Sept, 18 2004 Mystery Creek
Time: 3:30pm - 6:30pm
I didnít really have a plan for today. That was evident in my choice of rod. A Down and Across 7ft 2 inch 5wt quad. Last weekend I had a plan. Iíd fish the Lower Stanislaus in the morning and then Mystery Creek in the afternoon. In preparation Iíd set a Hardy J.J Triumph, Ackland Dickerson copy and a creel in the doorway of my study- known as ďMy RoomĒ or ďJimís RoomĒ to those who arenít me. The Creel was a Brady Conway Combination, a wicker creel and canvas bag hybrid. The bag held two reels of line, my sunglasses, hat and flies hastily tied for both streams. I didnít go and for 8 days Iíve been stepping over the gear. I didnít put it away. I didnít move it. I simply stepped over the gear and anyone who wanted in or out of the room did the same.
I didnít really have a plan for today. I had a plan yesterday. The plan was to come home from work, glue up a rod in the rod shop (aka the garage), grab the gear in the doorway and head East for a weekend of fishing and family. Unfortunately, the gluing was a comedy of errors and in addition to now owning one bamboo rod blank with more curves than Raquel Welsh, it was too late to travel.
I didnít really have a plan for today. It would have been a simple thing this morning to grab the gear in the doorway and head out; but, when I went to do so, I hesitated. Iíd only have a chance to fish one stream and it would be Mystery Creek. But why, when I planned the trip originally, did I opt for the Dickerson instead of the Quad? I didnít have an answer. Nor did I have an answer for why I hadnít fished the new Sylk lines Iíd purchased. I grabbed both.
The Quad is a nice rod but I just havenít figured out what it excels at yet. This is probably why I didnít plan on fishing the rod in the first place. The Hardy for the Stan was an easy choice, itís 8ft 9inches and a new purchase for me. The Stan is the logical choice for a big rod and I had yet to fish it. Truth be told, whether I keep the Hardy depends on how well it fishes on the Stan. The Dickerson is a known quantity. Itís a 7í6Ē 5wt but I fish it with a 4wt. With a 4 it rocks, with a 5 it whimpers. The contrast is amazing. The Dickerson is fast and exciting. For lake fishing ití belts out 70ft casts and for pocket water fishing it sets up at the speed of thought.
The Quad is smooth and full. Itís handsome but not sexy. Itís a nice rod, I just havenít figured out what it excels at yet.
Heavy nymphing fast pocket water? Nope, to full, doesnít set up quickly enough.
High country lake fishing? Nope, not great with wind.
Tiny mountain streams? Prefer the midge.
I like the rod but simply havenít had any memorable outings with it. It has yet to make an impression on me. Itís Richie Cunningham to the Dickersonís Fonzie. Part of the problem may be that I havenít given it a fair shake. By that I mean that the line I feel it casts best with, an SA ultra WF 5wt, is never the line I fish it with. My SA lines are my lawn practice lines and I never fish them.
So today I guess Iím feeling a bit like Richie Cunningham; Iím feeling a bit ďhum drumĒ. Iím tired. Iíve been too busy to fish for the last 2 months and am feeling a bit apathetic. So here I am standing waders on, rod in hand, creel on my hip, knee deep in Mystery Creek.
The plan for today? Relax, enjoy my self and if Iím lucky, catch a fish. If Iím really lucky, catch one of the 18+ inch monsters Fish and Game like to occasionally stock in the creek. The creek is weedy and gin clear. Almost like an English chalk stream. Itís a strange day. Itís September, yet the ambient air temperature canít be more than 72 degrees. I get a chill when the wind blows. Itís cloudy. The kind of carpet clouds that signal rain but there is no humidity in the air. A perfect fishing day really- over cast and cool, after a week of fairly good heat.
The water is cool. I pull some line off the reel and deliberately make a roll cast to a likely holding lie. My motions are slow and smooth. Normally after a long hiatus from fishing, Iím rash and careless. My fatigue is beneficial. I do everything in slow motion. I decide to sight fish. Iím too tired to flail the water casting to likely holding lies. Some part of my brain shuts off. I cease to see the water, see the weeds, see the river and see only shapes. Every torpedo shaped shadow gets extra scrutiny.
A fish comes into view just above me. I have a little trouble shooting line and my first cast falls short. The fish moves off line and disappears. I few minutes later it returns. I water load the rod, this time with as much line as Iíll needÖÖThe fish is typical for this stream- a planter about 10 or 11 inches long. Unremarkable as far as rainbow trout go, yet, challenging just the same. The fish in Mystery Creek are mostly planters or were at one time. I can creel a limit of 5 fish and usually do. Iím ok with this, despite my general catch and release practices. I donít fish here that often and when I do, I always bring back fish for my in-laws. Supermarket fish make up a large portion of their diet; they enjoy a fresh catch so much that all the fish are usually cooked and served within an hour of my return.
Today I decide to creel only 4 fish, with a challenge to myself that the 4th fish will be 16 inches are larger. The fishing is good, better than it has been for some years, so good in fact that in the first hour and half I move barely 100ft.
Maybe I just missed the hatchery truck.
My creel is full and Iím searching out number 4. Iíve never seen a fish larger than 14 inches come out of the portion of the river that Iím working. I move slowly, purposefully in my search for number 4. The cast is a low, sweeping motion downstream, followed by a squeeze of the hand. The line shoots forward, low to the water and far underneath the over hanging trees. Trout after trout is fooled, all in the 12 to 9 inch range.
Over one of my favorite lies grape grow. Theyíre full and round, sweet to the taste. Iíd never realized there were grapes here. Iíd never fished here in September to see the ripe fruit.
Itís getting dark. The number of fish caught is in the double digits but I havenít come close to catching number 4. Thereís one lie on the river that is notorious for big fish. Iíve hooked 18 and 20 inch fish there enough times to know itís a constant and make a beeline to it in search of number 4.
The big fish lie is disappointing. Normally, the gold standard, itís under performing today.
In a last ditch effort to catch number 4, I head downstream to where the creek enters a recreational lake. Iíve had to drive and leave my creel and all my gear in the car. I figure I have 15 minutes and so only take the rod and the two flies tied to it. The creek here is different than above. Gone is the lush green vegetation, replaced instead by the golden grass that covers much of the state. I catch 3 fish.
I walk through the front door of my in-laws and lay a bag in the sink. My father in law looks insideÖĒOnly three?Ē He says. ďOnly three.Ē I say.
Only three, a perfect fishing day and a rod whose identity I finally understand. My quad is a rod for playing fishing. My quad is for relaxed casts up to 25ft in riffles, smooth runs and low water pockets. My quad is for fishing in the manner of Skues, Sawyer, Edmonds and Lee. My quad is the jazz of fishing rods.