Private Water Dream

An old friend of mine is part of a ranching family with more acres in CA than I can count (actually it’s about 7,300).  An existing stream feeds a series of two dozen ponds and on rare occasion I get to break out there and harass catch and release those trout a bit.  The surrounding area is gorgeous, off the grid, and has a wildness about it.  This small home is losing a battle against the earth, hardly even recognizable if it weren’t for a window peeking through.

We pulled on to the ranch around 7:30a to see someone had already been working for hours.  That speck in the center of this picture is a John Deere 4440 getting some baling done.  Cause that’s what you do.

If you’re fortunate enough to get asked back to the ponds, you know what awaits.  An intense anticipation rises from your gut making it tricky to tie your own shoelaces.  The fishing pressure here comes from birds of prey and bears.  The property owners are always around and armed which is strangely effective for keeping trespassers off their land.  The record in your head starts playing as you begin the hike:  You’re about to catch a crap-ton of healthy, angry trout that have rarely seen a fly before. 


We usually stick to the first three ponds, but I had a PB&J and a walkie-talkie so I was feeling particularly untethered.  We hiked up to pond six, and heard violent thrashing in the water across the other side.  A large willow blocked our line of sight.  The splashing continued, like a family of children playing at the beach, minus the human voices.  Finally, we split up and worked our way around each side.  The mystery sound-makers revealed themselves; a family of adult river otters.  An otter scouted me slowly, approaching while letting out short breaths above the water repeatedly.  It sounded like a human cough, over and over and over.  Notice my friend doing his best bigfoot impression across the pond.

The fishing was unreal.  The wind was howling already at 8am, so the thought of angrily pelting streamers in the wind felt like a poor choice.  I switched between a fly rod and spin rod throughout the day.  Throwing a “metal streamer” was the ticket.  I landed and released 20-25 fish, most in the “that’s a good fish on the Truckee” range.  If you could get a streamer or lure swimming parallel to a reed bed, angry flashes would explode out to attack your offering.  A few shots of our day:

We ended up going back a second day, and local guide Jan Nemec (pictured below) joined us.  Unfazed by the winds, Jan did well on a massive streamer.  Actually we all did great, once we realized that the fish weren’t against the banks anymore, but down in the deep stuff.

Embarrassingly, I managed to lose a fly-rod on this trip.  But that story is for another day.  For now, I will only say that the stories you hear occasionally about people losing rods in ridiculous fashion are not only possible, but plausible.

One thought on “Private Water Dream

  1. Looks like an unreal trip. One of those too good to be true. WHere was my invite? I’ll bring the beers 🙂


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