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Dan Fallon's World of Fly fishing

Column nr.5 2004  



  On May 17th 2004 while the Berkeley California Sun illuminated Thousand Oaks Elementary School, I had the honor of presenting 5th grader Joel Blanco and his classmates the first "Blanco Clean Water Cup". Joel and his school friends including Juliana Meagher, Matthew Abangan, and Erick Cordova spearheaded a successful campaign to clean up polluted Blackberry Creek that runs at the edge of the school grounds.

With the help of Science Teacher Jon Bindloss and school Principle Jessie Ramos appealed to the Berkeley City Council and mayor Tom Bates to take action and clean up the little creek. The city spent $120,000 and over 200 man hours removing a raw sewage source and much discarded trash.

A letter campaign and a video were created by these pro-active youngsters and the end result is a creek that now runs clean and nearly pollution free!

This wonderful story was my lead feature in last months column and has been covered by local newspapers, radio and news programs. Noted San Francisco ceramic artist Shelly Simon donated her time and energy to create the first "Blanco Clean Water Cup" and my great friend Mike Garrigues photographed the presentation. In my mind this act of inspiring pro-action is exactly what is needed to undue all the harm and abuse we adults have wielded in the name of progress. Joel Blanco and his classmates have set a new standard and in the spirit of their success I will present the cup to a deserving individual, agency or whoever goes the extra mile to clean up local waters each spring. I salute Joel his friends, Mayor Tom Bates, Principle Ramos and the Berkeley City Council for a job well done! 

  Me and Mr. Bamboo

"And winter slumbering in the open air, wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring!"

Samuel Coleridge 1772-1834

  Winters last cold mornings play out as California opens it’s rivers and streams on the last Saturday in April every year, I make it a ritual to never prowl my favorite trout streams until at least a week after the opening day. This important timing allows me to eventually have my favorite spots all to myself, after all is said about the art of fly fishing. One aspect has always been clear to me, the pure joy of coming upon ones most prized fly waters and finding no other fly fisher is sublime. In my mind the sport is all about the long peaceful quiet mornings or late afternoon shadows getting longer while birds and running cold water keep the atmosphere alive and magic.

This always cathedral like scene can be shattered by those unthinking new rooky fly fishers who tend to show little respect for the fellow who was on the water first and who by all ancient fly fisher rules ought to be left completely alone and not spoken to or bothered with questions like "Hey, are they biting?". These sort of cranky old man type early season ramblings take a back seat to the first smell of old world varnish that escapes whenever I unscrew the brass top to my favorite Bamboo... This year two new Bamboo rods round out my arsenal, a Headwaters Rod Company six weight and a four weight little seven footer. New Bamboo and early spring alpine cold create a grand natural cocktail of sights, smells, sounds...

One of the best times to experience true peace and quiet is the few weeks before the mad Memorial Day crowds descend on serene waters near lake Tahoe California several great trout rivers and small streams exist. The North and South Forks of the American River and the East Fork of the Carson River that runs from Markleeville California all the way down the mountain to the Carson City Nevada desert. Morning air temps are in the mid 20s, its very cold as my fly rod eyes ice up every few minutes, wading these icy waters takes the full measure of dedication. One does not usually find others out in this early spring ice box where the waters run fast and the scenery is like that of an old Disney Fantasia with blue cold mist and icy white spikes hanging from bushes. The mighty American runs next to the main highway to South Lake Tahoe. This roaring river moves quickly this time of year, those of us who spend much of our lives in cold mountain water have seen and felt the difference these last ten years as the spring thaw occurs sooner each year.

This trip consisting of four days that begin around 6am each morning and ends around noon, a challenge because of the fast water and still very cold water conditions. These conditions mean fish are way down on the bottom or under ledges or behind boulders, they will not respond to any surface dry flies as it is way too early for any hatches of significance. Though I have caught trout with sinking line and size #18 Mosquitos on many occasions, it is more effective to either throw streamers like Black Woolly Buggers, various Marabou type streamers and most important weighted nymphs like Prince Nymphs, beaded nymphs down to the bottom.

I favor the weighted nymphs, six to nine foot leader, 3/4 feet #6 Tippet, long casts up stream and dead drift while working all sections of moderate to medium fast water while mending slack line.

The North & South Forks of the American River are running fast and deep, after several hours working a mile section I never raised a trout or saw one either. The East Fork of the Carson river was more productive, several small hatchery trout kept me busy as they seemed to love the #16 Black Marabou Streamer. I did have to work for the Carson trout on average about two hours per trout was my average, not very good, ok for early fast water work.

The global warming effects in upper northern California have already created concerns as the early thaw means much less water flow as summer heat rages. Farmers, fly fishers and those who spend time in what is left of this delicate remaining wilderness are first to clearly see and feel the effects of this global shift that may create completely new weather patterns that include new deserts and new water challenges. It seems to me the first to feel and suffer are our best friends the fish, insects, birds, and all creatures who thrive and depend on regular flows of pure water. Fly fishers like me who experience many different waters, streams, rivers, every year, are still hopeful compromises will be made in favor of clean water no matter what momentary emergency exists.

It was wonderful and centering to spend many hours walking and throwing with winters last cold breath on my face and makes me think of the words of Percy Shelly 1792-1822;

"I dreamed that, as I wandered by the way, Bare winter suddenly was changed to Spring, And gentle odors led my steps astray..." 

  Ancient fly Fisher Rules Of Conduct

  Since the time of Camelot when King Arthur would come bounding back from a brisk morning playing with his fly rod upon his personal stream filled with 10 pound Browns bred to fight like tigers, a silent but unforgiving code of conduct for gentleman ( & woman ) fly fishers has existed.

1.) Under no circumstances either approach or in any way verbally disturb a fellow fly fisher on the water working. One must upon seeing another fly fisher quickly establish at least 100 yards distance or more if possible. If it is not possible to find another area suitable for angling outside the 100 yard area, one must leave the area entirely and quickly. Under no circumstance can this rule ever be broken or amended.

2.) Under absolutely no circumstance except when fly fishing for wild migrating salmon can more than two fish be killed and taken for personal use. All other species of cold water game fish are strictly catch and release, if you are ever caught killing for personal use a trout, it will be required of you to turn over all your fly fishing equipment to another ethical fly fisher of your choice.

3. ) In every instance where any dispute occurs on or near fly fishing water, it is correct to instantly diffuse and walk away from any and all confrontations that may end in either a quarrel or fisticuffs. This non confrontational edict is for the good of the sport, not for your self image.

4.) Only barbless hooks will be used in pursuit of all fly fishing game fish in warm water or cold.

5.) You will without fail completely clean and inspect your boat bottom, waders, and all equipment that has been exposed to waters during fly trips after every trip.

6.) While working any waters in pursuit of game fish, one must never disturb or in any way effect the river stream edges or natural stream beds while wading. In the course of wading any waters, one must be aware of not destroying delicate river, stream beds with excessive wading.

7.) After any fly trip, one must make certain no waste or litter of any kind is left behind! If possible your own footprints can be erased with the help of dragging a fallen bush behind you when you exit. The idea being, you were never there!

8.) All game fish must be treated with absolute respect in regard to their condition and recovery after being caught and taken to net. Every effort must be made to rejuvenate all fish before release. It is not acceptable to over play or in any way harm fish while living the fly fisher life.

9.) You are absolutely required in all instances and situations to report any infraction or littering or polluting of fly fishing waters to the proper authorities as quickly as possible.


© Phil Frank 2002

Illustrated By Phil Frank,
San Francisco Chronicle Cartoonist, creator of "Farley "

  It has been more than thirty days since Fletcher Quill and rocker Keith Richards were tricked into thinking they were merely going to a little people party being held at the fairy mound known as Sidh of Brug na Boinne. This ancient fairy mound located in a remote area in Northern Ireland has a history of slight of hand when it comes to visitors. Quill and Keith heard mesmerizing music of the sirens as they were approached by the current king of the fairy mound, after what they thought were only a few hours turned out to be more than a month of revelry. Keith finds a rolled up Irish newspaper dated over thirty days later!

  "Quill, look at this mate, it says here we been fooled into thinking we just arrived here? What the hell is going on, where is that little guy with the pointed hat?"

  "Excuse me my new fly fisher friends you seem upset?"

  "Give it to us straight little fella, what the hell is this about, what do you want from us?"

  "Very simple lads, as you can easily see, we wee people love our music and revelry, Keith do you remember when the Stones first began in the early 1960s and you guys were so hot and the first albums from  "Aftermath" all the way to "Exile on Main Street" the best music we ever heard."

  "Ok, so what does that have to do with keeping us here so long?"

  " Quill old man it is a fact the world press has given up on both of you, the remaining Stones have disbanded and Ravens Haven may be bought by Jive Boy and her Blondness!"

Keith stands up visibly shaken and is about to grab the little guy by the neck when Quill jumps between them.

  "Easy now boys, lets cut to the chase, what do you want from us?"

  "Simple, we want the worlds greatest rock n roll band to make an album just as hot as "Exile on Main Street" we will let you both go right now if you swear and sign our special prayer book pledging to make that album as soon as possible?"

Keith and Quill burst out laughing as they can’t believe what is happening, their host brings the great sacred little people "Prayer Book" and asks his guests if they are getting a wee bit homesick yet?.

  "Ok, so if I agree to make another killer essence type rock album you will let us back in our world?"

  "Its that easy my boy, we have filled in all the details, you merely sign here and off you go."

  "Oh, one more small detail- if for any reason you decide not to abide by this pact, we will instantly see that both of you return here for an extended stay, possibly centuries!"

As Quill and Keith shield their eyes from the harsh sunlight and watch the little people escorts scurry back into the fairy mound, they look at each other and again burst into laughter.

  "Man, what have we missed in the last 30 days, Jive Boy and Sharon Stone must be feeling quite cozy in my castle by now."

  "Guess Mick and the lads have had a rough go of late - can’t wait to start writing new retro killer songs for this new album."

As the two new best friends find their way back to the Irish sea shore and try and figure out how to get back to Ravens Haven without Slick Brainy’s CIA chopper, they run into one of Quills old friends still out looking for clues as to where the missing adventurers might have evaporated to?

  "Fletcher is that you?"

  "Jason Aki you old bug maker is that you?"

  "I been looking for you guys for three weeks and had almost given up any hope!"

  "Jason meet Keith Richards- you would not believe where we have been all this time. So Jason what’s going on since we left?"

  "Quill, bad news and good news-first your old outfit the 1st Marine Division has been up to their Camo behinds in a fixed position almost like the state of siege you went through in Vietnam during the Kason siege. The whole middle east deal is exploding and getting worse by the second."

  "I have nothing but sadness for anyone exposed to the insanity of war, my old friends in the 1st Marines will again show their metal- one can only pray they will not have to be unleashed."

  "What about me old mates Jason?"

  "The remaining Stones vowed to never hit the killing floor again without the beating heart keeping it real. Three days ago the President commuted Martha Steward and asked Clear Channel to give poor Howard Stern another brake, he then asked for a moment of silence for both Keith and you Fletch- he said your efforts in global peace keeping would be sorely missed."

  "Ok, so what’s up with Jive boy and Sharon?"

  "They are both at Ravens Haven, its seems Sharon wants to buy the castle and keep Timba of course - Sharon has begun to remodel the castle and Jive Boy seems to have his hands full with her Blondness."

  "Remodel my castle you say! - gentlemen lets get to the castle post haste- Jason you must have a boat dude?"

  "Oh yeah, I figure we are only an hour and change from Ravens Haven - Jive and Sharon will want to party hard when you two show up."

  "Remodel the castle, remodel the castle..."

Quill and Keith sit quietly and ponder the last lost month as Jason’s speed boat winds its way back to Ravens Haven, circling choppers and world press have descended on the castle as the boat moves closer... 



Read about Fletcher Quill in earlier chapters:

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12 
13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21


Written by Dan Fallon © 2004
Illustrations by Phil Frank © 2003
Photos by Dan Fallon © 2004

For Dan Fallon's earlier and later columns; visit the table of contents


Read Dan Fallons biography and contact info



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