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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Trinity Steelhead trip...

A Happy New Year to One & All!!

Steelheading seems to be a matter timing; relying heavily on climatic conditions. Of course, a given assumption is that the fish are in the river; ideally in good numbers. 2007's, now legendary, incredible steelhead numbers was not a likely probability; four of us hooked 75 and landed 50. This year we had been receiving varied reports of success (...or non- success). Rain was needed to move/spread-out the ironheads.

This year's annual trip looked very promising for our intrepid group of four; Lob-Dude, da Hell Yeah Kid, Yo Joe! and myself. As luck would have it; rain was projected for the first two days of the three days we were going to drift; December 15, 16 & 17. I do not mind rain; as long as it is mild & falling softly. We again stayed at the River Haven Cottage in Lewiston; the river being in our backyard.

I've become a pansy-arsed, "fair-weather" steelheader. A wet deluge or way! We experienced the latter in 2005; steady sleet & snow...all day. In addition to the uncomfortable conditions; the angling was a bit difficult. During that one miserable day two of us hooked three and netted one (some say that is a "normal")....the other boat did the same. That was enough for this kid; I vowed that weather would not interfere again; an unreasonable attitude because we make long-range, advanced planning.

Last year, 2008, during the third week of November; our first two guided days resulted in all of one steelhead amongst the four of us. On the third day, the guides felt sorry for us.
OR, they felt pressured to produce. Believe me, I've been there during my 26 years as a trout fly fishing; I call it "sphincter-tightening time" So, during the third day we ventured way down river to the inflow of the South Fork to Willow Creek. There we caught numerous 1/2 pounders and tussled with 20-25 Chinook salmon. We really enjoyed the battles (...or shall I say being tugged around the river); not landing any of them being under-gunned with 7 weight rods.

...Back to 2009's trip

Well...during our three days floating the river we hooked 28 and netted 14 (six of which were wild) They ranged from a "small-adult" sized 22" to 27" being the largest. Most steelies were in the "cookie-cutter" 24"-26" range.

Suffice it to say that I was exuberant upon boating this "small-adult"...been a awhile. I'm sure Brian (the guide) felt the same.

The Hell Yeah Kid with the largest netted steelhead...several larger ones uncorked

Lob Dude with a female "wild thing"...notice intact adipose

Yo Joe! with a wild buck

Unedited Comments & Numbers Crunch:
DAY 1---Sky Ranch to Cable Car drift

Four of us…13/5; YJ 3/2…HYK 2/1…LD 3/1….me...5/1...HYK got a 27” Buck…three browns

rained all day!... clear far!

…I lost two “good” ones 26” on pilot error (…a nano-second of slack; can get way with trout but definitely not these ocean-going trout…making quick forceful moves); the second on a “thump-thump” flash, deep in the water column shoing a very deep girth. Brian Balog, the guide(highly recommended...if you can get him being that he's booked waaaay in advance) guessed a minimum of 8 pounds and into 10.

Flies: #10 BH, legged Golden Stone was the best producer…1-2 BB shot…

DAY 2---Steel Bridge to Steiner Flat

Blown-out. Not a single, “legit” SH netted. Best was a 16” half-pounder. HYK landed 3 browns to 17” on egg patterns…other three of us, ZERO-takes…all day. Rain was lighter than previous day, but fell constantly until about 1 PM…it then ceased.

We gambled on the lower river because of less boats….although clearer water. We rolled the dice because when we got to the launch-site; we had about 2-2-1/2 feet of visibility….flow was at 1000cfs; day before being 450cfs.

DAY 3---Sky Ranch-Pigeon Point”

12/8…YJ 4/3 plus sucker that ate an egg. HYK 4/3…wild hen & buck; small hen @ 22, buck 25…2 browns ,LD 1/1, Me 3/1…hatchery buck @ 24”-25”

Flies: Golden Stones…Rubber-Legged Red Copper John...egg eaten by wild buck…

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fozen Fingers & Icey Guides

At 5PM at the upper parking area of the LT as we prepared to leave...warming our rigs...Doug da Physicist told me the air temps from his SUV device said 23 degrees. He did a quick rule-of-thumb figuring 15+-mph gusty winds we experienced in the meadow...MINUS 2 degrees! Well, I'm not surprised................

During the 4+ hour session Doug hooked two and landed one. The netted RainBow was taped at 18". It ate a #20 Red Midge Larva. The small fly amazed Doug. Prior to that landed fish; Doug had a prolonged struggle with a RB that was easily larger. I guesstimated 20" minimum; viewing its body-contortions while positioning myself for the "net-job".

As I see it, this will be my last guide-date for 2009 for either the LT or BT since snows are expected shortly and the familial holiday events will consume my time into the New Year.
..................with a Yo!Ho! Ho! and away I go.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Season Winding Down & Annoucements

We're anticpating a series of snow falls starting Sunday. It will add to the existing snow-pack. Access to the big Truckee (BT) & Little Truckee (LT) and other local waters wil become limited. The season is winding down...

Now my focus is on the upcoming "off-season" activities. Early on, December 12-18, I'll be on the Trinity River, in search of the Big Tug (da tug is da drug!) of a Steelhead. This is the 5th year of our group of four; we rent a cabin in Lewiston and hire drift-guides for three days.
Then (late January to mid-February), I'll make my annual trek to the southern hemisphere's Chilean Patagonia...what else! fishing in a very remote area of the world. I'll be there from 1/29-2/14 2010. There is no one within a 25 mile radius of the lodge (; except us six anglers, three guides, the owner/manager, handy-man and cook/house-keeper. Think of joining me in 2011. Also get on my e-list for announcements on Chile and other "hosted" fly- angling adventures I'm a "deal you can't refuse".
...Spam it is!

I'll be in the Sierra Fisherman magazine's booth at the San Mateo's ISE show (January 14-17, 2010). On the Friday & Saturday, the 15th and 16th, I'll be part of a seminar/presentation on fly fishing the northern Sierra. During 26-28 February 2010, I'll share a booth with my compatriots in the Truckee Guide NetWork at the Pleasanton Fly Fishing Show. We'll also be in the Presentation Theater with the updated (...some fabulous new images!) "Fly Fishing Opportunities in the Tahoe-Truckee Area".
I'll be posting on the aforementioned happenings. As is said..."stay tuned".

Monday, November 23, 2009

Defintion # 1: SNOWCLUMPING


The act of walking on freshly fallen snow with felt-bottom wading shoes. The snow accumulates on one's soles so that the angler gains 3"-6" in height via large, attached clumps of intact snow.

We received our first significant amount of snow last Friday, November 13th. It is here to stay and the ski resorts love it. I connected with Pablo and we decided to explore the LT; essentially to see if the Meadow area was still reachable via SUV. I mentioned to him that we'd been seeing some large browns...officially off the that they were fair play.

Last week he had landed his biggest Brown ever on the BT; a 26" buck with a tapered snout quickly ascending into a humped-back. He was still pumped-up and was anxious to see if he could get another "good one" ( about great one Pablo!) on the LT. The BT Brown ate one of his CDC Baetis Emerger.

To say that it was a beautiful day with fresh-fallen snow is an understatement...

....looking for a riser

Pablo spotted one working, got into position and got the take...and missed it when he set-up to quickly at the appearance of a good-sized head. I worked the run; probing the shallow bottom ( 33cfs) and he moved on downstream "head-hunting". There were no bugs, the productive BWO emergence ceased the first week of November.

I finished working the run with no results. Then I followed Pablo's "snowclump" tracks.....

downstream to a known productive riffle/run. As I approached the area, I noticed a deep bow in Pablo's rod. He had "blind-fished' a known lie & subtle current seam adjacent a mid-stream boulder. He rose a nice 18" Brown that ate his #18 BWO Pullover dry.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Accolades...Geez, I'm Humbled

I've been pursuing this passion of ours for a long-time. For the last 26 years I've justified my addiction by being a professional fly fishing guide and instructor; AFTER 15 years of my initial submersion into the sport. What I know is what I've learned on my own; no steep-curve schooling, strictly by the "boot-strap". Nevertheless, I'm the first to admit that I'm a perpetual student and I'm always receptive to learning something new.

I feel I've been a reasonable addition to California's fly angling scene. I have established a positive reputation for honesty (sometimes too Frank!), reliability, trust-worthiness and competence; as a fly angler and guide/instructor. Until the mid-90's I never blew my own horn until someone told me, " one else will" after I ranted about the suddenly-on-the-scene "self-promoters". Some actually had/have substance & credibility & remain, others don't & fade from the scene quickly. I'm satisfied what I've accomplished. In time "paying your dues" will earn you respect and, surprisingly, unsolicited accolades from others, in print and other media.

In the winter '09 issue of Southwest Fly Fishing appears an article on the Truckee River; both the California and Nevada sides. I spent a day fly fishing with the author, Zack Thomas. He wanted some images and wanted to pick my brain relative to my take on fly fishing the Truckee river, on the California side. It is pretty-well written.

What amused me was that he actually quoted me...from an article I'd written about the Truckee River in the Spring 2002 issue of Northwest Fly Fishing. In addition, he mentions me as ...
a "top gun" "icon"... and a "renowned" guide.

I've been introduced during a radio interview as the "Dean of Guides in the Truckee Area" and as the "living legend" on a poster & mailer prior to a presentation. Recently, an angler I met while fishing said he was stoked because he met me astream; referring to me as a "heavyweight". Hmmmm, I hope he wasn't sublimally thinking about my current physical stature; having slowly become somewhat rotund as I age.

Guess what?
...I accept these accolades; I've earned it.

An unrelated aside:

Recently I authored an article in the current Winter issue of Sierra Fisherman. Amazingly, I found myself plagerizing...myself!!...from a column I wrote for in the late '90's.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Moods...An Epilogue...for now

As I've mentioned, moods are flexible. It is easy to switch moods when you see nice fish...steadily...surface feeding. Then being a purist is so easily done. Well that's what's happening on the LT right now (depending on cloud cover)...a couple of classic, over-cast days of Autumn, producing 2-3 hours of an intense, mid-day, BWO emergence...then the sun comes out and the bugs slow down (see October 30).
Wednesday, October 28*
A 2-4:30 PM resulted in a 3/2 session. The entire time I had targets. First one uncorked and then netted 15" and 17" RB's. All three aggressively, jumped-on (they weren't dainty takes!) a #16, No-Hackle, CDC Post, BWO Emerger...trailing a #16 Olive ComParaDun.
Thursday, October 29*
Fished 1:30-4:30 PM for a 6/2 session. Connected with "Pablo"; he having just landed a 17"-18" RB upon my arrival at Brian's Bluff...he then proceeded to hook 5 and net 4 more in the upper-water column with his own BWO emerger tye. My two to the the net were sub-surface; 16" & 17" on a #14 rose-colored egg and one of my favorites...a #20 Black Midge Pupa. Nice, classic overcast day; BWO emergence & corresponding rise activity the entire time.
Friday, October 30*
2-5PM for another 3/2 session. The one that uncorked was a minimum 20" Brown that performed a 2-feet-high-aerial pirouette upon feeling the dainty steel of...yeah, the #20 Black Midge Pupa...Had it on for several strong runs and the tiny hook unhinged. I land two smallish RB's at about 10". I met with da "Yoda of the Yuba" and "DT". They were in their normal purist kind of mood. "Yoda" landed a 18" RB on a #20 Olive ParaDun and "DT" hooked 2 and landed one Brown in the 18+- range at Frustration. Clear, sunny skies seemed to put-off a consistent rise and emergence of bugs.....

* this post was edited starting on the 29th and posted on 10/31

Saturday, October 24, 2009

California Premier of ..."Rise"

Surprisingly there were over 40 intrepid fly anglers who attended the California premier of the 16 mm film RISE at the Judah Lodge at Sugar Bowl ski resort on Saturday, Octobetrr 24th. The proceeds went to two local groups; Tahoe-Truckee Fly Fishers and the new TU Truckee chapter. It was sponsored by Sierra Fisherman magazine and Cloudveil.
Hey...the movie was truly well done cinemathographically (...such a word?). It entailed interviews of people who ply their trade in both salt & freshwater enviorns with accompanying fly fishing scenes.

Recently I viewed a DVD entitled Once in a Blue Moon. It is easily one of the best I've seen during the the last three years, along with Trout Grass. Both of the latter are visually pleasing and have interesting/pertinent story-lines. RISE, Drift and Nervous Waters are different Frankie da Film Critic

Friday, October 23, 2009


Yeah...moods can be fickle & short-lived. Depending how locked-in you're in your tactical this case "head-hunting"; your mind-set is always subject to change. If there aren't consistent and rhythmic surface-feeders...forgetaboutit! Go down. Call it being a pragmatist.

I don't get to fish much myself because I'm mostly with clients. Essentially, I'm fishing through them so I strive to get them into fish...when it happens that is my gratification. Autumn is my first sustained time when I can do it for me!

This is what has occurred during this "mood" change...the two browns below were TAPED, no BS or quessimates!! I'll be honest, I thought they were larger while the struggles ensued; the taping set things straight.

Cumulatively---three sessions, 10-1/2 hours on LT resulted in 10 hook-ups/6 lands:

Wedneday (10/21)---3 hrs, 2-5PM
3/1; consistent and rhythmic risers resulted in 19-1/2" RB on #22 Brook's Up-Right, Organza-winged Spinner...two rising RB's lost on unanticipated SECOND moves on Brook's fly. I figured on the first moves and applied necessary pressure to move them away from the security lies. Then both made moves that I was not prepared for...very smart trout.

Thursday... (10/22)---3 hrs, 2-5PM
3/3...24" Brown on #12 pink egg, 11" Brn on #18 Olive Mico-May,11" RB on #20 Griffith's Gnat.

Tuesday (10/27)* ---4-1/2 hrs, 12-4:30 PM
4/2; 11" RB on #20 Red Brassie, lost 2 RB's in the 15"-17"...on for about 30 seconds each, #18 Olive Hackle-Stacker and #10 Peppas Egg. The big buck on...a #20 Black Midge Pupa! s&^*! best-ever "20-20". In this case a 24" Brown on size 20 fly. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't pumped.

...normally I don't take fish out of the water. Here, I quickly brought to bank to tape and it flipped once before I took image...reason for the grass...It was properly resusitated and swam-off where I was confident it was OK for being out of water for the 20-30 seconds

Amazing, two "fish of the season" in three sweet it is!

*---started this post on the 23rd and posted it on the 27th

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fly Fishing Moods

Fly anglers are of myriad personality types. Some of us can be viewed as loners, at-all-costs-crowd-avoiders, essentially anti-social. Some of us not, savoring interaction, "fish gossiping" and seeking-out communal-group angling; camaraderie is what it is about.

Regardless of were you're button-holed within the above two extremes, we all display moods; in this case, moods. These angling moods can be seasonal or change day to day. Each mood can fit into a different mind-set relative to in seasonal...or tactical...relative to what is occurring at the moment.

Today is a beautiful, autumn day in the mountains. The air is crisp, the sky azure-colored, the cottonwoods, alders and aspen are brilliantly colored and there is little wind. Although I would prefer a bit of cloud-cover, now is a good time for "head-hunting"...

...see ya

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I deleted 6 posts!!

Yikes---Being so blog-techno-challenged I inadvertantly deleted five posts!...the intial ones I posted starting in August.

I know that it said it can't be undone...but can it?

I've lost my "RainBow & Blues", "Don't Take Yourself Too Seriously", "Rock & Roll...FlashBack #1", "...An Ultimate Compliment?", the Martin Clan's "Trout Tour 2009" and the lenghty "Summer Doldrums"...I may redo from memory...except the last mentioned

...stay tuned.

...Any help out there or advice ?

Dumb-O Frank

Pet Peeve # 1: Givers & Takers

Personally, I'm a firm believer in giving back to a resourse that has been good to you. In this case...your "home-water". If in fact you fly fish a specific area or water...Put your body or $$$ where your flies are.

Whether you make $$$, as I do from guiding in the Truckee area, or whether you regularly fly fish the should give-back via:

1---Getting politically active in ensuring that your local fishery and its habitat is protected, preserved and enchanced.

2-Volunteering your body for hands-on projects relative to protecting and preserving the fishery
3---Give $$$ to an organization that has your local fishery in mind.

Minimally one, of the above indicates that you care about your fishery; doing all three...Great!

If you do none of the above as an angler but take advantage of the special regs that have been put in place via the aforementioned three items...simply, you are a taker. In the case of those who make $$$ from the my are an exploiter...and a TAKER.

I have no problem if you disagree with the long as you're civil nad we can amiably agree to disagree.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dillon Montana Quickie

I just returned from a short (6 night/5 day), "exploratory" trip to Dillon Montana. The area has always intrigued me as I returned to California via I-15 past the Beaverhead and Clark Canyon reservoir; two bodies of water that I'd both read and heard about over the years. Two years earlier I fished the region's Ruby river and had great fly-fishing during pre-run-off April.

The area is over-shadowed because of the more famous waters available nearby such as Montana's Madison, Yellowstone, Firehole and Galletin rivers, Idaho's Henry's Fork; plus the numerous "grapevine", hush-hush-toned venues in western Montana & north-west Wyoming.

Suffice it to say that I will return to the area next fall. In addition to drifting the Big Hole and both wade-fish and float the Beaverhead, I will also explore Pointdexture Slough, a spring creek that flows into the Beaverhead about 3 miles out of town. This time I'll visit during the third week of September because we did experience some nasty weather for two days. At times the early snows and high winds made it difficult to fish...let alone cast.
I can't say enough about the class-act of Tom & Mary Smith's Back Country Anglers; #1 guide Andy and Tom's mellow canine partner, Tippet. All were great hosts; at the lodge, the shop and while on the water. Their personal service and friendly "down-home" demeanor was appreciated by both my bro-in-law Jim Williams and myself. I highly recommend them if you visit the Dillon area.

We floated the Big Hole river twice and the Beaverhead once. The best dry fly fishing occurred during snow flurries on the Beaverhead. We cast to rising trout for over three hours and landed 10-12 rainbows & browns to 18". The trout were in pods, elevated in the upper water column and feeding voraciously and steadily on #22-24 emerging Psuedocleons. We even hooked a couple on our indicator-dry; a #14 Parachute Black Ant.

The Big Hole had no rising fish so we indicator-fished using a San Juan Worms trailing either a #16 Copper John or #18 Micro-May. Most trout...and whitefish...were duped on the smaller patterns.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Pimping a Fly Rod...rod name withheld; essentially some fun reading on fishing midges...from my perspective


The water-releases were exceptionally low for mid-spring on the tail water of the Little Truckee in California. There were no consistent aquatic hatches occurring; consequently, there were no steady risers to target. I had received reports of some sporadic success using imitations of the large, winged-black ants that appear in the high Sierra region of Lake Tahoe during the first warm days of spring. Although I knew my best chances of a hook-up would be to fish down deep near the bottom, I was in no mood to do such; being in a purist-kind-of-mood.

I attached a #8 Black Chernobyl Ant to my 4x tippet; a go-to searching pattern I use when venturing down to Chilean Patagonia in my “off-season”. Approaching a deep-run with an intriguing, dark, deep, cut-bank I presented an upstream presentation. From 5-6 feet down, a slowly-ascending, shadow rose and ingested the fraud.

Since the water was crystal clear I had to present this air-resistant fly from about 45’ back…out of sight. My #$%^&* 4 weight rod performed beautifully; tracking true and turning over nicely. It performed flawlessly for the situation at hand. This amazingly light-weight 2-1/2 ounce rod had sufficient back-bone to turn the deep-bodied 19” rainbow as it made several lunges for the security of the cut-bank and highly-likely, tangled root-wads of the cottonwood tree that hovered, bank-side, over the run. Had the rainbow got there it was a sure severed connection.

I purchased the &^%$%^**+_% because I wanted to use it for the smallish bugs present at this meandering meadow stream; not large, dry flies. Thin tippets and sized 18-26 imitations were on my mind; such as the black or brown winter stones, fall’s late brood BWO’s and must importantly…M-I-D-G-E-S.

"Simply, midges (Chironomidae family of Diptera) are the most prolific aquatic insect in the Little Truckee River; for that matter, on many tail-water fisheries throughout the country. Trout will eat them in all their life-phases; all day, 365 days per year. Deep, dead-drifting of midge imitations is, arguably, the most effective and productive technique…but fishing them on or in the surface film is so much fun, not to mention challenging."

"Use 'searching', tandem rigs. The selected flies can vary; larva/larva, larva/pupa, larva/nymph, pupa/worm or egg...whichever you choose. The midge patterns are sized #20-#26; best colors are black, olive or grey. When using these tiny hooks off-set the point to 'open the gap'; providing a better hooking angle. You want the trout to ingest your fly. To set, merely tighten-up slack or lift your rod. If you are heavy-handed, use a 'slip-set' by quickly releasing a loop of line on the take; the loop of line is pinched between your line-control finger and the reel. You hope the teeny hook gets stuck in the mouth, the bony nib, an upper-lip cartilage or slides into a corner of the jaw. "

"Another dead-drifting technique is using a larva/pupa set-up; trailing the pupa off the bend of the larva hook. Upon finishing the drift, lower the rod and let the line swing below you. The pupa pattern will then mimic an ascending midge emerger; hopefully, triggering a grab. Do not use thin tippets because the take will be aggressive, not “soft”.
"At times, a seemingly impossible task is to make a downstream, slack-line, reach cast to surface feeding trout munching on tiny midge emergers and adults…doubly tricky when there is an erratic, upstream wind. The situation demands a rod with two counter-intuitive qualities; one that can effectively cut through the gusty winds when false-casting and delicately lay-down a #20-26 pattern in an exact feeding lane. Both of these attributes my +%&*(-=%* possesses."

NOTE: the above four (4) paragraphs are exerpted from an aricle I authored in the Summer '09 issue of Sierra Fisherman (

There is a hallowed ‘alliance’ that most trout fly anglers strive to join; the “20-20 Club”. To be inducted we strive to hook, net and release a 20” (…or larger) trout on a tiny fly pattern sized #20 or less. Regardless of where the event occurs, whether at the renown spring creeks of the Paradise Valley of Montana, the Cumberland Valley of Pennsylvania, the tail waters of the floatable Green River in Utah or the newly exposed, wading-only-water of the Little Truckee River in Lake Tahoe area of the Sierra Nevada… it is a an incredible adrenalin rush.

In order to accomplish this unique accomplishment; four components are required the angler, the trout, the fly and the lever…a fly rod. The @#%+& +# performs its part flawlessly. It tracks well, directing the fly where it needs to be. And, most important it makes a precise, “thistle-down” (...per Glenn Brackett, master bamboo-rod maker in the DVD "Trout Grass". I met Glenn when he was an apprentice at Winston Rod Company in San Francisco in the early -70's...snow I'm really showing my age) lay-down of the tiny fly.

The +(&%^%#$@#! rod is ideal for any small-fly, spring-creek or any flat-water situation. There are (3) reasons; it manages winds well, at 10 feet it functions efficiently for on-the-water or aerial mends, and as mentioned above, is stout enough to “turn” the 2-4 pound trout that you are likely to encounter if you frequent this type of water. The bonus is that it can deliver both large and itsy-bitsy flies.