Fishing with Don

Monday Dec 11.2023 -Winter fly fishing in the lake presents a challenging period, often characterized as the slowest time of the year, even for the seasoned anglers. Water temperatures drop, daylight hours are short, and bait becomes scarce. Despite the unfavorable conditions, my friend Don and I ventured out for a day of camaraderie and angling.

Don, a remarkable 86-year-old, continues to haul his float tube to the Forebay and paddle himself out onto the water in pursuit of the elusive winter stripers. Just this past Tuesday, he regaled me with a tale of fishing from sunrise to sunset along the Medrious side of the O’Neill Forebay, where he managed to  hook a single fish all day that sadly slipped away before he could reel it in. Don epitomizes the type of angler who relishes the experience of a day on the water, irrespective of the catch. He’s the ideal companion for slow fishing days, harboring no unrealistic expectations. He is one of the founding members of the San Jose Flyfishing Club – one of the oldest and largest flyfishing clubs in the US.

Initially, I had no intention of fishing the main lake on this particular day. However, Brian’s report of catching 16 fish in the lake on Tuesday piqued my interest. The plan was straightforward: locate schools of fish and ensure Don had the opportunity to hook at least one. Thankfully, our outing exceeded my expectations.

In the end, we managed to land 8 fish, including 4 substantial keepers measuring over 20 inches. I promptly cleaned and handed them over to Don, knowing that, as he grows older, he cherishes the entire journey from the fly-tying table to the dinner table, an experience that has become increasingly rare for him. All the fish we caught were solitary fish patrolling the shoreline in search of prey. It required considerable effort to hook these fish, as there were no signs of large or small schools on the livescope. The fish remained at depth, and there was a distinct lack of bait in every area we explored.

One interesting revelation this trip out was the stomach contents of the 4 fish we kept.   They were full of large one inch Grass Shrimp and nothing else. Both Don and I noticed that the the color of the grass shrimp was very close the the “Rainbow”  Steve Farrar’s Flash Blend fly tying material that seems to be popular on the lake.

We fished diligently at various locations, including The Bay of Pigs, The Trash Racks, The Causeway, The Dam around Romero, The old Basalt Launch, Mouse Ears, The End of Portuguese Bay, the Rock Pile, and Las Piedras, ultimately securing 8 fish. According to Brian’s updates from the Forebay, it appeared that the fishing conditions there were equally unproductive, ranging from slow to virtually nonexistent.

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