American River report: 7-18-11… happy birthday!

It is hard to beleave that the shad are still here in the upper, Lower American River in good numbers. It’s July 18, my birthday – I am 51… it is good to be alive!   Shad fishing is still great, but should soon start to decline…  They have been spawning the last week or so;  with the full moon cycle this last week, I suspect that if they still have their health and can avoid the striped bass, these largest members of the herring family will be schooling down to the Pacific Ocean.

I floated the river yesterday, Sunday, with my friend Shawn, and on Friday with my friend, Anne, in search of striped bass, (she hooked two afternoon stripers on a fly of her own making, but they long lined released after a few minutes of rod throbbing. A shad jumped her clouser and was landed. The rest of the evening went fishless but none the less was a beautiful float. Thanks, Anne, for the good company.) Shawn and I spotted some big schools of shad in the Gristmil area. They were balled up which is an indicator that these fish were probably heading back to the ocean.

Yesterday, Sunday was a crazy zoo full of floating concoctions spilling over with obnoxious, grunting, chest beating, dark shaded dudes and screaming brightly colored,  sun burned, breasted bikinis. Not exactly what you want when striper fishing. But what the hell – you fish when you can. It was quite entertaining sometimes, but mostly you just wished that God would come along with a vacuum –  hose  like –  swizel straw and suck these water creatures, rafts and all, up into the sky and spit them into a bar ware they belonged.

Now that I got that off of my chest, Shawn missed a few grabs but landed 4 stripers in spite of the raft hatch. The best one was about 6 or 8 pounds and absolutely slammed the fly. The drag on his Orvis real screamed as fluorescent orange backing sliced down river. Never had I seen a stripe of this size rip line off like that. I wondered if he had hooked an adult summer run steelhead ( they should be showing up anytime… if not already in the system ), or jack salmon? Down river I rowed, wooden blade slicing, pulling against the cool currents.. Shawn carefully reeled in the flaming backing being sure not to introduce slack to the barbless clouser minnow. I directed him to pull slow and steady, coaxing the fish in our direction. “Don’t yank on him,”  I instructed, as this has a tendency to alarm the fish and send it screaming away from the direction of pressure.  Yanking of the rod can also saw a hole in the striper’s jaw, loosening the fly and leaving the angler with a long line release. I knew there was a submerge log downstream so I pulled back hard on the oars halting our downstream race. Here we would land it, or break it off ? The river gods were generous. Shawn steadily pulled the lineside up onto the sandy shallows. I neted it. Pictures were taken.  This was our reward for having navigated the weekend flows through the Capitol City madness.

gift from the gods

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