Monday, October 29, 2012

California Rivers

Minaret Peaks at dawn
If the weather stays mild, California trout aficionados would do well to head to the mountains before the snow flies.

Recently, Dennis Greninger and I drove north from LA to fish in the eastern Sierras. Although summer hatches were over, we found fish by prospecting with dry flies and nymphs. On the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin, we had two nights in a row where something brought fish to the surface.

We used Mammoth as a base of operations for a three day fishing trip. Mammoth has two fishing tackle shops, good restaurants, a large Vons’s supermarket and some reasonably priced hotels. Here’s what we found . . .

The Middle Fork of the San Joaquin: Because of its just right scale, I really liked the San Joaquin. We fished the Middle Fork in Devil’s Postpile National Park. After Labor Day, the highways and campsites are not crowded

Driving to Mammoth is dramatic. Driving to the Middle Fork takes the drama up another notch. The road climbs mountains and then spirals down into the river valley. Of this drive, my friend, Carl Crawford, says, “The view of Minaret Peaks and the eastern section of Yosemite may be my favorite view on earth.” The photograph with this post is of the Minarets but Carl is right: nothing does justice to seeing the real thing.

We caught native and holdover brown trout. After a fishless month before, I caught a nice brown trout.
Dennis on the Middle Branch
Hot Creek: In upstate New York, the biggest angling hazards are abruptly rising waters from power dam releases or poison ivy. While fishing the canyon section of the public water on Hot Creek, I looked down and saw smoke coming out of a seep hole for a hot spring. Every so often, when the wind shifted, the sulphurous smell of other, larger hot springs wafted past.

The springs are fueled by subterranean volcanic activity and are slightly radioactive, adding a frisson to the Creek’s otherwise enjoyable fishing.

Hot Creek has three sections open to the public. In the middle of the public access is Hot Creek Ranch, with private water in beautiful open meadows and incredibly picky trout

Come to think of it, trout on the entire stream are picky or protected from anglers by water conditions. Despite its name, Hot Creek is a spring fed. It has aquatic vegetation that gums up a fly, has many braided currents that pull a fly from a drag-free drift and has water so clear that the trout know what you are doing before you do.

As you might guess from this description, I caught no fish on Hot Creek. However, the Middle Fork was so beautiful and Hot Creek was so challenging that I want to return and try my luck next year!

The joy of catching this fish was doubled as it took a Parachute Adams dry fly that Dennis tied and shared.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Striped Bass Fishing Extravaganza

If you fish at Montauk right now, the waters look just like this picture, Gridlock, taken by photographer Jim Levison

Drop what you are doing. Right now. Get a plane, train, car, kayak or whatever and head to Montauk, New York.

As you read this, the striped bass fishing at the eastern end of Long Island is, according to Jim Levison, a gifted photographer and fishing guide, “epic.”

Striped bass migrate south during fall and concentrate as they swim south past Montauk Point. For the last few days, the fish have been schooling all around the Point.

If you have a boat, they are reachable by boat. If you have a kayak, the weather has been calm enough to launch from the beach and paddle out.

If you are a surf caster, the fish are within easy range of the beach, sometimes right at the water’s edge, churning through the water, like miniature sharks, gobbling baitfish.

This past Sunday, I drove to Montauk to see if there were any fish. As I drove slowly around the circle by the Lighthouse, I saw anglers coming up from the beach with stripers.

On reaching the beach, there were anglers everywhere. The beach was crowded but not elbow to elbow crowded.

Every ten minutes or so, a school of striped bass would come by within easy casting range of the beach. Between 2 and 3:30 PM, I hooked and lost three bass. The fish were taking white bucktail jigs, silver spoons of all types and surface plugs.

Seeing dozens of three feet fish swirling by on the surface almost wiped out my angling manners. It took several times crossing other anglers’ lines to finally learn that you must cast straight out and not diagonally to the fish.

Russ Drumm, the East Hampton Star’s fisheries reporter, advises that it’s better to cast on the edge of a school of feeding fish than in the middle of it. Striped bass do not have sharp mouths as do bluefish but they have lots of sharp edges and when lots of fish are swirling around, those sharp edges can cut your line.

Striped bass come and go. For now, there is a chance to see once in a lifetime fishing at Montauk Point!

Striped Bass links:

Jim Levison's website is fillled with beautiful photographs of striped bass and Montauk.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's website offers useful information on striped bass and on striped bass fishing.

Russ Drumm is an excellent, witty writer.  He has his own website,, and his writing is found at The East Hampton Star's  website.