At first I was worried that I'd forgotten how to, but it really is like riding a bike or swimming; you don't really forget how. In fact, I think I may have improved with age. I've slowed down in my methods and approaches both to the water and in my technique. I can't see that well up close, so reading glasses are a must when tying on flies. And I was tired of schlepping around so much gear, so I figured out a way to simplify and lighten the load quite a bit.
Last month I bought an REI Flash 18 daypack. It weighs about 6 oz. and will accommodate a hydration bladder, which I also bought (a 1L). The pack holds my quart baggie of snacks, a personal first aid kit, and some misc. items that may be needed while away from the truck. I added a small zippered pouch to the hip belt in front to hold my fly box, leaders, reading glasses, small pliers--just enough to fish a stream for a few hours and not want or need anything else.
The pack has a slim profile, and when on, with waist belt and sternum strap attached I can hardly feel it on me. It's so unbelievably unobtrusive. I've never had a pack like it. And it works perfectly for fishing!
The first place I fished this year was the San Gabriel River on April 2. I met up with Alan Ybarra, whom I'd met via his YouTube channel. Alan has some wonderful videos of his hikes and fishing trips in the San Gabriel Mountains, where he's been exploring since he was 16. He showed me some excellent stretches of water.
We fished the E. Fork in several places; I used my old 8' 6WT Orvis rod and reel. From a beautiful deep plunge pool down in a canyon I took the first fish; the second was on a slower, more shallow riffle further downstream. Both wild rainbow trout were small; 3 1/2" and 4 1/2" respectively. I had many taps on my flies. I caught one on a #14 Pheasant Tail nymph and the second on a Crystal Soft Hackle, both flies were tied by me. The Soft Hackle fly is a great producer in any water.
Didn't get any photos from this trip; my cell phone camera has not been working properly. But here's an unattributed photo of the area from the web:
The second trip was this past Sunday at the S. Fork of Big Rock Creek, on the north side of the San Gabriels. It is a beautiful piece of water, nestled in a canyon below Mt. Williamson (8244'). I arrived at 10 am and never saw anyone else fishing the whole time I was there. Heaven!
This trip I was using my 8'6" 5WT Cabela's Three Forks rod and Prestige reel. The reel is a little heavy and I will probably replace it for that reason alone; otherwise it's a great reel. But I little tiring to cast with. I caught and released small wild rainbow trout in almost every area I cast to; they were eager to take the Crystal Soft Hackle and it was the only fly I used in 3 1/2 hours of fishing. I lost the first fly to an alder tree at the first pool, but the second one lasted the rest of the time. I covered about a 1/4 mile or so of water, walking upstream.
At each riffle and run I had many taps on my fly; and almost always took fish. The smallest was about 3 1/2", the largest was 4 1/2". I caught 7 total, and one threw the fly when it jumped out of the water.
At 1:30 I decided to call it quits, but could have fished for hours more. It was so peaceful on the water, the sun was just warm enough (55-degrees with a very slight breeze coming down the canyon). The mountains were covered with snow from the late-season storm we'd had two days prior. I hit two spots on the way back and took fish from both--it's hard to quit when you're having a day like that!
That #14 crystal Soft Hackle fly was really hot that day. It's just a few strands of crystal flash for the body, some peacock herl for the thorax, and two winds of brown partridge. The pulsing movement of the hackle in the water is irresistible to the fish. I can't wait to try it out on some new water!
Next trip: April 21 to the San Bernardino Mountains and the Santa Ana River.