2007 Lower Stanislaus and Mystery Creek
Time: 11:15 Ė 5:00pm
Weather: Clear and cold
Set Up: 8ft Medium Action Payne 200
I can't remember when I was here last. My web site says last September, so I'll have to go with that but that was only for an hour or so. The lack of any other mentions on the site earlier than 2003 means it's been a long time since I've spent any significant time here or made regular visits. Living so close to such a fine stream, I really should fish it more.
Iíd hoped to get about 30 min. of fishing in before meeting my friend, Lane, and taking him to Mystery Creek. I arrived just after 11:00am and wasnít expecting much. I consider 11:00 am a pretty late start on the Stan and on a day when I knew the Diablo Valley Fly Fishers were having a fishout, I expected it to be crowded.
I was pleasantly surprised that there werenít nearly as many cars along the road as expected and more pleasantly surprised when a quick visit to two of my favorite beats revealed that they were sans anglers. I hadnít planned to climb down into the canyon but with 40 min. to kill, it looked so inviting I couldnít not go.
The fishing in the first hour was amazing- 10 fish in 30 minutes. Numbers wise, it was the best Iíd had all year. I started out catching smaller fish at the head of what I now call the ďbarrelĒ. After about a half dozen casts I realized there was a pecking order in place and started presenting my flies past the smaller fish and was rewarded with larger fish.
I fished a solid 30 min. then returned to my car to meet Lane. He showed up 30 min late and was excited when I told him about my earlier experience. 50 min. later I was back at the ďbarrelĒ and had him rigged up with the same flies I had fished earlier. Unfortunately, he was a beginning angler and couldnít quite get the proper drifts. The 7.5 cane rod he was fishing didnít help in this regard. I had originally planned to take him to a small stream and thatís what I should have done.
Anyone who has hosted someone on their home waters, knows that first and foremost youíre trying to get the other guy into fish. When he took breaks, I was readily catching fish so we kept at it. I was so sure this spot would produce for him. It did and it didnít. He got two strikes- one to a dry and one to a nymph. He missed them both. In retrospect, perhaps the spot is tougher than I give it credit for. I remember a time when I could fish here all day and only catch 4 fish and I spoke with an acquaintance who fished this section before us and he also didn't catch any fish- so Lane was in good company.
We moved further downstream to an area that produces in the mid to late afternoon. I was confident that I could get Lane into fish here. I've taken begins here before with good success. We took turns fishing the run and even fished it from different angles. No luck. It was now getting late and I was realizing that not going to Mystery Creek was a big mistake. Mystery Creek would have been a sure thing but it was hard to leave and I thought Lane might enjoy catching wild fish more than stockers.
I mentioned to him that I should have taken him to Mystery Creek earlier in the day and that it was too late to do so now. He thought we could possibly still get an hourís fishing in there and was willing to give it a shot. If he was game, I was game. I thought it would be too close to dark but we didnít have anything to lose. We hopped in our cars and made the drive. Once there it was apparent to me that we were too late but we rigged up anyway. He was taking a little bit longer than I, so I rigged up my rod and flies with the intention that he would fish my rod on creek first.
The big fish section of Mystery Creek is dark, even in late afternoon. At dusk it is positively pitch black. We had just enough light to wade into position. I knew the river, so wading at night was safe as long as we didnít lose our footing. I set him up in the big fish hole and showed him what to do while I rigged his rod. I was tying on his dropper fly when he hooked into his first fish. He was pretty excited until he realized it was foul hooked. Foul hooked or not, it became dinner. In real world of having to feed your family, any hooked fish is a "caught" fish, regardless of where it's hooked.
Shortly there after, he hooked and lost another fish. I switched rods with him and waded upstream to fish a short riffle which usually produces. I made 3 casts, I could feel my flies ticking bottom but couldnít see a thing. It wasn't fun.
I like tight line nymphing because itís so visual- watching your drift, knowing youíre getting a good drift because youíre line slows to a crawl as the rest of the current swiftly passes by, setting the hook when the line pauses. Iím used to using two senses, sight and touch- that tap, tap, tap of the nymph as it rolls along the bottom and the lack of a tap when the line stops and youíre into a fish. With sight there's anticipation as you watch the line. Fishing with only one sense wasnít any fun and as it got darker and darker it was sure to become illegal. I waded down to Lane who by that time had pulled out his headlamp, just as I had done, and we headed back to our cars.