March 15, 1998 Lower Stanislaus

Time:9:30am- 2:00pm
Weather: Slightly Cloudy
Water Temps: low 50s
Water Level: 1350cfs
Insects Observed: Ants, small green mayfly (not a beatis, it was a crawler.)
Hours fished: 4
# of fish caught: 14 hooked, 5 landed

Narrative: (Yeah, it's all about me again.)
Funny how people have signed up for the trips that have gotten canceled this year but none have signed up for the trips that actually happened. Bad timing I guess. Anyway, conventional wisdom (in the SF Bay Area at least) is that you canít fish the Stan above 500 cfs, some think 800cfs. While the river canít support a large number of anglers at or above these levels, Iíve always thought one or two anglers could fish it below 1500cfs. Soooo... hard head that I am, I set out to test my newly built 3 wt with the flows at 1350cfs.

The one good thing about high water is that it keeps the other folks off the river. I left home a little after 7am and truly expected to see other anglers when I arrived about 9:15. Sure enough, when I arrived there was already a car there but I did not see another FISHING angler all day. (I did see another angler site seeing with his girl friend and some other folks picking flowers.)

On the drive down Iíd been thinking about how Iíd fish the river. "I wonít hit my normal spot immediately, the waterís probably to high" I thought to myself. I resolved to fish a tiny inlet (at least during low flows) that had been created by last years high water. Fighting the urge to head straight to the dam, I bushwhacked my way to the inlet. The water looked good, better than Iíd hoped. The inlet was about 12 feet across and dumped into a pool about the size of my living room.

Starting at the base of the pool I worked my way up the inlet. Iíd been to this little pool a couple of times last year but hadnít fished above the pool in a couple of years. Since I didnít really have high expectations for the day, I decided to start up stream. This part of the inlet used to be forest; I was fishing under a canopy of trees. Fortunately, my new rod is 8ft long. A virtual dwarf compared to my 10ft 5wt. I climbed up on a rock and shot a bow and arrow cast up stream. "Geez, what a lousy cast. Joe Humphreys made it look so easy." After a couple of casts I sort of got the hang of it but resolved to practice it at the casting ponds. On the third cast I saw a flash- "missed that one" I thought. A couple of more casts and I had a fish on. He was about 6 inches and promptly threw my fly. After a few more casts, I was hung up.

By this time I had already lost a few flies (canopy of trees remember?). This one was hung up on a submerged log. A log that had already eaten two flies. I wasnít going to loose this one. Pretzelling around a tree, I got in position to dislodge the fly. Now I was in the water and standing where I was fishing before. I flipped a cast upstream by a tree that I hoped was holding fish. The fly drifted by the tree, no fish. It drifted passed me and was picked up on the swing. I struck, the fish laughed and swam away. Now I was beginning to realize what was happening. When I set the hook, I always use a strip strike and casually lift my rod. The rod I usually lift is the 10 ft. 5wt.. Considerably more rigid and more efficient at taking up slack line than my little 3wt. I resolved to strike harder.

After losing a few more flies I decided to move up stream. Bushwhacking some more, I reached a small sunlit pool. The water was smooth, fast and surrounded by sticks. "A hard spot" I thought, as I set to fling a bow and arrow cast over the two feet of fallen (more like pushed over by high water) sticks in front of me. As the case went out I wondered how Iíd land a fish in this situation if I did happen to hook one. Just then I saw a fish move. Did it go for my fly? Who knows? I could see him now and thatís all that mattered. I shot another cast out as I watched the fish, he moved, I set the hook and to my surprised I had a fish on. A good fish. He quickly raced down into the faster water and had my rod wrapped around the tree in front of me. My rod had a deep bend in it, matching curve of the tree. I just knew my little rod was going to snap. When it didnít snap immediately, I decided if itís gong to snap, it might as well be for a good reason. Besides, "I built this one, I can build another." I put both hands on the rod and hefted the fish up stream. The trout was now bouncing on the water in front of me and I had no idea how I was going to release it. Fortunately, all his bouncing around released the hook.

Excessively pleased with myself. I headed up stream where I found a bait rig hung up in a tree. (Who says all the poachers fish down stream.) After unsuccessfully trying to fish the "Big Pool" I decided it was about time to head back to Oakland. Before I left though, I had to trot up to the dam.

At the dam the water was actually lower than I expected. Again the high water from last year had carved away at the river and made that section a little bit wider and flatter. (Itís basically thrown all those little rocks on the edge around.) Having not fished an indicator all day, I decided to see how the 3wt would handle some yarn. Surprisingly, It handled the yarn well and I proceeded to catch , loose and land some more fish. Just before I left, I decided to try a fishing tactic written by Dan Gracia in a resent magazine article.

I know Dan from the Orvis store in SF and heís a pretty knowledgeable fisherman. Based on his article, I had bought an Orvis mini lead head. The mini lead head basically turns a floating line into a mini sink tip/shooting line. I cut off the indicator, tied on the mini lead head and fished just like I would without and indicator. Tying on a weighted fly I threw a cast that would allow my fly to tuck under the flyline and enter the water first. The mini lead head shot the line out farther than before and helped to create a deep tuck. Once in the water, the weight above the fly and the lead head kept the fly down in the fast water. After a few casts, I felt a strong tug on my line. I set the hook, the fish laughed and swam away. A few more casts and a fish slammed my fly. I set the hook and was into a BIG fish. "Iím not going to loose this one" I said to myself as I proceeded to put maximum pressure on the fish. The fish started to shake his head violently. I watched in amazement as my wimpy rod bounced up and down like a wet noodle with each side to side motion of the troutís head. Then it was gone. After a few casts, hoping to hook another fish, I decided to call it a day.


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