Thursday, April 30, 2009

Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do

"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do!"

What a great mantra...

and it fits in perfectly with my life of late...

I have some major challenges with which I struggle and deal on pretty much a daily basis.

Yet, I somehow manage to get along.

and fish on a supra-regular basis.

For me, abstinence from fishing is not an option.

I also find that the less self pity and the more gratitude I indulge in... the better off I am.

The perfect opportunity arose last weekend when fellow AR angler, Ryan Miller invited me to help out at his Downstream Outreach Program.

Ryan grew up with his younger brother, Mark (KOOL NAME@!) who was diagnosed as having Down Syndrome.

As Ryan grew up and metamorphosed into a fishing fanatic... he was diagnosed as having Down-Stream Syndrome and rather than fight it... he became a fishing guide.

Looking back, he realized that his brother actually taught him a good many things most notably, attentiveness, patience, perseverance, and compassion~:)

Mark admired and looked up to his brother and vice-versa I'm sure.

I bet they've fished a good many streams together over the years...

Ryan must have pondered how cool it would be to share his love and passion for the sport of fishing not just with his bro but with many young folks who often, because of their somewhat different appearance and exaggerated behaviors, get shunned by mainstream society.

And hence, Downstream was set into motion.

This was the third year of the annual event Ryan designed to connect special-needs folks with something very real, engaging, and inspirational.

I got a bit lost on the way to the event and not once or twice mind you... but three times. When all else fails, read the address on the directions!

That was what finally got me there.

I hadn't missed much as the band was just starting to move towards the pond.

I decided to just help out wherever needed and try to capture the essence of the day with camera and memory card.

It seems to me that human nature has a tendency towards remorse and sympathy for folks like Mark and Alison, Oscar and Peter, Chele and Sam who happen to have been born with a condition like Down Syndrome. I have pondered the hows and whys of this many times throughout my life and the best I can come up with is that there is a design far grander and far more purposeful than our mortal minds can conceive... a plan, a purpose which defies our limited comprehension and preconceptions of right/wrong, good/bad, normal/strange...

...and anyone with open eyes, mind and heart could surely see that these folks needed no sympathy. I walked the perimeter of "BOW'S END" 1/2 a dozen times during the course of the day...

and everywhere I went I saw only enthusiastic, jubilant, happy, smiling faces.

I think everyone must have read the back of the shirt that day and taken heed to John Wooden's directive:

The clouds and drizzle subsided and the morning sun emerged. There were 20-something students and at least twice that many volunteers.

I saw some old/new friends whom I'd met on my home river; Adrian, Theresa, Jason H., Rob, Charlie G. and also made many new friends during the course of the day.

It should come as no surprise that veteran angler, Mark Miller would put the bends to the first trout of the day... and what a fish! Way to go Mark!!

The program was divided into 4 sections:



Sometimes, the individuals who least enjoy 'living in the limelight'... are the ones who most inspire and leave the greatest, lasting impressions... Such is the case with Alison. I asked permission to take her photo at the FISH ART station and she was quite reluctant. Later in the day, I watched her fight and land a trout. The volunteers brought the netted fish to her and while we were all focused on the photo opportunity, Alison was concerned only with getting the fish back to the pond as quickly as possible... "Oh poor fish. We need to put it back NOW so it can LIVE!"

Way to go Alison! Many of our fisheries and anglers thereof could use the guidance of your wisdom and compassion...



Making repeated smooth casts, tying up the perfect wooly bugger, painting a 'rainbow-whale' and fighting lots of fish demands much energy so by noon time, everyone had worked up quite the healthy appetite.

Ryan gathered up the troops and passed out some fishing literature courtesy of one of the event sponsors.

I expected 'mundane burgers' and/or 'quick and dirty dogs' Man, was I surprised!

The spread of food was incredible: gourmet hot dogs, marinated/grilled chicken breast, fresh big-leaf lettuce, sweet, juicy tomatoes, succulent strawberries, pineapple, grapes and assorted other fruits.

Chef extraordinaire and fellow American River angler and guide, Charlie Gonzales and his entourage of helpers were responsible for the awesome eats. This guy knows how to cook... THANKS CHARLIE!

After the fine food and a bit of R&R, we went back to the pond to battle more bows.

Many more fish were caught and many more smiles were shared.

I left Downstream 2009 feeling as though we had each accomplished something very worthwhile and had learned a bit more about who we are in the process.

And in the end... The love you take, is equal to the love
you make~:)

Sir Paul McCartney ~1969~

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


To those of you who don't immerse yourself, live, breath, toil, sweat, daydream, drool and celebrate in the splendor of our Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta fisheries...

You wouldn't know this... but there is currently a bill in the US Senate (drafted by assembly woman, Jean Fuller) which comes up for review on April 28th. which if passed would be devastating to the striped bass population and fishery and ultimately to most if not all fisheries and all forms of flora and fauna in the delta which depend on a sustained, healthy inflow of fresh water.

The bill seeks to remove the striped bass from game fish status and remove any and all restrictions on their take. Ultimately, this would very likely extirpate the striped bass from our pacific coast and inland watersheds.

In a nutshell, striped bass were introduced (from New Jersey) to California in 1886 as they are a hardy and desirable game fish species. These fish thrived and coexisted with salmon, steelhead, sturgeon, delta and long fin smelt, and all of California's native species in healthy numbers for over 125 years.

The relatively-recent, sharp decline- particularly in salmon and the endangered delta smelt- has been scientifically proved to correlate with increased water exports and NOT predation by striped bass.

In fact, the numbers of striped bass themselves, have decreased exponentially right alongside the fish they are being charged with endangering.

The bill is backed by California agribusiness farmers and the politicians whose votes are bought and sold by such constituencies.

The greatest travesty is that with no scientific basis, a group of politicians is attempting to divert public attention and awareness away from the truth (that the faltering state of our delta ecosystems is directly related to increased fresh water exports) in order to promote their agenda (to divert and export even more fresh water from that already fragile ecosystem).

The baseless conclusion, portraying striped bass as the main culprit in the disappearance of delta smelt and salmon stocks is merely the latest (red herring) attempt at justifying greater water exports out of the Sac/SJ Delta under a false premise.

After all, if the public buys the propaganda and is duped into believing that striped bass, rather than lack of water, is responsible for dwindling salmon and delta smelt populations, the bureaucrats may proceed unchecked to increasingly drain the delta.

Anyone who has fished this region since the 1960's can tell you (not from politics, not from studies nor collected data but rather from first-hand experience) how the numbers of sport-fish of ALL species have exponentially declined since the 1960's when water exports were significantly increased.

Yes, there are other factors which challenge the survival troubled fish species; habitat loss, climate, oceanic, estuarine, riverine conditions, pollution, poaching, and cyclical events... but it does not take a rocket scientist to know that above all, fish need water and in the absence of water, they will perish.

I love to fish for striped bass and so of course I do not want to see them eradicated... but my bigger concerns are A) the overall health of the Sac/SJ Delta ecosystem and B) our rights as anglers who pay increasing revenues each and every year to have the privilege and right to enjoy the sport of fishing... both of which will certainly be severely compromised if this bill is passed into legislation.

And what will be next? Will largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bluegill, crappie, American shad, threadfin shad, brown trout, brook trout, lake trout, kokanee, white/yellow/black/brown/blue/flathead and channel catfish (and the list of California's currently-thriving non-native fish species is MUCH longer) all be wiped out also due to their non-native status?

I hope that someday, humankind will wake up and take responsibility for the travesties it has inflicted upon our suffocating planet. There are places (like Alaska) I've never been but which I hold close to heart simply knowing that they have largely remained wild and free from the spoils of our species....

I sincerely hope that whether or not you fish, you'll see through to the core of what this 'anti-striper' legislation is really about and will opt to at least click on the link below and sign the petition to undermine it.

Please click on the underlined links below. If you need to get back to this page, you can left-click the left arrow on your web browser page or hit the BACKSPACE button on your keyboard.



Mark L. Lynn

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The End of the Drift Aint Always the End of the Drift

How many times have you heard...

"MAN! That thing bit right next to the bank!!"


"Those fish are closer than you think..."


"I was reeling up and I got SLAMMED!"

or in the 'fly-guys' world... "It often pays to let your fly sit for a second or two after it completes its swing as fish will often grab it on the hang-down..."

We are a culture, a society, a people of ACTION, of DOING, of TRYING of EXERTION to exhaustion. Much is good, more is more BETTER. The harder you work, the luckier you get...

This inevitably translates to our world of fishing. I am 101% guilty of the hardcore approach to fishing. To me the hunt is anything but leisurely or passive. I don't fish to relax, reminisce, remedy my ills or recreate my auric essence (though I'm sure those benefits are often a byproduct...) I fish to CATCH FISH! and I'll hike 10 miles, drive 1,000 and trade an empty wallet, dehydration, exhaustion, hunger, sleep deprivation, hypothermia, and mental fatigue for a good time on a river somewhere.

Further, as a semi-hopeless product of my environment... I do at least somewhat buy in to the fact that the more water I cover, the farther I cast and the faster I reel up to make the next drift... the greater my odds are of getting my rod bent.

I went out to the river not far from my home one day in March. I had just come off a trip to the Russian River where my friend Vic, a long-time steelheader extraordinaire, had opened my mind up to a few things about the likes of winter steelhead.

He had generously sent me on my way with some of his "the redder, the bedder" steelhead candy.

The day was one of those freeze-frame days with billowing clouds and soft light that makes your surroundings seem like some place out of an old oil painting. Perfect weather and even more perfect lighting.

I took some panoramic shots before setting up to fish.

I'd gotten a late start and only had a couple of hours to try and make something happen.

The water was up a bit and I figured I'd be able to locate some smaller spring fish if not some winter downers.

I used spoons, goofy worms, real worms and couldn't get a bite to save me. The only thing I hadn't tried was one of several smatterings of red roe I'd laid out on paper towels in a small, Tupperware container buried in the lower-right pocket of my worn-out fishing vest.

I re-rigged and found a suitable corkie to keep my eggs out of the clay, mud and gravel.

Many casts later, I was convinced that there wasn't a steelhead nor even a smolt within miles of me. I casted farther and reeled and dropped to give the bait and the bob more action. I worked the far shore, the seams, the rapids and runs, the flats above and the tailouts below but always came up with an unchanged wad of bait... same size, same shape, same color.

I started to feel a bit burned out, almost nauseous. Still, I cast and I drifted down to where surely any self-respecting steelhead would be absolutely honored to hold...

The sun was just sinking towards the horizon. My back was killing me and time was running short. I wasn't dreading the thought of a fish-less trip at all but I WAS dreading that I had only been here for an hour and a half and that soon I would have to leave.

I reached in to my wader pouch for a smoke. Thoughts of, "AGGHHH, I should have stayed home instead of driving and walking all this way for 2 short hours of fishing! I grabbed my lighter and put flame to the Marlboro clenched in the corner of my mouth and as I struck the flint wheel and depressed the butane button, I felt my Loomis shaking between my legs.


It shook again and this time, the vibrations registered in my knuckle-head. NO W@Y! I got a F-I-S-H!

Shit, Howdy! Expect it when you least expect it. My line had finished its swing through the sweet spot about the time I fetched the smoke. Somewhere between my questioning whether I should even have come out fishing and lighting up a smoke... a fish had sniffed up my dangling roe in 2 feet of water about 18 inches off the bank.

The lil steelie put up a spirited fight for a small, recovering down-runner and got the skunk off my back.

By Fish-Sniffer and other 'internet-wizards-of-the-waterways'... it was A CHROMER!

Hah hah hah, I'm glad they don't know any better~;)

Turned out to be a productive day... and not because of the one small fish I caught and released but because I was re-educated on a simple, already-known fact... that when water comes up, fish get out of its way. It was a day that plunkers might do better dropping than casting and drift boaters would benefit from less boondogling and more side-drifting. In my case, it paid to light a smoke, prolong the end of my drift and let my knees answer the wake-up call in the soft 'holding' water below me.