May 13, 2016

When Two or Three are Gathered at Wayne Kirch

David casting with Hot Creek Butte and snow capped Grant Range in the background. 
For about two decades I've been very fortunate to be a part of a Christian Men's Group. My experience has been that men need the fellowship and counsel of other men, men who can hold us accountable to keep our promises to our God, wives, children, neighbors and work associates. Men tend to use the Lone Ranger approach when dealing with hurts, wounds, and sins.  We don't exhibit emotions like our female counterparts, and we believe it's less manly to seek the help of other like-minded men. Instead we prefer to work it out by ourselves.  As if we could abstain from looking at our situation objectively without the bias of our own selfishness and pride. That's why the Bible tells us to seek the council of other followers in 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15.

The commonality of our lives has resembled a divine weave. We all experience trials and tribulations throughout our lives. For the men in our group, no matter what troubles one of us might be experiencing at home or work, there is always one or two of us who have been there before and have made it to the other side with our faith, character, and promises intact. It's the fire of suffering and adversity that burns off the impurities in our heart, and having other men around who've been through it is the blessing of fellowship.

One member, David Laman, has been there with me from the beginning. David would admit we are alike in many ways.  The one we jointly attempt to manage in Men's Group is our propensity to talk too much. While we believe we have important insight to share from our Christian journeys, some in our group might think we just like to hear ourselves talk. Other shared interests are fishing and simply being outdoors with nature.
David with a trout on the line. Looking northeast towards Egan Range.
For the last twenty or so years of David's career he ran a division for the Lake Las Vegas owners that was responsible for operations and maintenance of the common shared facilities, not the least of which was the lake itself and the systems that control the flow of water into and beneath the lake, a function whose importance becomes singularly urgent when Mother Nature drops an inch of rain over the Spring Mountains and the Las Vegas Valley and it all rushes into the Las Vegas Wash on its way to Lake Mead.  I remember many meetings over the years when David had to take calls or even leave the meeting to attend to the task of ensuring the system operated properly to prevent flooding and other damage.

There were several years that Lake Las Vegas was known for its bass fishing.  David had politely offered to take me out sometime, but we never connected.  On appropriate occasions I would use that unfulfilled offer to make David feel bad, as men are prone to do with a proper infusion of sarcasm (sarcasm, another thing David and I share). Recently David retired, and his new found availability prompted him to offer that he would let me take him fishing (do you see the irony here?).
Typical trout for the day; they were still on the spawn.
In reality David knew I usually fished alone; that I had a tendency to be immersed in my fishing and therefor not always good company on the water. He also knew that since my heart attack last October, my wife was none pleased about my solo fishing adventures. His offer was a way of getting me out without causing her to worry about me.

The other truth was that David and his awesome wife were getting ready for a three-month vacation.  Most of their trip would occur in Colorado where their two children and all their grandchildren live. David was hoping to do some fly fishing while there, and he was hoping I could give him some counsel on the subject of fly fishing for trout.
A fine 15-inch male in his spawning colors, with the lower jaw kype bulb beginning to show.
We decided on the Wayne Kirch Wildlife Management Area because the fishing was expected to be good and the temperature moderate.  The three hour drive up and back afforded much time for talk (remember, we both have the "gift of gab") which was very enjoyable and made the 350 mile round trip seemed too short for me.

We departed from my house at 4:00 AM, and were floating on the Dacey Reservoir by 8:00 AM.  There was another solo angler who arrived at 9:00 AM, and a pair of anglers showed up an hour or two later. Although Dacey is the smallest of the four fishable reservoirs in Kirch, at 185 surface acres there was plenty of water to share among five anglers.

I set up David with my 9-foot, 5-weight Sage rod and my Galvin reel.  I chose my 9-foot, 7-weight which I hadn't fished for many years. I had forgotten how well it throws out heavier flies.  The Pflueger Triton reel spooled with the 7-weight line was heavier than I like.  I've always intended to purchase an additional Galvin spool for a 7-weight full sink line, but that wouldn't have helped this day as I wanted David to use the Galvin.
Nice 16-inch rainbow.  Good thing I hooked him on his right side as his
 left maxilla was missing from previous excessive hooking pressure.
The boat launch was relatively clear of decaying vegetation, and a few trout were still pooling at the opening while attempting to spawn. The weed growth was still low, but it took an hour to locate the trout (or maybe the warming water by mid-morning activated them).  We began to connect with the rainbows around 9:00 AM, and for three hours we did pretty good, although neither of us caught anything over 16 inches.  For the morning we landed ten fish and suffered six or seven long-distance releases.  About sixteen hookups over four and one-half hours.

David had a couple of observations about me that I knew to be true.  The first was that as a casting instructor I left much to be desired. I cast a decent fly, but my style is filled with imperfections from being self-taught and years of bad habits. I kept making suggestions to David based on my observations of his casting technique, but he didn't observe that I was employing what I was suggesting.  The truth of the matter is that casting a fly line is ruled by the physics of nature, and as long as you learn to (a) time your casting strokes and their related power acceleration based on the rod loading, and to (b) keep the rod tip on a tighter line-of-sight throughout the cast to effect a tighter loop, you'll do just fine.  All the other gyrations of your body, arm, and wrist can vary highly but still produce acceptable results.  His other observation was that I talk out loud to myself while fishing.  This might have disturbed him as he mentioned to me that when he's outdoors he enjoys the quiet solitude, and that was likely a hint that my talking upset his peace.  I am aware that I express my thoughts orally while fishing... I really don't know why.  Even if Dave were to say my "self-talking" didn't bother him, I would be disappointed if he failed to find the perfect opportunity to weave my propensity to chatter while fishing into a sarcastic comment during men's group.
David's first trout of the day. Note angler in red float tube lifting a large rainbow by the tail.
A blow-up of the solo angler; his trout looks to be at least 4 pounds!
We did note the solo angler caught a rather large rainbow, perhaps four-plus pounds.  Unbeknownst to me, the other angler lifted the brute by the tail just as I snapped a picture of David with his first catch of the day.  Even on days when Dacey under-performs to my expectations, it's always reassuring to see other anglers land trophy trout

Despite our truck-cabin conversations, our drive up and back had a couple of eventful wildlife encounters. There was a roadrunner that dashed from the east side of Highway 318 right into the Ford F-150 that was travelling at 75 m.p.h., at least I thought he did.  But when I looked back from the passenger side mirror there was no evidence he was ever there; I could only conclude he did the "Wile E. Coyote" 180 degree maneuver before anything happened.  Then there were the two pronghorn antelope we noticed less than 100 yards away that were traversing the northeast slope of Gap Mountain. This was the farthest south I had ever seen pronghorns. Finally, traveling home we almost collided with two red tailed hawks that were obviously engaged in some aerial maneuvering of their own. One pulled up from the left side of the Ford, and as our eyes fixated on him the other that was flying low to the ground suddenly averted striking the right front of the truck. In order to miss hitting us (I would say he came within 10 to 15 feet, which is frighteningly close when traveling 75 m.p.h.) he extended his full wings while banking sharply up and to the right of the truck. I can only say that The Lord blessed us with His display of wildlife on this trip. 

Regardless of the fishing and wildlife sightings, I really enjoyed David's company.  I always look forward to seeing him every two weeks in Men's Group, and spending a day on the water and in the cab of his truck was just as I expected: a blessed day filled with fishing, fellowship, and fun. Most importantly, as stated by Jesus in Matthew 18:20, "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am with them."  I know David and I felt His presence this day.
David's post-retirement beard gives him a resemblance to fly fishing author John Gierach.
Pre-launch FisherDad next to the Water Master Grizzly.

April 18, 2016

Dacey Reservoir: A Return to the Scene of the "Incident"

On Dacey Reservoir, looking back toward primitive boat launch with the Trout Truck, Hot Creek Butte, and
snow-capped Grant Range in the background.  The Water Master Grizzly scooted nicely over the 40-yard
long mass of dead bulrush that blocked access to the open water.
On October 22, 2015, I suffered a heart attack while fishing Dacey Reservoir. Although I've made a few trips to Cold Creek since my heart attack (about 40 miles northwest of my home), this trip to Wayne Kirch Wildlife Management Area (Kirch WMA) was my first substantial fishing trip, a 360 mile round trip consisting of six hours of driving.  Truthfully, I was glad to make the trip and I felt no anxiety about returning to the scene of the incident. Putting aside the three stents that opened my blocked heart arteries, I really believe my conversion to a full vegan diet has made a significant improvement in my health, and I'm confident I'm getting a handle on preventing any future incidents.

The fishing was good, although not up to my expectations.  I suspect a contributor to my feeling of underachievement was the rush to get in and out of the reservoir. I promised my wife that I would be home by 3:30 PM, so my itinerary called for leaving the house at 5:00 AM and returning by 3:30 PM. After accounting for six hours of round-trip driving, plus set-up and take-down time, I had less than five hours of fishing time.  The other psychological factor was the knowledge that I was to be back to work the next day; I think you relax more when you have the whole weekend ahead of you upon returning home. These factors contributed to a sense of hurry; I never really got into a rhythm. 

Despite the anxiousness over the timing limitation, twelve-plus hookups wasn't bad for less than five hours of angling. Although I wasn't overtly counting, I believe six or seven nice trout were landed, but at least an equal number were hooked but eventually lost, which I often refer to as long-distance releases, or LDRs for short. Over half of the fish landed were 15 - 17 inches, and at least two of the LDRs seemed larger and more experienced, using vicious head shakes to dislodge my size 10 damsel fly. I felt as though they had experienced the steel before and didn't panic, but used a tried and true method to get free, unlike others that run and jump, wearing themselves out before getting off the hook.
First trout of the morning: note the Trout Truck on the far right of the shoreline.
The larger trout were already in spawning mode, as evidenced by the females depositing their eggs on my stripping apron. What I witnessed upon returning to the boat launch area that I failed to notice when I first arrived was that many trout were pooling around the backed-up bulrush.  Usually in the spring you see trout trying to spawn in the boat launch areas. In this case the stacked up and rotting bulrush screened all that activity from me. When I concluded my fishing and headed for the boat launch area I instinctively cast towards the mass of floating vegetation before I proceeded to skim the Water Master Grizzly over it again. I had several hookups with large trout, but only scooped one of them into my Fishpond landing net. In fact, I felt several nips at my fly that cold have been more like spawning aggression than hungry strikes. It was a mental lesson I will recall next spring if I encounter this bulrush setup again.  
My first trout was a beautiful 16-17 inch male sporting a kyped jaw. 
A close up of the lower jaw kype. 
At first I was the lone angler on the reservoir.  But as soon as I navigated my Water Master Grizzly to the open water another angler drove by over the reservoir dam. I waived a "hello" as he drove over to the eastern side where he launched his Fish Cat pontoon boat. We exchanged more formal "hello's" when we got within talking distance on the water.  He said he was from Hawthorne, CA on a week-long solo fishing trip (two days of travel reduced the his angling days to just five). He had already experienced the harsh weekend winds, the same winds that I was monitoring on weather forecasts. The high wind weekend forecast ultimately led me to take Monday off for a day trip.  Successful day-trips to Kirch WMA require a watchful eye toward the weather, even to the point of viewing hourly forecasts to better predict when the wind will be too powerful for human powered watercraft.  Fishing from the earthen dam can be productive at times, but it is highly limiting because you cannot reach any other part of shoreline on account of the heavy bulrush (great for nesting waterfowl, bad for shore anglers). No one wants to invest six-hours of driving time only to be restricted to fishing from the dam after being blown blown off the water.

Despite the winds, my new friend from Hawthorne had already experienced good success.  I could tell from our conversation we was obviously pleased with the fishing, and that made me happy for him and hopeful for me. I asked him how he discovered the Kirch WMA (my experience with Ron from Santa Barbara on my article photo shoot reminded me to expect surprises from the anglers at Kirch).  He said he came upon it from an article he read several years ago. I asked him if it was an article in Southwest Fly Fishing, and amazingly he said it was. Trying to control my pride from bubbling over and making me look foolish, I told him that was my article that educated him about the Kirch reservoirs. Pride aside, it was cool to learn that someone actually read my article and put it to the test, and even more remarkable to run into them on Dacey Reservoir.     

My sole fishing partner, all the way from Hawthorne, CA, rowing his Fish Cat pontoon
boat (along shoreline on right side of picture). Said he discovered Kirch WMA by reading my 
November 2014 article in Southwest Fly Fishing.
This 17-inch specimen displayed what appeared to be scars from a heron or osprey attack. 
There were several heron stalking around the reservoir, and I saw two ospreys overhead as well. I mention them because two of the fish I landed exhibited wounds that I believe were delivered by one of these birds. One trout had an open wound that looked pretty fresh. Despite that wound, the fish fought stronger than any other I had landed. It is impressive how nature works that way sometimes, much like how The Lord makes us strong in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Although this trout had an open wound, likely from a heron or osprey as well, 
it was far and away the strongest fighting fish I landed this day.
Despite failing to land anything close to 20 inches, it was a good trip in my book (who lands such trout every time out anyway?).  Maybe if I had more patience with some of those LDR fish I might have netted larger trout. Who knows... those are the mysteries that drive me to keep going back.

This being my second Water Master Grizzly trip, I should report that it performed just as was advertised to me. I am very pleased to have made the transition from the North Fork Outdoors Escape to the Water Master Grizzly, and I expect to put the Grizzly through more fishing tests in the months and years to come. 

Another fine 16-17 inch female specimen
Reviving a smaller 15-inch specimen before release.
It was another one-fly day on Dacey; the Whitlock damsel fly nymph carried the day again.
A happy FisherDad before the long drive home..


February 19, 2016

Six Foot Rod for Twelve Inch Trout


A crisp Cold Creek morning, despite all the sunshine
(note the murky water color)
Okay, I admit to having had such a good time fishing my 7.5 foot, 4 weight rod at Cold Creek last week that I decided to return with my little 6-footer today. I've written before that I've built two 6-foot fly rods in my life primarily because of Cold Creek. Catching wild 7-inch Rainbow and Brook trout in thin water (or the more obscure trout like Golden, Bonneville, or even Redband wherever they are found) is not much fun on an 8-foot rod, but can be blast on a 6-foot rod. In the early 1980s I built my first small-creek fly rod from fiberglass specifically for tiny water like Cold Creek and Beaver Dam Creek, and replaced it with a graphite version in 2009. I've used the new graphite rod to land 16-inch trout and 12-inch bass on Haymeadow Reservoir in the Wayne Kirch Wildlife Management Area (it has more backbone than the fiberglass). I was very, very pleased and impressed by the performance of that rod, although as a 3 weight it can't cast well the larger flies that I prefer on the big waters of Kirch... even the 7.5 foot, 4 weight has difficulty with larger weighted nymphs.
Nice trout approaching 12 inches
(picture angle and small rod & reel make it appear larger)
Unfortunately, recent rains and melting snow ran into the Cold Creek pond creating significant clarity issues. Although I generally favor putting action to subsurface fly fishing (as opposed to suspending a nymph from a buoyant dry fly or strike indicator) and believe the trout's observation of movement triggers their predatory instincts, they can also sense the movement vibrations through the water if it's close enough. The trout's lateral lines help it perform in dark or dirty water as well as locate prey and predators alike, but I believe you have to get the fly closer to the trout when relying on lateral lines rather than eyesight. Anyway, because of the muddy water I was only able to feel two strikes, both of which I landed. One was a plump 11.5-inch rainbow trout.  Despite the dearth of fishing action, catching that Cold Creek Pond specimen on my 6-foot fly rod made the whole trip.
Two wild horses taking a sip from the muddy water
It was a beautiful morning, an obvious gift from The Lord demonstrating his creative powers. Romans 1:18-23 says, among other things, through "the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made..." Check out the hyperlink if you want to read the quote in context. Or better yet, try reading The Message version if you're not accustomed to reading scripture.
Someone moved this horse carcass to the pond (wasn't there last week).
I took it as a reminder that we all live in mortal bodies, but our spirits
are eternal. Take heed of Romans 1:21-23.