Oh the places you’ll go

OH, THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
Any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And
you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll
decide where to go.
You’ll get mixed up,
of course, as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up with
many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great
tact and remember that
Life’s A Great Balancing Act.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)Dr. Seuss

The Truckee River, so many memories

As I drive back into town from my long journey, I look around at the familiar sights. There is nothing quite like a California sunset. It’s not quite dark as I drive through town, so I head down the the river across the street from my childhood home and take a walk. I notice small things that have changed since I was here over two months ago; the long grass is tall and I can run my fingers through it as I walk, the flows are lower and the water is warmer. A bit of the bank here and there has given way to erosion as well. But mostly it has stayed the same; an ever constant in my life.

I sit on the bank and just watch the river that nurtured me and taught me so much in my early days of fishing. So much was accomplished here, so many things learned. Lessons that had taken me on the journey of a lifetime. As I soak in the orange and pink sunset and then the moonlight,  I reflect on the places I had been all summer, the great people I met, the time I spent flying solo and what I had learned about myself.

On my own for the majority of the trip, I enjoyed a quiet bliss that is impossible to explain, but easy to regonize in others. There were also moments that I was terrifed of the unknown and isolated by my singularity. But cliche as it sounds, the more I fished and explored, the more muted these feelings became and were replaced by a silent calmness and acceptance of living in the present.

Always a challenge for me to not dwell on the past or worry about the future; fly fishing has taught me to rule these faults and enjoy the moment of each cast and fish at the end of my line. Before I embarked on this trip, I had expected to catch tons of fish and meet wonderful people. I wouldn’t have imagined that I would be one of those people I became acquainted with among the streams and mountains.

The majestic Grand Tetons

With my return to the real world and responsibility, I have found that the calmness starts to slip away, first slowly and then in a rushing tide. My arrival back home signaled to me that it was time to start another adventure. Now it is time for me to find a new place in the world. Leaving much of my old life behind, this fall and winter I go in search of steelhead and a place where I can fish every day and even surf ocasionally; return to the wild places that sooth my spirit.

San Lorenzo River, I shall miss this place where I fell in love with steelhead.

The San Lorenzo River; home for such a long time! I shall miss the place where I fell in love with steelhead and surfing.

Going Loopy

Whew! Steelhead season has come to a close on the San Lorenzo River. I sit here shaking my head and wonder how it all went by so quickly. Only 266 days until the start of next season. Trips to rivers further north are still an option, but the lack of rain has me turning my eye toward trout, mountain streams, and dry flies.

Actually, I find myself itching to cast something lighter than the streamers, attractor patterns, and eggs I’ve been throwing for the past few months. Being a small river with no room to back cast, roll casting has been the seasonal special on the San Lorenzo. It has been too long since I last threw a nice loop. And really, it has been TOO long. I recently demoed a rod at a show; holy moly, was it ugly. It seems that roll casting and hucking weighty flies all season has left me with a few bad habits. I’m pretty sure I saw my dad visibly cringe while he wondered what happen to the lovely loops he taught me to cast. Tangling the line at a casting pond in front of a bunch of people……NICE. My face was probably as red as my shirt! I’d like to say that it was equipment failure, but it was a Red Truck rod; basically perfection in the form of a fly rod. Yup, this one was 100% operator error.

While my pride took a bit of a hit from this incident, it reminded me to be mindful of my form. Its one thing to know better, and it’s another to actually do better. I’ve started frequenting the local park with my dog and rod in tow. He enjoys chasing the feather at the end of my line while I enjoy practicing my casting. Since I don’t have a river close by I can fish after work in the evenings (yet…more on this soon), this is as close as I can get to a post-work fish. It is a great way to unwind and I find it rather cathartic. As long as you don’t mind a few sidelong glances from other park goers (if I had a dollar for every time people jestingly asked what I was fishing for…), this is an excellent way to put some polish on your casting. You can even bring hula hoops for some target practice.

The San Lorenzo River: Episode I

This past Wednesday I had the opportunity to fish the San Lorenzo River for the first time. The SLR is a smaller coastal river that until recent years was not very productive to fish. Like many of our coastal rivers, the San Lorenzo’s Steelhead and Coho Salmon population fell victim to threats such as pollution, over-damming, and over fishing.  In 1960 there was a population of over 30,000 fish in the river; however by 1970 there were only 1,000 fish remaining. In an effort to rehabilitate the once popular fishery, the California Department of Fish and Game designated the river catch-and-release only in 1984. They also limited fishing access from December 1st through March 7th, and only on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Clearly, the action taken by DFG is working; the rivers’ fish population appears to be making a successful recovery. Two  friends of mine are locals and have been fishing the river for the past four seasons. They tell me that the fishing has improved immensely since they started fishing it, four years ago. Although I don’t have previous years to compare to, I’m apt to agree. The fishing was ample and the river was stunning.

In the morning my local San Lorenzo guru, Joshua,  and I fished “the gorge,” which is part of the lower section of the river between Santa Cruz and Felton. This section of the river is set in a steep canyon, full of looming redwoods and giant boulders. It is by far the most dazzling section of this river. It’s a steep hike down (never an easy feat in waders), so I was surprised at the number of fishermen we encountered on this section of the river. While we didn’t have any luck during the morning, a few bait fishermen we met along the way had landed a handful of moderate-sized steelies.

As afternoon rolled around, we moved further upstream to a section of the river near Ben Lomond. I had been nymphing using a glo-bug egg pattern in the morning, so with the change of location I also decided to switch flies. I tied on a teal and black streamer; made a roll cast out to the center of a deep pool; and intermittently stripped my line in.  Success, fish on! Changing my tactics had payed off. It was along this stretch that I caught two coastal rainbow trout. The first was a 16 inch trout that was well on its way to becoming a gorgeous steelhead. The second was a tiny trout about 8 inches in size. While not giant chromers, these fish put up a great fight for their size, and landing them made me grin like a mad woman.

As the season progresses I’m sure the fishing will become even more productive as the area gets more rain. I’m looking forward to many more trips, and a ton more fish. I forgot my camera on this trip so please excuse the lack of photos, but not to worry, I will be making almost weekly trips here; there will be photos and fish tales galore.