Saturday, August 4, 2012

Putah Creek

This is Putah Creek, just downstream from where I used to fish it, long before the New Zealand Mud Snails were discovered there.  It amazes me that it has been thirty five years since I put a line in that water.  It is reasonably close to the bay area, where I lived at the time.  The dam is just about two miles upstream from this spot.   Upstream from here, the vegetation gets thicker, and the fishing gets trickier.

Back then I fished with a four piece fiberglass Scott rod, with ferules carved right into the fiberglass rod itself.  That was pretty revolutionary stuff in those days.  One day a guy called out to me from the far side of the stream "Is that a Scott rod?"  

I said yes; he seemed  impressed.  I was more impressed.  I hadn't realized that the gift from a lady friend was so well known in fly fishing circles.

I was still honing my chops fishing for trout with a fly back then, and I looked on in amazement as one fellow caught four nice rainbows out of one pool with a nymph.  No "indicator"; he just seemed to know when a fish he could not see was mouthing his small fly.  John Gierach, in his book "Trout Bum", wrote an essay on nymph fishing.  I think it's about the best thing he's ever done.  It is still a mystery to me, although nowadays I frequently catch fish with a nymph tied on.  Don't ask me how I do it.  It's not a deep dark secret or anything, I just don't know.  The best that I can figure is that in order to catch trout with a nymph, you have to spend a lot of hours of fishing with a nymph, a lot of time not catching fish with a nymph.  Once you've spent enough time not catching fish, you'll start to catch them.  Life is like that sometimes.  

When I was a younger man, I had more than a few bad habits, smoking and drinking being two of the biggest, well, two of 'em, anyway.  One day I borrowed a friend's car to go fishing on this creek.  I didn't own a car.  I did not have enough money to smoke, drink, buy a car, and pay for insurance and gas.  I had to keep my priorities straight.  You get the idea.

Anyway, my friend's car came with its own story.  It had a seriously dented front bumper.  This, I was told, was due to the inability of the car's previous owner to get the car in the driveway of his house while under the influence of qualudes.  Pulled in, bumped the telephone pole.  Backed out, went around the block, came back, and hit the telephone pole again.  Third time's a charm, right?  Same routine, except this time he really slammed it into the telephone pole.  He finally sold the car to my friend, figuring he could not drive and take qualudes too.  Priorities again.

Another feature of the car was that the rear seat behind the driver was ripped, and upholstery stuffing was coming out.  No big deal, I'm not taking the car on a date; I'm taking it fishing.  The fish don't need to be impressed with my ride.

On the way back from an unsuccessful trip,  I kept the driver's window down.  The car, as you might have guessed, did not have air conditioning.  I decided to role down the back window, too.   It was summertime, and it was warm.  Driving through the little town of Winters, and onto I-505 south, everything was good.  I lit my cigarette (the car did have a cigarette lighter), and continued on my way, rolling down the freeway at 75 m.p.h. or so.

Working on a beer, I threw the cigarette out the window, or so I thought.  A half dozen miles down the road brought me to a wildfire.  Something smelled like fire anyway.  I looked around, and couldn't see any smoke in front of me.  "Hmmm...wonder where the fire is" I thought.

The odor continued.  Finally I looked into the rearview mirror.  I was greeted with the scene of great billowing clouds of white smoke rolling out of the back of my friend's car.  I was driving down the freeway... on fire!

That pretty well answered the question of whether or not I'd managed to get the cigarette all the way out the window.  I pulled over, opened the rear door and began pulling flaming upholstery stuffing out of the rear seat.  After I'd got all of the burning stuffing that I could see out of the back seat, I poured some beer on it, just to be safe.  Not all of the beer, mind you; I still had a way to drive.

I didn't tell my buddy what had happened.  But I haven't fished Putah Creek since that day.  

(c) 2012 James P. Webb



  1. I'm trying to count the infractions, but run a few fingers short.

    Still, I think I got the moral of the story: Nymphing is a bad habit, just like smoking and drinking?


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.