish were dinks to micro dinks.  On the rare occasion you would pull a 10-12 incher but there weren't many of them.  Over time I quit fishing this place as there were much better local options.  Then the drought years came and this place really fell into dark times.  A survey conducted back then essentially declared this place barren.  We checked out the area once at that time and we confirmed that was the case.  Fast forward a few years I noticed reports coming from a Taiwanese fisherman who was posting large (by local standards) fish on a Facebook page.  So we decide to check it out.  The place never fished so good.  Fish on average were larger than I had ever seen in 20 years.  Now the fishery is on the decline.  The big fish are now gone or at least I wasn't able to get any of them to take.  The pools that hold them are blown out and are now only riffles.  Fish are plentiful though albeit all dinks.  I had over 100 rises to my dry but I was only to  land about 20% of those.  Most fish either came off or the size 10 hook was simply too large for their small mouths.  I fished several miles the area deep was barren so I decided to turnaround and head back.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Bushwhacking and Boulder Hopping

February 18, 2022

Steve invited me to check out a section of a local river I've never fished.  Some 20 years ago I tried fishing this section with my buddy Joel when we camped this area.  From what I remembered it was a dense impenetrable mess of willows and we gave up on it and fished the nearby creek we intended to fish.  After speaking with Steve there is better access further down.  The plan was for Steve to pick me up at 6am and we'd make our way to the mountain in his Tacoma.  In the morning I woke up at 4am for no reason and couldn't fall back asleep.  That meant I had about three hours of rest. 
After picking up breakfast and sandwiches at the local bakery we we off.  We'd make it on the water at about 9am.  We'd only see one truck parked on the water.  No clue if he was fishing or camping.  Didn't see him on the river.  Since we were parked upstream of the section we wanted to fish we planned to hike down as far was we could and fish our way back up.  There is no trail and the beginning quarter mile is some annoying bushwhacking.  We'd needle our way through the vegetation and entered the more open section but would have to contend with boulders now. 
When I finally got a clear view of the water I was a bit concerned as it was really sandy.  I asked Steve if it this sandy the last time he was here four years ago.  He couldn't recall.  Sandy bottoms aren't good.  I'd later learn from Luc that a flashflood ripped through this place about 8 years ago and the sand remains to this date.  Sandy bottoms cause problems.  One the sand irritates the gills of the trout so they'd try to avoid it.  Also it plugs up all the hiding spots behind rocks and boulders for the trout.  I also would think it would affect the hydraulics too as there are no rocks to slow down the water.
So I looked for any spots with a rocky or gravelly bottom and fished those heavily.  I'd only throw a few probing casts into the sandy bottoms.  We fished six hours and we really worked hard.  I managed four or five to hand, lost another at my feet and missed another.  So I averaged only one fish per hour and most of those catches were towards the end of the day.  While I fished a dry most of the day several of my takes were when the fly sunk a few inches below the water.  I'm vehemently opposed to using nymphs for our local waters but I swallowed my pride late in the day and added a sunken ant dropper after catching another trout with a sunken dry.  Of the fish landed only one came from the dropper fly.  Steve took the skunk despite trying his best. He even got ugly and fished a prince nymph for a portion of the day.
Upon arrival I debated whether to wear my waders.  It was starting to warm but having not fished this area I wasn't to sure what I should expect.  I looked at the water near the parking lot and it was very canopied.  I expected the river to look like that the entire way.  If that were the case we'd be in the water the whole time.  So I chose to wear my waders pants style without the shoulder straps.  Steve decided to wet wade.  It was the smarter choice.  The day's forecast was 50F degrees.  In the mountains that's either hot or cold depending on the sun.  It's hard to tell.  Where we were parked the canyon walls was creating shadows so I thought it would be cold most of the morning.  Having never seen the area I was completely wrong.  The canyon opened up and the sun beat down on us all day.  It was a wet wading day for sure.  Water temps were 45F when I gauged it at lunch.  The area is nice but I won't be returning anytime soon.  That sand needs to be blown out before I return to this section.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Part Two: Pyramid Lake

February 4-5
Pyramid Lake was a tack-on to this trip and put on the agenda late in the planning stages.  It was never our intention to fish it but given the fact we were already in the Northernmost parts of the state we decided to give it a shot.  This way we could save us another long drive in a separate trip.  Crossing over a Lahontan Cutthroat has been on my agenda for a while.  I know this lake is popular but I don't see the appeal.  Yes.  I get it it has big fish and it's you're best shot at getting a trophy trout.  But honestly I could care less.  To me the only appeal of this place is catching a prehistoric fish in its original home range.  Other than that this place has absolutely no interest to me.  Most people fish trout because where it takes you are some beautiful places.  Pyramid isn't really one of them.  It has it's moments, usually at dusk and dawn, but mostly it's rather unattractive.  Catching a fish requires more patience than skill.  You stand on a ladder or rock and cast a silly looking streamer and strip.  When you tire of that you cast a midge and stare at a bobber until you are energized to start stripping again. 
I've fished here once before on a whim.  We were fishing the Truckee and the weather turned so nasty on us that it was almost unfishable.  So instead of battling the elements we moved to Pyramid to take advantage of the bad weather. Pyramid usually fishes well in foul weather.  Overcast and winds usually turn up the fish.  Of course I was completely unprepared as I didn't bring any proper gear to fish this lake at the time.  All I had was five weights and some very small indicators.  I was completely undergunned.  I didn't like the fishing experience at all and other than scratching off this fish on species list I had no desire to return.
We got off to a late start and should have been on the water just as the sun was rising.  Pelican Point would be the first destination.  Of course all the premium locations were already occupied.  So we took to the cliffs.  After about a few minutes of climbing the rocks I realized why I hated this place.  With little to no places to properly backcast it wasn't long before I realized this was futile.  After a couple hours I went back to the truck, ate a sandwich and re-rigged my spey rod and returned to the rocks.  By this time the sun was high fishing had ceased for everyone.  Earlier in the morning the fish were being caught by anglers in the prime spots now they were also being shut out now.  It was time for a break.
Frustrated and ready for a break we drove down to the lodge where we relax and have a drink and get some intel from the locals.  Now with a few drinks in him and intel gathered from a few generous anglers we headed off to the next location, Warrior Point, to fish until sunset.  I'd get one strike on my streamer but it took in between strips and got away from me.  
Another bust and it was time to head back to Sparks for dinner.  Upset we'd have to return the next day to get our fish we needed a morale boost.  So we returned to the Thai spot since it was on the way and we knew it was good. 

February 5, 2022

The following morning we woke up early and packed our gear away and headed off to the lake for our last attempt.  Unlike the previous day we were there long before sunrise.  We'd only have the morning to fish as we needed to start our way south.  By now we were already over this place.  The weather reports called for another day of calm sunshine so we knew we'd have to really work to get a fish.  Starting with sinking lines, booby and beetle flies we began casting.  The area we fished was our initial destination for last night's session but getting to Warrior took longer than anticipated so we just stayed there.
Just as the sun was rising Chul was on his olive booby fly.  I stripped my line in and grabbed the net off the bank and prepared to scoop the fish.  While waiting for the fish to tire I was thoroughly unimpressed with the fight.  Standing in the water I watched both the fish and Chul fighting the fish and realized that, like other cutthroat, these fish don't do anything.  It looked like Chul had a wet towel at the end of his line.  I then watched the fish.  It didn't run more that 10 feet and gave a head shake once in a while.  No bulldogging.  Nothing.  What a boring fish.
It didn't take long before the fish was in the net and after a few photos we released it back.  I would try to get mine but it wouldn't be in cards for me.  We'd drive to a few more spots to find fish but it was no use.  Sun was now high and fishing seemed hopeless and by 11am we set off south which means I'd have to return to this place to finally get this damn fish crossed off my species list.  Of course I could get them elsewhere but I would prefer to get this fish in it's native home waters.  Once I do I doubt I'd ever return.
When we reached Reno we made a stop for lunch and  to get some adult beverages.  Lunch would be Thai again and I order the heat level the same 4 out of 5 we did in Sparks.  That was a mistake.  Their spicy levels were more in line with Thai palates and while the heat was nice but it was quite a kick causing some running noses.  The food though was excellent.  I've been impressed with Northern Nevada Asian food so far.
On the drive south we'd decide whether to spend a night camping somewhere in the Owens Valley or just gun it home.  We'd take a look at the West Walker to see if it was wroth a cast or two on dry flies.  This was to break the drive up but once we got there the winds were howling and the water was not only skinny but frozen over in many areas including much of the bank.  So we moved on.  Once we reached the Owens Valley we had to decide whether we wanted to stay the night and camp and possibly fish in the morning.  We decided against fishing as we were already exhausted and were fished out.  The biggest decision then was what we'd have for dinner.  We thought of getting Thai again at the Bishop airport but decided against it for tacos at Mercado Mexico.  
After eating we'd see how we felt and if we had the energy to drive home or needed to camp.  Prior to dinner we thought of camping in the Alabama Hills but as we ate outside the wind was picking up and blowing hard and that sealed the deal we'd head home.  As goes with fishing, the trip was mostly a bust at least for me but so it goes.  I didn't expect much on the steelhead leg of the trip but the biggest disappointment was failing to get my cutthroat which means I'll have to return to Pyramid again.  My buddy Roy has some trips lined up in the coming months but I really don't want to go but we'll see.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

The Postponed Trinity Trip Part One

 January 30- February 5, 2022

Sunday was a travel day to put as much miles on our way to the Trinity as possible.  There was no agenda and no destination.  Plans was we would decide on the road where to stop for the night as we traveled whether motel or camp somewhere. Along the way on the long ten hour drive north we decided to stop at Red Bluff to camp at Sycamore Grove. 

January 31, 2022

The following morning we would stop at Redding at The Fly Shop for supplies and information.  Rather than make breakfast we'd save clean up time and travel to the shop where we'd  ask for a recommendation for a decent breakfast spot.  They recommended El Delicioso Burrito which is located within a 76 gas station.  We went through the drive thru and ordered the machaca burrito which was excellent.  This was good place for a quick meal.
With intel from The Fly Shop we headed out to the Trinity.  This late in the season and without rain for a few weeks we knew this wasn't going to be easy.  To add to the challenge I wanted to fish the swing on my new spey rod.  The first location was one of the few spots on this river for swinging.  I'm rather new to the two handed rod, I only really learned how to cast one in November of 2019 when I picked up a Winston Derek Brown Special 15 foot 10 weight.  Seventeen years ago I had bought a Rio Windcutter set that has sat in my drawer ever since.  I "learned" how to cast with that set up.  During covid lockdowns I bought up an 11 foot 6 weight Winston Boron III TH on sale and thought it be a good smaller river steelhead rod.  Since that November I hadn't practiced my Spey casting at all.  So just before this trip I headed to the casting pond and tried to remember how the hell to use this thing.  Given the situation, I needed to pick up some appropriate line.  Originally I had a 420gr Airflo Rage line but I was told I'd need a skagit line to cast the heavier tips.  So I picked up an Airflo Skagit Scout 450gr and a T8 MOW tip.   I would practice with this set up until we headed out for the trip.  At the first location I struggled to cast properly and I would say only 20% of my casts were "acceptable."  Despite looking a fool I continued to fish with the rod.  I knew my chances of catching a fish were slim but I needed to get the experience.  One fish was bumped but no none were hooked.

After sometime we headed to the next location to swing.  This area was deeper and probably not the most ideal for that purpose but I didn't care and threw my line out anyways.  We tried but without any luck.  After this we headed to the cabin at check in which was a bit of a clusterfuck since there was a miscommunication but no harm no foul.  We finally got our cabin and made dinner.

February 1-3, 2022

At the shop the employees told us the the river below Junction City was closed to fishing due to the fire clean up.  There were no signs indicating as such nor did any of the "locals" in town knew anything about that. One of them told us a fishing spot where his buddy caught 18 not long ago.  It was a spot that Sandy at The Fly Shop told us about.  It would be one of our first destinations.We'd nymph this area and get a bump but again no hook up.  For the next few days we'd fish various locations with both single and double hand rods but bumps would be all we could manage.   This trip was originally concocted in December but we couldn't manage it because of the foul weather had closed the roads to the Trinity.  So we planned it a couple weeks later in mid January but my fishing buddy caught covid (for the second time).  Despite feeling fine we choose postpone because I didn't want to catch it from him from sharing a long road trip and a small cabin.  When we spoke to our neighbor at the campgrounds, who is one the construction crew working the roads, he told us that we should have been here three weeks ago.  Precisely the time we originally had planned.  Typical.
The Trinity really needs to be floated just to cover water.  Fishing by shore is a pain and requires a lot of time in the truck moving from spot to spot.  This is made worse by having to wait for the pilot car to escort you through the clean up areas.  It really makes for a frustrating experience.  I don't care for this type for fishing and prefer to be on the water to get a fully immersive experience.  On the last full day we'd take a break from the hard fishing and head over to Willow Creek because Chul wanted to check out the Bigfoot Museum.  What should have taken 30 minutes resulted in a two hour drive.  We were on a tight timeline as it closes at 4pm.  We arrived in town just after 4 to a closed museum.  I'd later learn that they weren't open anyways for the winter unless you make an appointment which we didn't.  So it didn't matter.
Before leaving for the trip I miscalculated how many meals I needed to bring and was a dinner short which meant we needed to find a restaurant or market.  So we needed to head into a town anyways.  We had dinner at Gonzales.  The carnitas chimichanga was excellent. 
On Thursday we'd fish in the morning until lunch before we would head east to Reno to fish Pyramid Lake for a couple days.  We'd hit spots that we had bumps and some new spots to nymph and to swing. 
We quit around lunch and we headed to Trinity County Brewing Co for burgers and beer.  The burger was excellent but according to Chul the beers were not.  He ended up pouring out the first beer order after a sip and didn't even bother finishing the second.
After lunch we headed back to Redding and toward Reno where we'd stay for a the next two nights.  Drive was nice with views of Mount Shasta and Lassen along the way.
We'd reach the Sparks in about five hours and after checking in at the Western Village we needed to resupply for the next couple days' lunches.  We'd hit Sawasdee Thai Restaurant as it was next door to the market.  Dinner consisted of chicken green curry and spicy roasted duck with fried basil.  Both were excellent.  I ordered them spicy level 4 out of 5 which was hardly spicy. 

To Be Continued. Part Two: Pyramid Lake.