|Column nr.6 1999|
In the early 1950s all was reasonably well in North America in the eyes of the average sportsmen. This period was my formative years in regard to fishing in general and specifically learning the endless rules of the trout fishing hiway... My Great Uncle Dan was one of the last real San Francisco working cowboys. He would saddle up in the foggy early mornings and move the cities soon to be hamburgers from train cattle car to corral. He was to say the least an authentic wild character in every imaginable use of the word. He would come home to my Fathers and Grandfathers home in the upper Mission District of the city smelling like and often acting like the noble steeds he rode all day! Uncle Dan loved to fish and hunt as much as any man I ever knew. He was the first fountain of knowledge and overall outdoors gatekeeper for me. Before I was seven he would take me to the stock yards and teach me about horses and livestock.On his off time which could be quite often in his later years when old injuries began to haunt him. He would take me duck hunting or surf fishing for the mighty Pacific Striped Bass that were numerous in those innocent days. One day he sat me down in his kitchen with naked woman calendars all over the walls. "Daniel, its time to open your young eyes to the most hair pullin, patience drainin fishin I know." Thus my introduction to the world of trout fishing began. That is trout takin by a seven year old worm dangler, salmon egg drifting, bait dispenser...
The first trip we took was to Lake Tahoe California circa 1955. On the way to the lake, Uncle Dan thanks to the half empty bottle of Jack Daniels between his spindly cowboy legs was overflowing with timely advise on my future beloved sport. "First thing you gotta understand Daniel, is these little trout critters are about as cagey as any damn varmit I ever knowed - hell we might spend two whole days and never even see one - let alone catch em !" These sage words would echo in my mind thousands of times over the years. On that first trip I recall sitting for hours and waiting for my little worm to attract any interest. Uncle Dan was dead on about the patience needed to lake fish. Through the years I have fished many lakes all over California and America. It still amazes me when I hear anyone bragging about great lake fishing? If that person actually had solid action and caught fish after fish. I will instinctively begin to wonder if he fly fished in the following manner. There are few ways to catch lake fish in my opinion. If a fly fisher stays on shore and throws sink tip line in the early to mid afternoon hours, it is almost certain few fish will be caught. Yes, of course a hungry opportunist straggler who is not holding deep and waiting for colder last light or a hatch, might hit your nymph. But, as a rule you will only get a nice tan my man and little to do but kick the can! The tried and true methods for catching lake trout are trolling slowly and deep with different type streamers. Throwing local well tied hatch matchers at early dawn or late afternoon is of course deadly and tried and true. Lastly my favorite sure fire and most fun lake activity is "Headhunting Rising-Rings". If you wait until last light and with a boat or a belly - boat slowly sneak up on rising trout, too much fun can be had. Your casting skills will rapidly improve headhunting.
I must clarify one aspect of this little tale in regard to the most beautiful lake in the world. Lake Tahoe California and Nevada. I had the wonderful fortune to live, fish and hunt this breath taking lake for 11 years. I wrote the Twenty-Five year Silver Anniversary History of this magical place published in 1990. I may dislike fly fishing upon most lakes. But, that is not to say anything negative about this sweet place which I will always love...
Lake fishing last thoughts and reflections can be easily concluded. By stating the undeniable difference between lake fly fishing and its many restrictive aspects such as time of day and depth of fish etc.. A day spent on medium to fast stream or river water in which you can wade and hide along rocky hot spots, while throwing at different ranges to fish you can often see. The sounds and smells of this quicker environment are invigorating and much more conducive to the real thrill of outwitting and capturing one of these noble beasts of the deep. The movement and thrill of hearing songbirds mix a rhapsody with running water and wind gusts and numerous exotic smells, like wild garlic and grass and various berries. This symphony of sight and sound is different on lakes. It is usually more sedate and tranquil. less busy and frenetic. Though I have had many exciting moments in lakes where the incoming fast streams meet the placid lake waters. In general my most memorable fly fishing expeditions have been to remote streams many miles into back - country. One would be foolish not to mention the excitement to be found on waters much smaller then the average lake. In the High Sierras many small acreage pond /puddles exist which are at times great fun to fish. These tiny several acre holding areas are worth the two or three day hike needed to sample their menu.
Of course many of these prime trout fly fishing holding tanks are kept secret. By virtue of this being a monthly fly fishing column, I would be remiss in not mentioning a wading jacket full of my personal favorite activities, like throwing at risings rings from boats or from shore depending on the terrain. If I can find natural springs or any water fall or drop off or fast water. I have the most fun and challenges to dream up and conquer. One easy often related rule is always setup your line and tippet to either float on top for a moment then slowly sink, or if its a sinking setup use a combo that lets the fly float for a moment then rapidly sink. If one uses only the tried and true sink line & tippet fly all hit the water and sink at once method in respect to nymph fishing for instance. One most always will get a more realistic presentation if the fly floats for an instant first. The reverse is true of dry fly fishing, I have caught more feeding trout on dry flies rigged to sink in 35 seconds instead of only floating. Then I ever have with only floating flies gunked up to stay on top period. By no means do I take any credit for these methods as my personal discoveries. Many noted fly fishers have been on to this kind of presentation thinking for many years. I love this sport because you can depend on having to change flies, lines, position and presentation at the sound of a heart beat. This constant ability to change in concert with a streams natural ebb and flow, shadows, shallows, rock hiding zones, etc. What other ethereal water based sport offers all the fare at our table ? Perhaps scuba diving and surfing come closest to fly fishing in total immersion possibilities. The novice fly fisher can look forward to many levels of understanding and blending into new natural environments. This is the real joy and heady magnetism of my beloved sport.
If you pay strict attention to your position within any stream or lakes atmospheric order. That is if you are acutely aware of becoming for the brief moment a dues paying member of that ecological environment.This haunting quicksilver no gravity zone comes on quickly and leaves without warning. In that instant its as if you become a tree limb attached to a line made of fine spider web which has an insect replicant looking very tasty. I have watched for hours as resident big trout move slowly in and out of hiding areas and feeding zones. When fly fishing high mountain streams which require one to wait and cover each area carefully not disrupting. When I have crept slowly into a new area and watched from afar for any signs of active residents or any signs of deep water holding zones. I already know the six most popular flies for the area. In the High Sierra everything from midges to wooly buggers, mosquitoes, several terrestrials and a few attractors and your set. I wait for the atmosphere to envelope me and make me momentarily a functioning connected part.I always wait and try and actually catch and examine whatever is flying around. Then tie or have tied size 16s or smaller to get started, tippets are thin and long at least four feet depending on water depth and time of season. If I can throw easily well back from the water without even getting near the edge its the number one stealth rule. I'm certain I have caught many more fish by not walking straight into the water. If you only fly fish areas near roads where the general public can come and go. This information may not be as timely. Well fished areas take another set of tactics which I may address in later columns. After I have quickly spotted the current and rock situation , underlying ledges and other less obvious hide outs. I begin throwing to closest areas first , no matter how close these areas may hold fish who are resting in these holes. I slowly work out in a wide circle each cast further and in a different area of the wide circle in front of me. When I have finished with this simple method I feel as if I have completely explored all possible feeding lanes. What is a feeding lane? It is an area usually at the end or the side of moving water where fish have learned to wait and collect bugs.. Once you begin to understand not only how to cast, rig your outfit, identify bugs, find the trout , master the art of current understanding. You will be able to begin to see the need to perfectly blend in to whatever atmosphere your about to fly fish in. After many years one day you will find for a split second you have ceased to be human, you are a member of the local natural order waiting in line to capture your supper and of course release it. This moment of sublime oneness is the whole Zen like mystique in a nut shell. After awhile it gets easier to find this magic moment. That is time you become hooked on the sport Next months update will feature more adventures in fly fishing, keep those tippets spider thin and under two pounds.
Written by Dan Fallon, October 1999 ©
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