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Delta, Cold Water Stripers I

Delta Winter StripersIt was late Saturday morning when I lazily rolled out of bed, poured a hot cup of coffee, and hopped online to check the weekend weather forecast for The Delta.

The water temperatures had been down into the 40’s and the delta fishing reports I’d been hearing weren’t good.

I had half a dozen new flies I’d been anxious to put in the water and Accuweather was calling for perfect conditions (from a weather perspective) – so, despite the chilly water and the poor reports, I said what the heck, hooked up the boat, and headed over…

After grabbing some lunch on the way and gassing the boat up I finally arrived mid afternoon and headed straight for my “high percentage”, cold water spots that rarely let me down this time of year.

[Image, California Delta Striper Fly Fishing]

I spent the few remaining hours of the day thoroughly picking through my confidence spots without even a maybe-grab or a follow. I threw big flies and small flies, heavily weighted flies and neutrally buoyant flies. I stripped fast with T14 and slow with a Type 3, I stripped long, I stripped short, I threw in long pauses, and I threw in short pauses, and never once did I have the slightest indication of a possible response. Regardless of the lack of fish, I couldn’t have been more content though. It had been a long and busy week and the calm, windless afternoon on the water was just the therapy I’d been after.

Once the sun got behind Mt Diablo I began my long run back in. I was anxious to meet up with Jose and hear, how many & how big, but there was still one more spot to hit on the way and the current tide stage was perfect for it.

When I approached I took extra care to set up my drift well above the sweet-spot and let the moving tide carry me within range. It was the last spot of the day and everything was looking perfect. As the tide slowly closed the gap between me and the spot I rhythmically fanned casts as I reminisced over previous monsters we’d caught in the past on similar slow days and during this magic hour of last light. The big 18 pounder I’d recently hooked with Jose definitely came to mind, as did Jeff’s 19 pounder we’d found late in the afternoon at the end of the slowest day of the season last year, then there was Lee’s 19 pounder, on top-water when the water was only a few degrees warmer than it was now.

As the tide finally lined me into position and my long casts were beginning to land within the zone my confidence was soaring and I was in serious anticipation of a grab. The fact that this was the very same spot that gave up a 16 pounder for me last year might have had something to do with it too.

Intently focused on my presentation I carefully worked the fly through the honey hole a dozen times as I drifted through, and nothing.

The spot had been passed and it was time to head in. One more cast and I’d reel up. There was another boat coming by so one more cast turned into 2 and then a 3rd as I waited for him to pass by. Then I got the yank, Fish On! It was immediately followed by a moderate splash and didn’t appear to have any weight to it so I figured it must be a blackie and happily began stripping him in. I was thankful that the skunk was finally getting the boot, when suddenly, what I figured to be a 1 – 2 pound large mouth bass cranked up the horse power and savagely began surging my 9wt into the cork! A few minutes later, an 8 pound striper!

[Image, California Delta Striper Fly Fishing]

[Image, California Delta Striper Fly Fishing]

Both Jose & I made it back to the marina at the same time and exchanged reports while tying up our boats.

I told him I hadn’t touched a fish all afternoon until just a few minutes ago, right at last light.

As he threw another hitch into his bow line he responded that, “it has been real slow the last couple days“, and he’d only managed a few small ones all day.

I reemphasized that I’d thought I was getting skunked but got one at the last minute – but this time I added the fact that it went 8 pounds…

…He looked up at me, smiled, and then said, “No way…“, I proudly responded, “Yes sir, 8 pounds on the Boga!” He replied, in his Jose/Peruvian accent, “That is very good Doug… now let’s go eat. I am hungry“.

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