Fishing the Flats

Wednesday, October 4, 2023, my friends, was a day drenched in piscatorial possibilities.  Its been a long two weeks since I fished and all I could do was amp up on fishing reports.   But if, by some cruel twist of fate, you find yourself unable to answer the call of the water, fret not, for there are alternative routes to dance with the Striper spirits of the deep even though you can’t make it out.

Luck favors the prepared and I am blessed with  compadres who eagerly share  tales of aquatic conquests of the recent past days .  We are brothers who generously share our tales and revel in the camaraderie of fly fishermen bound by a common lust for the aquatic realm.   Or if you don’t have friends like that. ,  venture into the virtual wilderness of YouTube and Facebook, where piscatorial enthusiasts share their latest conquests on this body of water.  Feast your eyes on their Striper escapades, and let the anticipation build for your next foray into the liquid abyss.

And if you seek  more of an  edge for  tomorrow’s fishing, seek it in the hallowed pages of the Fresno Bee Fishing Report, penned by the legendary Roger George, a denizen of these waters who casts his line weekly. This isn’t mere reportage; it’s a lifeline to the submerged mysteries. It whispers secrets of the lake and forebay, nuggets of piscatorial wisdom that could mean the difference between a barren day and a boatload of success.

But let me warn you, my friends, what holds true for the trollers and gear enthusiasts may not be gospel for the disciples of the fly.  As the clock struck 8:00, I rolled up to the lake, and what did I behold? Ten boat trailers, adorned with vessels that could bankrupt a small country.  These expert brethren, much like myself, are plugged into the digital tapestry of social media, where every ripple and jump is dissected and shared.  Hot days on the Forebay are rare and you always benefit striking while the iron is hot.  With the end of  California Fly Fisher Magazine and the closing of Kiene’s fly shop,   many of the old sources of information are going away.    Like in the financial world,  you are only as good as your top 5 advisors so keep your friends close if you want real success out there.

I scanned the horizon, that watery horizon, searching for my first battleground.  Lo and behold, most boats had congregated around the powerhouse and the north side flats. Why? Because two YouTube videos had birthed legends of surface blitzing stripers in those very waters last weekend. You see, one of the tried and tested methods of unveiling the secrets of these aquatic denizens is to follow the crowd, especially when they’re deep into the fray. In the ever-changing dance of the forebay, fish are as fickle as lovers on a Saturday night, and there’s enough for everyone to partake in the spectacle.

My quest commenced with me peering into the soul of the Powerhouse area, Check 12, and the north-end flats. I stumbled upon schools of piscine giants lurking in the deep flats near the water tower. But they were a tricky bunch, afflicted with lockjaw. Still, I managed to seduce a couple of beauties into a dance.

After some fly and line swapping, I ventured to the Trench and the Mederious rock wall, seeking Striped Bass secrets in their depths. Alas, those waters were barren, devoid of life’s underwater poetry. But then, around 9:30, a spark of curiosity led me to the weed-lined depths of the 152 channel. I sought the secrets of moving water, the lifeline of the Striper realm. As I cast my line, a blitz erupted next to the weedline by the islands, a piscatorial spectacle worth its weight in gold. I reeled in half a dozen, but like specters, they vanished after a fleeting 20-minute waltz.

While patrolling that channel’s edge, I whipped out my binoculars, a key to unlocking the secrets of the far north and south flats. To my astonishment, fishy phantasms broke the surface in the shallows, deep within the tangled embrace of the weeds. This year, the hand of man had intervened with herbicides, stunting the weed’s growth, and creating a Striped Bass santuary deep within. Unlike previous years, where the weeds choked these waters, I ventured further into the labyrinth. I trimmed my outboard and embarked on a journey to the heart of the blitzes, amidst weedbeds in just six feet of water.

From 9:30 till high noon, I wielded crease flies and clousers like a sorcerer’s wand, conjuring fish at will. I lacked an I-line in my arsenal, so I fished with my OBS  T14, stripping like a man possessed the moment my fly touched liquid. Next time, I’ll be armed with lightly weighted 3-inch clousers, subsurface gurgler flies, and that elusive I Line. The crease fly proved a temperamental mistress, but the lightly weighted clouser subsurface fly was the ticket to piscatorial glory. Stripers awoke from their slumber, tails slapping, their pursuit of my subsurface fly almost bordering on the comical.

But heed my words, fellow anglers, for Friday may dance to a different piscatorial tune. The wind lays dormant, and a blistering heat descends,  a rare concoction for these parts, especially with the weed beds receding to their bare essentials.  My eyes beheld schools of Threadfin Shad, more numerous than the stars, and the fish, their actions spoke volumes.  Most were sated, only feeding in the warm embrace of lowlight in the usual deep places.  Yet, a faction of the striper army hungered all day,  frolicking in the safety of the shallows, where the feast was endless or at least till noon when it all turned off.

Today, I bore witness to a Striper spectacle, minnows leaping from the water onto the weed beds only to be devoured as they descended back into the liquid abyss into  the waiting jaws of 20 inch stripers.  But know this, my friends, such miracles are ephemeral, a blink in the piscatorial timeline. And as I told Vaughn, I’d rather  take a striper on top, than blindly cast my line into the deep  abyss for a dozen elusive stripers. I relish the moments when it’s all about sight fishing, a rarity in these watery domains.




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