|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."
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.
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.
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.
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. |
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.
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.|