Soda Creek

Soda Creek IMG_5300

My buddy Jerry needed to catch his first trout on a fly. Not only that, but he had to catch it on a bamboo rod he’d purchased year’s ago for $80 at a garage sale.

The rod was ok. The reel was fine. The line would work. We practiced a few knots and selected the right flies. He’d be using a deer-hair dry-fly and a bird’s nest nymph on an 18 inch dropper. The deer-hair fly would mainly act as a strike indicator.

Soda Creek is fairly small and an eight incher is a good fish. The stream is not too deep, but the slippery boulders are dangerous.

I wasn’t certain I’d remember how to get there, but some refreshing on a topo-map supplied by a helpful salesman at Ayoob’s Hardware in Chester did the trick.

The trip was a pleasant one-hour drive. The area near the trail head had burned a few years back and there was a lot of brush at the start of the trail. In fact the trail was so obscured that we just headed down hill freelancing.

It was only about a quarter-mile down to the creek, but the canyon was steep. Steeper then I recalled. We slipped and slid our way down. The dirt was deep and loose. The climb out would be a workout.

The bottom of the canyon was just as I remembered it. Lot’s of boulders, big logs and a slippery creek bottom – so slippery that it wasn’t long before I took my first spill. Jerry was working the north side of the creek about 30 yards ahead of me. I glanced at him several times, but didn’t see him catch any fish.

After the first two riffles, I hadn’t had a sniff, which was not unusual as the number of fish in the creek seems to increase as you get further from the “trail.”

Eventually I pulled a small rainbow out of the creek, but the fish dropped off the hook before I got a hand on him. Not an official catch, but a start.  Trout fever was beginning to take effect. I wanted the action to improve as I fiendishly adjusted my flies, dropper length etc.

I was looking for the perfect set-up, but each hole demanded something a little different. I had to pee, but didn’t want to stop fishing. Putting on my 2X readers to tie on flies and adjust knots was tedious. I sprang a leak – damn it.

Oh well. I quit fishing for a minute and finished the job properly.

I continued to take glances at Jerry. So far there was no indication that he’d caught that elusive first trout on a fly. In his youth, Jerry had caught quite a few “creek” fish with bait and a spinning rod, so I figured it wouldn’t be long until his experience would translate into a fish. It appeared that he wanted to catch this first fly rod fish without any more help from me than necessary.

It was 30 or 40 more minutes before I actually put my hand on a trout. Sometimes the first fish is the hardest to catch. Ironically this down-stream fish grabbed my fly just as I began to pull it from the water. I wasn’t even looking. Accidents count.

The fish seemed to all be in the fast-moving riffle, so that’s where I began to concentrate.

A little further down stream I pulled three fish from one riffle. I was satisfied and it was almost noon-time. Amazingly we had been fishing for nearly three hours. I looked down stream for Jerry. He was not in sight.

I could see that I’d have to cross back to the north side of the creek in order to go further down stream where I guessed Jerry had disappeared.

I moved a little too quickly as I headed up-stream and my left toe caught a rock. Down I went, face first. I put both hands down to break my fall and I watched as my left thumb bent backwards too far. Scary.

When I got to my feet, I was a bit shaken, but it looked like my thumb was not severely damaged, just overextended. I figured I’d had enough, but I wasn’t happy about how slippery the creek was, so I searched carefully for the best non-slip route I could find.

The excitement was a bit too much. Now I was faced with an unplanned bowel movement. “Oh dam,” I thought to myself as I headed into the bushes and dropped trousers, ” No toilet paper.”

I used a stick. Not very effective. Oh well, now I had too smells to take home.

After relaxing a bit, I found a good walking stick to use during the creek crossing which I completed uneventfully. Where was Jerry?

I walked down stream a ways and sat down. I wished that we had set a rendezvous time, but we hadn’t expected to fish independently. After the rest stop, I headed back towards the “trail.”

After awhile I began to climb the hill. Jerry is in good physical condition and an experienced outdoorsman so I wasn’t overly concerned about him. I’d continue to watch the creek as I climbed.

Eventually I came to the point where I could no longer see down into the creek bottom. I waited there for a while. No Jerry. He had either climbed the hill ahead of me or traveled farther down stream. Again I wished that we had made a better plan.

When I reached the truck, I turned it around and rescued my dog, Lola from the back seat. We went for a short walk. Now it was something like 1:30  PM. My wife Linda sent a text message. “ETA?”

“I’m at the car waiting for Jerry,” I responded.

Linda texted me again. “Pat (Jerry’s wife) is concerned and wants you to go search for Jerry.”

I texted back. “I think I should wait a while longer.” I didn’t want to even think about climbing down into and back out of the canyon again.

Fortunately it wasn’t long before I could see Jerry ahead of me. He looked a bit tired, but not at all in trouble. I apologized for leaving him behind and he told me he wasn’t sure what to do when he couldn’t find me. We agreed that we should have set a time to rendezvous and made a plan.

Jerry caught two trout, so the day was a success. He could now relegate the bamboo rod to his trophy room wall.

I wore my smelly clothes around the rest of the day.

Return to Pyramid Lake

In the late 1970’s my brother Rob and I fished Pyramid Lake. We camped on the beach and fished wooly worms with a slow strip along the bottom. We didn’t have the traditional ladders used by shore fishermen to rise above the water’s surface to stay warm.

The lake was known for big cut-throat trout and we caught some. Rob fished Pyramid again a year or two later, and caught a nine-pound cut-throat.

To this day it is probably the largest trout either of us has caught while fly fishing, although Rob has caught a couple of others in that same size range. My largest life-time trout (until this past weekend) caught fly fishing or otherwise was an eight-pound brown.

Our idea of “big” in the fly-fishing-for-trout category were completely changed on Friday on our return trip to Pyramid Lake.

On this trip we stayed in a comfortable room at the Nugget Casino as we joined other members of the Tri-Valley Fly Fishers Club guided by Rob Anderson of PyramidLakeFlyFishing.com.

We had it easy as Rob brought the ladders, flies and food. He also repaired our tangles and netted our fish.

We fished with midge larvae imitations and strike indicators. Our flies were set at a depth to keep them just off the bottom.

The largest fish of the trip was brother Rob’s 17 pounder.

There were several high-lights during the trip. We didn’t think Saturday could out-due Friday as the Friday windy weather produced many fish including 16 and 17 pounders.

Unfortunately I came away without a photo of Rob’s big one, so I’ve posted his second largest fish of the day (nine pounds) and my largest fish of the trip a 16 pounder.

We coasted into Saturday needing to catch no fish or to prove anything. Ironically, Saturday’s mostly sunny weather didn’t slow the fishing down, especially for Rob who landed 17 fish. And, four of them weighed eight pounds or more.

The surprise was when we hooked two great fish at the same time. The ensuing battle included reel-pealing runs, crossed lines and Rob’s line spool falling from his reel.

He managed to keep it together while I struggled to keep my fish out of the way and others dip-netted to retrieve his spool from three feet of water while Rob played the fish by hand.

Finally Rob Anderson netted my fish, which turned out to be 15 pounds. A few minutes later a helpful bystander netted Rob’s, which was 16.

Another fisherman, Chris Hallmark, landed a third fish at almost the same time and it weighed 18 pounds.

Here’s Rob Anderson’s photo of the result. (left to right, Chris Hallmark, myself, Rob Anderson and Rob Fletcher)

The Triple Lindy

You can hardly imagine how difficult it was to lift those three slippery monsters into the air at the same time. All of the fish were released in good shape as were all the fish we caught over the two days of fishing.

For information about tying the midge flies and guided fishing trips, go to Rob Anderson’s web page at PyramidLakeFlyFishing.com.