April 15-17 2019 – Good old Jim Cramer use to bug me about leaving at 5 in the morning to drive up to Henderson Springs. Henderson Springs has two main areas for groups of fisherman to live when they are on the ranch. “The Lodge” has 8 bedrooms and “The Cabin” has 6. The main lodge has some pretty spectacular bedrooms and Jim always wanted to get up there early to claim the best bedroom. I liked his strategy because I benefitted from getting an early start on he 5 lakes on the property and I would have slept in the closet if I had to and liked it. The group of fishermen are down to 7 now. Bob Shoberg who was one of Jim’s best friends. Bob was a monumental help liquidating Jim’s fishing equipment for June Cramer. As an active member of the San Jose Flycasters Club, he managed to raise over 17K for June Cramer–not easy. Wayne Holloway who is part of our group, was taking care of the ranch in Mark Henderson’s absence. Wayne Holloway is president of Cattleman’s Restaurants and certainly works at Henderson occasionally for love of the property. His Golden Retriever would swim out to his float tube and mount it while he fished. Wayne managed to catch a 12 lb rainbow in Long lake and his dog was there to help him land it. Norm Sauer, a lawyer by profession, is the leader of the group, MC, and the best joke teller. I enjoy fishing with him–he is very skilled, cigar smoking, flyfisherman’s flyfisherman. Norm has organized these trips and I hope he has many healthy years in his future. Michael Balog is also a seasoned flyfisherman whose son is a guide for the Fly Shop. Mike arranged the professional chefs for the weekend that spent the days preparing 5 course culinary masterpieces for us in the evenings. Trent Pridemore is still going strong for a retired dentist. Andy Puyans of Creative Sports Enterprise use to tell me stories about Trent’s fishing and flytying skills in the 70’s. Trent was a lecturing Dentist when he practiced but since then, he is an accomplished flyfishing writer with many published works. John Bjorkholm is what happens when a renown research physicist falls in love with flyfishing. John may be one of the most intelligent men I have ever met and he has such passion for flyfishing which I believe keeps him healthy. And finally Jerry Devlin who is a very active leader and member of the Granite Bay Flycasters. Most of the group is in their 70s and early 80’s. I being the youngest in the group at 62, sometimes I feel like I may be the last man fishing in this group one day. This trip means alot to me because it gives us a chance to remember flyfishing friends that are gone and fish with the unique group that Jim introduced me to. I hope someday when my ashes are with the fish, the living will speak of my life as a flyfisherman like these men do for Jim and Dirk.
The fist half day of fishing was in the rain and cold. I fished Clear Lake all day and managed over 30 fish twitching a leech nymph dropper on a full sinking line. I also caught 6 Brook trout to my surprise. There is natural spawning in this basin lake for brooks. Occasionally fish would rise to a dark callibatis that came off in the rain but there was no steady dry fly fishing this entire trip-bummer. I had the pattern down though. I also tried out the “Jurassic Lake mop fly” on these home growns and to no suprise, it was very effective in almost every color I tried 5 feet down on an indicator. Someone on a previous trip had discovered that mop flies work well at Henderson I was told. I must have not got the email. Tab ones were the popular color before I brought other colors. Experimenting with Chartreuse, Pink, Red, and Dark brown was also effective. Maybe its not the color that farmed fish like, but the texture. I preferred casting and stripping flies most of the weekend and it paid off with large quantities of trout. Next trip I might try an array of intermediate sinking lines with small nymphs and chironomids.
The second full day, I decided to try Pony Lake since last year it produced the biggest fish. After a couple hours, I only had three to the net and decided to switch lakes. I was not nearly as productive as last year. The lake is very small and maybe I put too much heat on them last year, but I think not many fish hold over as I had thought. Mark Henderson puts 40 thousand dollars worth of trout in the lakes every year, I think there may have been some holdovers but not many. I fished Long Lake and test launched the Trident underwater drone. I fished mainly form shore with a Spey Trout rod casting a mop fly and chironomid combo on a skandi trout line. I really like the Scandi over the Skagit for the 4wgt Winston Trout Spey. The Skagit casts a shorter line better but the Skandi has a longer front taper that presents quieter. Also, I find roll casting a Scandi (with more line out) is a much easier slower stroke than with a shorter line and a Skagit. I like long lines and I can not lie. It’s personal preference but Im retiring my Skagit lines. I caught half a dozen fish in Long and decided to fish Big Lake with Norm for the rest of the day which turned out to be a good call . Last year Big lake had a Black Bass infestation. There are signs all over the lake to KILL BASS. I can kill bass and I caught lots of them last year. Mark told me a couple years back that poachers had purposely sabotaged the lake by planting Bass in it. Probably the damn Russians. Mark poisoned the lake last year and replanted it and I thought it might be as good as it was 4 years ago. Norm caught his biggest trout at Henderson trolling a big leech on Big lake years ago. We got to the lake and fished the north end with great success. The fish in Big Lake jumped and ran us into backing many times. Both Norm and I concluded that they were a different strain of fish. They looked like Kamloops to me but I could not confirm that. My Hummingbird Sidefinder ran out of batteries and I felt naked without it, The sidefinder is a critical equipment. As I left the lake for our 6pm campfire, I stopped along the bank at the dam and looked for fish. At the south end of the lake, I saw armies of large trout along the shoreline and along the dam all facing the same direction. I think there is an outflow at the dam for the river in front of the lodge. I decided to fish that area in the morning.
We had a great bonfire ceremony drinking wine and telling stories and jokes by the huge circular fire pit that was built last year by Mark and Wayne. The fire pit looks like a mini Stonehenge with Giant bolders in a circle on the shore of Long Lake. Eagles were flying overhead, Fish were rising in the lake and there was a day moon setting on the horizon as the sun set lit the area in gold. It was peaceful and beautiful. We drank and talked while the chefs at the lodge prepared an amazing dinner. Dinners at the lodge were three hour affairs. It was the end of a perfect day.
I launched the Trident underwater drone for the first time on Long Lake from the dock. The Trident is super maneuverable and fast. I had problems controlling it because once it was below the surface, I lost all points of reference to where it was. Driving it by looking at the monitor in the sun was impossible without reference points. I did manage to catch some footage of some trout but I think that I need to use goggles to drive by sight. There is no GPS underwater and I think you need really clear water to get good footage with steady driving. It is going to take some practice to get some usable footage with it. Also I see some utility in finding and retrieving gear that has been dropped overboard. The fish didn’t seem to mind the Drone as it swam after them and though them. Wayne H. was fishing right next to the drone with an indicator and was hooking up consistently.
On the drive home, I got a call from Vaughn Willet as he was trying to revive his personal best San Luis Striper – a fat 19 lbr caught in the BOP around 2:00 in the afternoon. I was flattered. As I recall , I had also called Vaughn as I was trying to revive my personal best striper desperate for a hail mary to jump start my 32 lb striper which also died. I remember you reach a point not reviving a trophy fish where you feel guilty for catching it. It takes a-lot of wind out of your sales when you finally realize its dead. I think that catch and release flyfishermen, especially in an artificial lake and fishery like San Luis, are just part of natures risk factors. There is going to be a normal statistical fish kill from anglers despite best efforts to release fish safely. Nature will compensate and fill the carrying capacity of the lake with a large fish being lost. I believe there are risk factors like algae blooms, pump kills, and unfavorable spawning conditions that kill many many more big fish than catch and release efforts. Furthermore, the pumps of San Luis are stocking the lake with Delta Stripers every time they turn on. Reliable sources inform me that there is a large school of over 20 pound stripers below the pumps in the forebay at all times.
Henderson Springs does well to scratch my trout itch and I look forward to trout fishing more this season in the North. I going to put the breaks on exotic destinations for awhile and explore California more.