Fall is here, the weather is cooling off in the mountains, and the State regulations call for closing of the general trout season on November 15th. To anyone from the California Department of Fish and Game that might come across this - could you please move the closer to some weekend other than opening weekend of our all-too-short pheasant season?
Still, it looks like I'll be taking a trek up to the mountains to fish the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus on Saturday, followed by an early morning 200 mile drive to meet dad for Day 2 of opening weekend (he's hunting private land on Saturday, and I can't go.) It's strictly a fly-fishing trip, so we'll see how things go. Pop used to catch browns up in the area this time of year using Mepp's lures and spinning gear and while I've got nothing against throwing chrome and brass to the fish, I like the challenge of late season nymphing.
Generally, late season trout up in the mountains is slow, at least for me. I suppose the cold weather, the fish focusing on the spawn, and the presumed die-off of both planted and native fish brings the action to a crawl. But, there are fish to be had. Several years ago, in knee-deep snow, I fished the area I'm visiting on Saturday. All morning and most of the afternoon I basically practiced my casting and mending, with not a fish to be found, not even a nibble. And then, on a slow drift into the face of a semi-submerged log, about 3 in the afternoon, it happened. Just a little bump at first. I thought maybe I'd snagged the bottom, as I was fishing a somewhat heavy nymph with a matted body. An attempt to retrieve showed dead weight on the other end. Another tug showed the weight was, to my surprise, not quite so dead. After a good fight, I landed an 18" rainbow. It went well with some lemon, capers and butter.
So, if you do head up for some late fishing, remember the key is patience. Besides, enjoy the views and the solitude. This time of year the rivers are generally empty and about the only company you'll have are the birds and a few river otters. If you pay attention, you'll probably see some ducks, too.
Now, as for Sunday - well I generally like to get where I want to be the night before. All the driving takes something out of me (road weariness?). But I know the drive will be worth it, if only to see how the young dog does with wild birds. I'd be tickled even to see him just flush a hen or two. It would do Tino some good, and hens mean babies and babies mean population. California will never be like the Dakotas, where pheasant are about as plentiful in the fields as pigeons are in your local public park. We can hope though, right?
Watch this space for an update sometime after the weekend. Tight lines and rooster feathers to all!