Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Don't Feed the {insert animal name here}.

Trout fishing is about the best fishing there is, in my opinion. I haven't been in years. In the '90s, we would pack up the car with tents and food and take off for Kennedy Meadows in the High Sierra Nevada Mountains smack dab in the middle of Stanislaus National Forest. The Stanislaus River runs through Kennedy Meadows. We were close to the origin of the river. If we had gone much farther east on Highway 108, we would have seen the very first drop of water that became the river. Beyond that point, all of the melting snow flowed in the other direction, to the East into Nevada.

The Meadow is situated about six thousand feet above sea level in a relatively flat meadow among the peaks of three or four mountains. By the time the river enters the meadow, it's about thirty feet wide and it slows and ripples over finer gravel for a mile through the eastern end of the meadows. As it enters the campground, the slope increases and the gravel becomes boulders and the river flows faster and it's wider, picking up steam for the steeper slopes. You can see the trout gliding over the gravel in the slower part, but you can't see them in the rushing river unless you look real close and can catch a glimmer, in an instant, when the water is just right. And, that's where the best fishing is. Nothing good is ever easy, it seems.

What I like about trout fishing is that you have to think about it. It's not like other fresh water fishing, such as for Catfish or Bass. You just don't plop in a worm on a hook with a bob and sinker and wait for the fish to bite. And, you don't toss out a lure, reel it in, and do it again and again until you've faked out a bass. In fact, I don't use a bob and most times I don't use a weight at all when fishing for trout. Just a hook on a light line and a good quality reel. You don't want the thing backlashing all of the time and you want absolutely no drag. Otherwise, you won't be able to cast an unweighted line very far, and you'll need to cast at least twenty feet, at least to the center of the river. You also have to be accurate. You need to put the hook in a perfect place to catch a trout, which of course means that you need to think about where they're at.

I generally use Salmon eggs or Stone Fly Nymphs for bait. Salmon eggs can be bought at a bait store, but you have to find the Stone Fly Nymphs, usually next to or under a rock at the edge of the water. They are the ugliest bugs I've ever touched, and I hate to catch them, but trout love them. Here is a picture, and another picture (right-click on the link and open in a new tab or window). Ugly! Huh?

I suppose fly fishing is better when the water is slower, such as flowing over a bed of gravel, or where larger pools form in a medium flowing river where larger boulders are. I've never tried fly fishing. It seems to me that it's too much work on the flies, the reel and pole and not enough thought about the fish. I don't care for slow-flowing trout fishing where the fish swim around looking for food. The only skill required is just throw it out there. I like the medium-flowing and, in some cases, fast-flowing trout fishing among varied sized boulders. I've caught relatively large trout there. That's where they're at, and it takes a little skill to get the bait where the fish are and keep it there long enough to 1) attract the fish, and 2) hook it.

That location you're aiming for is behind a boulder. As the water flows over and around a boulder, an eddy is formed behind the boulder that traps food particles and bugs in the eddy for a second or two, and trout are waiting, sort of swimming in place, facing upstream with just enough tail-fin motion to not be swept downstream. The best place to be is upstream from the boulder(s) you're aiming at. If you're good, you can hit the sweet spot in a single cast and keep a slight tension on the line to feel the trout hit it. If you need a little practice, cast upstream a little in front of the boulder (in the general area - no need to be perfect) and let the bait flow with the water around the boulder and into the eddy. Slam! You got 'im! Then, you've got to get it to shore. Good luck! He's a fighter and he's got the advantage - he knows the river better than you do, and all of its hiding places to snag your line.

The thing about snags in a quick flowing river is to know what kind of snag your into. If the fish is on and you're snagged, just keep a light tension on the line and he'll usually swim out of it. If your hook is caught between two rocks, let out enough line for the river to work your hook out for you. If your hooked in wood, i.e., a tree limb, give up; jerk the hook into the wood firmly so it won't come lose in the river and cut the line, or you can wade out and unhook it. Don't wade into a fast flowing river, even when it's shallow. The river isn't a wimp.

There have been times when nobody else was catching trout in Kennedy Meadows, and I was happily returning to camp with a full stringer of seven or eight trout. Nothing is more satisfying than a fly-fisher, with the most expensive fly pole and reel, and decked out in hip-waders, hat full of expensive flies, or ones that he spent hours making himself, and an expensive cigar in his mouth look with envy at my full stringer and his is empty. Ha! One feels a little like Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer. There is also nothing better than pan-fried trout at a campsite. But, the thing that I'm most proud of is teaching Damon, Adam and Marcus how to fish for trout, including lake trout, although that wasn't as much fun as stream trout. They've taken the art to a level higher than mine, though, and they have developed into skilled fishermen. In fact, I think Adam could be a professional fisherman. He never returns without catching something. The only problem is that I have to hear it. He's the windiest person I've ever been around when it comes to telling a fish tale - every last detail! I hate to mention that the trout that is, at this very moment, in the freezer is getting along in age. It needs to be eaten. But, if I mention it, then I'll have to hear about catching it, so let it lay.

I haven't been to Kennedy Meadows in years, and telling the story makes me want to go again. But, and this is where the title of this story comes in, there is a bear problem there. Or, should I say that "I" have a bear problem there. "Don't feed the bears." I never had any intention of feeding the bears. It was never my thought to unintentionally feed the bears. Had I known better, I would have kept a good sized fire going all night long, but I didn't think of that. In fact, I didn't like the idea of starting a forest fire with an unattended fire, so my first thought was to put the fire out before bedding down for the night. My mistake.

On that night we set up two tents, a small pup tent for Damon and Marcus, who were between nine and twelve years old, and a larger tent for myself, Chris, Adam and Bruno, our Black Lab. Across the campgrounds, perhaps two hundred feet or so, was another campsite that a bunch of guys set up. They had a roaring fire going all night long and I suppose they were taking turns watching it, sort of a night watch. Sometime in the middle of the night, a loud clanging and banging woke us up and we immediately knew what was happening; a bear was raiding the garbage cans. Clang! Bang! Clang! I could tell that the can lids were flying. The guys in the other camp started yelling and turned on their pickup headlights that lit up the area between our camps. And then, after a minute or two, a silhouette of a huge bear glided across the back of our tent and disappeared into the shadow.

Now, I know what you're thinking, "He wasn't as close as you thought he was. You only saw his shadow." Well, I know a thing or two about distance and elongated shadows of objects farther away and closer to the source light, and shadows that are not elongated and that are closer to the surface they are displayed on. That bear was close! And, there was only the thin tent material between us!

Chris said something. I said "shusshh." I heard a soft plunk, then nothing. I picked up a hatchet that happened to be close by and a flashlight and waited and I was determined to split that bear's nose if he stuck it in the tent. We waited. Finally, I unzipped the tent flap enough to peak out into the darkness. Nothing. I opened the flap a little more and stuck my head out a little more, shining the flashlight around. Nothing. I'm not sure how long it took, but I eventually got up enough courage to step outside and look around with the flashlight. What I found, and what apparently made the noise that I heard, was that the tent peg and line holding up the back end of the pup tent had been ripped out of the ground, and that end of the tent was laying flat. Damon and Marcus were still asleep in the tent, having heard nothing. I woke them up and made them sleep in the van and Chris and I went back to our tent. I didn't sleep the rest of the night, but I did hear all kinds of noises the rest of the night.

After thinking about that incident though several times, I have to think that we had the best dog in the world in that tent and that that bear was a mellow soul and wasn't very hungry. For example, it could have raided our food we had in the van. Bears are known to literally tear off a car door to get to food. And Bruno, our Black Lab, - he didn't make a sound. I didn't take time to notice and he was so black that I couldn't see him anyway. I have to believe that he didn't sleep through it, though, that he was wide awake, alert to danger and poised for attack just as I was. But, he didn't make a sound. He was a wise dog. Fortunately, we obeyed the sign in the meadows, "Don't feed the bears." We had no intention of doing that, and I'm glad we didn't. Had I kept a fire going, perhaps the bear wouldn't have come so close. Next time, we're going to have a camp fire.

I heard on the radio this morning that Houston, Texas has a law against feeding the homeless. Now that is an entirely different matter. I'd say feed the homeless whether there is a sign against it or not. I would intentionally disobey that sign, maybe with my hatchet for protection against city bears. Why is it always Texas?

I'll bet that Edward and David are ready to go camping, and maybe do a little trout fishing. That would be fun. We'll make a camp fire, too.


1 comment:

Car Title Loans said...

Hi guys,
This post is very useful and very interesting to read, Really this Post is providing nice information,Keep it up.
Car Title Loans