8:30 am - 6:00pm
On the local warm waters I seem to catch the "it's not a bass" fish. Last year at Lafayette Reservoir I caught two large catfish. They were great fighters and fun to catch but they weren't bass, which is what I was fishing for. This year, in almost the exact same spot, using the exact same fly, I caught a monster trout . It was a planter and would have measured 25 inches long, if it had a tail.
Fortunately, at Kistler Ranch this wouldn't be problem. To my knowledge, in my experience, it only holds sunfish- bass, bluegill and crappie.
This was my second time fishing Kistler and this time I decided to bring the boat. I had great fun fishing from shore 2 years ago but Kistler has quite a few weed beds outside of casting range and I just knew fishing from a boat would mean more fish. Saturday morning I made good time through the Diablo and Livermore Valleys into the Great Central Valley. Kistler is about 30 min outside of Oakdale. You can see it from the road, there's a red barn painted a large white K and arrow. One day I'm going to do a google search on why everyone thinks red makes a good barn color but today I was focused on fishing.
I had a plan. When I pulled into the ranch I drove past most of the folks parked at lake number 2 and headed straight to number 3. The Oakland Casting Club and Tri-Valley Fly Fishers were having a joint fish out and at 8am lake number 2 was already packed with folks. I pulled up to lake 3 and quickly had the boat unpacked and in the water. My plan was to fish the trees that lined the southern bank and if that didn't pan out- make a bee line to the opposite end of the lake and short channel that lead to a barbed wire fence. I caught fish at the fence two years ago and it was the one place I was confident held fish.
Countless anglers lined the banks of the 3 Kistler Lakes, some wading, others floating in float tubes or watercraft such as canoes and kayaks. Everyone appeared to be catching fish but some more often than others. I was somewhere in the middle.
Early on I determined that I could catch fish casting to weed lines in about 5 to 10 feet of water. I didn't seek out the areas as much as I should have, I mostly spent the day testing out my drough and experimenting with different ways to drift the lake. When I did purposely seek out the "right" water, I would almost certainly catch a fish.
I drifted all 3 lakes and caught fish in all 3. By mid afternoon most of the club members had called it a day. After lunch I floated lake 2 and then lake 1. I packed up the boat at about 3:30pm and decided to make a few last casts at the fence line on lake 3. The fence line wasn't as promising a spot as it had been during my last visit and contrary to before, I didn't not catch a single fish holding on the fence. The channel near the fence was a different matter.
There had been a pretty obvious hatch during the day and if the bird activity I currently witnessed was a sign, it was still going on. Small birds dipped and dived above the water, sometimes taking something right from the water's surface. At one point I heard a streaking sound, like the sound an out of control kite makes before it hits the ground. I looked up to see a bird of prey, presumably an osprey, dive bombing toward the water on the other side of the fence line. It pulled up at the last minute, it's prey presumably swimming away and denying the dive bomber a meal.
In addition to the birds, there was obvious fish activity. There had been all day and I presumed that these were bluegill. I removed the bead head wooly bugger that I had been fishing for bass and tied on one of Denny Rickard's Stillwater nymphs. The Stillwater Nymph is slightly weighted and is a perfect imitation of a damsel nymph. I'd seen damsel nymphs earlier and now hoped to match the hatch in order to catch some bluegill. It was a deliberate switch of tactics and it worked. On the 3rd or 4th cast with the Stillwater Nymph, my line went tight and whatever was on the other end started to bare down in a manner unlike the other fish I'd caught. It was a bluegill.
After catching several subsurface fish, I switched to a yellow popper. I hadn't caught bluegill, or anything else for that matter, on a popper in 10 years but there was obvious surface activity so I figured it was worth a shot. I watched for signs of fish taking emergers and then cast my fly in that direction. A quick, tap, tap, tap retrieve was all that was need to bring a strike. The bluegill hit the popper freely as did some bass. THAT was a surprise but very cool. When the bass struck they did so with gusto, not showing the tentativeness of the bluegill. When the bluegill struck the popper, it was more of a snatch, like a child quickly snatching its favorite toy from another child. The bass simply exploded out of the water. I had a great time with these fish on my 5wt but for next year, I'm thinking that maybe a 3wt or a 4wt might be better- maybe the rod I'm making now or one I've yet to conceive.
I would have gladly fished until dark but it dawned on me that I didn't know when the gates closed. There was only one other car left at the lakes and at 6pm I decided it was probably time to go. I didn't land or even hook the last fish. I was twitching my popper along when I heard a large crash to my right. I turned to see the osprey laboring to fly high in the sky. It had it's fish. At that instant, as I watched the osprey, I heard a large crash right in from of me. I looked down to see a large bass swirl in the water and turn away. My popper lay inches from the center of the swirl and simply bobbed up and down.