Monday, June 20, 2011

Hat Creek -The next day

I woke up a bit late in my rough campsite, took a bit too long to pack camp, then went upstream to Carbon Bridge to look around - and never fished.  Now it's nearly lunchtime and I'm under the Highway 299 bridge, wondering if the rumbling vehicles overhead are causing me to cast so clumsily.  I have just put down a very big fish that was rising, and not only do I not care that much, I don't want to be here anymore, so I wind in, climb the riprap to the Subaru and head for the faster water downstream.

It went like this; when I got to Carbon Bridge the parking lot was empty; I'd have had the stretch to myself to start with and the pale morning duns would have hatched in a half hour or so.  It looked good, and I was scanning the water for rising trout, of which there were none, when four or five trucks and cars pulled in one after the other. At least two young men climbed out of each one, already in their waders, most with rods ready, and headed up and downstream. Several were relatively new to flyfishing, getting advice and encouragement from the others as they flung their nymph and indicator rigs around on the flat water.  A few years ago this would have bothered me, I have to admit.  Now I hope I'm being truthful when I say I was happy to see new flyfishers prepared to tackle this challenging place, and I was accepting of their right to do that how they want.  I just know that I was looking for a different experience, a less pressured one perhaps. And I fear that's just how the larger trout in the Powerhouse Riffle and the flats down to Carbon Bridge will feel today, with all those people.  So I went for a quick check at the County Park, where the water's deeper, and less people try to fish, because it's really tough.

A truly big trout rose under the bridge when I was fishing just upstream.  It was a 'clomp' and it moved a lot of water, though there was no haste in the trout's movement.  I knew I would have to go downstream and make a tough sidearm cast between the pilings and into the middle channel; a downstream drift from where I stood wouldn't work as well, and even if I did hook him he'd go down the pool and I'd never get him back. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Hat Creek -Back in my Life

Windmills stand on Hatchet Mountain, as I drop down into the flat volcanic bowl that holds California's two largest spring creeks; Hat Creek and Fall River.  It's been fifteen years at least, since I last fished the public water on Hat Creek. But this strange, late, cold and water-rich spring, it's almost the only place to fish.

Previous years, I'd be tinkering on some small low-elevation mountain stream, chasing the elusive ten-inch brown among seven inch rainbows. I would dash in quickly, hike an hour away from imaginary crowds yet to arrive, catch a trout or two I could define as a trophy by my own standard and drive home, all in one day.

But time and abundance have slowed my step.  Today I need to be somewhere for a while, and why not this old acquaintance of a spring creek.  The salmon flies should be out, the giant, bumbling stoneflies with the hint of hot orange about their bodies.  Twenty year-old memories return; of their gentle touch as they crawled on me; of the big brown that ate the salmon fly I unwittingly knocked into the water, and the boil as he ate the foam-bodied artificial that I'd tied myself.