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”.
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.
I am always amazed at the so-called coincidences and subtle interwoven interactions of life. Toss in a connection with fishing, and I am not just amazed, I am also amused.
Consider, for example, the following thread of events from this past week:
I spoke to my sister on the phone last Monday and during the course of the conversation, we reminisced briefly about the tiny flat she and her husband used to rent in London.
It was literally on the banks of the mighty Thames, and seriously within a stone’s throw of the London Bridge and Tower.
I could actually sit out on the balcony sipping my morning coffee and casually converse with guys who were flyfishing from the muddy banks below – all in the virtual center of one of the greatest cities on earth. I loved that little place.
So then last Tuesday, while heading to our next appointment, my wife and I were cruising down one of the major thoroughfares that knit the various communities of Orange county together when we crossed over one of a thousand small drainage channels that spider all over SoCal.
From my elevated vantage at the helm of our rolling veterinary hospital I caught a quick glimpse of the mild flow of water coursing between the rip-rap lined and concrete reinforced banks.
In the milli-seconds that I had to capture the entire scene – something which I am convinced is a by-product of growing up in the car culture of SoCal – I made the assessment that that little waterway would be a great place to practice fly casting and line mending techniques. The only thing lacking would be fish.
That, of course, started me thinking about the previous day’s conversation with my sister, those barely remembered conversations with retired stockbrokers on the banks of the Thames and…
…that led me on a whole other tangent of thought with regard to loss of native fish species, the wonders of civil engineering, the re-establishment of salmon in the Thames River, urban renewal and so on and so on
Thus, with those thoughts swimming around in my head, once we finally settled in for the evening, I feverishly tuned my attention to the info super highway and typed away into the wee hours of the morning tracking down useful information which just might possibly lead to a new, untapped or long forgotten spot to fish. I am singular in purpose, if nothing else.
I did not turn up any secret “honey hole” that I’m willing to share but I did stumble upon some fascinating info nonetheless. It turns out there are something like a hundred miles of those open channels all across the greater L.A. Basin. They in turn connect to some 1500 miles of underground pipes and tunnels and eventually it all feeds into sixty or so outflows that pour into the ocean. Seems that that little phrase from the movie, Finding Nemo, does have a basis in truth (at least in SoCal) — “all (storm) drains lead to the Ocean”.
Folks who get paid to calculate such things, tell us that roughly 100 million gallons of water flows through this network on any given dry day. Toss in some rain and the flow jumps to an astounding 10 billion (yeah, with a “B”) gallons per day! That’s a lot of water.
One only has to look at a map of these channels and such and it isn’t too hard to surmise that SoCal was once a magical place of meandering creeks and small streams and living, breathing rivers.
As coincidence would have it, the very same day I was pondering these things, our fellow bloggers over at L.A. Creek Freak posted a great story (excerpted from a Press-Enterprise story of a year ago) about the re-appearance of the Santa Ana Speckled Dace in the City Creek portion of that waterway.
Dace are smallish and minnow-like and probably wouldn’t put up much of a fight except maybe on a 00 weight rig. The bigger battle would be trying to convince the judge that you were actually fishing for a legal to catch species.
Nevertheless, the story by Creek Freak directed me toward additional sites and eventually I came across some pretty interesting articles documenting the fact that at least until the 1930’s, honest-to-goodness Steelhead used to swim very close to the present day location of Los Angeles City Hall.
So…in a little more than twenty-four hours I had come full circle. From a brief snippet of conversation which stirred a memory about flyfishing on the heavily urbanized Thames to a study on the drainage system of SoCal to copies of historical documents indicating that Steelhead swam the L.A River to my fishin’ buddy, Sean and I crawling through a hole in a fence to fish a section of urban channel we had never fished before… Like I said, what an amazing and amusing series of interactions…
My beautiful bride caught her first fish on a fly.
Life is good.
We hadn’t planned on going flyfishing. In fact, we were just coming off a rather difficult week of appointments, surgeries and hard-to-manage cases and were both of the mind set that Sunday afternoon ought to be a little more on the mellow side.
However, as we were driving home from church, I casually mentioned that it was such a beautiful day that we ought not waste it by being indoors. I also casually mentioned that Craig Regional Park was a very peaceful and relaxing place with lots of trees and open spaces…and a wonderful little lake and stream.
I also casually mentioned that the new Sonic drive-in restaurant was nearby.
Ka-ching – done deal.
So, we ended up in Craig park and, wouldn’t you know it, I just happened to have not one but two fly rods in the back of the car.
The wind was a little too stiff for the novice fly-caster so we headed over to the little creek which is flanked by trees and is more protected.
Now, I’m only mildly bragging but the little Mrs. picked up the fundamentals of roll casting like the proverbial duck on a June bug. Before too long I moved several dozen yards upstream and essentially left her to her own devices so that she could develop her technique.
Before long, she yelped and, sure enough, there was the tell-tale twitching of the rod tip signaling a fish on. After a short battle, she landed the little Bluegilland lipped it like she’d done it a hundred times.
When I asked her how she knew to do that she said she learned it from all of the pictures on our web site.
Oh! I guess somebody is paying attention.
Anyway, she went on to land two more little ‘gills before things started to slow done.
We moved up and down the bank but could not find the fish anymore.
I fished a little more but she decided to call it a day and laid down in the grass to mull over her success and enjoy the long, warm rays of the afternoon sun.
Now, I am not exaggerating when I say there was the picture of heaven right there in that park that day; My bride, stretched out on the fresh green grass of Spring alongside a quaint babbling creek, highlighted by the golden rays of the sun, with her fly rod next to her…
Social obligations have stacked up one after the other like jetliners flying into LAX on a Friday night: Mother’s day, birthdays, anniversaries, speaking engagements, business-related trips and professional continuing education courses… all have merged into a perfect storm to keep me away from my fly rod.
Not that the celebrations of life are less important than fishing. In fact, if anything, this month has clearly demonstrated the width and breadth and depth of my blessings. Still in those reflective moments between and betwixt the hustle and bustle — while speeding past one of my favorite urban lakes or flying over the San Bernardino mountains on approach to John Wayne airport or quickly flipping through the stack of fishing magazines piled up on the counter – well, then is when I am most acutely aware that it has been a good month for the social graces and strengthening family bonds but a lousy month for fishing.
Mind you, there have been plenty of enticements. There have been tournaments and classes and competitions galore. Everybody seems to be sponsoring some sort of something or other with valuable prizes and untold amounts of prestige available for the taking – all for a nominal entry fee, of course. And there have been the phone calls and offers from fishin’ buddies but alas, it just didn’t happen. The fly rod sat untouched…or rather, unused. I’ve carted it around in the back of the car hoping to squeeze in a half hour or so here and there. I’ve washed the line and prepped it for the season. I’ve changed the leader and restocked my fly boxes – typically in the deep hours of night but I just haven’t fished.
One bright spot did occur last weekend when my wife and I made a quick overnighter to Big Bear. Over a relatively laid back cup of morning coffee the love of my life actually suggested we go fishing.
Once I picked myself up off the floor, we readied up and soon were at the lake with rods in hand. Naturally, since it was our only free day up there, the weather was less than cooperative and the wind howled across the water strong enough to form whitecaps.
Now, my bride has gone out with me on about half a dozen ventures and has yet to land a fish. She has hooked up on a fish, played a fish and had a fish break off just feet from the shore but she has yet to actually land a fish so, needless to say, I too really wanted her to catch a fish.
So the fly rods went back into the car and out came the spinning rods.
We also opted to head over to Grout Bay which is more sheltered and therefore less windy.
When we arrived at Grout Bay the water indeed lacked the white caps seen on the rest of the lake but it still rippled and splashed and roiled. Carpwere everywhere and they were…busy.
It didn’t look good for fishing but then I glanced over at my wife and she had the “Look”. You know what I’m talking about. The fixed gaze, the shaking hands, the raised pitch in the voice… She beat me down to the water.
We fished hard for about an hour and a half but, alas, some things trump even food (if you know what I mean) and we could not entice a strike.
By the time we decided to call it quits for the day we had tossed a whole lot of hardware and cleared a whole lot of weeds from our rigs but had not landed a fish. Still, we had spent a very pleasant morning in a very pleasant place doing something I already love and something I am happy to say my wife is growing to love.
A couple of days before my fishin’ buddy, Sean and his bride were set to go on a missions trip to Indonesia, he called me up and asked me if I wanted to squeeze in an afternoon of fly rodding for Carp at Craig Park.
Naturally, I asked him how soon he could get to my house.
On the way over to Fullerton, he regaled me with tales of the massive, hard-hitting, head-shaking fish he had battled just days before. The more he talked, the higher the probability rose that I might have actually broken a couple of traffic laws – hypothetically speaking.
Anyway, when we arrived at the park, the attendant at the entrance gate, upon spotting our rods in the back seat, eagerly informed us that some 480 pounds of catfish had been planted earlier in the week and that he had witnessed several anglers catching decent amounts of fish.
We thanked him for the info, paid the parking fee, drove down to the lake and began fishing hard with our eight-weights in anticipation of the ensuing man vs. fish battles that lie ahead.
Forty minutes later we were still fishing hard but had not managed to entice a single bite.
We each ran through several colors of wooly buggers, a couple of crawdad patterns and a few leech imitations yet we both remained fishless.
Sean, worried that I might be growing suspicious of his earlier stories, suggested…well, quite a few things that, while imaginative, proved ultimately fruitless and thus, fishless.
Finally, after an hour and a half of some serious skunking, we opted to switch out gear to the shorter, 5-weights we normally use up in the San Gabriels and attack the small stream that runs off the west end of the lake.
I switched over to a 8x tippet and a size 22 nymph and we began working the stream, determined to make the most of an incredibly beautiful afternoon.
Sean almost immediately locked into a small pool that held a surprising number of small Bluegill.
I also began to pull in tiny little ‘Gills as we worked the little rivulet. After the frustrations of no fish, even these little guys were enough to change the mood and lighten the spirits.
Sure, I lost a few too many flies to the overhanging branches and sure bait-sized bluegills were not quite the same as junk-food gorged urban carp but the weather, the darting hummingbirds, the songbirds and the fact that we were catching fish all came together to make it a great way to send my buddy off on his trip to the other side of the world.
In fact, it was such a pleasant little urban fly venture that I thought about it for most of the rest of the week…that is until my other fishin’ buddy, Ray texted me with a picture from his day at Santa Ana River Lakes.
Ray. You gotta watch that guy.
Turns out that he hooked onto a 23 Lb. 8 oz. trout and was now in the running for the monthly thousand-dollar prize money for the biggest fish caught at the lake.
Also turns out that he was using his skanky, little back-up pole with three-pound test on it.
However, unlike Sean, Ray’s got the pictures to prove it. Check him out at the SARL.com website. Ray’s the guy with a smile as blinding as his shaved head. Like I said, you gotta watch that guy. Sometimes I think God has a great sense of humor.
Alright, go ahead and laugh but when I was a kid one of my favorite TV shows was the secret agent satire “Get Smart” starring Don Adams and Barbara Feldon.
Now, what I probably really recall were the endlessly syndicated re-runs which aired about the time I was old enough to start understanding the point of the jokes and running gags that peppered the series but in any event, I can still remember abandoning the math homework and racing to the living room whenever I heard that distinctive “da dum da da…da” theme song.
Admittedly, Agent 86 (aka Maxwell Smart) was not on par with the suave, sophisticated James Bond of the big screen and his gadgets never worked the way the ones Q made but he was definitely more accessible via broadcast television and he did manage to foil the evil plans of the bad guys and win the affections of the stunning agent 99 in the end.
Besides, Max was definitely more in keeping with what might be attained by an awkward kid who lacked the fluid grace and animal charm of Agent 007 but who still had aspirations of saving the world and getting the girl.
Whatever the case, some forty years later, I will still catch myself uttering one or another of the trademark phrases from the show… much to the embarrassment of my bride and the befuddlement of anyone under thirty years of age to whom I happen to be speaking.
This past week, for example, had me muttering the phrase, “Missed it by that much” — one of Maxwell Smart’s pat exclamations, rather frequently.
On Saturday, My fishin’ buddies Sean & Ray and I took some folks down to the beach for some saltwater casting. Long story short, the action was slow. When I did finally manage to hook onto a fish it turned out to be a halibut – but it was a short one – so back it went. Missed it by that much.
On Sunday, my wife and I had to make an unscheduled maintenance trip up to the getaway house in Big Bear to address damage left in the wake of several winter storms.
As we pulled into the driveway late in the afternoon, about an hour before sunset, our neighbor and his daughter came strolling across the street with a stringer full of fat Rainbows, none smaller than two pounds. Turns out he and his little girl had just gotten home a few minutes before us after a smokin’ hot bite suddenly turned off. Missed it by that much.
On Monday, after a full day of hard labor we snuck off for a couple of hours of fishing at the lake but once we got set up and ready to roll, the wind kicked up and the bite turned off again. Missed it by that much.
On Tuesday, the weather took an even bigger turn for the worse so instead of a morning of fishin’, we high-tailed it off the mountain, arriving at the lower elevations just as the first flakes of a mid-Spring storm began to fall back at the cabin. Missed it by that much.
On Wednesday, I got a call from my Mom. My Dad had undergone a series of tests and while the doctors were concerned, he was gonna be alright… Whew, missed it by that much.
Someone once told me that baseball’s great “Sultan of Swat”, Babe Ruth, actually had a record number of strikeouts as well as his record number of home runs yet he is remembered for the later rather than the former. Both records required, however, that he swing away with all that was in him. The difference between fame and failure for him was only a matter of “missing it (or not) by that much”.
So it was that the events of the week got me to thinking and I resolved to keep gettin’ out there as much as possible and keep fishin’ whenever I can and keep lookin’ for those moments that take my breath away wherever I am so come the end of my days, I won’t be saying I missed the fullness of life by just “that much”.