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Delta, Cold Water Stripers II

California Delta Cold Water StripersThe weather keeps getting nastier and the water colder.

A break between winter storms finally opened a window for Jeff & I to make the first trip of the new year to check in on The Delta.

The recent storms had successfully left the dreaded, gin-clear water of the fall behind us, but not without a price: cold water and the lethargic fish that come with it.

The Delta steps off center-stage with most fly fishermen this time of year as the fish slow down with the cold temperatures and therefore spend a lot less time of their day on the feed. But, they are still there (if you know where to look) and they’ll still eat (if you know how to feed them).

[Image, Cold water Striped Bass Fly Fishing]

My problem is usually finding them. Sometimes we do, more often we don’t. It’s definitely a low percentage time of year, with any fish appreciated, regardless of size.

[Image, Delta Striper Fishing in January]

There are those guys that absolutely must hook-up in order to qualify the day as “good”…

…Those that can appreciate a nice quiet day on the water and take in the scenery while fishing confidently and contently, fully aware of the fact that the cards really are stacked against them, are much tougher to come by though.

In the short year that I’ve been fishing with Jeff, the fish have got one over on us enough times to realize that “hook-up” or not, it’s always a good day.

[Image, California Delta Striper Fly Fishing]

Shad fishing on San Luis, golden bones from the sludge, and involuntary hook-ups with their brethren, the elusive DG (Delta Golden)…

[Image, California Delta Carp Scale]

[Image, California Delta Carp Scale]

With the winter fishery upon us, we’d agreed to spend the day fishing a small hand-full of known “holding” spots thoroughly, relying on the cold water tease-em to please-em approach in lieu of the typical cast-and-blast Fall & Spring fishery of burning a tank or more of gas to jump 2 dozen spots in the hope of finding a school of reckless fish on the feed. Besides, it’s not only the fish’s metabolisms that slow down this time of year.

The water conditions were perfect for the winter fly I’d been working on the last couple seasons: cold and dirty. It wasn’t every cast by any means, but every once in a while my ridiculously slow retrieve was returned with an equally ridiculous twitch-of-the-line, the “sponge bite”. They weren’t big fish by striped bass standards, but they were fish and they were eating my fly.

[Image, California Delta Winter Striper Fly Fishing]

Unfortunately the back of the boat wasn’t sharing the same success as the front, but before I could feel much sympathy, an image flashed in my head.

“No sympathy here”, I decided.

[Image, California Delta Sea Lion and carp]

Regardless of how many times I see this, I can’t help but stop and watch. When a sea lion gets a hold of a big fish, whether it’s a salmon, striper, or in this case, a big carp, it throws it around in the air, repeatedly. You can see it from a long way off as there’s quite a commotion. Often it’s mistaken as a big striper blitz, especially when all the sea gulls get into it. And sometimes, when the sun is just right, you can even catch the golden glint of a 15 pound carp cart-wheeling 20 feet through the air.

[Image, California Delta Sea Lion and fish]

Supposedly they do this to shred the fish down to more manageable, bite-sized pieces, but anyone that’s spent any time around big obnoxious Californian sea lions knows that they’re really just showing off.

[Image, California Delta Sea Lion & Sea Gull]

[Image, California Delta Winter Fly Fishing]

[Image, California Delta January sunset, Mt Diablo]

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