In general terms, it was a pretty good waterfowl season across most of North America and an abundance of water and full prairie potholes a year ago is credited with robust reproduction and the strong fall flight that was experienced in most areas. Here’s hoping that the spring or 2012 brings more of the same.
With the waterfowl season now in the books, our trout season in Southern California is just beginning to take up the slack. Our destination of choice most days is Lake Morena and periodic stocking of large rainbows from a private hatchery and smaller fish from the Department of Fish and Game have developed a pretty good inventory.
If there is a rub to this, it is that the water temperature has remained in the mid to high 40’s and the fish have not yet shown much interest in artificial lures or flies. As the water warms a bit, which we hope will be sooner rather than later, we anticipate a little dry fly fishing activity along with the incredible action we enjoyed last March by simply trolling small Rapalas. We’ve not lost sight of the fact that these are hatchery fish as opposed to wild fish, or that the bulk of their lives will have been spent in a hatchery where they could depend on the arrival of pellet trout chow at the same time and place every day – so no, they are not the brightest or wariest fish in the world. Catching them does not make us the brightest or best anglers in the world – but it does make us happy.
Being “happy,” is a matter of degrees. There are times, admittedly rare the last two seasons, when many of the hatchery rainbows acclimate to the natural conditions of living in a lake, stop waiting for the trout chow to arrive and begin keying on aquatic insects as a dependable food source. In the best of these times, the wind will die down enough in the evenings for fish and fishermen alike to enjoy a strong hatch of midges seasoned with a fair number of caddis and mayflies. Such evenings which have been fairly dependable in past years have been few and far between the past two springs, much to the chagrin of fly fishing purists.
Fortunately, I am not a purist and nor are my circle of fishing companions who comprise our loosely organized Bumblephuck Anglers Society (BAS). Like happiness and Madonna, purity comes in varying degrees. For some it means the use of dry flies only. For others it simply means fly fishing. Some regard the use of artificials, whether in the form of flies or lures an indication of their purity when it comes to angling sportsmanship, and that describes most BAS members – as long as the fish are taking artificials.
If they are not, the scale begins sliding precipitously on a downward path, though I can honestly say that none of us have resorted to the use of a gillnet. This I believe is only because somewhere between a #18 elkhair caddis and a 300 foot long gillnet we find something that works, and that has been the case in recent weeks. Most of us have have begun our forays with the same method that was so effective from March to June last year – trolling brown trout pattern Rapalas. No such luck so far this season, a failure we attribute to the fact we began fishing in January with the hope that what worked last spring would work this winter, despite the colder water.
The hope that we wanted to believe in has has given way to widespread desperation and profound degradation among members of the Bumblephuck Angling Society. The first to crack was Rontoro who suffered the humiliation of seeing his son and a friend catch trout after trout on Power Bait while he went empty handed after hundreds of casts with an assortment of lures. Next, it was Stormin’ Norman who after failing to catch anything trolling switched to Power Bait and began catching trout hand-over-fist well before January was ripped from the calendar.
Yielding to temptation as a result of the Norman Conquest over the suddenly hapless rainbows, Fudd and Magoo disdained artificial lures entirely in favor of Power Bait, and the results were stunning as Fudd caught a trout every few minutes. The only catch for Magoo came near the end of the day when he discovered that Fudd was secretly using a new form of Power Bait with a secret formula – and get this – Fudd caught 700% more fish with the new formula which claims to be only 42% more effective than the jar he provided for Magoo to use!
In addition to providing Magoo with sub-standard bait 1/7th as effective as his own, Fudd required Magoo to do EVERYTHING from running the boat, to putting out the anchors, putting his fish on the stringer and then to add injury to insult – cleaning them!
If you’re like me, you are wondering how and why Magoo puts up with this treatment which Wilson and I observed first hand. It was after giving trolling an honest effort for two hours in which we were most pleased to see Wilson catch one nice rainbow on a brown trout Rapala, that we came upon Fudd and Magoo who were anchored in Paradise Cove just as Fudd caught another and dangled it in Magoo’s face for processing!
Nearby, a boat of three anglers soaking Powerbait awaited their 15th and final fish of the afternoon. Just beyond them were two fishermen with a long stringer hanging from the gunwale of their boat, when one of them bellowed, “how’re you guys doin’?” As experienced sporstmen, we knew that fishermen without fish are normally as silent as monks and that we would soon hear and see how well they were doing. Sure enough, they were leaving with their limits and could not wait to lift up their stringer to reveal a rainbow that later pulled down the lake’s official scale to 11 pounds, two ounces. With no Powerbait handy, aside from the unattached gobs that floated by from time to time, I threaded on a nightcrawler that was promptly gobbled up by a lip hooked DFG Quarterpounder that was released unharmed. Wilson followed suit with a ‘crawler and a second drift provided a few bites but no fish, and we were done fishing for the day. We retired to the fish cleaning station where we watched Magoo clean Fudd’s fish with great care.
That was all on Thursday and on Friday (yesterday) I stowed away in Fudd’s Expedition for he and Magoo’s weekly lunch and tackle expedition to Bass Pro Shops. Following a great lunch together I wandered around a bit looking at things that other purists were checking out before returning to find my companions in the trout bait aisle.
When he spotted me, Magoo’s eyes fairly gleamed as he reached into Fudd’s shopping cart and removed a small jar. “Look, look,” he exclaimed, “it wasn’t bad enough that I had to do all the work yesterday, or that he used bait that was guaranteed to be 42% more effective than the dried out crap he gave me, but now I’ve found him hiding one that is 55% more effective!”
He passed the evidence to me as Fudd grinned like the proverbial Cheshire cat, and sure enough, it was a jar of rainbow colored Berkley Gulp fortified with Berkley Flavor Bits and just as Magoo had alleged, the label read: “55% greater catch rate. Our most powerful formula ever!”
Magoo knows his partner will not share any of the bait with him and is simply hoping to find a little of the 42% formula left in the bottom of the jar when Fudd discards it.
It is very difficult to imagine that I would stoop to Fudd’s level of bait fishing in the pursuit of dimwitted hatchery trout, but I did sneak back into the store and forked over $6.49 for a jar – just in case.