Tuesday, July 10, 2012


 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 compañeros, 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.

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