A long-anticipated journey

Summer is in full swing, and after much long deliberation, I’ve decided to fish my way from California to Montana. I’ll be gone fishin’ for the rest of the summer and perhaps well into the fall. I set out with no particular time frame or route in mind. Like Bilbo Baggins, I intend to go wherever the adventure takes me.

Irresponsible? Perhaps a little bit. But hey, you only live once. What about my job you ask? I’ll still be able to telecommute part-time for my current job so I won’t be completely off the grid while I’m on my adventures (not to mention I’ll be able to afford fishing gear, gas and food….in that order). Many of my friends have no idea why I would want to go galavanting across the country by myself; fishing away the summer. But then again, many of my friends don’t fly fish; those that do just wish that they could come with me.

A scenic drive

A scenic drive

Days 1-3; July 13, 2013:

My Dad is traveling with me for the Oregon leg of my trip; double the gear but also double the fun. Most of the morning is spent getting last minute items and cramming my beloved Subaru full of fishing rods, fly-tying materials, enough flies to open a fly shop, float tubes and camping gear. Who needs to see out the back window anyways?

Windmills line the mountain outside of Burney

Windmills line the mountain outside of Burney

About 5 hours into the drive, I realize I didn’t bring a net. “Hey Dad, did you bring your net?” Uh oh. Dad realizes he didn’t bring his net, not a huge deal….except for the fact that his net is attached to the back of his vest (loaded with all of his favorite flies, and other beloved fishing gear). He’ll have to make due with his hip pack for a few days until it can be FedEx’d up to meet us. The next day on the river, I notice him reaching out of habit for tools normally found on his vest; but alas he grips at empty space. Poor guy!

Fish these size were so fun to catch on a #2-3 graphite rod my Dad built. I want one!!!

Fish these size were lively to catch on a #2-3 graphite rod my Dad built. Slow action and fun to cast. I want one!!!

We make camp at Castle Crag, our site is right on the Upper Sacramento River. Ironically, our neighbors are the Peninsula Fly Fishing Club. It’s always easy to identify fellow fly anglers, the gear tends to give us away. Fishing stories are exchanged and it turns out the president of the club has just moved to Truckee. What a small world it is!

While Dad continues to chat away with these folks I decide to hit the river.  It’s dusk, the perfect time for fishing. The fish are hungry and I’m catching 10″-16″ wild and planted ‘bows every few casts. The next day more fish are caught, I learn how to tie  PMD emerger and pops teaches me how to skate a caddis. A sublime start to what promises to be a spectacular journey.

On the road again. Mt. Shasta in the background.

On the road again. Mt. Shasta in the background.

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Fishin’ in the fog

I’ve had a lot of time on the rivers lately, but as it’s fishing season in the Monterey Bay, I wanted to recount one of my favorite ocean excursions. While my first love will always be the fly rod, I still can appreciate rigging up a deep sea rod and enjoying some time on the ocean.

Like most fishing trips, this one began with a blaring alarm going off before the crack of dawn. As I heaved myself out of bed, I acknowledged yet another foggy morning in Santa Cruz, CA. But it was time to fish, so I quickly tossed my hair in a bun, and threw on layers of clothing; just in case the fog decided to burn off. Our vessel for the day was a boat that one of my fellow steelhead junkie friends Dustin had purchased for $600. Score! While not state of the art, she was seaworthy and ready for the adventure we were about to embark on.

Ready to head out to sea and catch some fish!

Fire her up captain!

After stocking up on beer and snacks at the tackle shop, we launched the boat and were off to sea. The fog was dense, and although there were many other boats on the bay, we were ensconced in a quiet blanket of mist; it felt like ours was the only boat on the water. Just after leaving the harbor, to the port side of the boat, a large grey bump arose on calm waters. Too small and solitary to be a set wave and too big to be a seal, it peaked our curiosity. But just as quick as it had appeared, it was gone. “Wait, was that…? Naw, couldn’t be a whale that close to shore.” A few moments passed but the mysterious bump did not appear again.

At the helm

At the helm

Turning our gaze back out to sea we pushed on, venturing further out across the gentle waves. A movement out of the corner of my eye had me doing a double take. “Look, it is a WHALE!” I blurted out.  The lump had appeared again in the unmistakable form of a giant whale; the only complication was that it was directly off the port side of the boat. We were on a collision course with a 40 ton creature. Now as you can imagine, a humble boat does not stand a chance against a grey whale. Our quick thinking captain immediately killed the engine and the big grey passed right in front of us; a narrow miss.

There she goes!

There she goes!

While we were fishing that morning, we must have seen at least a dozen more whales. It was such a awe-inspiring day on the water. Witnessing these majestic beasts breaching all around the boat, sometimes within arms length, was thrilling and exquisite. Captain Ahab would have had a field day!

Now, where did I put that harpoon? KIDDING!

Now, where did I put that harpoon? KIDDING!

When the whale watching boats arrived packed with rubber-necking tourists and cameras hanging around their necks, I’m sure we made quite the spectacle. Three fishers in a wee boat amidst a pod of whales. It was a day for the books. I even managed to bring home the biggest fish of the day, a fierce-looking ling cod.

All rigged up

All rigged up

A toothy fella

Catch of the day

Fly fishing: the next generation

Getting out on the river lately has been difficult due to work related inconveniences, i.e. too much of it. So I have had a LOT of time at my desk to reflect upon recent fishing experiences. I keep coming back to the Fishmas Eve fundraiser. During the event, TRTU president Stefan McLeod announced that the organization had reached the $10K fundraising milestone, which is no small feat considering the state of the economy over the last 8 years. Currently, TRTU is is planning on allocating these funds, along with other sources of funding for a $500K restoration project on the Little Truckee River.

A worthy cause, as the current topography of this river offers a very limited amount of areas for fish to rest; creating a high pressure fishing environment and stressed out, spooky fish. As of late, I have heard too many stories about fish being landed with broken mandibles and fungus from being over handled on this stretch of river. The restoration project will allow for greater stretches of the river to be hospitable for fish, creating a better habitat and less pressured fishing areas.

The Truckee chapter of Trout Unlimited is a group of industry experts that decided it was finally time to establish a “REAL” conservation group based out of Truckee, CA. Their inspiring initiative to pass on the watershed to the next generation in BETTER condition than it came to this one, pretty much sums up the bright future that TRTU is creating.

Fun fact: the board members’ of TRTU average an age of 29! It’s not everyday that you find a group of young individuals who are willing to go the extra mile to make a huge difference for the local watershed.  Time is a major factor in making it all work, and at such a young age, time is in high demand. Along with working on their careers or starting their own businesses AND having a life: Stefan McLeod, David Lass, Morgan Hargrave, Matt Hargrave, Jordan Romney, Matthew Heron, Brian Slusser, Morgan Thalken (VP), George Walker, Dan LeCount, Jason Renfro and John Jewett have diligently donated their time, expertise and hard work to making it happen.

It’s far from easy; being a new chapter, there are no prior board members or Presidents to ask questions and show them the ropes. “…at times, it feels like wandering around a dark room searching for the light switch…. BUT, we always seem to find that light switch and get the job done.”  That is an understatement, these guys are killing it! Bravo!

People tend to have the impression that fly fishing is a pursuit for old men; these “young guns” illustrate an entirely different picture. All hale the next generation of fly fishers who are passionate, outdoor-loving conservationists’ with a vision for the future.

When Stefan took the time out of his busy schedule to answer the questions I had about TRTU (thanks again!!!) , he mentioned the following on what everyone can do to help out. I implore you to heed his advice.

“Volunteering is crucial…. We urge people to visit our FB page and our website at www.tahoetroutbum.org to keep up on the events we have planned and scheduled for the year. As far as helping goes, just being a steward of the river is a must. Practice proper etiquette, leave no trace, pack out what you pack in, practice catch and release, and as always…. Take a kid fishing!”

The next TRTU event is June 28, 2013, I encourage everyone to attend. Come meet the people who are volunteering their time to make the Truckee watershed a better place to fish and enjoy for generations to come. You’re in for a great time and sure to learn something new. Oh and did I mention they will be raffling off a lifetime CA fishing license at the BBQ?! Awesome.

CALifetimeLicense

Click here to buy a raffle ticket now!

Just Keep Fishing

A week after the ISE conference I attended, I have to say, I’m still thinking about all of the amazing people I met. The expo itself was also fantastic. The many different booths provided excellent opportunities to inquire about new products, compare and contrast various brands, and even demo some of the rods. I myself tested a Tenkara rod for the first time. If you haven’t done so before, I highly recommend trying one. It is a completely different way to fly fish.

One of the favorite people I met at the expo was  a woman named Dorothy Zinky. She was tying a spectacular mayfly impression in the show’s tying booth. At 83, she was tying on a size 16 hook with apparent ease.  I was immediately drawn-in and well on my way to developing a bit of hero worship for this brilliant lady. I spent over an hour at her station; she was full of jokes, laughter, a bit of  mischief and possessed a unique perspective as a woman fly fisher who had been participating in the sport for over 45 years. She regaled me with witty tales from her years on the water.  As fly fishing tends to be a male dominated sport, it was refreshing to hear stories from a woman who’d been fishing for so many years.

A story about hooking herself in the face, and then having to coach one of the less squeamish men to remove it for her, was ironic and comical. She is a skilled story teller; the way her eyes light up with good-natured mischief during her narration makes it a memorable experience.  My personal favorite was a story I could relate to: when she was fishing with a group of men from atop milk crates (to maximize casting distance), she toppled off her box and into the river, with copious amounts of water pouring into her waders. Her take on it: since she did such a good job of getting completely drenched, her shirt was all the same water-logged color, and because no one had seen her fall in, she just kept on fishing with water up to her knees inside her waders.  Being accident prone, especially when you add water, moss and challenging terrain; I have had my fair share of slips and falls. I have DEFINETLY been there before: yard-saling in front of a bunch of guys who are good enough friends to laugh freely at your expense (I’ve never been lucky enough to avoid notice when I fall). I guess the most important thing is to be able to laugh it off and just keep fishing, because after all that’s what your’e out there to do.