Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I Love Dogs... More Than Their Owners...

"I like dogs better than humans

Both have heads but only dogs got brains

I like dogs much better than humans

It's the owners of the dogs who need collars and chains.

Dogs are instinctual, loyal and true.

Humans are dumb-asses; haven't got a clue.

I like dogs better than humans

Dogs dig dig dig just playin' in the yard

and don't jig jig jig things around so hard.

A pat on the back, a clean place to shit,

Throw 'em a bone and they're all over it.

No need to be extravagant nor make up lies

A dog barks it like it is and looks you in the eyes

Scratch like hell when you got a flea and lift your leg when you got to pee.

Don't worry 'bout naked or hiding in the stalls

Feel free to reach around and lick those balls

Dogs don't marry and dogs don't beg

They shake and jump and they'll hump your leg.

Who is the master? and who is the pet?

Who picks the shit up? and pays for the vet?

I like dogs better than humans.

I don't have to own one to know that it's true.

A dog's life is so named for a reason.

In the doggies paws is me and you."

I wrote that lil ditty a time ago after a day on the river...

I'd hiked many miles to find my place of solitude. The fish were jumpin' I was all rigged up and ready to 'rip some lip' as they say...

I made a cast and as my line drifted along the opposite bank, I noticed an over-energetic golden-retriever.

Great dogs... full of love and slobber and always so starved for attention furry beasts that they are...

I reel up and prepare to make cast #2 when I notice said Golden's master (a woman) has approached the same river bank I am casting to. She decides she wants in on the action too but she doesn't have a fishing rod... she has one of those gay, blue rubber spikey/squeaky balls and she lobs it in to the river in the exact spot I am trying to catch a fish.

Ker-SPLASH goes doggy and the gay ball and the water and the froth and the foam and the shockwaves AND I's sure... THE FISH!

Geez Lady? Ya think you might find another place to play fetch in some 1,000 square miles of river bottom BESIDES directly in front of a fisherman whose daintily wading lightly presenting his line to a fish that flinches when it sees the shadow of a dragonfly?

Yeah, I didn't think so...

Anyway, that was last year (though dog-owner disrespect is sometimes an every day occurrence on the American River).

I was out one morning fishing a favorite stretch of the AR 2 weeks ago. I had caught one fish and was scouting for more when I heard a rustle in the brush across the way. I looked up to see a young doe come crashing through the trees.

I heard another, larger animal upriver from her position as she disappeared in to a thicket.

I expected another doe or perhaps a buck to show himself.

What instead appeared was a large black German Shepard with ears erect and tongue dripping out the side of his agape mouth.

The deer reappeared and the dog was now in hot pursuit. Said deer is confused and stressed a bit to say the least...

Dog chases deer. Deer runs.

Deer goes to island. Dog goes to island.

Deer goes in water. Dog jumps in for a swim.

As this is happening, I'm amused and am taking full advantage of this strange scenario with my Nikon. If only I'd had a telephoto instead of a wide angle lens...

The deer goes further into the river's depths and I'm most certain that the dog will fall back but NOPE, he does not. He runs and jumps at the deer.

So far, no blood, no biting, no barking, no apparent intent to kill on the dog's part but the deer isn't so convinced of this at all and she's starting to look a 'little wet behind the ears'. Actually, she's a LOT wet behind the ears and her ears are pinned back like a rabbit ready for the butcher block.

The lightswitch turns on in my head... "Get your ass out of the camera view finder and call this dog off before 'Bambi' has a conniption.

Alas, I look at the relentless canine and scream out, "HEYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!" which does in fact, send the dog zipping off in retreat to the hills from which he scurried down after his 'new friend' only minutes before.

The deer is taking no chances and so takes leave of the area and begins swimming out in to the faster currents of mid river. I can see her shaking and panting as she wearily weaves her way across the river towards me. She pauses to glance back at her unwanted, black, furry companion with the mouth full of meat-shearing teeth.

I've seen many a deer cross the river in much deeper, wider and faster water and they normally do so with speed and precision but being stalked, chased and harassed into a river crossing is completely different situation. Besides, this was a yearling, well past her spring ago's fawn stage but not yet matured in to capable doe-dom. She was uncertain but determined to do what needed to be done.

I started to run down river thinking I might need to intervene and rescue the tired girl. Thoughts of nervous hooves kicking me in the face and then a fear of my stressing her out even more and in the end being the ultimate cause of her untimely death... stopped me mid way. I looked at her and she at me...

I continued to watch from a distance and took a few final photos as she caught her breath and grasped the river bed with her outstretched front hooves. She slowly regained her composure and hobbled on to terra firma.

She sauntered along the hillside and once behind a grove of young alders, burst quickly out of sight.

I was happy for the deer but had to wonder about the dog...

I wonder what the Osprey thought of all this? He was really high and he watched it all go down~;)


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Nothin' Like the Real Thing... but MUCH BETTER~Plastics for Steelies and Bass

I have little room and low tolerance for superficiality in most aspects of life...

Make it right, make it real or just shut up and done the deal~

But fish don't always want a straight shot nor do they always have the conscious-keen-eye to see through the fluff...

That works out quite well for me in the spring.

I lean towards artificials in all of my fishing endeavors. My salmon and steelhead GO-TO is the spoon. My striped bass weapon of choice is the swimmer or surface plug and for bass of the green, landlocked variety... poppers, jerks, or plastics make up the gist of my arsenal...

There are times when a wad of roe, a live shad or pike minnow or a night crawler beckon to 'pinch-hit' for the usual lineup of offerings to the hard hitters of respective species... and spring time in particular is a time when bugs, bait-fish and worms are first-choice on the menu for fish coming out of their sleepy winter slumber.

Off to the river I went. The water was still a bit high and colored up so ditched the fly rod and got back to my roots...

Had the full Himalayan-excursion pack and vest outfitted and ready for any bait or hardware scenario.

I got down to the water where a couple days prior, I'd hooked a 5# chromer blue-back. It was one of those text-book moments that happened right in front of a resting blue kayak and its pilot. The fish exploded out of the water with my gold spoon in her mouth. One cartwheel and two head-shakes later I was on the phone crying to Benny about the chromer that got away... Sometime during our conversation I discovered the reason she got away. My spoon was dangling an empty split ring at its obtuse end. Somehow, the fish (or the fisherman) managed to slip the hook from the ring before or during the fight which never really transpired...

So today, I was well-stocked and oh so prepared to get revenge. Only, one small problem... I reached in to my vest pocket to find a weight and there were no weights. Hooks? I had ONE. Bottom bouncing gear? NOPE! I left my night-crawlers on the kitchen table also.

I had somehow managed to leave most of the 'most-essentials' behind... Here's that making the best of it theme again...

I did happen to have my rod pre-rigged with a float and the one hook I had in possession so I figured that's what I'd be using.

I pulled out one of the bags I did bring, loaded to the gills with puffed plastic, blown foam and molded latex... Corkie? Puff Ball? Spin N Glo? Mad River Flouro's? nah, nah, nah.

Ah SNAUSAGES! actually, Berkley bubble-gum Power Worms, yah that's sexy. Perfect for the dirty water just wish I had some weight to bounce it but I didn't so I rigged up the pink-pearl Worden's DB and the snipped strapped a snausage on the shiney lil #6 Gami' and started browsing the waters. I had crossed the river earlier and decided to make my way back along the only large, sweeping tailout in the area.

I damn near stepped on a 6-7# upriver bright. I tried to retreat and recoup a drift but I'd already sent that fish 2 miles upriver with my shadow.

I saw a spawning hen near the opposite bank so figured there had to be some life around. I tossed the PMESL (poor-man's egg-sucking leech) into the sweep rage of the tailout directly downriver from me and I felt the slam a good two seconds before I watched my bobber drown...

Not a big fish but definitely an upper and purdy one...

I set her free with renewed expectations of bigger and brighter fish but you know what they say about expectations... I later tossed hardware in all the right places but got repeatedly rejected.

Not a bad day at all considering I'd left most of my gear at home...

One of the great gifts of the trip was the renewed confidence in plastic worms for spring trout. Night crawlers are such a pain in the ass... to get, to store, to keep, to thread, to sustain, to cast, to use...

I went home and found all the stuff I had left right where I had left it funny how that works.

The day was young and the sun was shining so I figured on a quick scout to the local pond. Fake worms worked in the river why not feed some to the bass?

I grabbed my trusty RB's, hooks and some lead and was off.

Can't say it was on fire but 5/6 on the first scout of the season wasn't a bad score...

Nothing better than a Bi-fecta except a TRI-fecta... but that may be a week or two away~;)

Gotta love the latex!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Condensed Winter/Spring American River Chronicles

So much to say, so little time to say it...

Much to reflect on of my many days wading the waters and kicking up cobbles in my riparian temple of sanity...

and insanity...

Here's our boy RHook tussling with a bug-eater... The fishing was decent that day and the 'emergers' were finally starting to show in numbers which would soon undermine the deeper meaning of the quest for mighty, winter steelhead...

Eventually, the time came to explore new, old haunts and rediscover lost connections with the river and the landscape...

I encountered another angler who actually depended on procuring fish for its survival.

Sometimes, I feel like a great blue heron... ever wading, ever watching, ever stalking, often desperate to bring a fish to hand or foot, sometimes just blending in and waiting stealthily and hopeful that my perseverance will be rewarded. Puffing up my feathers and making a ruckus when an intruder approaches the water I've chosen to canvass...

With February comes the emergence of catkins on the alder trees signaling the silent but sure approach of spring. The heron and I have different agendas... I seek quiet water and solitude. The heron, dressed in colorful head plumes and neck feathers and sporting a new, yellow bill, seeks to be noticed by his future nest mate where together they will join the throng of other nesting, noisy birds in their tree-top rookery.

Numbers of large, winter steelhead give way to a greater populace of smaller fish. I can't recall where I caught this little guy...

but he had remarkable teeth!

The quest continued and I was only too happy to have traded this...

for THIS!

to be continued...

One morning, I set out not far from home with only the sissy stick and a vest full of flies. The water was big and brown (something it hadn't been for at least a year...) and so I opted to ditch the egg and nymph patterns and use the biggest bugs in my boxes... wooly buggers, coneheads, streamers. I got to the river and before crossing out to the island, I strapped on the black/grey spey fly Bill Lowe had left me with a week before. It made sense to swing something with profile and darker colors in the stained water. Of course my confidence level was about that of a Charlie Brown inviting Lucy to a swinger's club pardon the pun...

I launched the thing toward the edge of a tailout and let it drift down the glide and repeated the motion. On the second swing, my fly stopped before the point it logically should have. Ah shit, F-ing SNAG! POP, POP, WHOAHHHHHHHH it's MOV-ing!! My rod tip danced above the weight of the fish which answered my klutsy hookset with a few hefty head-shakes the last of which sent me back to sit in a corner with my shortened, fly-less tippet.

DAMN! those things DO work...

I had high hopes with a respectable adult on and off in only the first few minutes of my outing... but after a several hours, a few hundred casts, four river crossings and many traded fly patterns, I had only an education, one other lost steelie and a sucker (ate wolly buggers) to show for my fly fishing session. I attributed the first fish to a Karmic experience and had thoughts about how my 'luck' might have changed had I brought some bait or hardware... No worries though, I needed the practice and the change of pace.

On my way out, I was reminded that simplicity and resourcefulness is often superior to abundance and preparedness. You can't always have all things exactly as you would like them but you CAN always make the best of what ya' got right now...

Case in point...

or perhaps I should say, "Casa on Point"

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sometimes ya just gotta.... Fly fish

I'm what they call a 'gear guy'... but a legit' gear guy not a flosser, liner, snagger. I evolved beyond that long ago.

I've always been a proponent of using the best method for getting the job done.

The journey is much more the means than the end... but the goal is to hook and land fish. If the fish want bait, I'll break out the roe. If they want worms, I'll thread those slimy bastards up and use whatever variation (wacky, in-line, puff-ball, corky, half, whole...) I must to get the worm swallowed. Bait is messy, bait is cumbersome, bait is a process to procure, bait is expensive, bait involves killing animals, bait in some minds is cheating... but often times bait is the answer.

Spoons are simple... grab a box of metal, a hook sharpener, and some reliable snap or duolock swivels and you're good to go. Travel light, cover lots of water, no burden, no mess. Use a barbless single siwash hook and 99% of the time a hookup is fair and clean with no blood involved.

Our little American River, plagued by dams, water mis-allocation and three years of drought... has run at a mere 700-800 CFS for the past many months. Low and clear has been the norm through the crux of our steelhead season. The fish blasted upriver quickly and mostly held only in the restricted waters below the weir and above the USGS Geological survey cable below the hatchery... Yes there were fish caught above and below but not in great numbers and never for sustained periods of time. Those who would argue this point are those happy to catch spawners and downers and those who can't tell the difference between pre and post spawned fish...

As the water began warming up, late February/early March, some smaller, fresh fish came through the system. I decided it was time to take up the fly rod. I went to several downriver spots which traditionally hold fish later in the season. My timing was bad for taking up the sissy stick though as we got dumped on by two consecutive storms. The lil AR that never gets blown out (in the words of one self-proclaimed expert...) got severely blown out and had as little as 1 ft. visibility...

Still, I tried and not with tandem rigs nor tiny nymphs and little egg patterns which would be hard for the most aggressive fish to find and suck up... but with woolly buggers, coneheads, leeches and streamers.

In 5 days of pounding (or swatting as Benny likes to call it) the water with the fly gear, I realized that in the right conditions (low and clear) it could be very effective for getting down and in to water not as approachable with a float, bottom-bouncing gear or hardware. I also realized that it's a lot of work but the rewards are definitely there.

My rewards were: 5 hooked and lost steelhead and 4 hooked and landed suckers.

My first day out I hit up Sunrise below the walk bridge and above the new steelhead side channel. I awaited my turn since there were 4 guys and a Clackacraft drift boat fishing the tailout spot.

I ended up making some passes in the speed-bumps above. Yes, there were spawning fish below me but there were also some small, bright fish in and around them eating eggs so I worked the water away from the redds hoping to entice one of the egg-robbers.

At some point, a guy came charging up from behind and announced, "You know those are all spwaning fish right?"

Now, here was some ultimate irony...

I explained to the guy in a non-defensive tone that I wasn't doing any of the things I'm constantly harping on others about doing (walking on redds, sightfishing, lining, or otherwise targeting spawning fish). I also thanked him for his compassion and balls enough to approach a stranger on the river in defense of the fishery.

He introduced himself as Bill Lowe and gave me a beautiful black/gray spey fly I would several days later put to good use.

We parted paths and I drove and walked several more miles of river looking for opportunities. Hours later, a man with a spey rod came down to the river at Upper Sunrise and said something about being " work now so I thought I might do a little fishing of my own..." It took me a while to add up 2 and 2 and realize that it was MR. Lowe whom, I'd met earlier in the day. I told him of some nice fish I'd seen and spooked. I picked his brain for some info on swinging streamers and we talked about the thrills and woes of chasing steelhead in Metropolitan Sacramento...

Nice guy that Bill. He obviously is very passionate about fishing AND THE FISHERIES...