Saturday, July 28, 2012

Filler


Yeah, that's right...FILLER!  I have all of the footage I need to compose an encapsulating video chronicle of the trip to the Golden Trout Wilderness, but I have yet to make any headway on acquiring the software required to arrange the visual repertoire that I am envisioning.  But fear not, I am in the process of weaving the tale of the adventure, and it will be unleashed in the next post that draweth nigh.

Until then, I cooked up some filler.  Yay! Filler!

Whilst this was by no means a haphazard project, putting together this short did take under 2 hours tops...the first time!  There I am, whipping together a video, furrowed brow, drooping dark sacs filling beneath my eyes, and BING!  Up pops the old "youworkin'onsomethin'?Oh!COOL!" POWERDOWN!!!............................................................................................................................dramatic pause...............................................................................................................imagine these dots are creating a little electric feedback hum.................................................SON OF A B&*%$.   The computer goes FLYIN' across the room, and I'm flyin' after it to catch it.  I was a wee bit steamed!  But I got over it, and now, a week later, I started 'er up again and everything flowed.  I gotta say, for the remaining hour and a half I spent re-making this entire video after a song just CLICKed with me today at work, I don't think it's half bad.  It really paints a decent portrait of what the trip was,  a dang near fishless, cold, wet, dart throwin', punchin' baggin', drunk and hollerin' in the woods, frito chili pie makin', sasquatch trappin', hell-raisin' good time.

For starters, it hadn't been that good of a steelhead year to begin with, we had one fly-fishin' greenhorn, a wanted fish and wildlife outlaw, Mainerd and me, and we figured this trip was gonna be a doosey.  We had one week to get on some steelhead from just out of the valley damn near to Oregon.  One week to get some of the biggest, juiciest, perfectly breaded and sauced hot wings this side of the rockies.  ONE WEEK...to, party, because I hadn't been out there in quite some time, and dangit, I'm on vacation!
But we pulled 'er together and got loaded at Tips, as is the custom, and loaded up to head coastward.  First day on the water and ol' Mainerd (aka Mercury Risin') latches into a steelie.  Then tops it off with a beautiful brown.  Everybody else, ZIP!  No hookups, nada.  But merriment would be had!  We roll on west eventually meeting up with EGGO in Arcata. And so party night began.  We were all fresh on the road, had put in a great fishing effort for the day, doused those delicious buffalo wings with ample amounts of ice-cold SN Pale Ale off the tap, and it was time for vacation...I don't know what it is about that stupid punching machine in the bar, but I look at it now and see that I OBVIOUSLY missed out on a wonderful collegiate investment.  If anybody is reading this and is thinking about going to college, check out a punching machine.  Tell me you can resist cramming all your hard-earned money into one of those suckers after a few pints.  "Hey! Hey! Hey, hey hey, HEY! You GUYS! I'll bet you, the, the next pitcher,  I can score higher than you! *HICK*" 


















Well, you'll see it.
 Have you ever fished for steelhead?  Have you ever fished for steelhead...with a haNGOVER, MAN!?  Not highly advised.  Oh, and garlic cream cheese and lox on an onion bagel...sounds delicious, but don't do it!  Mercury takes us crashing through the quaint streets of downtown Acrata, and then into the roadside jungle down a near vertical hillside that , when you include the washed out traces of the old highway, stirs thoughts of post-apocalyptica.



  At one point I wormed my way out of the rabbit path and through a slope of hobbling vines, only to plunge headfirst into an 8 foot dropoff cushioned by jurassic-sized pampas grass. That is no estimation, 15'+ clumps of pampas.  RIDICULOUS!  Needless to say, I think next time we'll just take the longer route.  Anyway, Big Lagoon yielded nothing but relentless wind and a few agates. On down the road to the Smith River.  Talk about a big, beautiful, and brutal river.  The water is crystal clear, if you could see through all the white-washing rapids and plunges.  I am really looking forward to giving this river a little more fishing time, as frustrating as she may be.  We did hook up with a few coastal cutthroat trout, racking up heritage trout number 3 (the two prior being Steelhead  and McCloud River Redband). 

A few goose-egg days on the Smith got us all itching to move, so we parted ways with Eggo and headed back south. If you can't catch anything else, you can catch a buzz.  Hard at it five days on the road and we headed down to Six Rivers Brewery and then the Mad River Brewery.  Both are excellent haunts if you find yourself in the area. 


The next day on the river would be the toughest yet.  Hopes were still high on hooking up with a little steel, when Bizzuh takes a dunkin'.  Let me tell ya, taking a full on, wader-fillin' dunking first thing in the morning in 30 some degree weather after a week of torture and frustration will really get to a guy. Add to that a broken rod while slip-sliding out of the river looking like a drowned rat, and well...You're gonna be one sad panda.  And sad panda he looked, but by-golly he kept the ol' chin up and racked out in the car while the die-hards finished out the day with NADA!!

We ran Bizzuh back that night, licked a few wounds at Tips, slept the night indoors, and vowed to make a fresh start of it in the morning for one last over-nighter HOORAH!.  And a great attempt it was, covering more water on foot than I think we've covered on that river.  All for a take or two and a little half-pounder steelhead.  But the night was brought to life when a small pile of scat was drunkenly discovered on the campground picnic table.  After a few failed wobbly attempts, the deadfall was set, and we were ready to catch ourselves a Sasquatch! Well, maybe smash his hand a little bit when he tried to take my Fritos.  I mean, come on, I made a little dead-fall using stripped bark to weave a noose for goodness sake, it was bound to work.  Plus, we baited it with beer-soaked Fritos, how could it NOT work?  Awake in the morning and the deadfall was tripped.  No sasquatch, but we did find a coarse whitish hair, possibly Yeti, but it would only be incidental, as we are a bit west and south of their native range, and we really have no way of knowing for certain until the follicle analyses return from the lab....




Then it happened.  Last day on the water, fishing the last run.  I had worked the same drift over and over and over and over and over again.  Mercury comes waltzin' up and BAM! the indicator takes a sharp upstream jerk and the jerk downstream ripped 'er south!  I can replay the moment in my mind in slow motion.  The water sprays off the line running laser-straight from her jaw and she breaches the surface like a 7-pound pissed off submarine and all in one heartbeat radiates cold, glistening beauty through an elegant dance, levitating before my eyes.  Ay, she was deadly beautiful, and that image of her twisting and turning and throwing me off and sliding gracefully back through the same rippling water she'd leapt from, was enough to make the trip for me.  What a way to top it off! I was just as happy to lose that one fish in less than a second as I would have been catching a hundred fish on any other trip.  Too bad it didn't make it on video...Probably a good thing though.

Wow, I started this out at a one-paragraph post and it quickly got out of control.  Oh well.  I felt like you at least needed an explanation for the lack of fish in the Shiddeo.  Sometimes it's not the fish that we are after.

Steelhead 2011

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

USE THE PATH!



 It's 3:30 a.m. and I can't sleep.  No really, I can't sleep.  Maybe a catnap here or there between tows, but it's a ritualistic answer to the prayer bell that vaguely resembles a small kitchen timer. We plod forth, well really aft, to retrieve our net and survey the spoils of our war against these filthy monsters that plague our river, fornicating and masticating in defecation!

I've been larval sampling.  What is that you say?  Just nothing shy of brainscrambling torture! I have yet to decide if I am in an ever-increasing state of elation at the thought of being rid of this 6:30-3am sleep deprivation experiment, or if I am in fact madly in love with the easily justifiable laziness that is entrained in this nocturnal nonsense. 

July 1, 2012:

Following a night of forcing myself to stay awake in preparation for the shift from a regular old 7:00-15:30 schedule, I managed a solid 6 hours of sleep kicked off by half an episode of Trailer Park Boys.  'Alright, eight o'clock!  I am SO ready to stay up til 3!'
(Cue the robotic tour guide voice) "The Sacramento River is home to a genetically distinct population of Green Sturgeon that journey upriver to spawn. Relatively little is known about the sturgeon's spawning habits. Our dedicated biologists at the US Fish and Wildlife service are working to gather as much information as they can to better understand our magnificent, prehistoric piscine pal."

Everyone presses into the port rail, causing the gunwhale of this gaudily decorated tourist barge to list within a perilous few inches of the river's surface...

Sorry, I got lost there.  So it's Sunday and I am prepping to go into work at 6:30 p.m. in attempts to capture out-migrating juvenile green sturgeon. Lunch is ready by 6:00, or is it dinner?  In either event, it's ready and I am off to work.  Fast forward to tonight.  We make the necessary preparations, check all of the sampling gear, make some "adjustments" to the net frame to make sure all the bolts "fit", no matter that they are splayed at 120 degree angles to one another when they should be parallel and I was off target the first few swings and now the net frame is pocked with persuasion dents that look oddly similar to the head of a hammer, THEY FIT DAMN IT ALL!  One thing I love about my job is that if it don't work, take a hammer to it and see if that fixes it. Nevermind that hammer looks a lot like a crescent wrench and the toolbox is last week's wine box. I believe Mickey Moused is the best way to describe the sled configuration of that sampling net.  Boat's full of gas, Truck's full of gas (although at 8mpg, she won't be for long), Scott's passing gas, and we're off like a herd of turtles. 

At the boat ramp while administering my daily dose of public outreach, reciting this exact anecdote to all the local yokels, I realized I was drunkenly rambling in the face of my colleague who continues to exasperatedly plead with me to just "BACK THE *&%@#  BOAT OFF THE $&#(@^ TRAILER!!!"
Maybe I should have only had 3 beers with breakfast at noon.
So the gist of this operation is to capture juvenile sturgeon by towing a benthic D net.  Rotate that D to 270 degrees and you've got a general idea of what the net looks like. Attached to the boat via one 10 ton hydraulic winch, 50,000 lb test kevlar cable, and half a dozen safety lines should the others fail, we drop our net, heavy as nibbler terds to the bottom of the river.  Heavy duty netting trailing behind the D frame will channel all that enters its mouth through its bowels into a solidly packed mass of river debris, bottom dwelling insects, leeches, leaves, and sticks, and hopefully the occasional sturgeon in a perforated PVC live care (which has it's own safety line by the way).  For 20-30 minutes at a time (dependent upon the amount of debris) we leave the net fishing on the river bottom.  At the end of 30 minutes, we tow the net back to the boat, putting intense strain on the davit arm that has gusseted gussets, record river flow readings, and sort through all the collected debris in hopes of locating outmigrating juvenile sturgeon.  We are attempting to narrow down what time of year and in what locations our sturgeon are spawning, when the juveniles are migrating out, and all the other ambiguities surrounding this species.  It really is interesting subject matter if you happen to be a fish-head, or if you long to leave the world of cubicle decorating behind for a free boat ride on the river five nights a week. Although this particular detail is more reminiscent of tying up to an old stump in the middle of the lake and helping rid the alcoholics of the world of the aluminum cans of demonic temptation.  Well, minus the fishing all day and coming home with nothing but your liver in the cooler.
So we tow the net for 30 minutes, chat it up, read books, play Angry Birds, snack, and pull in the net again. Pretty routine.  And that has been the last two weeks.  Again, I am undecided if I am ready to be rid of this schedule.  I rather enjoy waking up around the crack of noon with the rest of the afternoon to get my affairs in order (i.e. deciding between Cap'n Crunch or Mom's Best Luck Charms knockoff), pack my dinner, tie a few flies, watch some Dennis the Menace and Leave it to Beaver, and go in to work right as it starts to cool down to a balmy 95 degrees. Golly, life sure is swell!

On the down side, the adventures have been at a minimum.  I went a did a little geocaching off Muletown Road, of which 1000+ acres burned a few days ago (Not my doing!).  Had a failed attempt at sampling the wares of the Dunsmuir Brewery, as all those darn tourists drank the brew pub dry over 4th of July weekend. There was some consolation in that I gained a healthy reprieve from the torrid central valley temperatures in the baptismal waters of the Upper River of the Blessed Sacrament. Howeve, Brian was the only one who truly got saved.  Came up looking like a drowned rat, and lost his net to boot.  I myself came close, but I managed to balk at the prospect every time. 
And now I am looking ever forward to the exploits of the encroaching future.  5 days, 4 nights, 50 miles, 8000+ feet of elevation, 15 hours of driving, 4 tanks of gas, 2 guys, alone, in the wilderness...It's a full-blown Man-cation.  Fishing for gold in the Golden Trout Wilderness of the Sierras.  Look for the vid.
Even better than that, I am only 3 weeks from seeing my beloved!  Shauna is coming out the 5th of August for a week of rambling through these California hills.  Add to that a trip to the Deschutes River in Oregon for some dry-fly steelheading, and I've got some good times coming to break up these central valley doldrums and build into a great culmination of fat fall fish and sizzling steelhead action and Christmas in North Carolina!  Hoping to see a great friend of mine, and father to one of my favorite compa├▒eros, Mr. Paul Driver in the near future. 
  Things are starting to look shiddy!

Cache found!

Billie found some cool mud

That is the true grade of the hillside I bushwhacked for some of these caches.

Whiskeytown Reservoir to the north

What a spectacular place for a geocache.