Monday, March 31, 2008

Fast Folsom Fix~Pirates And Pequena Pillagery

Saturday no fishing for me as I was performing music at a memorial service.

Emphasis was on celebrating her life as opposed to mourning her death.

I got away Sunday feeling a bit somber and serene and needed a lil pick me up so headed over to the Granite Bay boat launch area to try for my first Folsom bass of the season.

I arrived at 1830 and was greeted by pirates from the far southeast. They spoke to me.

Fear not ye wind for she blows to keep our girls under sail...

If'n yer not fittin to cast yer lines into her, narry a fisherman nye a sailor shall ye call yerself lad.

What say you vessel-less landlubber? Avast ye and turnabout fer yonder hills?

er brace ye wind upon your face, headstrong, and be well and be off with ya?

of course, I chose option B

My first cast yielded a small spot which I fought briefly and lost in a mid air shake and spit.

I moved 20 feet or so to another rocky point and hooked a 4+# smallmouth which I also farmed.

It was cool to feel that pressure bite throb and subsequent smack, smack zip that I hadn't felt since last spring... but damn pirates musta' bewitched me with ye olde farmer's curse...

Despair not, I carried on and kept working the shoreline.

Third time was a charm, I actually got a solid hookset.

Small fish but a fish. I snapped a pic of the lil spot and released her.

In the next 15 minutes I hooked and lost 2 more and had several taps that I didn't respond to fast enough.

The fish aren't in ravage mode yet, and are still making you guess if they're there most of the time... Likely a combination of lake level, temperature, and barometric pressure all a bit on the low side for this time of year...

I managed to C&R one little smallmouth before leaving the land of pirates and pequena pillagers...

Next time, I'll bring the float tube and some plugs.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Embraced By Spirits~Paiute Country and the Pyramid Cutthroat Experience

Many moons ago I was invited by a master to travel Northeast and indulge in the great Lahontan Cutthroat trout fishery of Pyramid Lake.

The stars in my head were out of alignment and so for me the trip did not come to pass...

Over the duration of our cold, windy and snow-swept winter I saw the many accounts of the PDC... going where no sane fisher-man had gone before... through the storm-socked summits and passes, over the rocks which make you a "believer in the tow rope" in to the DANGEROUS-ly frigid waters to drink up, above and into the chest-wader line... alkaline ice water that would make even King Kong's balls shrivel, busting ass and and breaking axe handles to cut wood to fuel the sacred fire whose embers would radiate heat and make Patron bottle embers glisten and glow in the sub-freezing Lahontan Valley air.

The reports continued in to the spring and not just from PDC but now from: Q-Tip, Fishing Chick, Fernley Tim, Ric1Ric, Freon, Team Pile, and others. All the while, I read and I thought, "Ya know... SOME day... some day..."

Well, you know what they say about some day... it never comes to you. You have to choose one day, go to it and make it yours.

With a bit of 'slack-tide' between AR steelhead and stripers, I hadn't been fishing so much. I got the call from FSF member Q-Tip, aka Nelson, "Hey, what do you think about Pyramid next Saturday?" "Wellllllllllll uh, hmmmmm, yah maybe." The maybe turned in to a probably and the probably solidified to a "Let's Do It!"

Knowing it always takes me a semi-eternity to get my shit together... sleeping Friday night was out of the realm of possibility so I drank 2 WIRED+ pots of French Roast and readied my gear for the adventure.

Nelson made it easy. He drove up from 'the land of Bart trains and barbed-wire' (Oak-Town'), and picked me up at my casa in Carmichael. He told me to bring my rods, some 6# spectra and Fluorocarbon and that he had the BFH beetles covered. He also suggested I bring some CD's unless I wanted to listen to NPR, Country music or gangster rap.

That's Nelson... always placing the needs of others at or above his own interests... reminds me of another full speeder on this site and ironically, the same guy who gave detailed instructions to Nelson prior to his initial Pyramid excursion... a guy who enjoys playing "Net Bitch" for his bros as much as hookin' 'em up.

We left @ 0400 and The ride up was without issue. Nelson is a good brother and we knew we were in for some good times on the water.

By the time we got to Nevada the sun had cracked the sky. We were both in that delusional-but-functional state of mind wherein fishing-anticipation-endorphins take over and render non-existent any thoughts of sleepy or tired.

A little reinforcement never hurts though so we stopped here:

BEFORE quad shots:

AFTER quad shots:

and then here to say HI to Ronald and grab some hot grub.

Last stop was for the permits.

We had a minor setback on the way out when Nelson's truck carelessly backed in to a metal pole, maybe we should have poured some coffee (or S.T.P. GT) in the gas tank? but the casualty was a mere bumper crease and 2 sheared license plate bracket bolts so it was shrugged and we sailed onward.

We were on our way to church and service was about to begin. They even left the lights on for us:

Oh wait, wrong church....

Here we are:

Pyramid has many miles of shoreline and we weren't certain which stretch we would fish but I read some last minute reports and remembered two hot bits of information... Pelican Point and white beetles, pretty easy to remember since pelicans are white (no not brown pelicans but those are at the ocean...)

We easily found the sign: "PELICAN PT." on the west side of the lake. We also found hordes of other rv's boats, float tubes, ladders and people so decided to move it on over to the next cove.

I remembered the rituals of a master who always gives thanks, who pays respects to Indian Head Rock, takes time to notice the eagles and the sunsets and even bows before the PDC antenna ball pirate MASTER...

and I thought it a good thing to send an offering through the winds to the GREAT SPIRIT....

I played a humble song and exchanged tools.

The wind was howling and I was taking full advantage of my layers and neoprene waders. I was bundled up like a baby in a bomb shelter. Being an otherwise sunny, mild-temp' day, I developed an instant appreciation for the winter troops (Dan, Jason, Mike, Kevin).

I was so well-bundled that I spent a total of about 3 minutes on the ladder before handing it off to my compadre who wore breathables and left his ladder at home.

We would start our day 'in the box' using the preferred, BIG FISH HAPPEN beetle:

Nelson started things off with the first of 3 LDR's. Two were almost back to back and the third was after some time.

I was using white and he was using metallic green.

Well, I'm proud but I aint' stupid so after his 3rd hookup, I mooched one of the green bugs and tied it on. Q-Tip told me about the "Lahontan Shuffle" where you nonchalantly walk bank-ward dragging your bug without thinking too much. I tried this method and at the moment I took my last step between rock and mud, my drag started screaming and line peeled off my spool but as fast as it began, it also ended with nothing but a memory to show for it.

At least I finally had the hit-skunk whooped.

Two fly guys showed up in float tubes and leisurely made their ways in to the drink. About the time they started stripping, Nelson's rod goes bendo and he's on a good fish. It fought hard and put a serious bend in his IMX 781 ultra light noodle rod.

I grabbed my camera and net to do the honors.

First fish of the day was a nice colored up buck which was admired and quickly released.

Nelson decided to try the float tube. I didn't feel like swappin' shoes for fins and making the 'Caddis assault' so I went off exploring and learning the finer points of sliding, gliding, high-stepping and shuffling through the very uneven and slicker-than-shit substrate of the Pyramid benthos.

I made it through without pulling a DANGEROUS maneuver (sorry Mike) but I also found no fish... only forks and axles, go figure...

The fly guys each hooked one and bailed.

Nelson and I had a quick conference over sandwiches and Gatorade. We agreed that Life without solitude is hectic but that solitude without fish is unbearable... so alas we opted to join the ranks.

We made the short-hop drive to Pelican PT. and before we even got out of the truck, we saw a man and his wife each hook up in less than a 5-minute interval.

Imagine it... Pelicans at Pelican point!

It was 1500 hours so we still had well over 4 hours to make it happen. We looked at the scene and noticed that 95% of the anglers were in 25% of the water (mostly in the center) so we opted to set up on the NW flank of the cove.

Once in the water, it was obvious that the reports didn't lie... Hookups were happening all around.

I approached the man who had minutes before released a nice fish. I asked him what his wife had hooked up on and he said, "Oh she's usin' one a' those Panther Martin spinners..." I asked, "Lemme guess... the black body/yellow spots gold blade? and indeed it was the animal... I think that lure is the 'go-to' piece of hardware in most educated trout chaser's arsenal...

It seemed like the tides were about to turn a 180 and turn around they did.

I took my position in the line and made sure to leave lots of space between those to my right and the solitary couple on my left.

My first cast was quickly answered by a headshaker who put some bendo in my ultralight IMX graphite.

What these fish don't give you in acrobatics, they well compensate for with head-shaking, angry-bulldogging runs, crocodile rolls and sheer power. The last rod's length of the fight is no less intense than the initial run and these trout can swim between your legs, jump up and kick you in the ass so it's not over 'til it's in the net or near the beach.

Shortly after releasing my first Pyramid cutthroat, I made a cast and immediately hooked up again.

Both fish came on the BFH beetle in white body with chartreuse hackle.

I thought/hoped I had entered the 'eternally-on-fire' mode but my next 50 casts yielded only snags, and muck on my beetle's lonely hook...

Nelson was short on action also.

The fly guys to the right were killin' it! It seemed like every time I looked over, I would see a sissy-stick bent over and pumpin'. I approached the guy closest to me and asked him what he was using and he answered as if he were my fishing buddy from way back. "Copper John and a Prince Nymph... but they seem to be ravaging ANYthing today!" "I'm indicator fishing but some of the guys are using a full sinking line and hookin' up just as many on the pause or the strip..."

Moments later, one of the nymphers hooked and landed a 10+# fish on a size #14 Chironomid.

Equally gratifying as being in a spot where BIG FISH HAPPEN... all of the people fishing Pelican Point were super cool. It wasn't like the typical hog-line on a river where folks are tight-lipped and eyeball new comers as aliens invading their space. It was a 'feel-good' crowd where folks were having a blast and everyone worked together and happily and respectfully.

The 'Power of the Pyramid' was everywhere and even Anahoe Island, the very pyramid-shaped rock the lake was named after... was floating on the horizon, directly across from us.

As the sun got lower in the sky, more fish moved in and we were seeing them roll on the surface well within casting distance.

I mixed it up a bit with some flies and even tried jigging a spoon but it wasn't happening for me.

Nelson asked me if I had a float. He said something about crappie tactics and that he had an idea...

Indeed, I had two kinds of floats in my bag. I personally hate float fishing (for steelhead or anything...) but I know it's mostly due to my ignorance, and that if I approached it with a bit more perseverance and stealth... I would find it a deadly method in certain situations...

I directed Nelson to the right compartment of my pack and 10 minutes later he entered the water with his revised terminal strategy.

I once read a Marine Corps mantra on this website (Kurt aka, The Lead Bomber's signature)...


That is exactly what Nelson did. He saw fish on the surface, he translated his crappie-killing expertise to the current location and situation and executed what would prove to be a deadly approach to spankin' the Pyramid trout.

Nelson is solid = one hell of a great guy, an innovator, a humanitarian, an adventurer and an engineer. Anyone who can hold his high-dollar touring bike together with Q-Tips is pretty damn talented IMO....

Nelson, some time ago, mastered the twitch technique of moving jigs through schools of winter crappie and getting them to bite when the fish were schooled up and tight-lipped for all other anglers including those in boats 10 feet from him and working the same fish.

I was blown away last year by the video footage he posted demonstrating the method he invented and that put him on over 100 fish that day...

Taking it a bit further, the guy doesn't like how the jigs come from the factory so he takes out a knife and carves his jig bodies into the 'new and improved' grub...

He talks about sin waves and amplitude and how they translate in to vertical, horizontal movements and velocity variations (all of which are controlled by the motions of 2 fingers of his left hand on a semi-hauled standing line).

Yah, crazy shit... I know but once the guy hoe'd a float from me and put his rig in the lake, his bobber spent as much time under the water as it did on top of it.

Every time I turned around, he was calling my name and I was attending my duties as 'camera bitch'...

This went on for some time and I eventually, again followed Nelson's lead and rigged up with his borrowed float and he rigged up with a clear Drennan float I also had. I tried to get jiggy with it but I was having all kinds of technical difficulties... problems with my reel's worm gear sticking, problems with my eyes trying to focus on that small piece of plastic in the glistening surface layer of sun-kissed, wake-spanked lake, and mostly problems with my sorry-ass twitching technique which was anything but refined.

Could it be that the fish moved on and/or the bite shut off? These trout seemed to pattern themselves by coming along in waves, towards the shore, along the ledge/color line, back out then back to point A. The rods would bend from left to right and then right to left if you watched the lineup... and of course being too busy trying to hook, I didn't spend a lot of time watching the ladder lineup.

Was it the fish or was it me? I kept thinking and then Nelson, resolved that question in my head by hooking another fish and yet another after that...

Make no mistake, I was stoked for him. I love it when a plan comes together and when I fish with friends, all hookups get me juiced, regardless of whose line's bouncing and singing.

Nelson released his fish as the last rays of sunlight were swallowed by mountains. I sensed it was time to go and felt a little sadness not because I only landed 2 fish to Nelson's 8 but sad because it had been such a magical day and I didn't want it to end. I feel this 'fishing post-partum' to some degree every time I fish and it doesn't seem to matter if it's a river I've fished 2,000 times. Neither does it matter if I've hooked and landed 'til my back, arms and legs are gumby ... I just can't get enough...

I wasn't quite ready to raise the white flag and call the day good just yet though...

I thought about the one trick in my bag I hadn't yet brought forth... hmmm... Blue Fox? Mepps? Panther Martin? maybe the gay spinner... Problem was, most of those spinners seemed too big or too bright or had treble instead of Siwash hooks which I most certainly would have grappled the bottom with and forced an 'early retirement'.

I remembered the #2 RVRFSHR spinners I bought the year before during steelhead season. Tarnished brass blade, black metal body, perfect size, color, weight, action AND a barbless single Siwash hook.

I only had one in my box and I tied it directly to my 6# Berkeley Fireline Crystal as this would be my last tie up of the trip. I launched the spinner and worked it back slow and steady with an occasional pop. It got short struck 10 ft. out in front of me so I reeled up and tossed it out again. 1/2 way through a somewhat faster retrieve, it stopped. "Fuckin snagged damn it!" and then the snag woke up and got my attention. FISH ON! <>?

It was sheer sweetness. The fish fought with spirit and made several vigorous runs.

It wasn't the toad I first thought it was but was still a respectable fish and that I caught it on a spinner, made it all the sweeter...

I felt my day was complete and my parting thoughts were not of remorse but instead of contentment.

Nelson got to be MY net bitch for a change...

Nelson snapped the parting shot of the trip as I released my 'twighlight trout'.

I find it interesting that no fish appears in the photo but rather the symbolic hands of giving of receiving of gratitude, of solemnity and respect. These are words and concepts which have taken up strong residency in my soul lately and they represent very well what this journey and the greater, journey of life is all about.

Pyramid Lake beholds a pure and powerful energy. The fishing kicks ass but there's a lot more to the place than that and I look forward to future treks into its deeper heart and soul. As always, I gave thanks to the place for having me there when I came to it and when I left it.

I'd also like to thank all who inspired this trip and especially a big thanks to Nelson for making it happen.

and... Happy (belated) Easter Tyrus