Delta with Lee Haskin

Finally, the week’s end and I was able to get back for two more days. Best of all, I’d managed to talk Lee Haskin into joining me for one of them! The water temperatures had plummeted 6 degrees since last weekend and were currently ranging between 48 and 51. Not good. My success rate typically plummets as well when the temps start dropping into the low 50’s. I’d been tying flies all week in anticipation for what I thought would surely be a cold water bite (if any bite at all), animated flies fished deep and slow, v–e–r–y — s–l–o–w.

As Lee and I idled out of the marina, sipping on the last of our hot coffee in the clear cold morning, I retold a conversation I’d recently had with Al when I told him Lee was coming, “I told him that the boat was WAY over due a 20 pounder. He had had plenty of chances, as well as Brandon and Dave, and God only knows I have had more than my fair share of time-on-the-water opportunity… so… I’m bringing out the big guns! Lee Haskin is coming with me”! Lee grinned.

An hour later we’re fishing a spot I’d found an exceptionally hot 10 pounder in the previous week. As I’m happily working on the bomber breakfast burrito Lee had brought me a big fish blows up on his surface fly! That’s right, SURFACE FLY! 50 degree water and Lee is testing out new top-water patterns! Now that’s confidence! Unfortunately the fish missed the hook though. Lee looks at me and coolly says, “I’ll make a believer out of you”. A half dozen more casts and the water explodes again! This time the hook sticks!
[Lee Haskin, top water big striper, 19 pounds]
A few minutes later I’m reading the boga grip out loud, “18?, no 18.5, no 19! 19 POUNDS”! “19 POUNDS… ON TOP… IN 50 degree WATER”!
[Delta Striper Fishing Lee Haskin, top water]
Man what an AWESOME fish!

The rest of the day was interspersed with a few small fish, testing new flies, test driving a new “pre-production” 8wt Lee had brought along, me blurting out, “Man that was an AWESOME fish” every half hour or so, and conversations ranging from new fly design concepts to previous trips to the Delta and other places while probing a myriad of spots that “should” have held fish. Listening to Lee’s stories of him and Del Brown fishing the pilings at SFO back in the day was a high light for me.

Unfortunately Lee had other commitments and needed to take off a few hours before dark. On the way back to the marina to drop him off we’d ran into Jose Silva who was, in typical Jose style, sitting on a bucket of feeding fish. He invited us to share in the pod of fish he’d found and fish next to him but we were already running late so at Lee’s suggestion we bee-lined him back to the marina and I came back to join Jose for the last hour of light. Talk about will power!

When I returned 30 minutes later I was careful to shut off the outboard early and quietly motor up to Jose’s boat on the wireless controlled electric to prevent disturbing the fish. Jose was excitedly telling me of two back to back nine pounders he’d just got while I was gone. As I got closer he was pointing and explaining where the fish were at and where to maneuver my boat when all of a sudden his boat takes a hard turn to the right. Then to the left. Jose begins cursing in his Peruvian accent, “what is going on with my boat”! I thought to myself, “that’s weird, every time I turn my wireless motor, Jose begins cursing as his boat takes on a life of its own… hmmm…”. Apparently his motor was still synced to my remote from a previous trip and I was having more fun with it than he was!

Neither one of us having any idea how to “un-sync” them, we’d decided to just anchor my boat, pull the power for the motor and fish from Jose’s. Man was that ever comical. In our attempt to “un-sync” them we’d managed to sync my motor to his remote as well. You can only imagine how ridiculous we must have looked just trying to move a mere 100 feet to anchor up on the edge of the slough. We laughed for the last hour of light as Jose, in typical fashion, out fished me 5 to 1.

The next morning Dave came out to fish for the day. I spent the first few hours confidently fishing an awesome rattling gurgler that Lee had given me. I couldn’t believe the action of this thing! I’d made my own attempts at cloning this pattern of Lee’s a few years ago but never could get it just right. Lee has really got that pattern dialed in. Unfortunately though, I never did find a fish to tempt with it.

By noon time we’d covered a lot of water and only managed a few dinks apiece. I asked Dave if he was ready to move on to the next spot and his response was classic Dave, “Yeah, let’s go to one of your spots where we can get a couple of 5 and 6 pounders. They don’t have to be big”. I didn’t know what to say.

A little while later we marked some fish down deep, 32 feet to be exact. The painstakingly slow, cold water retrieve did the trick and we managed to get a couple of equal size.

And Dave was surprised to find that some delta large mouths can put up a nice fight.

The rest of the day was slow so we took advantage of the annoying slack tide to investigate some new water, one spot in which I’m dying to fish on the next outgoing.

The tide got moving pretty good again by sunset and we got into some little guys at one of my favorite “end-of-the-day” spots. The fish of the day for me came at this time of last light. My first delta squaw fish!

[California Delta Squaw Fish, Fly Fishing]

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