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.