September 16th, 2006 Mystery Creek

Time: 9:30am - 3:30pm
Weather: Sunny and mild
Water Temps: 52
Water Level: Slightly high
Water Conditions: Clear and weedy.
Insects Observed: Didn't check
Hours fished: 6
# of fish caught:  Hard to say, we creeled 6 fish and probably released another 6.
Method: Short Line Nymphing
Set Up: 7'0" Medium Action Cane Rod Payne 100 made by yours truly, 7.5ft Orvis 6x leader to first nypmh. 12" Orvis 6x to second nymph. 7'6" Payne 100 3pc rod made by yours truly.


This weekend’s trip to Mystery Creek was very pleasant. I was joined by Shane, a friend of Gino’s who had decided to purchase a couple of rods I've yet to make. We’d not met but either through an email discussion or by reading the web site, he became interested in fishing Mystery Creek. Since I won’t tell people where it is but will take them there, he asked to go. No problem.

For those not familiar with Mystery Creek, it’s a small “west slope” or Western Sierra stream. It tends to run cold and fairly clear all year. I love fishing the creek. At times it’s gin clear and it’s abundance of weeds in some spots reminds one of an English chalk stream. In the late summer, the banks are overgrown with blackberry briars and grapes. A welcome snack when one leaves home before the crack of dawn without breakfast.

Shane and I had planned to meet on the Lower Stanislaus, which is off HWY 108 and on the way to most northern west slope streams. Originally I’d planned to meet at Denny’s as I did in the old CONFUSED days but when I realized I’d be able to get a good hour or so in at the Stan, I changed the plan. This time of year the Stan should be seeing a run of steelhead and Chinook Salmon and it’s been a while since I’ve had the pleasure of a hot Stan fish. Unfortunately, the Stan was higher than I expected at about 1220 cfs. This didn’t prevent me from catching a few fish but it made it difficult for me to access the better holding water. I'd expected flows of about 350cfs this time of year.

Stan fish in fall colors.


Shane showed up right on time and after a quick scout for Chinooks, we headed out.

Mystery Creek was in prime shape. It appeared that it had a year of heavy snow melt. The stream was higher than I expected and less slick than normal. Much of the streamside vegetation had fallen into the creek or more appropriately, over the creek and the beautiful wet fly riffles downstream of my normal put in spot were silted over. In fact, much of the stream had rearranged itself this year and that made for a nice day of discovery.

We mostly fished the upper half of the creek, up to the big fish water. Shane fished ahead of me and I tried to put him in the best water to catch fish. When I felt like we’d flogged the water enough, I gently coaxed him to move upstream. With a little instruction, placement and watching me catch fish where he didn’t, Shane quickly keyed into what was needed to be successful and started catching fish with regularity. We discussed this briefly and agreed that when learning, observing another can be a great help. Realizing that the other person held his hand in a certain way, placed the fly in a certain spot or fished a tighter or slacker line can make all the difference. Shane was a quick study and did better than any other person I’ve brought to Mystery Creek, heck, he did better than me. When was the last time I landed a 19 inch fish here? (Never.)Shane fishing the "Shadow" section.

By the time we’d fished through the “Tunnel of Trees” Shane had his grove on. In the riffle above the tunnel he picked up a surprising, wild rainbow. He then picked up a fish in the “Shadow Stream” section. The “Shadow Stream” section has dark, glassy water, shaded by overhanging trees, made slightly more difficult by a low pipe that crosses over the stream. I think it’s the hardest section of the stream because it's open and absolute stealth is needed. Shane took my stealthy approach to heart. He was ready for “Big Fish Water”.


We were fortunate to arrive at “Big Fish Water” just before a pair of bait fishers. Shane fished the big fish hole, while I fished the riffle above. I quickly hooked a 4 inch wild fish and yelled “big fish” in jest. I can’t remember if Shane had hooked any fish prior to the big one but I do remember looking up and seeing my Payne 100 3pc in a very deep bend. I wish I’d taken a picture. It’s simply amazing the pressure a bamboo rod can take. Shane was giving the fish the butt and the rod almost formed a perfect U. I admit, I was a bit concerned. Not so much because the rod might break, I doubt it would; but, more so because I plan to backpack with that rod in two weeks and if it did break, I wouldn’t be able to fix it in time for my trip. A graphite rod probably wouldn’t have bent that far but had it, it surely would have splintered.

I was pretty much done fishing above him so I moved down to help him land the fish. After a quick picture, the fish was placed in my creel. This was a dinner fish for sure and it barely fit. Shane continued to fish while I scavenged blackberries. I’d missed breakfast and had been snacking on blackberries at every opportunity. I sat and watched until it was time to go. I don’t quite remember why but instead of leaving immediately, I made a few casts while Shane did I don’t know what. Almost immediately I was into a good fish, an easy 16 inches if not larger and since I’m such a kind, gentle soul, I gave the fish a compassionate long distance release. Almost as quickly I was into another good but smaller fish which I also LDRed, owing to the fact that I was in such a compassionate mood. With the next fish my mood changed and he found himself lying on top of Shane’s fish, in the creel.

Shane's big fish, caught on the node buster rod.

The bait fishers were catching fish as well but we fly boys gave them quite a show. We probably hooked four fish for their every one fish.

We finally moved on and headed downstream to where we could catch some large, wild fish. Unfortunately, the lower portion of the creek was swamped. The pocket water that I like to fish in the fall was either covered in water or filled with silt. I creeled another fish before hunger started to take over and we headed south back to civilization.

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