My confirmation as a director at Bear Yuba land Trust this spring coincided with one of the wettest years on record. I recorded 94 inches of rain here at Jack Rabbit Hill. The precipitation brought our hills and forests back to life after years of drought. The photos and video are of our BYLT Garden Bar Property. It fronts 2 ½ miles of the Bear River (Rio Oso) and was where immigrant parties coming over and down from the rigors of Donner Pass forded the river on their way to Johnson Ranch and Sutter’s Fort; the end of one journey and the beginning of another.
There are many Native American sites on the property and one approaches this glorious example of foothill oak savannah with a feeling of reverence. We are told by our friends that their ancestors gathered here to catch salmon, harvest grass seeds and gather acorns, which were a diet mainstay.
Visiting these properties in our domain is one of the perks of the job. Perhaps what I enjoy most is guiding guests on tours. I have a historical narrative, but the breathtaking views and lush vegetation often tells the story and shows why volunteers and staff work so hard to assure that agricultural lands and open spaces in the Bear and Yuba River watersheds are preserved.
I just returned from a week’s fly fishing at Mexico’s Lake Picachos which is east of Mazatlán in the Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains, lying in the State of Sinaloa. It is a unique, spectacular setting for bass fishing. The shoreline abounds with exotic birds and wildlife, as such it is a photographers dream. The 15,000 acre lake sits in the foothills and looks north, east, and south into the Sierra wilderness. Every morning and evening the view changes and there was a subtle alpen glow as the sun went down. I was traveling with long time fishing partner Dave Draheim, and 18 others from Chico Fly Fishers. All of us have been before and return regularly, because like the fish, we are hooked on this place.
The setting is as fabulous as is the topwater fly rod bass fishing. Combine that with great local people and interesting fellow travelers and it makes for a good week. We lodged with Billy Chapman’s Angler’s Inn. The service, friendliness and delicious food was part of the experience. We had rib nights, shrimp and lobster night, steak night and Mexican night to go along with nice lunches and breakfast under an outdoor commidor and there was an open bar. Coffee was brought to our casa doors at the five am wakeup call. After dressing we enjoyed breathtaking sunrises before moving down the small hill to breakfast and then our bass boats at first light. There was siesta time after lunch before returning to the lake for afternoon fishing.
Arriving home the weather forecast projected ten inches of rain in my Grass Valley foothill home for the week. We got thirteen. As of this afternoon, we have received over sixty inches and the higher snowpack is in better shape than seen for a long time.
Bear Yuba Land Trust sent me to the California Climate Change Symposium and I came home with a better understanding of what is happening. More rain and less snow is the pattern that has been projected and that is materializing. Fortunately, the North Central Sierras have gotten a good dose, for which we are grateful. Our reservoirs and lakes will be full and our rivers are in flood stage as I speak.
Three days of lecturing at the ISE Show in January were rewarding in many ways. I picked up a speaking engagement at Davis Fly Fishers for February 23rd. I spoke there three years ago. My new program: “Fly Fishing The Mexican Bass Lakes” will fit their needs perfectly as it is “Destination Night”. Check out a synopsis on the website. I get excited just reviewing the colorful photos shot in the Sierra Madre foothills. Am thinking of another trip at the end of the year. We will be fishing the beaches of Baja above Cabo in May. In April I travel to California Fly Fishing Unlimited in Sacramento and Chico Fly Fishers to present “Fly Fishing The Upper Water Column for Large and Smallmouth Bass. More fun and hospitable people. Packing for the Colorado River…another adventure at Picacho State Recreation area with scorpions, rattlers and new bird species. None of those guys in Mexico in January.
Pleasanton Fly Flyfishing Show is coming at the end of February. Will travel to visit old friends and to catch Skip Morris’s Bass Program. He has a beautiful book out on bass flies that’s in my library.
ISE is behind us. It was an experience speaking three days in an open exposition hall. Met many fine people and seems we are wanted next year. Spring is around the corner and I will be traveling to Picachous State Recreation area on the Colorado River above Yuma to camp and fish for bass and other species as well as photography in this bizarre, remote area. Have never covered any area in Southern California. Picachous is as far South and East as it gets in this state. Equally important will be camp cooking. Re-reading Francis Mallman’s Seven Fires and new book: On Fire…100 Recipes. We will focus on Argentine grilling and simple logistics. Looking for fresh fish and will include our experiences in my Foraging Angler Column in California Fly Fisher
More welcome rain drove me off the Yuba today, but time was well spent working on my presentations to be given Jan 21, 22 and 23 at the Sacramento Interrnational Sportsman’s Show. Thursday’s presentation at 4:30 is “Fly Fishing The Mexican Bass Lakes”, followed by “Fly fishing the Upper Water Column for Large and Smallmouth Bass” at 2:30 on Friday and Saturday in the Fly Fishing Theater at Cal Expo.
I’ve been hooked on visiting the Mexican lakes since a first visit seven years ago. I was fascinated by bass lures as a child and hand carved them out of wood scraps. My mother often said that it helped develope my manual dexterity. As an adult I learned fly tying from Andy Puyans, Carrol Kennedy and Rus Kreuger, and gravitated towards bass bugs and poppers. When I was President of Livermore Fly Fishermen, I was asked by a reporter from The Contra Costa Times why there were so many dentists in the fly fishing club. I had just read a study at UCSF that showed that most dentists had hobbies that involved the use of their hands, whether fly fishing, wood working, piano or playing the guitar…as did many of my colleagues. Several damaged hands and fingers with table saws. Fly tying is safer.
In December I had to cancel another trip to Mexico because of a family emergency, but friends continued and helped with photos. Can’t wait to get back. In my presentation I talk about the “Mexican Experience” as well as the special environment that we fish in. Also, about the great food and learning fly fishing terms in Spanish. We fish several lakes out of Mazatlan and never have had concerns for our security. The staff and guides at the fishing camps are friendly and egar to learn about flyfishing which is new to them. The fishing industry increased their incomes and the small villages there are among the cleanist that we have seen in Mexico.
Gearing up for the ISE Show has got my motor running. Drop by and say hello.
We were in Mendocino last week during a glorious weather period and the beginning of The Mushroom Festival. It was early for steelhead, but we did try some new restaurants…two of note and one a disappointment. Little River Inn has rested on its laurels too long. We ducked in our first night for touted bar food. An $18 flat iron steak sandwich was overcooked and stingy with the meat that was slapped on a cheap hamburger bun. My wife’s calamari salad had too much breading on the squid and was dredged in a sweet salad dressing. Much better fare at Django’s Rough Bar & Cafe in Noyo Harbour. New owners have cleaned up this warfy, funky eating place and made it very inviting. I could envision an afternoon on the deck with live music. We shared a small bowl of New England Clam Chowder and an order of crab cakes after a hike on the coast bluffs. Tried to get the recipe for these light and buttery appetizers. Chef won numerous awards so wouldn’t give recipe out. Excellent accompanying slaw was made with peppers, white and red cabbage and a subtle dressing that didn’t overpower the flavor of the crab cakes. Also loved the chowder. Flavorful, but not overly creamy and lots of clams. Will return and mention in my California Fly Fisher Foraging Angler column.
Food highlight was a late dinner at Wild Fish across from LRI. Would have stellar ocean view in daytime. Reservations a must. Special appetizer celebrating beginning of the Mushroom Festival included lobster, golden chanterelle and cauliflower wild mushrooms. They were first sauteed in a delicate olive oil and finished with butter and a dash of white wine. Plate was dressed with a celery pure and a small mound of pea sprouts as a counterpoint to the richness of the dish. We sopped up what was left of the sauce with their delicious foccacio bread. Karen’s entree was petrale sole in pappilote on bed of sage, thyme and rosemary; mine a12 hours-out-of-the-sea ling cod with crispy skin on one side and a meringue brown crust on the other. It was plated on a stir fry of potato, chard and more mushrooms. Hadn’t had lingcod this fresh since I fished the coast many years ago. Both entrees were perfectly cooked with delicate spicing. We finished with a cinnamon flavored apple tart and French press coffee. Wine pairings excellent and local with good choices by-the-glass. It’s next to impossible to find fresh fish of this quality prepared by someone who knows their stuff in the kitchen. Wild Fish’s owner, wait staff and kitchen friendly and attentive. Expensive.
Another highlight was a visit to The Mendocino Art Center. Famous water colorist Dale Laitinen showed four breathtaking sea scenes. He’s know for Tahoe and mountain subjects. We repacked our vehicle and headed home with a treasure. Sadly his home and studio, along with many paintings, burned in the Valley Fire. We saw mile after mile of devastation on our Highway 20 drive home. We’re grateful for today’s rain.
Arrived at Thermalito afterbay Tuesday in calm. Wind came up immediately. I have fished this amazing resource several times this year trying to figure out the patterns, which are complex because of water transfer affecting temperature. We found active fish in sixty-two degrees of water, but no topwater action. Part of reason for going was to test rigging of several outfits that I will take to Mexico’s Lake El Salto in early December. We will be looking for the famous trophy bass as well as the great food and the Mexican experience. Will be trying for some good videos using a new 4K camera as well as still photographs to compliment my PowerPoint presentation, Flyfishing the Mexican Bass Lakes, for the Sacramento ISE show in late January.
Drove to Lake Almanor for fishing last week. had several days open and took a chance. Fly fishing and all other fishing slow. Probably won’t pick up until lake turnover around baseball playoff time. Tacos at Thirsty Trout Pub were quite good. Food at Copper Kettle marginal at best. Bring your own!
In Santa Barbara last week to check out some bass fishing possibilities and to review restaurants for my Foraging Angler column in California Fly Fisher. Best finds were Cielito, an upscale taqueria in downtown SB in the Arcada and East Beach Tacos on Anacapa St. Cielito had a great setting around a fountain with resident guitarist. House margaritas quenched thirst after hot day in Santa Ynez Valley chasing the wine trail and they worked with the food. Favorites were Duck Carnitas Tacos that had shaved Manchego cheese, Al Pastor Taco with marinated, charred pork and an grilled octopus and potato tapas dish. Expensive meal in a special place.
Each Beach Taco was in the SB “Funk Zone” next to a batting practice operation. Its open air under an awning and features their “triple play” offering of three tacos for $9.00. We shared bites from six. Top of the list was Batter Up, The Banh MI, Ahi Poke and Spicy Crispy Shrimp. Their Al Pastor, a classic, was the best of this type that we found in a week. Top quality ingredients and well prepared. A plastic cup full of wine was $6. Not bad, but bringing your own bottle of Santa Ynez Valley Zin or Syrah would have knocked the socks off those world class tacos. We wished that a place such as this was in our area. The Asia-fusion accents blended with subtle Mexican flavors raised this simple meal to another level.
A third find came from family friends Steve and John Dragonette of Dragonette Cellars. They steered us to Eat in West Buellton, near the Dragonette winery. This fabulous funky eatery was in an industrial area and packed with locals on a weekday. A simple thin crust pizza done in one of two wood burning ovens used fresh tomatoes, basil, and buffalo mozzarella to produce the best that we have ever had, including Europe! Part of the reason was the crust. I paired my share with a local dry Grenache rose. Their sandwiches and salads tempted also. Worth a visit every time.
After lunch we drove out to Alisal Guest Ranch to check on a BBQ Boot Camp and their private fishing lake. Next down rural Santa Rosa Rd towards Lompoc to see the famous Radian Vineyard that produces some of the best Pinots in California, including the outstanding Dragonette products that are making waves. The reason…those chalk cliffs that gave the soil that grows the fabulous grapes. Great photo op, but I hadn’t mastered new camera….worse than a smart phone.
The flyfishing here in Nevada County has been a day to day affair. We chased a day old report of topwater action for smallmouth bass on Scott’s Flat Reservoir and found nothing but small fish the next night. We did have the lake to ourselves. Dock is out of the water, but a launch is easy with 4×4. It’s the same on the Lower Yuba tailwater. Still very cool water, but caddis hatches may come off one evening and not the next. If they do its very late. Have a second rod rigged so you don’t have to tie fly on in the dark. Both my partner and I broke fish off on 4x. Some big rainbows are in the river now as salmon start to come in. Flows are being lowered.