|Column nr.5 1999|
Time can and does stand still for fly fishers who look up once in awhile and cease staring at moving water long enough to hear natures clock stop. It is an odd sensation to spend time on slow moving streams as long summer days begin to shorten. Its as if time has momentarily halted its forward momentum and allowed early fall to have her way. I love to stand on or near slow moving streams or rivers at this junction as seasons begin to change command. In the High Sierras early chills and longer shadows give trout more time to plan each darting move. This is when only the smallest flies are thrown and one has to stay well back from stream edges, to avoid spooking the few last soldiers left from summer tourist infested onslaughts. Time and her attendant worms seem to be less busy, sluggish and harder to find. It is quite odd to stand in once rushing streams where the noise and activity mesmerized and dulled the senses. Winters ice cold waters pushing against waders, every cast a quick retrieve as one adds more and more lead to weighted lines to get down deeper. In early September these same vital water courses undergo a kind of tranquillity metamorphosis. The reduced noise factor becomes so evident that even the arrival of an occasional song bird is welcome company! Ancient hunters and gatherers worshipped this seasonal change as a period of slow death before rebirth. The very nature of seasoned fly fishers dictates a reverential co-dependency take place at this time. In early season we have to over compensate for natures fury with heavy lines, big deep diving nymphs and ice cold waters. Then like a Zen monk tasting and savoring the moment we sit center stage as nature winds down and begins to regenerate. Now we use every stealth trick in the book, staying well back and watching for any movements. Lines and tippets are at the thin limits, rods are two or three weights, flies are tiny and spare. A magical circle has closed ends, time has almost ceased to exist before the grip of winter.
When I think back to the many fly fishing adventures in my life, late Summer was always a cherished time. When living near fabled Yosemite Park in California, I could not wait for the hordes of tourists to go home and leave the stream and little lakes to me. I would prowl my special areas on the Merced River which flows into the park or spend hours throwing tiny Mosquitoes at little Brook Trout never over ten inches. The burnt colored leaves floating by while long shadows fell from jagged cliff tops made me happy to be alive and holding my favorite Bamboo Rod. (Please read Trout Take Over Yosemite In The Fall)
On one magic late Fall afternoon, I had one of the most outstanding fly fishing sessions of my life. The Merced River head waters flow from a park entrance dropping sharply and meandering downstream.This river in its confluence is full of large Brown Trout. Where the rivers headwaters collect near the park gate, a wide at times fairly shallow area creates perfect Brook Trout accommodations. When the water is just at the 50 to 55 degree mark and its alittle overcast and a good hatch is on. This area will produce a hit or fish almost every throw.I was told about this spot by a dear friend and long time hunting & fishing pal Ron Wilson. One late Fall day around four in the afternoon, I arrived with my nine foot graphite and seven weight line. ( so I could throw long distances up to sixty - seventy feet ) Not a soul was near by and all over the wide waters rings were popping up. I tied my best hand tied Mosquito and first throw slam a nice eight inch Brooky takes it and runs like hell. These little fish are great fighters for the size, especially because they are wild in the park. I played him for ten minutes and gently let him go, never took him out of the water, my barbless hook left little evidence of our battle. After cleaning up the fly threw in another direction and boom another hit, missed this one. Within two hours I caught and released twenty three fish, all no bigger then about eight inches. One of the finest most exciting times of my life. (on the water that is!)
As a seven year old would be angler I recall another fine Fall fishing experience in a place called Placerville California outside of Sacramento the State Capital. I was with my Dad, he was a pretty fair fishermen, but not a real pro when it came to trout. He walked into a local pub and after a few brews found a local who said he could put us on more trout then we would ever find on our own. This was one of the few times in my life these words turned out to be true. After bouncing around in his pick up truck for about forty minutes we arrived at what I thought were tiny shallow little nothing streams.
These little streams were full of more trout ( not very big ) then I would ever run into almost anywhere!! We caught and released ( and ate afew too ) perhaps a hundred of these little trout till the Sun went down. Those were the days when people actually ate afew and didn't feel like they had depleted a precious resource. What a memory to have rattling around in my fifty year old adventure file.... We told and retold that story many times and few ever believed us, guess thats the beauty of it. later many years later in my thirties I went back and tried in vain to find that area. I asked locals if they ever heard of such a place, to the man they looked at me like I was from plant Mars...
One of the benefits of late Fall has to be the fact your skills have become far greater then in the often awkward opening months. I can suddenly ty those knots quicker and better then in April. I can throw that long line cast with real accuracy, quick water movements now catch my eye. I spend alot of time thinking about the best times and the long moments when I focused more on the area then on the presentation of the fly.The real beauty of fly fishing has to be the build up of wonderful memories which keep resonating as one begins and ends season after season. In my internal data base a wealth of supreme moments hooked up to fighting fish are balanced with countless instances when I really screwed up and lost a good fish.I have made as many stupid mistakes as a fly fishermen as one can possibly make ( read past columns for examples ) I have hunted and fished all my life in many locals. When early September rolls around like a warm old friend who has come to visit. I get out my shotgun and begin to think of the Dove Opener and all the ducks and pheasants I will chase till the trout opener comes around.
This months fly rod field test is most unusual for me on several levels. I have developed a serious taste for expensive bamboo and high end graphite. A friend asked me to go on a three day backpack trip into the High Sierra Wilderness two weeks ago. I looked around at all my Bamboo and assorted rods, none really seemed to be perfect for where we were headed. I have had many solid 4 piece travel outfits over the years, but I wanted to try something new for a change. My good friend Mike Garragus television / film producer and fly fishing maniac said he had just bought an excellent little 4 piece / 8 foot / 4 weight from the great firm of Cabela's mail order. He let me have it for three days of serious back country flexing and throwing. Its a pleasure to carry a light 4 piece on long hikes such as the 18 mile trek we chose this year. I could have taken my expensive Bamboo 3 piece, but we were headed into rocky rough country. This little rod was under $ 200.00 and worth every penny.
When I do these field tests, I look for details in workmanship which could be better finished or any defects from cork to tip. The fact is reasonable rods can be well made too. If you take the time to shop around , its well worth the effort.
We were going to fish in small waters for little Rainbows and afew Brook Trout. When you pay less then $200.00 for a traveler like this it would be foolish to expect silver nickel hardware and perfect fit for all 4 pieces. What a surprise I had when late the first afternoon we spotted a mess of rising rings in a little shallow pond about 8 miles into the hike. I threw the 4 piece together and tied on a size 16 Royal Coachmen attractor. In four throws hooked and released two nice little 7 inch Rainbows. The PT Series IM6 Graphite was a delight to hold and it had plenty of fast action. The pieces were easy to assemble and take apart. I liked the cork grip and the finish was easy on the eye. This rod easily cast short to medium distances and roll casts were a cinch. I have found many 4 piece outfits alittle stiff when new. This rod was not stiff and it performed well under steady use for many hours a day. I recommend it to anyone thinking about purchasing a reasonable 4 piece traveler.
This monthly column has caught many fans from all over the planet. It seems the majority have either wished they could travel more and fish or they have traveled internationally and tossed flies at exotic aquatic creatures in many exciting places. I can personally vouch for either Orvis International Travel at 1800-547-4322 or the folks at Cabela's which can be reached at 1800-237-4444. I have heard from many fly fishermen in regard to these two companies. If anyone out there has other reputable international fly fishing outfitters to recommend, please send the information to this column. I will check them out and forward details to our many faithful readers. Orvis has featured two exciting vacations for the fall. Chasing Atlantic Salmon on the Ranga River in Iceland or in Britain fishing the famous Itchen or the Test Rivers. Orvis has trips to places like Africa, Argentina, and Honduras. If you call the above numbers all info will be forwarded to you.
I love to throw flies at many species of trout and salmon whenever possible. This delicate type of fly fishing appeals to my soul as a whole. I live near the great Pacific Ocean in Sausalito California. In the early fall a migration of Stripped Bass runs around the San Francisco Bay Area. These fighting fish can reach up to forty pounds or more, average fish go ten to twenty pounds. If one wants to fly fish for them, you must wade into the heavy Pacific Surf and toss large streamer type flies into the outer edges of the surf froth and then move them like an anchovy or small bait fish. I have tried this technique many times to no avail in many places along the coastline. Three years ago armed with my nine foot 12 weight and heavy line my luck changed. In a area called Half Moon Bay on the coast in early August I was invited to throw streamers at a moment when the fish were plentiful and hungry. In a span of two hours we hooked six fine fish, each over eight pounds. I will never forget the feel of the largest which went about eleven pounds slamming my silver streamer!!!!! I played him for twenty wonderful minutes before he gave up. We let all but one fish go and thanked the fly fishing gods for their generosity. Until next month, keep those tippets paper thin and keep dreaming and pursuing your favorite fish.
Written by Dan Fallon, August 1999 ©
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