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Bill Kiene semi-retired
12-18-2008, 09:25 PM
Thursday, December 18, 2008 (SF Chronicle)
The Fishing Report
Brian Hoffman


It wasn't a better time, just older, in the way that some of us were
young, and half a dream led to a car ride in the dark to Guerneville,
through all of Marin and off at Fulton and then into the western valley,
where the rows of vineyards stood out there in the pale beyond the road,
so that part of you could understand the appeal of such country.

Parking by the sheriff's station and pulling on waders and stringing the
fly rod and walking down the steep little road that breaks off into
Johnson's Beach. Seeing the other fishermen through the low fog, grown men
in beards and camouflage and hardly moving, except to cast or put on bait.
And it was cold, God, it was January cold, cold like the kind that owns
every winter river, and there was a space between two other fly fishermen
and it was just enough to get in there and cast.

And the huge guy on the left with two cans of beer shoved into the top of
his chest-high waders and one in the hand not holding his fly rod, he
looked down and he said, "Son, I know why you're here and I understand it.
But if you stick me with that fly I will pull your head off."

And the rest was morning and fishing, casting and mending and swinging the
fly and freezing through all your flesh to the spine for a fish that was
only believed to be there, which for everyone involved was enough.

Later in the morning, when a weak sun came out and went away again and the
bank of the river seemed to go colder, some of the boys anchored in an old
wooden drift boat started a fire in the bottom of that boat. And the fire
caught and it grew. And then the boat was on fire and they were jumping
for shore.

It made no sense. And everyone laughed like hell. Everyone. And it felt
good to be a man.

Hate to get thematic with these things, mainly because it takes a certain
amount of thought and planning and such, but there's a documentary coming
out soon that if you're a fisherman you should see. Probably you should
see it even if you're not a fisherman.

It's about California's salmon and steelhead rivers in the 1940s and '50s,
the golden pioneering time of fly fishing the coastal streams. It's about
the legendary feud between bigger-than-life Bill Schaadt and Ted Lindner,
two fishermen with very different ways. It's about how we dammed the
rivers and damned ourselves.

"Rivers of a Lost Coast" will be in theaters early next year. There's a
Web site out there, too, which if you're interested you can find.

Bay to delta

The east wind has been blowing over San Pablo Bay for weeks now, until the
weekend when the front arrived, and then it was a confused wind and some
rain and a lot of cold and none of it real comfortable in a way you'd like
for fishing, and, really, Wednesday as the first decent day to be on the
water in a long while.

Keith Fraser sold bait to two guys in one boat who went to the area of the
Pumphouse, anchored up snug and got their bait in the water. They landed
three sturgeon - two shakers that went back and a 55-incher that was
released, and claimed they lost a diamondback that would have been
oversize (it really does hurt to not even see the damn thing). They also
landed a striped bass of about 8 pounds.

Besides the one boat and the two anglers, there is little else to go on,
as most people tend to avoid the water when the temperature gets into the
40s. Rest of this week and into the weekend, though, Fraser expects to
sell more bait for another kind of fish. He still thinks there are halibut
lounging and feeding around Red Rock and off Paradise, and he's even
willing to provide live shiners for such fishing, for a price, which you
can work out with the bait man.

Main bay and South Bay, there just isn't much, except for reports from the
guys shivering on the piers while sometimes catching their small sharks
and string rays. What we need is a report of more sturgeon, off Hunters
Point and toward the Dumbarton.

Delta: Barry Canevaro had a charter out Tuesday and needed all of
Wednesday to get warm again. It was 36 degrees but with the east wind
again it was more like 20, and the water was 45 degrees and it just was
not very nice. He had the boat back in Nurse Slough, which runs into
Montezuma Slough, and they had the baits out and the rods on the balancing
holders, as this is now winter fishing.

Sure to it, the striped bass that bit at the fresh shad simply swallowed
the bait and didn't move off, meaning the rod on the balancer would just
dip slightly. A "subtle, subtle winter bite" is what Canevaro called it.
The bass that went for the bullheads, though, they took the offering and
tore off, which meant stumbling to the rod and rearing back to stop the
fish.

Well the group of three landed six, for limits, with bass to about 10
pounds.

For sturgeon, Canevaro would like to think there are fish off Pittsburg,
in Honker Bay and around Chain Island.

Now Bob Sparre: The guide has been driving down from Sacramento and
launching his boat and taking his clients on a search for striped bass,
which school up nicely this time of year.

Friday, he fished at Chain Island. The water was about 54 degrees and the
weather was OK enough and as he motored over a spot near the island, his
fish finder went dark from the middle of the screen down and stayed that
way for 200 yards. All bass.

He had three anglers out and they caught fish immediately and they
released fish and they stopped counting at 60. The bass were caught
"spooning," wherein the boat is held over the schooled fish and a
spoon-type lure (green, 1 1/2 ounces) is lowered.

In the way of an update, Sparre tried again Tuesday, with the water 10
degrees colder than it had been, and did not find a fish. Freshwater
Steelhead rivers: They're all low and clear, from coast to valley. On the
North Coast, the storms haven't done anything but leave snow on the
mountains, so that, without runoff, the rivers are continuing to drop.

The Trinity is so low the guides are having to wade out and drag their
drift boats over the gravel bars. There are steelhead in the river, but
guide Steve Huber says the fishing is tough, to the sad tune of maybe one
fish a day. The Smith is just seeing its first strong push of steelhead,
with a 21-pounder landed last week and another 21-pounder arriving at the
Rowdy Creek Hatchery this week.

Weather: A warmer storm is forecast to hit the coast next week, bringing
rain.

E-mail Brian Hoffman at bhoffman@sfchronicle.com. ----------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright 2008 SF Chronicle

bonneville54
12-19-2008, 12:18 PM
It made no sense. And everyone laughed like hell. Everyone. And it felt good to be a man.

Now that is a fishing report! A real joy to read....

Thanks, Bill

Dug
12-22-2008, 09:25 PM
A great "report" indeed. It seems odd to refer to what Brian Hoffman produces as a fishing report - though the facts do emerge, but only after a rapturing prelude. I've been reading his reports for years, as much for the content as the style, and always wondered if he did any writing outside of the Chronicle. Anyone know?