Holidays treat you nicely? Hope so — I sure had a good time, though I must admit, I’m feeling a little spawned out after doing various family functions for the past 9 days in a row. This year, our holiday tour made stops in Huntington Beach, Los Angeles, Yucca Valley, and of course, Sacramento and Auburn. After all that, it’s certainly nice to be home! With Christmas out of the way, it’s time to start thinking about the next really big event of the season…the opening day of steelhead fishing on the American River!
It was late in October a couple years back and my mind, body and soul were dog tired. I’d been guiding salmon for five months straight and I was in desperate need of a vacation. One of my clients hooked and landed a nice 20-pound king at first light. Knowing full well that that the bite had been very tough the previous few days, I felt very good to have a fish on board right out of the chute.
While the guys exchanged high-fives in celebration of their good fortune, I slid the fish onto the stringer and tossed it over the side. The only problem was a few month’s worth of sleep depravation had my brain running on “energy conservation” mode and I forgot to do one teeny little thing before I threw the salmon into the water…um…tie the other end of the stringer to the boat.
Sometimes you find paradise in the strangest places. If I could be anywhere this time of year, it would probably be on the Trinity River, with its surrounding hillsides ablaze with fall colors and its own crystalline flows blackened by wave upon wave of migrating salmon. However, my busy guiding schedule keeps me close to home in Autumn, and while I love being on the local rivers, I occasionally need to get away from it all.
One of the oddest sanctuaries I’ve found is a small waterway near Woodland called the Toe Drain. Considering the name sounds a lot like something you’d need to cure a foot infection, you’d think that this hidden body of water would be, well, less than scenic. And you’re absolutely right.
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Tuesday, while I was on the Sacramento River, people were dying and I didn’t even know.
While I was busy cursing my misfortune that a low-pressure front had slowed the salmon bite, people on airplanes were smashing into the sides of buildings where thousands of other people worked.
While I was feeling the sting of a beautiful king salmon lost boatside, people were being crushed by millions of tons of debris. While I was driving home from the river, feeling frustrated by a slow day of fishing for my customers, I turned on the radio and heard the news.
Immediately, I felt like a big, fat jerk. Most of the way home, I felt so ashamed and embarrassed for worrying about trivial things such as salmon fishing and the weather.
The heat getting you down? I’m okay as long as the mercury stays in the double-digit range, but I lose it when the temperature breaks the century mark. Anything over 100 degrees and all I want to do is hang out in a bath tub full of ice, drink about 10 gallons of Gatorade and eat Peppermint Patties all day long with the air cranked down to minus 30. When it’s hot enough to melt your hair to the top of your head, it’s hard to think about fishing. However, there’s a place you can go to beat the heat, enjoy some amazing scenery and have some excellent fishing this time of year: Lake Tahoe.