April 26, 2008 - Butterball Creek

Time: 10:30am - 1:00pm
Weather: Sunny and warm.
Moon phase:

Water Temps: 38 degrees
Water Level: Low Normal
Water Conditions: Very Clear
Insects Observed: Brown Stone with molted wing size 14, Lady Bug
Flies: Dry Fly -Size 16 Elk Hair Caddis, Size 14 Black Foam Ant
Set Up: 6'3" Young Midge made by yours truly, 7.0ft 6x leader 
Fish Caught: ZERO


"But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane, In proving foresight may be vain: The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, Gang aft agley, An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, For promis'd joy!"

(To A Mouse by Robert Burns)


Truer words were never written. What a whirlwind weekend. Several weeks ago I had a conversation with my boss, it went something like this:


"Jim you're going to Hong Kong"

"Great, but I can't be away the weekend of the April 26th and 27th"


"Yeah,  fishing."



I'd been looking forward to opening day for quite a while. Beginning in Hong Kong, the plan was to board a flight to SFO on Friday at 10:45pm, arrive in SFO on Friday at 8:05pm (you gain a day), head home, pack my gear and then head to my in-laws so I could make an early trip to Butterball Creek. Unfortunately, upon arriving in San Francisco, I found the U.S. Customs Service had other plans.  I had another conversation that went something like this:


"Where are you coming from sir."

"Hong Kong"

"How long were you there?"

"A week"

"Your reason for traveling?" 



He looked at my wife.


"She was just tagging along."

"How long were you there, sir?"

"We left last Friday and we're getting back today, Friday"


Surely he must have known this, it's got to be in his computer and he had just asked 30 seconds earlier. He wrote an "I" on my customs documents and asked me to go to a room at the end of the customs area.


It was a small room, much like that of a grade school class room. There were rows of chairs in which sat various folks all trying to get into the country. There was one women, from Austria I think, that was entering the country on a one way ticket. She had "forgotten" to buy a return flight. This is a no-no and a customs officer was assigned to her to make sure she purchased a returning ticket before being admitted into the US.


There was an old, white guy who had been living in Indonesia for several months. They pulled him in because his wife was 30 years younger than he and Customs had some "questions". If you've ever been to southeast Asia, it's not unusual to see VERY young Asian women in the company of white guys in their late 40's to 60s. They mostly seem to be Brits, Aussies and Americans. It's a sad and yet funny sight- big guys, bald with graying hair and big pot bellies with very tiny, very young girls.


I on the other hand was being detained as a terrorist suspect. It turned out that my name was on the terrorist watch list. A fellow with my name was apparent causing the government great pain. They knew I wasn't he but had to inoculate me from any further mix ups. This took several hours and we arrived home much later than planned. It was time well spent though and it was great to see the government at work, keeping our borders safe.


We spent the night at home and though leaving at my originally scheduled time, this would put me on Butterball Creek two hours later than plan. It was mid morning when I arrived at the trail head . There was one other car in the lot- a white SUV. Hoping it was hikers I peered through one of the rear windows and saw two Cabelas multi-piece rod tubes. For the first time to my knowledge, I would be fishing behind someone on Butterball Creek.


Butterball Creek is more than simply a place I can catch relatively large brown trout during the early season on dry flies. It's a place to rid winter cobwebs, a place to gage my early season fitness but most of all it's like visiting an old friend. Some stretches of water are the most beautiful I've seen anywhere and I find everything about it enjoyable, the hike in , the hike out, the fishing and the not fishing. There's a back way into the stream. I could literally drive to my usual starting place but I choose not to. Preferring to hike.


Today was a "not fishing" day similar to the one I had last year. The water was 38 degrees and I couldn't move a single fish; I couldn't even scare one up. For the first time on Butterball I was skunked. I fished through my usual water. The stream was low and a tree had fallen across the area of emerald pools which held large fish last year. They were pools no longer. I fished up the V shaped canyon and then up the main canyon for a few hours and headed back to the car. I rarely spend more than a few hours here- good fishing or not. On my way down I had made note of the tracks that were laid down before me. It looked like two fishers and from the prints left in the snow on the trail, I could tell that they had made it down as far as I and had not yet returned. I presumed they were fishing the main canyon and this can take all day. Once you enter, there are few places to climb out.  


I hoped they were catch and release fisherman as the park actually encourages the removal of non-native fish and Brown Trout are native to Europe. I drove down to Yosemite Valley to spend the afternoon and fish Bridalveil Creek. The valley was a mad house. I'd never seen so many people in the valley on the last weekend in April. I don't care for crowds, which is probably why I fish the waters I do. I didn't care to fight traffic, spend time looking for a parking space or have an audience so I made my escape. Bridalveil Creek will have to wait until another year.


It was late afternoon when I drove past the trailhead to Butterball Creek. Jet lag had set in about a half an hour earlier and I had contemplated pulling over to get some sleep when I saw the two men. I was not extremely coherent but I asked them about their day. I remember that the one man had caught 10 to 12 fish but not much else. The conversation lasted long enough for me to get my second wind and I headed home feeling refreshed. This would give me a false sense of confidence that could have ended in disaster the following day.


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