TO TURN A PHRASE

By , August 24, 2011 12:01 am

In the classic film, “It’s A Wonderful Life”, the main character, George Bailey asks at one point, “Do you know what the three sweetest sounds in the world are?”

Lovable but single-minded Uncle Billy answers, “Sure. ‘Breakfast is served’, ‘Lunch is served’, ‘Dinner is served’”.

Now, while I would generally tend to agree with Uncle Billy, I would also add to the list the phrase, “Uncle Dan, will you take me fishing?” with “…And the winner is…Dan Zambrano” as a close second.

But anyway, the former phrase is the one that caused my heart to race this past weekend as our niece approached me and begged me to take her fishing.

Who am I to deny such a humble request from one so sweet? Especially when it was followed with one of those pleading little faces that kids intuitively seem to know will melt our tough-guy façade like hot…uh… coffee on snow.

So, with only a little bit of scheduling adjustments and some quick conferencing with her mom, we planned for Sunday afternoon as the big adventure day.

I already knew exactly where we would go: Laguna Park in Fullerton.  I also knew exactly what sort of rig we would use and I already suspected I could enlist the help of my fishin’ buddy Sean.

Sure enough, when Sunday afternoon rolled around, a certain ten-year old was duly deposited on my doorstop with the motherly advice, “Do exactly what uncle Dan & Sean tell you to do and you will catch a fish”.

Oh.

No pressure there.

Soon, we were at Laguna Park and we quickly fell into the pattern that we would follow pretty much for the rest of the afternoon. Sean led with his 5-wt fly rod

rigged with a hopper-dropper combo while Holly and I used simple bait rigs suspended about eight inches beneath plastic floats.

As Holly tangled or fouled her rig, I would let her use my ultra-light Pen Rod while I reset her gear. I would then fish her pink and yellow Snoopy pole for a while. When she fouled the Pen Rod, we would switch off and I would reset that rig.

In between re-rigging, I did manage to quietly catch a few fish on both poles. Holly however, had her eyes fixed on Sean. His rig was bringing in fish about every other cast.

This strategy, coupled with the steady number of Bluegills that Sean kept pulling in, had the effect of keeping Holly interested, busy and excited at the prospect of her first fish.

We fished for about fifteen minutes (a life time to a ten-year old) but she had not tied into a fish.  She was keenly aware however, that Sean was several fish ahead of her and she had some catching up to do.

(How’s that for attitude and positive thinking?)

After a short time, I realized that she was getting bites but she could not pick up on the subtle movement of the traditional round bobber. In the time it took for me to tell her to set the hook, the fish would be off. So, I switched her over to a bright yellow pencil-float and that seemed to telegraph nibbling Bluegill much better.

Sean let her borrow his polarized glasses for a moment and with them she could see the little bluegill attacking her bait.

Suddenly, it all clicked and you could pretty much see the pieces of the puzzle all fall into place within her head.

Soon she was reading the bobber signs quite well and, even better, she was catching fish on a consistent basis.

Before long she was striving for first place in our impromptu catch and release fishing tournament.

So, train whistles, boat whistles and airplane engines may have been the sweetest sounds in the world to George Bailey but that’s probably because he never heard the sound of a kid that has just landed her first fish all by herself.

 That sound is one of the sweetest sounds of a wonderful life… that and the phrase, “Your chicken McNuggets are ready, sir?”

…I love this addiction called urban flyfishin

SQUEEZE PLAY

By , August 17, 2011 6:24 pm

I had an opportunity to squeeze in some early morning mid-week fishing recently and jumped at the chance as quickly as a bluegill on a wind-blown ant.

So, imagine my frustration when I pulled up to my chosen destination only to be confronted by two hundred or so high-school age cross-country runners as well as dozens and dozens of orange safety cones, yellow tape and a half dozen coaches barking orders and blowing chrome whistles.

Now, any normal person would have stayed in the car and headed over to the nearest regional park which was only about fifteen minutes away.

But the operative words here were: “squeeze” and “normal”.

I did not want to sacrifice even another fifteen minutes battling more SoCal commuter traffic than I had just taken on and I did not want to spend five dollars on admission to a place I was only going to be at for an hour or two at most.

So, I assessed.

I assessed and then modified my game plan so that, one way or another, I could fish.

From what I could discern from the layout of orange cones, the designated course for the runners appeared to follow the entire perimeter of the small body of water I had targeted and then seemed to disappear off into the surrounding hills before re-entering the park and looping around the lake again.

I figured that would mean a few moments of heavy foot traffic and then some relative peace followed by a steady stream of runners as the pack thinned and spread out according to the runner’s abilities and strategies.

Because of the proximity of the course to the water’s edge, I also figured out pretty quickly that fly-rodding was probably not gonna work so well. I already lose enough flies in bushes and low-hanging branches as it is, I didn’t particularly want to snag a lycra clad, eighty-five pound freshman in the middle of a race on the backcast.

So, I left my five–weight in the car and, instead, opted for my trusty Pen Rod Extreme with the MX-15 rear-drag spinning reel loaded with two-pound test.

I rigged up a tiny, clear bubble float with a size 16 treble suspended about eight-inches below it and baited the hook up with pink Powerbait crappie bits.

Then, with the rhythm of heavy breathing and running shoes pounding the dirt behind me, I start pulling out Bluegill like they were goin’ out of style.

Sure, it wasn’t exactly the most serene setting for fishin’…OK, it was anything but serene, but it sure was fun thanks to my day-saving, handy-dandy ultralight Pen Rod Extreme.

About an hour later, as the final runners wheezed across the finish line, I released the last of several dozen decent sized fish that, surprisingly, found pink crappie bits… irresistible.

So, while dozens of young people roamed post-race around the park looking pretty much worse for the wear — spittin’ and groaning and holding their sides and all, I gathered up my gear and felt pretty darn good considering the unexpected change in plans.

Like I said, it’s all about squeezing recreation into those free moments.

I love this addiction called urban “ultralight” fishin’.

CLEAR AS DAY

By , August 11, 2011 10:30 pm

I’ve been waiting, and waiting, and waiting!

Okay let me back up a little here. I’ve been fishing in the San Gabriel Mountains since I was a little kid, and one of the places that I used to love to hike up to was Crystal Lake. The lake has been on lock down since late 2005 due to fires, then rain, then road damage, and now it’s open.

This place holds a special place in my heart. It’s where I caught my first Largemouth Bass as a young boy, and has always made me feel so far away from everything going on in the world.

So enough reminiscing, the point I’m trying to make is that I finally had the chance to make it back up there a couple of weeks ago.

I arrived early in the morning and the parking lot was still closed. So I parked on the side of the road, put my Adventure Pass in the rear view mirror, picked up my Okuma 9′ 5 weight and off I went to relive my childhood.

After about a 1/4 mile uphill hike,  I arrived heart racing to see if it still looked the same. As I turned the corner it was like 14 years just rolled back, and there I was 10 years old with fishing gear in hand.

After a couple minutes I remembered that I was there to fish. I tied on a size 12 Beadhead Olive Flash-A-Bugger and after about three casts I was on a fish. I set the hook, the fish fought for a second, and then it came off.

I stood there in shock were there still Bass in here? Plus it fought like a really good one. I sharpened my hook and made sure I had completely mashed down the barb. After my next cast, another hit and another fish off.

I repeated this process about 5 more times with 2 more flies. What was going on? Do these fish have holes in their mouths?

By this time the sun had started to come up, and I decided to switch to a Hopper Dropper Rig.

One cast and I had a decent sized Green Sunfish in hand. This thing fought like a fish 3 times it’s size, and I couldn’t believe the girth for the length of the fish. Well at least the fish were healthy and abundant.

After about 5 Small Bass, 15 Green Sunfish and 1 missed Catfish, I decided to call it a day. People were starting to show up with their dogs and kids. Throwing rocks in the water and scaring away all the fish.

I packed up my rod and reel and started to head out, and as I turned the corner I heard a rustling in the trees and decided to investigate!

There was a small Pack (that’s probably not the right word) of deer, eating acorns (the deer were eating the acorns not the other way around) and moving toward the lake to get a drink of water.

What a day. I am so excited to see this little Lake in such great condition and please if any of you make it up there, pick up your trash and practice catch and release only!

I want nothing more than if I have children, for them to someday be able to enjoy this great little piece of my childhood.

OH, THAT’S WHY

By , August 3, 2011 11:58 am

One of the most common questions we, as urban flyfishers, get from our non-fishing friends is: “why?”

 Why do we fish tiny ponds in overcrowded, noisy parks in the middle of the city?

 Why do we venture out amongst the homeless, seedy or just plain crazy? (The three are NOT necessarily one and the same – don’t rush to judgment here).

 Why do we get up way too early, creep around long after dark and fish with one eye always on the look out for gangbangers, thieves or unsympathetic cops?

 Why do we not even think twice about squeezing through holes in fences, crawling through storm drains or scaling locked wrought iron gates to pursue our passion?

Why do we have fighting knives fastened rapid-deployment style to our pack straps yet carry giveaway food bars and pocket-size editions of the gospel of John within those same packs?

Why the heck would we be willing to tolerate all this stuff that seems so very foreign to the traditional concept of fly fishing?

Well, if a picture is worth a thousand words:

 That’s why.

I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’

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