After a half hour of unconsciousness induced by Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, gravy, cole slaw, bread and lingonberry jam, I awoke to the prospect of being just days away from the opening of the Stanislaus River just 45 minutes from my house.
The Stanislaus River has always been just under an hour from my living room, and before my Christmas meal sent me to the couch for a nap, the river was still scheduled to open Jan. 1, but visions of cinnamon-colored pupas, prince nymphs and caddis flies danced in my head.
Maybe I’ll call Christmas Day this year’s point when reading about fishing no longer sufficed and the excitement of trout fishing took over.
The fishing year has its normal ebbs and flows, especially with trout season ending on many rivers and the salmon runs done; so it is natural that there be a bit of reflecting before the calendar turns. Money is saved, flies boxes are replenished, and the occasional trip for striper or steelhead is mixed in.
So as anglers start in on resolutions, there are a few things you might want to keep in mind.
Go somewhere new:
Northern California is a buffet of great fishing choices. Sure, it has changed drastically since the days you read about in Russell Chatham essays, but there is still way too much water, way too close to be in an exclusive relationship with just one.
Fish something new:
I grew up thinking bass were ugly fish, so I never fished for them. Trout were beautiful; salmon were strong and tasty; bass, hideous. Maybe you have a similar prejudice against shad because they are too small and don’t really come in trophy wall-mounts. Maybe you refuse to fish for trout because they too are too small. Maybe sturgeon are too ugly, maybe salmon too tough, whatever it is, get over it. Some of the most fun I have ever had has been fishing for a new fish for the first time. And just because you fished for cat fish once when you were six, that doesn’t mean you tried it and didn’t like it. You were six.
Figure it out on your own:
Helplessness is never fun, but whether we admit it or not, we are helpless most of the time. We try to get a grip on fishing by getting guides and end up spending a ton of money on one day. Don’t get me wrong, guides can be great. I fished with guides in Alaska all summer but they are my friends. I couldn’t afford to spend 40 days on Alaska rivers if it was costing me $300 a day. Many times by not getting a guide, you can pay for enough trips there to figure it out on your own. If you really want to see what kind of fisherman you are, read the water yourself. Rely on your own selective instincts and fish it well.
Get a guide:
Maybe you are one who has always prided yourself on not getting or not needing help. Cool. Treat yourself and get a guide. There are a bunch of places that offer half day specials that are very reasonable. That gives you the rest of the day to practice what you’ve learned, or setting up future trip.
Get someone else out there:
One of my favorite fishing trips in 2011 was taking my buddy Danny fly fishing on the Upper Sacramento. He came over a few times to practice casting, but other than that, he had no clue about fishing, especially with a fly rod. Thankfully he has a great attitude and when fishing wasn’t exactly hot, we still had a great time walking the tracks in the late summer sun. Eventually got into some fish. I might even be able to get him to buy my back-up 5-weight. This can be tricky though, so choose someone that is patient and will actually enjoy it.
There will always be a ton of reasons not to get out. If you want to look back on 2012 and think, wow, where did the year go? Or tell stories that are ten years old, then listen to those excuses and stay in the recliner.