October 23, 2020

Chasing Delta Stripers in the Heat

Although the stripers we hooked were all small by Delta standards, they
fight so hard from the outset it is difficult to assess their size until they give
up after burrowing hard and deep. Maybe they were small, but they were
lots of fun!

Although I prefer to angle for the Salmonid species, there is no denying the Morone Saxatilis (a.k.a., Striped Bass, Rockfish, and Linesider) is a far stronger fighter, who when he strikes the fly makes an unforgettable impression followed by a deep and sullen tugging. Even stripers as small as twelve inches confuse my "trout" memory into believing the fish might be 20 inches or longer. It is a remarkable gamefish, and anglers are easily hooked by the "tug drug."

The massive California Delta is home to many species of fish. By massive, I mean it is over 1,150 square miles, significantly bigger than the state of Rhode Island. The major sportfish are bass (stripers, largemouth, and smallmouth), Chinook salmon, sturgeon, catfish, crappie, and even steelhead. Anglers fish it year-round, although each sportfish has its preferred seasons as does the weather.

Captain Bill, contemplating our next run to find stripers. We are on the Sacramento River side of
Sherman Lake; the wind farm just beyond the Sacramento River is visible.

My fellow pescador and mejor amigo, Bill Bergan, easily convinced me to fish the Delta again this fall. I admit to being excited by the prospect of attacking the Delta stripers for a second time. Last year's experience, although intimidating at first, was a quick study in fly fishing for stripers (see California Delta Stripers and Other Stories). The intimidation arises from the vast expanse of the Delta with its labyrinth of canals, sloughs, and channels hidden behind a daunting maze of levees that an inexperienced boater can easily become lost within; thank goodness for Bill's decades of Delta experience. But it is also intimidating from the sheer physicality of the angling. Thankfully, even a simple trout fisherman can eventually get down the rhythm and timing of casting 7 and 8-weight integrated sinking shooting heads. The persistent casting of large Clouser-like weighted flies on those fly rods followed by an intense stripping of fly line into the stripping basket can make your shoulders and elbows feel like mush by the end of the day. And that is all accomplished while standing on casting platforms at the bow and stern of the boat, constantly using your legs as leveling pistons while the boat bobs and rolls upon the big water. You are so darn exhausted towards the end of a long day fishing you begin to seriously question whether you could fight and land a 10-pound striper if you hooked one.

An example of a vacation home on the Georgiana Slough just above the B&W Resort and Marina.
Note the manicured lawn. If you need to ask how much one of these homes cost you cannot afford it.

I flew to Sacramento on Tuesday morning, and Bill picked me up at the airport. We stayed in a rustic two-bedroom cabin at the B&W Resort and Marina. B&W’s cabins include a three-quarter bathroom and a kitchen with a fridge and range/oven.  It overlooks the marina where Bill docked his boat overnight. We were able to fish the Delta for about five hours on Tuesday and spend a good ten hours in the boat on both Wednesday and Thursday. We got in about six hours on Friday before our run to the airport for my flight home.

Coming up a borrowed channel on the San Joaquin River to Eddo's Harbor & RV Park.  We were
looking to gas up the boat on Wednesday afternoon, only to discover that Eddo's is closed on
Wednesdays. A borrowed channel is created by digging up material to construct or maintain a
levee that creates a depression that fills with water.

Over those four days, 31 hours on the Delta, we traveled 149 miles in Bill's refreshed boat when we were not fishing. He had its dents and dings removed and new paint/coating applied. A custom casting platform was also installed in the stern with locking built-in storage. He also upgraded the old trolling motor with a remote-controlled Minn Kota Ulterra with GPS capability to not only follow a charted direction, but also act as a virtual anchor by redirecting the boat to GPS coordinates within 5-foot increments, adjusting for wind and tide flow. It was quite amazing to watch it constantly adjust itself, although on occasion it would kick-in when you least expected it which compels you to quickly shift weight. It is important for striper fly fisherman to chase the moving tides, which can be a nightmare on the Delta which has a complex tidal flow due to the multiple rivers, channels, and flooded islands. Thus the need for a high-end Lowrance navigation computer that not only displays fish near the boat, but more importantly helps you navigate to where they might be in the expansive and complicated Delta given the cycle of the tides. Sometimes it is hard for trout anglers to understand the need for this technology, but a few days on the Delta will quickly educate you.

An example of a striper fly of about 4 inches from the hook eye to the end of the tail; it is designed to
resemble a baitfish that stripers prey upon.

This year's weather was unseasonably warm (highs in the 80s) as was the water temperature (about 70 degrees). This was consistent with our Southern Nevada weather experience for October as well. According to Captain Bergan, the warm water can slow striper feeding, or even discourage them from entering the Delta. The water temps in the lower bays (i.e., Suisun, Grizzley, San Pablo, and San Francisco) and the upper feeder rivers (Sacramento, San Joaquin, and their tributaries) are cooler, while the Delta that connects them is warm in the summer, usually over 68 degrees, perhaps higher. On this trip, the water temperature was persistently at 70 degrees, although by Friday it seemed to be cooling a few degrees. I don't intend this to sound like an excuse for poor fishing, as I think Bill and I combined for about 35 to 40 fish over the four days of fishing, it is just that I don't think we landed anything over 14 inches. As I said, even small stripers can fight hard, but the hope is to land a striper around 10 pounds, hopefully more (i.e., 25 inches or longer). Included in that 35 to 40 fish count was about 15 or so largemouth bass, but they were small as well.

The bow of Bill's boat. The cockpit window has a hinged door to access items on the bow as well as
the casting platform. Note the Lowrance fish finder complete with watercourse maps and tidal flow
reports. The GPS mapping is an absolute necessity to navigate the Delta.

The new casting platform on the stern of the boat. Locking compartments house batteries,
tools, tie ropes and bumpers, as well as a small ice chest for lunch, snacks, and drinks.
The two buckets are to catch the line you strip on the fly retrieve, keeping it somewhat
organized and free from obstacles when you cast and shoot it out. They are a necessity.

If you are considering fishing the Delta for the first time (or even subsequent times), I strongly suggest the need for an experienced guide. Not everyone has a Bill Bergan to host them, so a good guide like Maury Hatch (see Hatch First Guide Service) is invaluable. He is licensed and credentialed, and he provides everything you need except the fishing license. Another source to do some homework on the Delta (and other waters) is Dan Blanton's Fly Fishing Forum and Bulletin/Message Board. It takes a little effort to search the message board but there is loads of good information on there.  

Just like last year we saw a plethora of waterfowl everywhere, as well as a sea lion who made his way into the Delta. A new sighting for me was a pair of otters porpoising and feeding along an edge of tulies. There have been over 2,500 otter sightings in the Delta according to the River Otter Ecology Project (these were not sea otters). Of course, the seals and otters are likely to scare off the fish which is not good for fishermen. Sea lions are said to consume three to five salmon per day when they migrate into their home rivers, so I guess that would translate into 12 to 20 stripers per day.
 Nonetheless, it was cool to watch them.

One of the otters fishing along the tulies. This was a windy day. 

While the Delta and its angling resources are certainly a great attraction, spending time with Bill is the crème de la crème, as we French Canadians would say. Friends typically share similar interest and values, and that is true for us. Our professional careers followed similar paths and were in fact our initial point of connection. A deep appreciation of the natural outdoors, especially catch-and-release fishing with a fly rod, is a major shared activity. But those do not overshadow our love of family and friends. We share long-term, loving, and fruitful marriages. We often speak joyfully and lovingly of our children and grandchildren. Our relationships are our most valued possessions.

You can see how Bill is stripping line into the bucket as he retrieves the fly in jerking motions.  This
particular spot is on the upriver side of the Willow Berm Marina on the Mokelumne River, just before
it enters the San Joaquin River. 

After an exquisite but simple dinner prepared by Bill on Thursday night, including a glass or two of a smooth Chardonnay, we haphazardly entered the world of politics. Our country seems more politically polarized than I can recall from prior election cycles, and we both find it disturbing that family, friends, and neighbors cannot seem to discuss their opposing viewpoints without getting hurt or angry feelings. I was not surprised that Bill and I do not share identical political viewpoints. I would not say we are far apart, but we do have different perspectives. Because of our friendship we were able to agree to disagree.

Something you seldom witness on the Delta. A couple in a paddle boat who are actually being towed
by a chocolate Labrador dog.

That après-dinner political polarity conversation caused me to think of the Bible’s Great Commandment. In Mark 12:28-34, a scribe (e.g., a lawyer) asked Jesus which of the commandments handed to Moses was the greatest of all.  Jesus’ simple reply was love: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”  This simple reply distilled the 10 Commandments into “love” (1 through 4 address loving God, whereas 5 through 10 address loving your fellow beings). Unfortunately, these commandments are challenging not only for secular individuals but for Christians as well, which is why the grace of Jesus is so needed to cover our sins of disobedience. It is, after all, difficult to express love for someone with whom you have significant disagreements. Love would have us treat these disagreements with respect, patience, kindness, and honor (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

This is one of many 'boat salvage" deck barges found hidden in the sloughs and channels. Note the
double-wide trailers fixed atop one of them. Through the rust you can see this old boat was once
christened "Bosco Baby."

As a closing side note, and in honor of election day on November 3rd, the Bible also says we are to obey our government leaders (Romans 13:1-7). This seems to be a tricky piece of scripture by virtue of the number of varying interpretations. That said, here is one pastoral lesson I found honest and helpful: Lesson 88: The Government and You (Romans 13:1-7). It is a rather long lesson, but its essential message is that your relationship with Jesus provides the basis for proper submission toward the government. Some might recall His reply to the Pharisees trying to trap Him regarding paying taxes to Caesar (Matthew 22:15-22), where He asked them whose face was on the Roman coin, and then told them to “…give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” A brilliant answer that also gives insight into how we are to respond to government authority.

I can honestly say that another wonderful aspect of this angling adventure was that I did not read or watch any political news or pundits for four full days… what a relief that was.

FisherDad stripping line into the basket as the sun prepares to set.

September 10, 2020

Beaver Dam Creek - Revisited

Looking upstream, this location is about a quarter-mile from the day-use parking area. There is a trail
head marker where I parked, but about 20 yards in the trail disappears, a victim of the viscous flash
floods that plow through this narrow canyon. What is ankle deep water routinely swells to three
feet, occasionally much more. I have personally witnessed this twice.   

Beaver Dam Creek

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know Beaver Dam Creek is where I learned to fly fish a trout stream. I started angling Beaver Dam State Park’s namesake creek in 1977, and I continued through the 1980s and 1990s. Schroeder Reservoir created an interesting tailwater fishery (although by virtue of a spillway as opposed to a tunnel outlet at the bottom of the reservoir) that created wild trout habitat that was accessible only by foot or four-wheel drive. Most anglers fished the reservoir, but exploration of the creek below proved fruitful in many ways. And yes, an occasional larger trout found its way over the dam into the spillway pool where it set up shop. My last visit before the dam was breached and removed was in August 2002, and you can read about those early experiences in that blog post.

My next visit was in September 2010, five years after the dam was removed, which I mournfully describe in that blog post. Whether true or not, I like to think of myself as an optimist, so almost ten years to the day I decided to give the creek one more chance before my aging body prevents me.

There is a sense of anticipation every time I arrive at the rim of the canyon that contains Beaver Dam
State Park. I always describe it as a miniature Grand Canyon. The headwaters originate in Utah's
the Pine Valley Ranger District. I believe the tallest peak on the horizon (about a third in from the left
side of this photo) is Water Canyon Peak, about 7,300 feet in elevation. It's about 5 miles east from
the Nevada/Utah border. The mountains in the distant horizon represent the northwest section of
the Pine Valley Ranger District, one of four districts in the Dixie National Forests of Southern Utah.

The most recent Google Earth imagery (October 2013) displays numerous beaver dams on the creek; I counted seven in the creek section I fished today. Although it has been seven years since those satellite images were taken, I was still surprised that I did not run across any dam remnants on this trip. For a change in approach, mostly due to the reservoir dam removal, I fished upstream from the trailhead in the parking and day use area. With a three to four-hour effort I caught 12 trout. Most were under eight inches, but four were at least that length. I never spooked anything large, but one seemed to be nine to ten inches; it slapped at my fly after the leader spooked it.

As you turn off U.S. 93 on the Beaver Dam road (there is an ample sign, but it is possible to miss it),
you cross the Meadow Valley wash which gathers all the water it can from the Great Basin hills
surrounding the valley, a valley that includes the towns of Panaca and Caliente, including the stream
that fills the Eagle Valley and Echo Canyon reservoirs. In that fertile valley ranchers grow livestock
feed like alfalfa, which of course the mule deer love as well.

So, I recant my blog of 2010. Anyone taking an interest in fly fishing would do well to learn the craft on the waters of Beaver Dam Creek. The intimacy of the water can be a quick teacher, with more immediate results. Lessons learned here are readily transferred to larger streams and rivers.

For those interested in detail, I was casting my eight-foot, five-weight rod which I underweighted with a four-weight floating line. The creek is ankle deep for the most part, but there are occasional pools and glides that larger trout occupy (there were many fingerlings present, but usually relegated to the thinner water). One or two were caught on a little scud pattern, but the others were caught on a size 16 elk hair caddis dry fly. I rarely fish reservoirs with dry flies anymore, so it was a special treat to angle that way today.

Although the creek is shallow, there are occasional pockets and pools, some as deep as two feet.
Much of the section below the old reservoir is shrouded in willows, where dapping flies from a prone
position would be productive. This upstream section seems a little less crowded by willows, but large
boulders and the canyon walls provide shade as well. 

Because the water is so thin, and because there were some flies coming off the water, I mostly
fished a size 16 elk hair caddis. It was very effective on the small rainbow trout of Beaver Dam.

Another little rainbow who succumbed to the caddis dry fly.

Nature Leads to God

It is hard for an old man, assuming 64 is old, to avoid longing for the adventures of his youth. I was a virile young man who sought after all kinds of unique ways to immerse myself in the natural world. It was not good enough to simply fish, it had to be fly fishing using rods and flies I built myself. Hiking was great, but backpacking trails in mountain ranges approaching 12,000 feet in elevation was better, and better yet was backpacking into wild areas where there was no trail. Ski slopes had to be conquered not with Alpine skis, but with Nordic cross-country skis. Technical climbing added a thrill element (read risk) as trails became vertical thereby placing a premium on muscle strength, endurance, and fear management. Even in the 1970s (well before cell phones, personal computers, and the Internet) city life provided all sorts of amenities and conveniences but experiencing and understanding nature in its rawest forms made me feel more alive. Dare I say that nature adventure was my “religion” of that time.

Giving up the physically demanding approaches to nature has been disappointing. I admit that. But my last holdout remains fly fishing. I still have my dad’s fly rod and eleven flies tied by him over 60 years ago. Fly fishing connects me to a father I never got to know as heart disease took him from our family at the age of 37. My mother spoke so lovingly of my dad, and my brothers idolized him. What 10 and 13-year-old boys could resist idolizing a dad who epitomized the adventurist outdoorsman? Although I was barely out of my toddler years, my father’s love of the outdoors was deeply planted in my older brothers, and they in turn transferred it to me and my younger sister. While they were the agents of transmission, my longing for all things in the natural outdoors is rooted in my father, Raymond Joseph Vincent.

You can see how flood waters carve out the walls and banks. The Google Earth imagery from October
2013 revealed many beaver dams on the creek. Although I did not bushwhack a lot of the creek, I
did not see one single beaver dam, even from the higher vantage points. Either they were washed
out, or the State Park folks removed them to enhance their limited stocking program. 

This was the last section I fished above the old reservoir. It was very productive, especially the pool
lying in the shadows of the cut bank on the left. There was a similar but smaller pool about 50 yards
up. In this tiny creek, these are the holding and feeding areas you should be targeting. 

As a grown man I have given up that “religion” for my savior Jesus Christ. That does not mean I have lost or denied my appreciation of His creation, just that I have come to know and love the creator of it all. In a way, I have discovered my true Father in heaven.

Scripture tells us, and science has yet to disprove it, that God created the heavens and the earth, and all that exists on the earth (Genesis 1). He created nature for our use, enjoyment, and stewardship (Genesis 1:28). Scripture states that one purpose of His natural creation is to reveal Himself to those who do not know Him. In a crude way, it would be like learning to praise the maker of an artwork rather than praising the artwork itself.

Colossians 1:16-17 says: 

For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

In Romans 1:19-20 Paul writes:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Job was a man God described as blameless and upright, a man who feared God and shunned evil. When Job lost everything but his life at the work of Satan, he countered his accusers by saying (Job 12:7-10):

But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.

This photo was taken from the road on the way to the old wilderness
campsite (now day use only). These cliffs on the Oak Knoll overlook
my favorite portion of the creek from my "early days." From the late
1970s through the mid-1990s I would visit this water often, driving
my 1978 Toyota Hi-Lux 4x4 (precursor to the current Tacoma
truck series) down to the old wilderness campground ("wilderness"
because it required 4 wheel drive to get there). The pools in this
section provided some casting room and frequently gave up trout
of 12 inches, but my largest ever was 14 inches.  

Down in this canyon floor there used to be the four-wheel drive track road to the lower wilderness
campground. Nature seems to have reclaimed the area.

My enjoyment of all things natural now points me to Jesus, not to my prowess over nature as was the case in my youth. I no longer try to conquer nature, but rather revel in its awesome beauty and wonder, of which I have only witnessed an enormously, almost infinitely, small fraction. Not to be morbid, but as I get closer to death on this earth, I find great comfort in knowing that my Lord has saved a place for me in heaven (John 14:2), and that I will live eternally in His presence (John 5:24). I pray that I will see my family and friends on that side of eternity, but I am not in charge of that decision. While I greatly appreciate the wonderous world He created for me to experience, I know there are many things more important than nature itself.

Taking the "new" road through the hills to the old wilderness campground gets you to OHV trail heads
like this one. An off-highway vehicle (OHV) is a motor vehicle capable of off-highway travel during
winter or summer. OHV’s include all-terrain vehicles (ATV’s), four-wheelers, three-wheelers, dirt bikes,
motorcycles, trail bikes, and snowmobiles (but unfortunately not 4x4 trucks as small as the Tacoma).

How many rainbow trout can you spot in this glide pool? Hint: two are obvious, but the other two are
a little difficult.

Lacey’s Story

I was tuned into a talk radio show on my drive home from Beaver Dam. The host was interviewing singer-songwriter Lacey Sturm. Lacey is 39 today, which makes her about 35 when she did this two-part interview in 2016. Two things grabbed my ear at the start: she was a hard rock artist about the age of my oldest son, and her music genre was reminiscent of my son’s bands when he performed in junior high through college. I thought listening to her story might enlighten me a little about the music of his youth (all my adult children would agree I still need enlightenment, and other improvements).

Having six children with my wife of 40-plus years, I have great empathy for husbands and wives who are raising families. I sometimes joke with my own sons who have small children that they will get a new appreciation of what it was like for us to raise a large family. Joking aside, while it can be terribly taxing in the worst of times, there is no joy more profound, no accomplishment more meaningful, than helping your children grow and achieve what has been made available to them. There is a dated family portrait on our foyer table that has Psalm 127:3-5 inscribed on it. There is not likely a greater legacy than a man’s children.

A bee too busy to care about me...

This rabbit brush has distinctive yellow flowers, with a vine invading it while the canyon cliffs
proudly overlook their domain.

Raising a family in today’s world appears much more difficult than our parents’ generation. For one thing, my generation’s youth did not have the technology of today that gives every child access to almost anything in the world… good, bad, ugly, or evil. According to one study 53 percent of children have a smartphone by the age of 11, and 84 percent of teenagers now have their own smartphones. These smartphones are much more powerful than the first personal computer I bought in the mid-1990s. At their best, these devices discourage proper socialization and purposeful endeavors like team sports and outdoor recreation. At their worst is a darker side at play. Most parents I know live in fear that their children will fall prey to pedophiliacs on social media, or at least be exposed to other sources of perversions and evil.

I had heard that wild turkey were transplanted in the Beaver Dam area. I now have the evidence.
They were very ratty looking... I suppose the summer heat in this area gives them a rougher look
(highs can get close to 100 degrees on the hottest days). 

Like my older sons, Lacey was raised before the technology boom from “mobile” phones to “smart” phones, or tiny personal computers as I think of them. Her father abandoned her mother to raise six children. I cannot fathom what raising six kids on your own feels like, but I can empathize with her mom. Thankfully, the Lord gave women such strong mothering instincts. Nonetheless, Lacey grew up distrustful of all men. The murder of her young cousin by the hands of his stepfather enraged her. While her mother did what she could, Lacey eventually felt her despair and worthlessness rage into a belief that suicide would be a noble act. It would be like giving a world so full of pain and isolation the “middle finger.” I will leave you to decide to listen to her story in her own words, but I caution that they will strike a painful chord in every parent’s heart. Here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2 of her interview, or alternatively here is a reporter’s version of Lacey’s story.)

No child deserves to grow up like this, but the Lord gave Lacey a voice and place to fight for those who view suicide an option in what seems like a godless world. I learned the Center for Disease Control reported suicides by children age 10 to 24 increased 56 percent from 2007 to 2017. I imagine it is even higher given the events of these past eight months. Why would young people be taking their own lives at an increasing rate?

Like me, I believe Lacey discovered her true Father in heaven. I am thankful He has given her a heart to give hope and purpose to our suicidal youth. It is a mission far more important than pursuing His natural creation with a fly rod.

On my way home I needed to stop for a late lunch break. For decades that was always the Knotty
Pine Restaurant & Lounge right on U.S. 93 as it weaved through Caliente. This time I noticed a new
place on the other side of U.S. 93, over the Union Pacific railroad tracks. The Side Track Restaurant
includes a nice beer menu, but no gambling machines. If you are traveling through Caliente and need
a bite, I recommend you give the Side Track a try. And while you're at it, check out the Caliente
Railroad Depot. You can't miss the mission style building constructed in 1923 to host the Union
Pacific Railroad depot.

May 21, 2020

Southern Utah's Pine Valley Recreation Area

The Pine Valley Recreation Area was not yet open, likely due to CV19, but you could
hike through the area. Dave was ready to stretch his legs for the walk. The reservoir
is not quite a mile up the road from the gate. 

I enjoyed developing my angling skills on the waters around Pine Valley in the late 1970's and early 1980's. A youthful mid-twenties body stimulated my rustic romanticism for pursuing trout in streams and creeks. Now, as a sexagenarian, I no longer bushwhack and boulder-hop up and down streambeds alone, or at least not for far. Nonetheless, I am still nostalgic about fly angling small streams. There likely were several factors driving my interest in stream fishing. I was certainly influenced by the trout angling literature of the day that was predominantly focused on moving water. That was compounded by the first books I read on the subject that I borrowed from my brother Neal’s outdoorsman library. His books had an old-school New England approach to fishing for trout with a fly (think classic dry fly angling). That was a conundrum for me because Neal favored wet flies, nymphs, and streamers.

Another influence was my sense of adventure. Stream fishing fed my exploratory hunger about what I might find or witness around the next bend, whereas casting flies from a lake shore was more simply focused on catching fish. I was bored by shore fishing. The old tire-tube belly boats were starting to show up in catalogs at that time as a cheap and stealthy approach to lake fishing, but it didn't look fun paddling armpit deep in a lake. Mind you, this was well before personal watercrafts were designed and developed for anglers like those we use today. Absent the financial capital to acquire a "real" boat and a truck sufficiently powerful to pull a boat trailer, stream fishing was just the right ticket for me. Besides, casting to trout visible in the stream, or at least to their obvious feeding/holding stations, captured my desire to stalk the trout rather than cast blindly into the lake from shore.

Dave is fishing from the inlet sandbar; the dropoff is pretty severe which is noticeable
by the change in water color at his feet.  Dave hooked into a few rainbows at
that location.

Perhaps Norman Maclean’s affection for moving waters says it best: “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.”

A little about fishing nomenclature for my non-fishing readers.

The fishing subset I write about is fly fishing. It involves casting a “weighted line” with a “clear leader” attached to it and a “fly” tied to the end of the leader. The fly itself is not usually burdened by weights or sinkers so that it can flow on, or in, the water just as an aquatic insect would do. A “dry fly” is one that imitates the various stages of an adult aquatic insect floating on top of the water (thus the label: dry fly). A dry fly is cast with a weighted line infused with microscopic bubbles that allows it to float on the surface and therefor does not pull the dry fly under the water. The attraction about fishing dry flies during an insect “hatch” is that you see the trout feeding on the surface, and so casting to these “rising” trout is filled with an intense expectation. The problem with dry fly fishing is that each insect has their own seasonal hatch cycle that depends upon temperature and weather. Significant hatch feeding activity probably happens less than 5% of the time. So if catching trout is your predominant objective (recognizing that anglers have many objectives that override the desire to simply catch fish) you end up gravitating to fishing with flies that imitate the nymph or pupa stage of the aquatic insects (i.e., wet flies, nymphs, and streamers).

The term “put-and-take” describes the fishery policy of stocking fish raised in a hatchery for the masses to harvest for table food. Sometimes this is done because the water environment does not meet the requirements for natural reproduction, but it also serves the public’s desire to take home a mess of fish for dinner. “Holdover” trout refers to fish stocked last season that survived over the winter to become the larger fish of the new season. And yes, there are trout that survive yet a second season, or perhaps hatchery brood stock that are occasionally peppered into the reservoirs, that can reach 18 inches or better (see evidence of this in my Baker Dam Reservoir blog post from March 2007, a reservoir but 5 minutes from Pine Valley). Hatchery trout are usually stocked in streams and lakes when they reach 9 to 11 inches, but sometimes younger or older trout are stocked for different reasons. Generally, popular put-and-take reservoirs get so much pressure that most all trout are harvested within a couple of seasons, thus the constant cycle of stocking. In waters managed under “trophy” or “blue ribbon” regulations, the angler’s ability to keep trout is limited, or even prohibited. These “catch-and-release” regulations typically enhance the sporting aspect because caught fish are returned to the water to grow to their full potential, as well as training them to be more discriminating between a natural insect and its artificial imitation.

If you are interested to learn more about fly angling please visit my Beginners Gear-Guide to Fly Fishing blog post.

I do not recall taking many friends to Pine Valley over the past four decades. I know I enticed my non-angling high school and college buddy, Kevin McGoohan, to camp Pine Valley with me around 1980. In 2003 my friend, Luis Choto, and I took a few of our boys for an overnight camping trip. We fished the reservoir just a little, but it was really meant to be an overnight campout with our boys. For this day-trip I reached out to Dave Laman to join me for an “outdoorsy getaway” before the stifling heat of the Mojave Desert baked out my energy (we've already had temperatures approaching 110 degrees in Las Vegas and it's not even June yet).

If you don't get a fly stuck in sweeping willows when nymphing small streams you are not
trying hard enough. In my hasty departure from my house this morning I left behind my
Fishpond bag containing all my fly reels and fly boxes. Dave was gracious enough to share
his fly rod and flies with me. I tried to retrieve all his flies that I stuck in the bushes.

Recently, my Pine Valley blog post of June 2012 eclipsed my Cold Creek blog post of April 2010 as my most popular blog post. I find that interesting only because while there are many waters in and around Pine Valley, other than the mid-section of the Santa Clara River (i.e., creek), they are all managed as put-and-take fisheries where a 14 inch reservoir holdover trout is something to be excited about. Ignoring the Southern Nevada urban ponds, including Cold Creek, Pine Valley is the closest trout fishing destination for Las Vegas's 2.3 million population. Add to that the proximity of Utah cities like St. George and Cedar City (literally just 30-minute drives) and their residents’ proclivity to enjoy all things outdoors, and one can see why these waters are managed as put-and-take fisheries.

The Santa Clara picks up speed as it leaves Pine Valley.

I guess you can think of Pine Valley as the McDonalds of outdoor experiences; it appeals to the masses on many levels. Despite its popularity, the Pine Valley area is quite beautiful and offers many outdoor opportunities. There is more to this area than the fishable waters (e.g., Pine Valley, Baker Dam, Gunlock, Enterprise, and New Castle reservoirs plus the Santa Clara River). Snow Canyon State Park attracts hikers, bikers, naturalists, and climbers with its spectacular red rock cliffs. There are several hiking, viewing, and forest trails in the Pine Valley area. Using Pine Valley as a base camp gets you conveniently close Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, not to mention striking distance to Arches National Park and Canyonland National Park.

This trip with Dave was somewhat sentimental for both of us. Although the area holds wonderful youthful memories for me, I do not visit that often anymore. Dave described his decades-old memories of cutting Pine Valley Christmas trees with good friends, and his unsatisfied interest in sampling the fishing while revisiting the valley. Day trips like this out of Las Vegas produce almost as much driving time in the truck as it does fishing time, so traveling with a Christian brother like Dave always makes the trip enjoyable and valuable. Conversations can find deeper levels where brothers can share their life challenges through the filter of shared Christian values. The saying “iron sharpens iron” applies here (Proverbs 27:17).

After getting separated from Dave on our way back to the truck, I noticed fish snatching
flies from some thin water. They were small brown trout (notice this one's par marks
toward the tail), but it was still good sport to land a couple wild 7-inch brown trout.

This section of Santa Clara River (i.e., creek) is below the Pine Valley meadow just
before it descends into the gorge between the meadow and the community known as
Central (where UT-18 intersects FR 035). I've never fished it as the canyon is too tough
on my PAD afflicted legs, but for you hearty types I hear there are some good brown
trout in there. Just below Central the Santa Clara fills Baker Dam Reservoir.

This 10 to 11 inch brown took a brown nymph right behind a little boulder, about 50
yards upstream from the previous photo.

One such conversation drifted into witnessing our faith to others. Which are most effective: direct scriptural approaches, passive demonstrations through our actions, or other variations and combinations? How do our personalities influence our communication styles, and does it matter in the end if it is God who grows the seed, not us? We discussed giving counsel to couples experiencing marriage conflict. Dave has a passion for marriage and family developed through his own life experiences. We both understand the sacredness of marriage, and that the family unit is a faint representation of the Holy Trinity (Mark 10:6-9). Although imperfect, our marriages are 40-plus years strong. We both acknowledged frustration with guiding couples who do not believe in Jesus the Christ, or even newly converted believers. In the end, I think we both concluded that we are called to spread the Word, and the rest is in the hands of the Lord. If their hearts are open to the Holy Spirit, they’ll seek more understanding (2 Corinthians 4:1-6). If not, we should cease to cast our pearls before the swine (Matthew 6:7) and shake the dust off our feet (Matthew 10:14).

Dave's photo of FisherDad at the end of our day. It was a good day, a gift from the Lord.

It is hard to beat a day fishing with a good friend in a setting as beautiful as Pine Valley. Sharing thoughts, beliefs, and experiences about our families, friends, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ were treasures for us to cherish (Matthew 13:44-46

April 28, 2020

Running from COVID-19

I post this scene often. The snow-capped Grant Range is a dramatic backdrop for Dacey
Reservoir. Grant's tallest peaks, Stairstep,Troy, and Timber, range from 10,000 to 11,000
feet. Hot Creek Butte, on far left of the photo, conceals hot springs that attract visitors on
its other side.

I must confess to selfishly abandoning my family for a short day-trip to Dacey reservoir in the Wayne Kirch Wildlife Management Area (Kirch). It was actually a mission of mercy for them as I was getting stir crazy over the shutdown, and who knows what damage I could bring upon my familial relationships had I not taken a dose of this medicine.

Kidding aside, it was but a day-trip that brought me home by 5:oo PM, and no wildlife was harmed in the adventure. Not much to say, other than narrate the pictorial essay. I know my fellow pescadores will understand. 

I recall catching about 12 black bass, a.k.a. largemouth bass. Strangely, they seemed much
more active in the cool of the morning than the rainbow trout, despite trout being a cold-water
fish and bass a warm-water fish. The trout began getting active around 11:00 AM, when I started
hooking up with them. I lost about 5 trout, including one male of about 16 or 17 inches as I was
fighting him toward the Fish Pond net. I did land 6 trout, including two around 19 inches. It's been
a couple of seasons since I landed a 19 inch trout from Dacey.

The rainbow in this photo was about 15 inches.

My new European-made Savage Gear oared float tube has a metric scale on its stripping apron.
It goes to 50cm, which is about 19.7 inches. This female rainbow trout was carrying eggs, but
from the few that spilled from her I don't think she was "ripe."  On the apron she measured 49cm,
about 19.3 inches.

You'll notice her left upper mandible is missing. Dacey regulations limit fishing to "artificial" lures
(no bait that could be swallowed into stomach), but it includes spinner hardware. The regulations
also allow that one trout can be kept. Generally, artificial lures are not swallowed, and thus facilitate
releasing the fish unharmed, which is significant for sport fishermen like me who release everything
they hook.

These special Dacey regulations seem to produce larger trout, but they are often difficult to land
even in the early season when aquatic weeds have just started to grow. I believe this is because
many hardware slingers, especially along the riprap dam, are fishing for meat. Their larger spinners
and heavy tackle are designed to get the fish on the table. My educated suspicion is that a fisherman,
or a succession of fisherman, hooked this one on larger, barbed spinners, and either it ripped
off the mandible or it was damaged by the barbed hook removal. Or, maybe catch and release
simply manifests weaker trout jaws over time.

Maybe its "all of the above." 

Here I am reviving the big hen-fish. She was a stout trout...

Here's one of two black bass that were 14 to 15 inches long. I think these were the most "good
sized" largemouth bass I've ever caught from Kirch's reservoirs. Usually I'm not hooking
bass over 12 inches on a fly rod. 

This was my most satisfying catch of the day. Partly because it was my last one of the day, partly
because it was 47.5cm (18.7 inches), but mostly because I caught it right in front of two hardware
fishermen from Las Vegas (Lord, forgive me for my sin of pride). I was making my way back to
the rustic boat launch area when two guys parked on the dam and proceeded to cast their spinners
to the edge of the tules, right across where the watercraft gain ingress/egress to the reservoir.

They saw me paddling toward them, but I guess they didn't think I was leaving the reservoir
so early in the afternoon. And based on that presumption, I didn't want to bust up their fishing,
so I kept 150 feet away, but was continuing to cast in their general direction. To my delight I hooked

this female rainbow, who did one of those signature Dacey trout leaps right in front of them
(these larger trout will leap 2 to 3 feet in the air... extremely acrobatic). It was as if she
wanted to show off for everyone to see. I was close enough to hear their commentary, which
included some astonishment that I would release such a trout. After her release I made 5 or 6
more casts, but I really needed to get out if I was to get home at the promised time. So I told
the men I was getting out and needed through passage to the launch, which they politely obliged.

It took me about 45 minutes to get everything stowed away in the Fish Taco before I could
get on my way. While packing I noted a 20 inch trout carcass near the truck. I pegged it as a male

rainbow. My guess is it was a day old. It was intact head-to-tail except for the fillets sliced off its
sides; the remaining flesh was dried but still pinkish. All this time the two spinner fisherman
worked that corner and beyond to where I hooked this pretty trout. 

When I started my truck I decided to return to Highway 318 via the Sunnyside road so that I had
to cross the dam and see what luck the two fishermen where having. I could tell they both were
still fishing but when I got closer I saw a 17-inch trout on a stringer. 

The Game Wardens frequent this dam often, and in fact I saw them drive-off two other dam
fishermen, who I presume were fishing without a license and/or with bait. I said a quick prayer
that one would drive by and catch these guys both fishing wile one of them already had his
one-trout limit.  

I want to share a chuckle I had while searching for the Wane Kirch Wildlife Management Brochure online a few days ago.  While the original brochure was detailed, it appears they have another new Kirch brochure which, if you look closely at the photo on the bottom of page 1, you'll recognize FisherDad on Dacey Reservoir from my October 23, 2013 blog post.

There it is again, that darn prideful ego rising up! 

Stay well and stay safe as we climb out of this pandemic episode and return to some semblance of normality.

April 17, 2020

Life Within a Pandemic

The view of Red Rock's bluffs from the trail to the Ash Grove in 
Spring Mountain State Park.
Hopefully I got your attention with some scenic photos of places visited during this awful time of pandemic horror. For my daughter and I, these were necessary diversions designed to help us remember that life, given to us by the Lord, is meant to be lived. Lived in joyful hope, not in fear and worry. By design, our lives are to be relational, both with the Lord and with each other. It is unnatural for us to be shut away from our loved ones, regulated to phone calls and FaceTime. I can tell you that my wife and I long to touch, smell, and cuddle with our grandchildren. While the separation is said to be temporary, it is not what any parent or grandparent would want.  
The Arizona Ash Grove of Spring Mountain State Park, in late winter.  
These past four weeks have been tough on all of us, but especially for health care and public safety workers. They have been asked to go above and beyond what most of us could ever rise to. Granted I'm not that old (according to standards set by people my age...), but this social and economic shutdown is unprecedented in my lifetime.
My daughter strikes a pose at Cold Creek.
I'll await the medical and scientific postmortems on the CV-19 (i.e., “SARS-CoV-2”) response impacts, but my current leaning is that they are generally exaggerated. My initial hunch was that this novo coronavirus wouldn't be much more deadly than a very bad influenza year, and current data as of this blog post seems to support that hunch (although I admit the jury is still out on that). Take for example this John Hopkins article dated April 17, 2020: "Coronavirus Disease 2019 vs. the Flu." If you pay particular attention to the comparative volume of cases and deaths you'll see that CV-19 isn't likely to be any worse than a very bad flu year. Of course, the real concern is the lack of a vaccine for this new virus, which is a whole other story.   
The Fish Taco descending into the Willow Creek drainage.
Part of the problem stems from the apparent misinformation from China, worsened by their delay in sharing their real data with the rest of the world. Mix into that a severe dislike for incumbent President Trump by about half of the country, a roaring economy, and an election year in which the Democrats have yet to put forth a credible candidate, it’s not hard to imagine that a prolonged shutdown might be helpful to their removal plans. As some have said, "Never waste a good crisis" (supposedly attributed to folks like Winston Churchill and Rahm Emanuel, but likely goes all the way back to God).

Human beings can only tolerate this shutdown for so long, especially as data is collected that appears contrary to the fears that CV-19 will be the worst Pandemic since 1918's H1N1 pandemic (which was ironically worsened by the use of aspirin mega-doses as it was the “go-to” pharmaceutical of that day). Although a century ago, the current estimates are that 1918 H1N1 pandemic infected about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population at that time. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States whose population was 104 million at that time. Forget case infections, that was a US death rate of 646 per 100,000 residents. The current US CV-19 deaths per 100,000 residents is 11, or said another way the 1918 death rate was 60 times greater. By the way, the Center for Disease Control estimates that the 2018–2019 influenza season was attributed to more than 35.5 million illnesses, more than 16.5 million medical visits, 490,600 hospitalizations, and 34,200 deaths. As of April 17, 2020, 
the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation models are projecting US deaths could reach 60,308 (estimate range of 34,063 to 140,381) during the epidemic’s first wave. We don’t know if or when there’ll be a second wave. 
Willow Creek is not much to look at, but still
remarkable to find in the middle of the Mojave Desert.
Here in Nevada there are currently 2,836 cases and 112 deaths, which theoretically is a 4% death rate (similar to the US average), except that we likely don't know how many cases really exist because there's been no testing of that specific antibody in Nevada as of today (experts suggest there are 5-10 people with undetected infections for every confirmed case, which would put case mortality rates at less than 1%). More importantly, we should look at the projected CV-19 death rates compared to other causes, many of which can be prevented or reduced based on changes in behavior. According to the Reno Gazette, here were the top 10 causes of Nevada deaths in 2019:

  1. Heart disease (203.7 deaths per 100,000)
  2. Cancer (165.3 deaths per 100,000)
  3. Lower Respiratory Diseases, usually tobacco related (53.0 deaths per 100,000)
  4. Stroke (37.7 deaths per 100,000)
  5. Non-Vehicular Accidents (36.6 deaths per 100,000)
  6. Alzheimer’s (22.6 deaths per 100,000)
  7. Diabetes (21.5 deaths per 100,000)
  8. Suicide (20.5 deaths per 100,000)
  9. Influenza and Pneumonia (16.6 deaths per 100,000)
  10. Liver disease (15.3 deaths per 100,000)
Note that based on Nevada’s 3.08 million population for 2019, even if the current Nevada CV-19 deaths quadrupled to 448, the resulting 14.6 deaths per 100,000 would not crack into this top-ten list. And that’s a list that excludes Nevada’s abortion rate of 286.3 deaths per 100,000 (most recent stats were for 2018), which would be the number 1 cause of death by a long-shot… if one assumes fetuses are living human beings.

OK, my sincere apologies for all this morbid talk. I agree, it can be earth-shaking to think about death as a statistic. No one wants to become a “bad” statistic. But I’m a numbers guy, and data and logic tend to influence my opinions. All I’m attempting to suggest is, it might not have been worth decimating the economy and artificially creating the historic unemployment jump when you compare it to other causes of death like tobacco related disease, accidents, diabetes, and suicide.

The grove of willows and scrub oak reveal Willow Creek in the foreground,
while the mountain-range notch above it denotes Wheeler Pass into the
Pahrump-side of the Spring Mountains.
Despite all this negativity, for which I’ve already apologized, I don’t live in fear or worry. I place my hope in the Lord. The Bible, the very Word of God, has promised hope through the millennia. Here are but a few verses to reflect upon if you are feeling anxious or worried about anything, including this pandemic:
  • I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:18)
  • Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)
  • But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish. (Psalm 33:18)
  • Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)
  • I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:18-28)
  • For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
  • For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)
  • Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
  • Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure. (Psalm 39:4-5)
  • Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? (Matthew 6:25-27)
  • There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)
Our lives should be filled with hope, not worry and fear. We cannot add a single hour to our lives, and although God knows, we do not know the time we are appointed to return to Him.
Be safe, be strong, believe in the Lord.

An unknown wildflower growing in the Willow Creek drainage. In my
feeble Internet search I couldn't match it to any known wild iris flowers.
If you know what it is, post it under comments.