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Dan Fallon's World of Fly fishing

Column nr. 9  2006  


San Francisco Stripers

  Thanks to long term planning by both state and federal fish and game agencies in concert with concerned California sportsmen who buy annual Striped Bass stamps this legendary species now provides excellent angling opportunities! This column rapidly heading toward it's 8th year is usually focused on my fresh water adventures, California Striped Bass are pursued by a variety of methods including many feathered lures that resemble sardines and other bait fish. This annual surf action becomes frantic around the middle of June continuing into the early Fall. Seasoned surf casters watch for sea birds converging and attacking giant bait schools of sardines, krill. This salty banquet occurs as the 10/40 pound and larger Stripers begin their late Summer run down the California coast... More then the coming of labor day this wild Striper action signals San Francisco surf casters Summer has almost run its course.

  In past years going back to the 1940s and 50s, this annual Striper run was spotty at best! In the last 15 years or so the fishery has made a splendid come back although many are concerned these great days may be numbered because of global warming and all the variables that impact all Pacific Ocean species. Those who watch the news are aware drastic changes are in the works under this nations oceans, krill numbers at both north and south polls have plummeted, polar bears and many creatures are now in jeopardy. Ice fields are melting and currents are changing direction and velocity quickly. Though I do not write as a rule about salt water angling and prefer fresh water fly action, this special San Francisco Striper mania is part of my early education as my family often tied feathered lures hoping to fool the few Stripers moving up and down the coast. In lieu of the rapidly changing Pacific Ocean and the success of the California Striped Bass stocks, this month's column is dedicated to these noble, strong, pretty fighters that move like striped torpedoes in huge gangs less then 200 yards from my breakfast table.

  Surf Casting Techniques

  I was lucky to be taught surf casting by many of the sportsmen in my family in the early 1950s. I was taught the pendulum method of surf casting where four or five feet of line with feathered lure is let out and swung back and forth until it gains momentum and then thrown in access of 75 yards after first wading out in the surf at least waist level! The lure is allowed to sink by a count of ten and then jerked like a fresh water wolly bugger or matuka fly. This is repeated only where sea birds and obvious bait action is happening. When I watch modern surf casters ply their trade I'm always disappointed to see them failing to either use the pendulum method to gain max yardage or they do not wade far enough out to really get near the feeding stripers. As one can see in these photos contemporary surf casters also bunch up elbow to elbow like sheep? It amuses me to watch their timid shyness in wading out far enough to find the big boys..... Of course San Francisco surf is famous for its savage under tow, yet come on boys are you surf casters or girly men? I spend much time watching these well meaning surf casters waste their time, then every so often a man with experience shows up and in these photos one can see the results of educated surf working techniques.

  Surf Casting Equipment

  Surf rods in the 10/12 foot range armed with high quality spinning reels and 10/15 pound test monofilament line is usual set up these days.... Metal lures shiny and silver are most often used by the herds of sheep who stand right next to each other as if they are at a Sunday social? Those surf anglers who either use home made feathered creations or live bait do very well as do those accomplished enough to throw their outfits at least out past the breakers where these hungry beasts work their survival trade! In the days when this type of angling interested me I would first wait and find the sea bird/baitfish action and then look for exposed boulders to throw near and simulate real live bait, or simply throw 70 yard plus out beyond the breakers. This formula along with wading out as far as possible before throwing never failed. In the 1950s we used Bamboo surf rods and feathered jigs, today plastic mass made rods and mass made silver lures are the preferred equipment.

  In the years I actively pursed game fish along the California coast all the way down into Mexico ending in several splendid trips to Cabo San Lucas, excellent moments live in my memory hard drive. As a 9 year old wrestling 15 pound Tiger Sharks off San Francisco piers was a real adventure. Spending time late nights with girlfriends and pals using pieces of fresh crab and bobbers under or near pier pilings to catch buckets of silver perch were wonderful times. A week working the surf in Cabo catching and barbecuing on the beach exotic fishes was sublime. Most of my youth was spent learning the trade of sportsmen at the hand of accomplished elders on beaches up and down the California coast at places named Half Moon Bay, Montara, Pacifica, still resonate.

  West is The Best

  Millions of international visitors descend upon San Francisco's beloved hills every year, few are aware it's beaches can be out standing places to test your skills, party boats with names like Whacky Jacky take sportsmen on salmon trips, rock fish excursions and fog riddled mornings anchored over gangs of Striped Bass. In my youth the piers and beaches drew sportsmen in droves, today this is not the case! I rarely see kids working the piers for perch and shark adventures, today's brats live isolated lives here afraid to go outside or rather forbidden by anxious over protective politically ignorant conservative parents. The days of free range kids living lives like Huck Finn in this city are long, long gone... Of course these are the observations of a dinosaur who was lucky to spend his youth very much like Mark Twain's Mr. Finn....

  If your having trouble convincing the ball and chain to wear a flower in her hair and come to San Francisco, throw in the excellent surf fishing and off shore angling , see if that closes the deal their Pilgrim? Remember sports fan's those who dare to wade beyond the surf breakers never have to have their testicular circumference verified my politically correct brother's.


© Phil Frank 2002

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


  His most High Holiness the Dali Lama, Fletcher Quill, Jive Boy, Jason Aki stare out the window of Slick Brainy's personal 10 seat jet as the dark industrial waste laden clouds part, Beijing China's airport comes into view... The routine will be several days in four wheel drives, the caravan winds north to the lower Egin Gol River and then on to the upper reaches of the lake Baikal watershed. His Holiness is quiet and reflective as Quill's cell phone goes off, "Mr. Secretary better sit down my friend bad news from Paris I'm afraid!" Good morning Mr. President don't tell me Duke and Bigfoot have gone too far and wasted innocents?" Details are still being checked out, it appears your old friend and his long time sniper spotter have been killed. They were ambushed in the Luxemburg Gardens by the same gang that set up Barry Bonds back in your home town Fletcher." "Man, Duke is gone, can't believe it sir, are you absolutely sure" At this point it is confirmed, Duke's remains are on the way to Arlington."

  The Dali Lama puts his arm around Fletcher as the two new friends watch the plane hit the Chinese runway. On the tarmac a large crowd of welcoming red robed young monks and press await the lads as the worlds only living man- god and a most reserved Fletcher Quill move into the hot August sun... As the monk's converge bowing and chanting while holding the Mongolian national symbol "Soyombo" banner, his Holiness smiles broadly holding Quill's arm joins his people in a moment of supreme love and compassion... The magic of the welcoming becomes slightly tainted as a column of Chinese soldiers many armed with video camera's descend on the tranquil scene...

"Your Holiness we have a less welcoming cadre among us, you must be used to this brand of passive aggressive behavior?"

"Fletcher you are most observant, one must realize from now on we are in the sleeping dragon's lair, as we move into the out skirts of Mongolia you will find our reception becomes imbued with much raw emotion. My people have been in a state of siege and almost continues genocide for many years and yet our collective spirit thrives, thrives because of the universal love and unlimited tolerance that the Supreme Being has bestowed..."

  Three four wheel drives quickly pull up and luggage is loaded along with Quill's beloved bamboo fly rods and Jive & Jason's gear. Jason Aki is busy taking photos, Jive Boy is holding court with a gang of young monk's, Mongolian maps are spread out on the trucks tailgate, his Holiness points to several prime fly fishing areas the team will explore before ending up at the Sera Monastery in Lhasa Tibet sight of future kite Olympics.

Sera Monastery

"These modern maps amaze me, look here Fletcher, this is Lake Aksai. In the winter it is thought ancient spirits rise from this haunted lake. This lake called Nam-Tso-Lake is another sacred place where your fly fishing skills may serve you well. You will see strange mosquito like insects in great numbers if we are lucky?"

"Your Holiness I'm still dumfounded is Duke really gone?"

"Here for a moment gone forever your western religions preach! Perhaps your friend is only preparing for his next incarnation, is may be he will come back as an enlightened bright spirit."

  Dali Lama's welcoming monk's have prepared a modest welcoming feast composed of Yak butter cookies and a strange liquor that bites Quill's tongue... trucks are loaded and ready to roll, suddenly a young Chinese soldier approaches to engage his Holiness.

"Sir, I have great reverence for you and your people. It is not the people of China who are your enemies's, it is those sad small minded old men who at the moment run our country. What has happened to your peaceful kingdom and your passive loving people is a great crime against all humanity equal to any genocide. Please realize we the people always have you in our prayers, always!"

"My son your kind words fill my heart, we who dwell in the clouds under Tibetan skies understand it is not the people of China who continue to persecute us. Perhaps blind and dumb western leaders will one day show compassion as you have, we can only prey and leave this puzzle to the highest authority, go in peace my son..."

"Your Holiness the people of China hold you and your peoples plight as high as Tennamin Square, many of my fellow soldiers include you sir in our prayers knowing the doves of peace hover over Tibet waiting for compassion and his sisters love and peace to arrive..."

  As the trucks slowly wind through Beijing's over crowded back streets it becomes quickly apparent how serious the volume of thick air pollution so heavy one can breath it in every breath! The price of unbridled over heated economy that could care less about clean air and the natural world...

"Fletcher look around you at the price of uncontrolled growth, my heart weeps for this country and its leaders. The rivers run almost black with pollution, animals and birds have little hope of surviving and the world at large has no idea how serious this unthinking unplanned growth truly is."

"As a boy I visited here and many other Asian countries, in the early 1960s it was wall to wall poverty. I prey for these wonderful stoic people and their path to a more balanced industrial growth. Tell me sir in Tibet will we see this kind of pollution in the waters we will throw flies?"

"No not yet, but it is coming as China continues to repopulate and overwhelm my people as part of its internationally condoned ongoing reckless genocide my friend!"

"Excuse me Mr. Quill can I ask you to autograph my hat sir? Your exploits and writing on international fly fishing is quite popular among all sportsmen here in China..."

"Ahhh, Fletcher power of the internet!"

  The caravan begins it's overland trek due north through the daunting Gobi Desert leaving Beijing and China behind in the mist, quickly coal black night skies resplendent in uncountable stars mesmerize this eclectic band of brothers...

"Fletcher its has been three days and nights, how long until we get near fly fishable waters?"

"Jason according to my G.P.S., Egin Gol River is doable by night fall, Jive Boy looks as if he could stay on this quest forever hey invisible surfer?"

"Man, I can't get over the Dukester and Bigfoot buying the farm like that! That Marine led some kind of life boys... He was on the dias when Sedat got whacked, was on the roof Saigon Embassy when that went down, several Vietnam tours and countless international whack jobs so secret even I was never let in on it. All those hero ghosts in Arlington National Cemetery will have fine company to welcome..."

"Look over that rise your Holiness is that the Egin Gol River ?"

  The Dali Lama and his band of eccentric misfits stare out at open plains dotted with sheep herders, skies ruled by soaring hawks. A place where time not only stands still, it refuses to move under any conditions! The boys prepare for perhaps the most isolated fly fishing left on the planet?

Will the specter of a fallen friend taint this trip? International Tibet Kite Olympics Coming up!



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 
22  23  24  25  26  27  28  29  30 
  32  33  34  35  36  37  38  39 
40  41  42  43  44  45  46  47  48 


Written by Dan Fallon © 2006
Illustrations by Phil Frank © 2003
Photos by Dan Fallon © 2006

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


Read Dan Fallons biography and contact info



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