Saturday, June 23, 2012

Quarter Pounders and half-pints, eh?

Green Sunfish on a San Juan Worm

It's been a busy few weeks.  For those of you that just want the meat of the story, read no further, because I know you've got busy lives too.  In summation, I have had 0 time at the office, staying out in the field all day (which is AWESOME....sorta).  I fished Trinity Lake over the weekend, listened to log trucks' jake brakes all night and caught some very respectable Trinity Lake rainbows.  My buddy Aaron, of  Chronicles of Cod fame (, rolled through town, and now here I sit....How about that, my week summed up in a 60 second read?  Not very appealing is it?  Here's what really happened....

So after a long week at work, saving salmonids one screw-trap at a time, I decided that Thursday, I'd go out for an after work special (that's fishing after work for all you common folk) and maybe a few beers at Tips to celebrate the day, why not.  So I took Marc out to a little mini-stream chock full of little sunfish and smallmouth, and boy did we get into some hawgs!  I wrestled in one smally that was pushing at least...4, maybe even 5....ounces.  A quarter-pounder with cheese on the fly!  Pretty little fish though, and what a fun way to unwind, plucking tiny fish out of a tiny stream on tiny rods.  Not really much to tell here honestly, that's what it was, fishing to fish, pure and simple.  I DID add two new species to my fly list, so I guess something came of it.  9 o'clock rolls around, and I can hear the faintest call on the wind, ".....tiiiiiiips.......tiiiiiiiiiiiiips."  Who am I to deny the voices of fate?  So, off I roll down the old dusty trail to the waterin' hole.  Greeted at the door by Montana Shane and a cold Coors Original already open on the bar, I knew this was where I was supposed to be.  So I drive a few beers in me, plug some money into the jukebox, and settle down on my barstool to stare down the same wall I've stared at oh so many times before.  When what before my eyes should suddenly appear?  A wee little feller ordering a cold beer!  No red beard, no green jacket and pants, no pot of gold or lucky charms, so I eliminated Leprechaun.  Could it be!?!  Is this the break-dancing "little person" that I had heard tell of.  Ricky (the NOT Leprechaun)...MAN, I hate the whole politically correct thing, but I really don't want to offend anyone....okay, I'm not sure what the cutoff between dwarf and midget is, but this guy was short.  Knee high to a grasshopper!  For the record, he seemed an extremely nice fellow, and I am by no means poking fun.  Next thing I know, tables are being cleared , the floor is opened up, and I am now watching this little fella spin around on his head like a human dreidel and worming his way across the floor.  It was at this point that I requested that my favorite bartender in the world please clarify that I was in fact seeing what I thought I was seeing.  I guess the little pieces of paper and that half a rufee in my beer had actually not taken effect yet.  This cat was tearing the floor up!  He then proceeds to calmly dust himself off, shake hands with a few people, and penguin his way back outside...Holy hell!  It took a hi-lift jack just to get my jaw off the floor.  I looks over at Jess, expressed my disbelief, and ordered another beer to see if the lollipop guild would show up while my BAC was on the rise.  Tips.  Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name, and break-dancin' midgets just happen occasionally.

Sundy rolls around, and I get the fishin' itch, so Marc and I loaded up the kayaks, made the necessary preparations (stock the cooler with food and beer, buy more beer, pack fishing gear, buy more beer, you get the picture) and it was off to Trinity Lake.  When we first show up, the first thing I hear is, "Oh, no, this doesn't look right."  We're out here chasing down a hot tip Marc got, and suddenly "this doesn't look right comes up...Oh boy.  So this is when I says, "Well, you wanna fish it?"  And fish it we did, but not before we had a meet and greet with some of the fine folks that frequent Trinity Lake, earning us our fair share of momentary fame and glory.  We recieved such pearls of wisdom as: Don't get so faced by noon that you forget your sunglasses in the truck or you'll blister the bottoms of your feet whilst 'Woohoo!'ing yourself hoarse.  She did however compliment me on my stunningly white teeth.
"He ain't from around here." spouts the most redneck voice a Mainer can muster. 

Sorry for that pause that you guys can't tell that just happened; I had to put down my beer because I couldn't stop laughing.

To the frequenters of Trinity Lake, You are wonderful people and damned good entertainers.

Fishing Trinity Lake
Anyway, we caught some very nice fish in very good numbers in a variety of fishing styles, the stillwater dry being the absolute mindblower.
8 minutes of tiny mends for micro wind-currents to keep your fly from dragging, all the while waiting on a trout to meander into a tiny window on their patrols where your little foam fly, which is no bigger than the word ENTER on this screen, floats nearly perfectly in sync with all the little white bubbles and yellow pollen flecks on the water...thenBOOM!  All hell breaks loose when that fish either sips that fly with barely a ripple or just demolishes it in a silvery, pissed off rolling boil.  That first take was the latter.  A flash of trout and a quick, violent whorl, and I'm ripping the surface with 60 feet of line! 

I may post a real-time video, just for anyone that wants to see the full extent of intensity in the focus.  Heck, I'll even put some music in there.
Hooked up, and keepin' er out of the willows.
Buggers, nymphs, dries, even Ro-Jo bugs were catching fish.  So two days  of spectacular trout fishing and we're wanting to change direction a little bit, so it's up Stuart's Fork we rumble and bushwhack through some of the roughest terrain we've ventured through thus far in the season for a few dinky little trout and one GORgeously coloured California Mountain Kingsnake, a new snake species for me. 
California Mountain Kingsnake

On to the next week of work which goes as work goes, and we see such events as, the bottling of Austington Wit (my first gluten-free belgian-style ale), meeting up with Marv at the casino ( A fantastic guy, a wonderful friend of mine and the family), and a deer cleaning out my bird feeder and subsequently getting ineffectively attacked by the rabid pack of terriers.
Bird feed thief
 My good friend, Aaron, also rolled through town. He guides at Fish Tales Fly Shop in Calgary, Alberta, and is currently wrapping up a phenomenal 4-month fishing hiatus that has spanned from Belize to Houston to Corpus Christi, Baja, Cuba, and Red Bluff, CA.  Check out his blog, .  The guy is a great writer, a bang up fisherman, and probably the most personable guy you can meet. 
I took Aaron out to the home waters and we had as good an after-work special I could have asked for.  Aaron picked up a few quality California rainbows, and I said hello to a new, thicker shouldered fish in one of my favorite runs. 

And now, here I sit, clickity clickin' away on the keys. What will tomorrow bring?  Maybe geocaching around Clear Creek and up Mule Mountain, or maybe jigging for land-locked tschawytscha on Lake Shasta in the kayak.  Who knows....

Stay Shiddy!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Shasta National Forest; Follies, Fawns, Fish, and Fun

Blacktail fawn

I write to you from the campfire….

DAMN!  Technology is cool.  I mean, really, I am violating one of my cardinal rules here by bringing a computer camping, but I couldn’t resist doing it just once.  Plus, I’m by myself, I’ve been staring at the fire and drinking for a little while, I figure, it’s okay.  The screen is blinding though, so I shall keep this section short.

Made it out to fish for some McCloud river redbands today.  Salmo Shasta  is a one of eleven native  trout species  (heritage trout) found in California.  California is home to eleven distinct and, at one point in time, geographically isolated populations of trout.  Should one catch six of the eleven species, said person will have completed the Heritage Trout Challenge.  My goal this year is to complete the challenge.  Thus far I have caught the redband, Coastal Cutthroat, and Steelhead.  I figure it’s a pretty realistic goal to accomplish, though finding the pure strains of some of these trout in their native waters will prove to be little sagas all their own. 
The McCloud River

Anyway, more on that later.  The sound of the river down below me is pretty entrancing, so I bid you all adieu, good morrow, the clickity clicking of these keys is kinda ruining it for me.


You know, I had the toughest time trying to decide how many periods to put right there.  That is how utterly uninspired I feel to write at this juncture.  And the most obnoxious symbol on the keyboard goes to….I got lost here… Oh yeah!  So there I was:

I spent the rest of my night trying to wedge the dog off the bed and get comfortable in the back of my truck.  Yes, no grand tales of stargazing and getting lost in the night wilderness.  Fitful sleep on a poorly made bed for me!  I guess I’m just a sucker for that exhausted, achy feeling after a good hard overnighter camping trip.  Woke up bright and early and started up my little fire to thaw my skinny, thin blooded butt out, rigged up my boiling pot, ground my coffee, and proceeded to sit and bask in the majesty of the morning.  Having had my coffee and stretched my legs a bit, I proceeded to follow Billie’s example by walking around, sniffing the bushes, and marking my territory.  I tell ya, it was like a scene right outta one of them there fly fishin’ movies with Brad Pitt.  You know, that ONE movie that entirely defines fly fishing, and the very essence of shadow-casting…(insert muffled guffaw here).

So I’m down in the canyon.  I’ve done a little brush-busting to get where I’m at, at least a half river mile downstream from where I had always stopped in previous years.  New water.  I’m casting a pretty clumsy rig consisting of a foam grasshopper fly tied 3 feet above a weighted nymph with another 18 inches of tippet to another nymph.  3 points of weight and wind resistance= clumsy rig.  Then it happens… You know that feeling when you get hit by lightning 2 days after having someone tell you, ”SHYEAH! Call me when that happens.”   BOOM, Brett!  BOOM!  I see a flash on my lower nymph, and at the exact second I go to set the hook, ANOTHER fish slips up and sips that hopper you’ve got on.   Needless to say, I was in shock, because this NEVER HAPPENS!!  Not that I’ve heard of anyway.   Two Trout One Drift.  I only wish I was more diligent with my GoPro, because that might just have been the nastiest bit of fish porn on the web!  I mean, we’re talking 500 hits here! 

Pure strain McCloud River Redband
But, seriously, amazed the Bjeezus out of me!  Sorry to say I did not land them both.  The little guy shook off, as I had no way to keep tension on them both with such light line.  I did land the bigger one that sipped the hopper, though.

The rest of my trip went well.  Got great gas mileage, stopped and fished some new water on the Upper Sacramento River, saw tons of nice fish, and nearly had to take out a deer with a rock…Wait a minute…Deer, rock….Oh yes, I’m getting there!

So I’m teabag deep in the river stalking some rising fish about 20 yards from the bank and I hear Billie barking.  She’s chasing a deer through the brush, no big deal, she had already chased one out a little before, an event that ended in she sees me and comes to a screeching halt.  About face, into the river downstream.

The one that ran away
Something’s different though.  Both the dog and the deer are headed my way through the wall of blackberries and brush, and the dog is in the lead…Billie comes bursting out of the brush about 5 feet out into the water and hot on her heels is a red-hot pissed off doe.  I mean, this B*&#$ was in STOMP mode, HULK ANGRY, SMAAAAAAAAAAASH mode!  So she’s trying to make Billie a new part of the riverbed and I don’t know whether to laugh, help, take a picture, or piss myself.  I start heading that way and Billie gives her the slip and starts muskratting her wait in a beeline for me.  The doe gives up pursuit for the moment and Billie and my fly line proceed to swim circles all around me.  So I grab the dog and haul her up to the nearest rock, all the while lecturing Billie about the dangers of messin’ with momma and otherwise pissing me off on a perfectly relaxing day of fishing.  Fast forward to 30 minutes and 200 yards of river later and Billie is back on the bank, not willing to venture very far from the water’s edge any more.  I hear scree (a loose accumulation of rocky debris on a slope or cliff) sliding, then blackberry bushes crashing, and the general “HEY! THIS AIN’T GOOD” feeling comes upon me.  Billie must have had that feeling too, because she was already in the water and headed my way, but she only got a foot out when that deer busts out stomping.  I already had a softball sized rock in hand and hucked it right at that screaming mad mother.  I guess a rock that big right behind the shoulder will snap you out of any craze, because she looked up all sorts of apologetic like and hopped right back into that thicket.  I kinda felt bad, but I kinda knew where she was coming from with the whole protectiveness thing.  Thus the reason I did NOT throw the rock as hard as I could and she was able to walk away bewildered, but otherwise unharmed.  Just in case anyone was wondering.

So, now I’m back en la casa, back at work, and awaiting the next ramble.

Stay shiddy kids!