The last couple of weeks have been go, go, and go some more. Between Work, Personal Obligations, and my Wife’s sister being out from Las Vegas. I have had absolutely NO TIME TO FISH!!!
Saturday marked a break in the chaos. We traded in our working gloves for a nice relaxing weekend up in Big Bear, and to me that meant Saturday morning fishing on the Santa Ana River.
I arrived at my starting point at about 6:00 am, and the birds were just starting to sing their melodies as the sun rose to the east. I grabbed my gear, hit the first hole, and from the first cast I just felt all the stress and tension melt away.
I’m sure it helped that I pulled about 5 nice little Brown Troutand Rainbow Troutout of the first hole, and the fish just continued to show. I was enjoying the beauty around me so much. I almost forgot that I run a fishing blog and my camera was begging to get in on the action.
The day was more than I could ask for. I got hung up a few times and even lost a couple of flies. But, when you’re catching that many fish it doesn’t seem to matter.
The only thing I need to get through my thick head, is to bring insect repellent. After my arrival back at the cabin I was covered from head to toe in bug bites, though my bliss seemed to help me ignore them (at least until the next morning)
By 11:30 the Bait fishermen were out in full force, and I decided to say adeu. I did however stop to greet each one I passed checking for a fishing license, and to make sure they were not out laying a slaughter fest on the stream. A couple of guys even asked me if they had stocked recently (I guess I just look official), to which I replied they never stock this stream and you should probably head over to the Lake. What can I say, they just seem to rub me the wrong way. Plus, I really can’t stand the smell of Powerbait!
Most of our regular readers know I have a deep and abiding interest in all things related to fish — which partially explains my love of fishing, the ocean and aquatic things in general. (The other reasons would undoubtedly fill chapters in psychology textbooks, but have little bearing on this discussion, so we will ignore those for now.)
As you can already surmise, I am fascinated by fish behavior, anatomy, biology and so on and so forth. This life-long fascination has led to a degree in marine biology as well as further certificates in wildlife management, forestry, conservation, aquaculture and even study in aquatic medicine.
(I don’t tell you these things to brag, but rather to give you some insight into where I am coming from.)
By the time I was in Jr. High, I had firmly made up my mind that I would study science and particularly marine biology.
Then the movie, Jaws, came out.
I vividly remember sitting in the theater, mesmerized yet scared out of my mind, watching the drama of that story unfold.
I remember the famous scene where Quint says, “You go in the cage? Cage goes in the water?… Shark’s in the water”…(then begins to sing) “Farewell and adieu me fair Spanish ladies, farewell and adieu, me ladies of Spain….”
Ironically, I saw the movie on a Friday night and the next Monday we were scheduled to take a two-week summer vacation trip up the coast to Vancouver. All along the way, my family planned to camp at the many wonderful beaches of the West Coast – right in the heart of the Red Triangle, the section of the U.S. coastline where the most cases of documented White Shark attacks had occurred over the last 100 years or so.
Needless to say, I did very little swimming, but a whole lot of watching.
But, besides giving me nightmares for a month, the other thing that movie did was transform my morbid curiosity about sharks (remember I was transitioning from Jr. High to High School) into a life long and sincere interest in them. If I had made up my mind prior to the movie to study marine bio., there was no doubt after the movie that I would study marine bio.
All that to say, that even today sharks hold a huge interest for me. I have two, possibly three whole bookshelves devoted solely to books on sharks. “Shark Week” is almost a reason in and of itself to get cable.
I like sharks.
Perhaps a better term would be respect and fascination with sharks. I look upon them as design perfection in action.
But, getting back to the movie. If you recall it at all, (I admit, I watch it every July 4th) there is a scene where the characters, having gotten drunk during dinner, are comparing scars acquired over their respective lives.
Hopper points to a bleached out spot on Quint’s arm where a tattoo used to be and says, “Let me guess….Mother.”
Quint gets serious and says, “That, Mr. Hopper, is the U.S.S. Indianapolis”.
Hopper quickly gets serious and we, along with Chief Brody get a quick, graphic history lesson about the U.S.S. Indianapolis and one of the most terrifying and tragic incidents in U.S. Naval history.
It is a riveting scene and based in reality.
I firmly believe that, as I went off to college and began working with professors and grad students who were studying sharks, every one of them had been affected by the story depicted in that scene (we all knew about it) and what it represented. I also believe that many were driven, in part, to study what they did because of that story. For many of us going to school in that time period, marine biology was synonomous with the study of sharks.
Now, as many of you may already be aware, one of the hottest trends in saltwater fly fishing right now, at least on the “Left Coast”, is kayak fishing for Mako sharks. And there is arguably no more knowledgeable or skillful shark flyfisherman than Conway Bowman. He has introduced countless individuals to the excitement, thrill and challenge of catching sharks on the fly.
He has systematically built a solid reputation as a fly fishing guide, shark expert, and conservationists and he has renewed public awareness of sharks.
Sharks are once again, hot ticket items – charismatic megafauna, as we say in the Zoo and Aquarium trade and they are spawning a whole slew of techniques, equipment and related travel categories centered around catching them.
Everybody seems to be talking about shark fishing.
So imagine my surprise the other day when I turned on the radio and came in on the middle of an interview with one of the survivors of the U.S.S. Indianapolis.
Suddenly all of the giddy delight about sharks and shark fishing and catalogs with new gear and package deals and such all fell by the wayside and I was taken back to that long forgotten Friday night in the crowded theater watching Quint tell the story of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the fate of the men who served on her.
In the interview, Edgar Harrell, USMC related that out of the approximately 900 men that went into the water (out of a crew of 1196) at 1204 am August 1, 1945 he was one of ultimately just 317 survivors.
Just like Quint, he described the many horrors of being lost at sea. Only, when he recalled the terror of sharks attacking and killing scores of men during the four days that they drifted, helplessly at sea, you knew it was from the perspective of eyes that would never forget and that could still see those moments even if tightly shut.
I did and I just finished reading it. It will make you proud of and grateful to the men and women who gave and are still giving their all for this country.
It is an unashamedly Christian book. If this bothers you, don’t read it. However, you must know that you will be missing out on one of the greatest stories of hope and survival you may ever have the privilege of reading.
Yes, it is a book about sharks, but it has a much, much greater message to tell and I can’t recommend it too highly.
Oh, and later this week, when July 31 and Aug 1 pop up on the calendar, take a moment to count your blessings and know that because of guys like Edgar Harrel and his shipmates and many, many others we have the freedom to engage in our favorite pastimes in one of the greatest countries on the planet.
A few days ago my fishin’ buddy, Sean handed me a DVD entitled Bass – The Movie.
I told him it would be a few days before I could watch it but I would check it out and get back to him.
Last night, I finally sat down and watched it.
The official run time is one hour and forty minutes but it took me about three hours to get to the end because I keep stopping and rewinding and re-watching and making notes and slow-motioning the action and such. In other words, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie but I also found it to be a great teaching aid which, I hope, will make me a better Bass fisherman.
Sure, half the folks we encounter out there on the urban waters see our fly rods and assume we must be only after trout but the truth of the matter is that we both pull in a surprising number of Bass all season long. I like catching Bass. Everyone I know likes catching Bass. I suspect that even the purists who say otherwise secretly relish hooking into a big ol’ bucketmouth every now and then given the chance. Catching a Bass on the fly is a sure fire way to get your heart pounding and to make the day just a tad better. This film is all about that and more.
Admittedly, I probably don’t have the time or resources to pursue Bass with the same passion as the guys in the film, but I do think I will now be able to better maximize what time I do have on the water using the info I gleaned from this pleasant little movie.
And since much of the action took place in SoCal, I felt like the movie gave me just a bit more of a “home court advantage” then, say some of the programs I might catch on cable or some of the articles I’ve read lately in the the national magazines.
Having guys with both conventional and fly gear in the same boat also made things interesting. You never know what revelation or insight might pop up when you step outside the box.
The section on fishing the weeds, for example, was something I can put to use immediately since we encounter very similar situations in the urban lakes we fish as the summer progresses.
I might even try my hand at tying up a few knockoff “swampmasters” now that I have a better handle on fishing in the slop.
Likewise, though much of the fishing was boat based, and virtually all of our urban fly ventures are shore-based, I felt like I gained a better feel for reading the water and can immediately apply some of the things I watched.
All in all, I would highly recommend this movie. “Just be careful”, as Bill Cosby used to say, “‘cuz you might learn somethin’ while your havin’ so much fun”.
You have probably read at least one of my rants on this site, about how the Los Angeles River is underutilized and undermanaged. Well the Evironmental Protection Agency has taken the River a step in the right direction by declaring it “traditional navigable waters”, which lands it back into the helping hands of the Clean Water Act. This ruling means alot to alot of people, and most of all it means that we may soon see this waterway restored back to it’s natural beauty!
There is often a very fine line between what something is called and what it actually is.
We call ourselves “urban” fly fishermen, for example, but that moniker is highly flexible and probably denotes a mindset rather than one hundred percent reality. The truth of the matter is that both Sean and I will readily explore a likely looking fishery whether it be urban, suburban, rural, wilderness, freshwater, saltwater or even perhaps runoff.
To be an “urban” fly fisherperson is more about opportunity than image.
Not that we are without a code of conduct. We won’t steal, trespass on private property or lie about what we caught – life is too short for that stuff and at the end of the day we will have to answer to a Higher Power and the Ultimate Fisher of Men.
That’s not to say we aren’t having a blast along the way though.
Case in point: This past week my beautiful bride and I found ourselves in the lower end of Connecticut in honor of my nephew’s high school graduation.
If you know anything at all about the geography of lower Connecticut, you know that it is a convoluted, ragged, hodge podge of coastline, rivers, inlets, streams, ponds and islands all covered in intense, temperate-climate greenery that boggles the mind of a SoCal native more used to landscapes composed of subtle shades of brown and yellow (and concrete and garish multi-hued graffiti). Water is virtually everywhere and much of that water is filled with fish. In other words, I got off the plane and walked into a fishing paradise.
And, if you know anything about me from following this blog you might recall that I vowed after the Hawaii Trip that I would not travel to a fishing paradise ever again without some kind of fly rig stashed in the luggage.
So it should come as no surprise when I tell you that since Hawaii I have spent a considerable amount of time researching and planning and modifying and practicing and I did indeed have a little trick up my sleeve which I planned on using in that extremely narrow window of opportunity between family events, pre-arranged side trips and the plane ride home.
My secret weapon was/is a carefully modified collapsible PenRod Extreme fishing rod with a matching fly reel and 00-weight Sage floating line.
Google PenRod Extreme and you’ll get a better idea of what I’m talking about. In its original format the tip top of this little rod is too small in diameter to handle even 00 weight fly line so with a gulp and a decisive snip of the side cutters, I cut off the end and replaced it with a suitable fly rod tip top that I picked up at Bob Marriotts.
The disadvantage to this was that it slightly shortened the end section, voided the warranty in a heartbeat and no longer allowed the protective “pen cap” cover to fit properly. Undaunted, I modified an old plastic tackle pack to carry both rod and reel and a few basics and thus created an instant travel kit which easily fit into my luggage.
So naturally it wasn’t very long after making the cross country flight, then navigating the twisting, turning , horse-carriage width roads leading to my sister’s new house ‘til I convinced her that we needed to pick up some supplies from Trader Joe’s… which just happens to be conveniently located next to an Orvisstore.
Now as much as I like TJ’s mango salsa and blue corn tortilla chips, I like new flies even better and the guys at the Orvis store were only too happy to oblige. However, lest you think them as purely mercenary, let it go on the record that they were quite helpful in dispensing vital local fly fishing info (one of the sales reps was president of the local TU chapter) as well as assisting me with a selection of weighted nymphs suitable for the local rivers.
When we returned from our little “supply run”, I dutifully went online to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and purchased a three-day license. Then armed with the info from the Orvis boys, I google-mapped the region, looking for promising target sites and plotted my strategy. I even printed out the appropriate maps and a satellite view of the area…hmmm, maybe I am more urban than I thought.
In any event and despite all my high-tech prep the one thing I failed to take into account was the weather. Sure enough, just as I was set to go out the door a fearsome thunderstorm broke out.
I hate thunderstorms. I’ve seen what lightning does to fishing rods and the folks on the other end of them.
Optimistically, I decided to drive over to the river anyway.
The rain fell harder, the thunder clapped louder, the river turned browner, my prospects looked slimmer…
An hour passed and all I had succeeded in doing was muddying up the rental car and soaking myself.
With family events pressing ever closer, I called it and headed back to my sister’s house.
You already know where this is headed.
One block from her house, the clouds broke, the rain stopped and the sun started to show. I pulled into her driveway and there was even a slight breeze blowing.
I put the car in park and thumped my head on the steering wheel. As I glanced in the rearview mirror to assess the size of the horizontal forehead bruise I had just given myself, I instead noticed that the breeze was actually pushing the thick scum layer toward the opposite end of the little pond (the little private pond)across the street from her house.
Dashing up the stairs and into the family room, I quickly ascertained that she did, in fact, have property rights and access rights to that same pond. Her “yes” still hung in the air in the time it took me to run back down the stairs, grab my gear and high-tail it across the road. I’m sure my entire family thought I lost my mind.
I quickly tied on one of my new nymphs and cast out only about twenty feet. Bam! Fish on. I landed a Bluegill. I cast again. Bam, another Bluegill. For the next hour, every cast brought in a Bluegill save one. The only fish I did not land was a small but respectable Bass that shook my fly in that classic way that Bass tail walk and shake their heads.
Like I said…a fishing paradise. And my little experimental, collapsible rod? It performed admirably.
Am I disappointed that I never made it to the river? Nah, my niece graduates in a couple of years and we’ll be back.