I like Thanksgiving. I like everything that it represents and I like the “vibe” about the day.
I even like the crazy, post-Thanksgiving “pizza” my wife makes using all the left-overs.
Thanksgiving day is, in my mind, still the official kickoff of the Holiday season despite what the Big Box retailers try to pass off on us as they set up their fake Christmas trees in the same aisle as the halloween decorations… in mid-September.
Weather-wise, Thanksgiving is all over the map in SoCal. It has been cold, and rainy, cloudy and gray, and Sunny and mild from year-to-year.
A couple of years ago, my fishin’ buddy, Sean and I were stymied by thin, nearly invisible sheets of ice on one of the mountain streams we tried fish on Thanksgiving morning. This year, we fished in tee-shirts as we snuck away from the home hearths early Thursday morning before the rest of our respective households rolled out of bed.
We only had a very narrow time slot in which to fish so we planned on hitting one local park where Cal Fish & Game was supposed to have planted Trout a few days prior. When we got there, the place was nearly empty. As we paused at the top of a small rise to finish tying on our chosen flies, we both noticed that the water was a sickly, very artificial, blue-green color.
That’s usually not a good sign for productive fishing.
Now, lots of urban lakes and ponds get the dye treatment to help cut down on algal growth and aquatic weeds especially when the days have been sunny and the temps mild to warm. However, over the years, we have noticed a pattern associate with these dye treatments and developed an unofficial color scale to determine our potential success rate.
The color of the water we were looking at ranked about a “2”.
Nevertheless, we headed down the slope, ducked a couple of errant Frisbees from an early morning Frisbee Golf foursome who clearly weren’t warmed up yet and started fishing.
Our efforts were rewarded without so much as a half-hearted nibble.
Sean engaged an early morning walker/fellow angler in conversation and learned that the lake probably had not been planted and that nobody had caught much of anything over the last few days, which explained why the gentleman was walking and not fishing.
That was enough for us to switch to plan “B” and within a few minutes we were on our way to another local park about fifteen minutes away.
In contrast to the last lake, the water at our next stop was crystal clear. So much so that is was like looking through glass. With our polarized sunglasses, we could see every detail of the bottom and, unfortunately every Bass within twenty-five feet of the shoreline.
As always, we fished hard, crept along as stealthily as possible, switched tactics and flies frequently and covered the entire lake.
The long and short of it though was that every Bass we could see, could also see us. Urban fish don’t get to be the size these Bass were by being stupid. Sean did manage to get one fish to follow a wooly bugger twitched over a weed bed but the subsequent strike was half-hearted at best and didn’t result in a hook set. I too could only muster one weak lunge at my streamer but it too did not result in a solid bite. We were in essentially the same dilemma that Flats fisherman face all the time.
Now, a lot of guys would just shake their head and consider the day a failure. Despite the disappointing fishing, I felt like we had been given a unique Thanksgiving Day gift. You see, there were only two other anglers at this park and one of them was a stationary bait fisherman. Sean and I got to cover the entire perimeter of the lake and, due to the unusual clarity of the water, we got to map out every inch of underwater structure to about twenty-five feet out. We now have the knowledge of where there are weed bed edges, where there are rock piles, where there are trenches and potholes, where somebody tossed in an old Christmas tree and where aerator pipelines run. We also got to map out the spawning beds from earlier in the year and we got to note underwater corridors that the spooked Bass were using to flee when our shadows fell on the water. Come the Spring we will know exactly where to concentrate our efforts.
Besides that, we were outside, in shirtsleeves, in late November, enjoying the fresh air, the quietness, the beauty of the changing leaves, the chance to fish and the opportunity to learn a whole lot of useful things for another day. I even snagged a soft plastic salamander imitation once hidden amongst the thick lily pads but now clearly visible.
It was a morning to be thankful indeed.
I love this addiction called urban fly fishin’.
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