Fishing Reports, Holiday Libations, and Gabe "the grizzly" Duran

So, my wife and I just dragged the Christmas tree out of the house so I think it is officially time to work up a post Christmas Blog post. I am going to try to keep the post fluid as I am watching Notre Dame play Rutgers in the New Era Pin Stripe Bowl and the game is tied up at 10-10. If the post seems a bit disjointed know that I took breaks to yell, scream, and chew my nails…

I’ll start this post Christmas pre new years season with a few fishing reports…Bottom line though is everything is low and clear. We need rain bad…this weather is pretty scary.

Lower Yuba River is low and clear flowing at 725cfs – this is as low as I can ever remember it. Fishing has suffered due to the conditions but fish still need to eat so there are fish to catch. I spent Sunday and Monday guiding the river and I would rank fishing as fair. Sunday the fish were eating small baetis nymphs and midges so my guys had trouble keeping fish hooked and setting the hook. Monday fish were eating egg patterns and bigger attractor nymphs (#16 and #14 Flash back PT’s) so we had a bit better day. The river was crowded with wade fishermen both days and the few pods of fish eating dries during the baetis hatch had anglers fishing them so we didn’t get to fish to them but they are there and eating size 16-18 baetis. Most wade fishermen are focusing on the river above the bridge, we caught fish all the way throughout the river so if you are heading out look below the bridge to get away from crowds and get some fresh water.

Lower Sacramento River is Low flowing 3760 cfs coming out of Keswick. This is crazy low as well – offering a low of wade fishing for walk in anglers which is cool. I floated the upper stretch on Saturday (Posse Grounds to Bonnie View) and Ryan J. and Slim floated the next two floats down river. Fishing up top was fair and we did hook some big fish not huge numbers but good fish. Ryan and Slim had good days as well hooking some steelhead as well. Most of the fish we hooked were on small baetis patterns and talking to Ryan J and Slim most of their fish came on eggs still. There are some fresh winter salmon moving around and fishing should remain pretty good throughout the winter on the upper stretches. I have also heard of some nice steelhead being caught down low by chico on the Sac. I am going to try to get out and swing some flies next week. Most likely will be casting practice but with the low flows fish are really slowing down and holding up in the lower river.

Lower Feather River I have heard has a few fresh winter steelhead in it but most of the bulk of the fish have been in the system for well over a month. The upper stretch above hwy 70 opens Jan 1 and will provide some fishing for down streamers for a few weeks which is always a big draw and I usually get suckered in to going a few times myself. If you go try to avoid fishing for spawning fish in the shallows and focus on the deeper runs and riffles. Most fish are caught on egg patterns and basic attractor nymphs. Remember above the hwy 70 bridge is barbless and catch and release, also make sure you have your new steelhead card and it is filled out before you step in the water. There will be Wardens out.

Holiday Libations Report/Review – I filled up the Growler with Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Belgian Style Black IPA for the annual Johnston/Brown family Christmas eve celebration. I have tired this beer in the bottled beer camp 12 pack and liked it the best out of the variety beer camp offering but I wouldn’t give it a great ranking. Out of the tap and into the growler it was much better, I would give it a very good ranking, not great but I am tempted to go re-fill the growler with it this week.

My goal over the last few years has been to turn Ryan Johnston into a brown water man – take him from his cheap beer sugary frat boy drinks to big boy IPA’s and classy brown water. His wife Bonnie has been helping and really turned the corner this Xmas by getting him a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label – I was definitely upstaged with regards to my gift of a bottle of Double Black. That said Ryan poured us a few clean tumblers of Johnny Walker Blue and that was down right amazing.

I also have been avoiding going into the new Bev Mo that opened up in Chico and I finally broke down and went in to buy Ryan J’s Xmas present of a bottle of Double Black…bad idea. I walked out with a few bottles of Brown Water I have been “needing to try” …. I really wished I would have never gone in. That said I did crack the bottle of Tullamore Dew…”Irish’s most distributed Whiskey”…Never tried it and so far I really like it.

Gabe “The Grizzly” Duran – I lost a great friend and the fly fishing world lost a great ambassador recently. It really threw me for a loop as Gabe was my age and a great friend, I wrote a short post that I never posted with his memorial service next week I will post it here…

the master mind of our fantasy football league

professional fish wrangler

I woke up this morning with a missed call from Ryan followed by a text that read,  “Hey man Gabe died last night at the house…” It was followed by some details but as I read my mind was traveling from the Feather to Fall River over to the Trinity…guide houses, boat ramps, fly shops, parking lots and the all times over the last decade I spent with Gabe. I can’t say I broke down and cried but I did sit down with the feeling like I just got punched in the gut…the void of feeling before the emotions rush in is a weird spot to be….I can’t say I was Gabes best friend but the beauty of Gabe was he made everyone feel like they were.

I worked with Gabe at various outfitters, lodges, as independent guides, and shared many many runs and floats all over Northern California with him…I fished with him as a friend, tied flies with him, drank copious amounts of beer with him, talked Giants baseball, played fantasy football with him … an always felt like I needed to hang out with Gabe more. I always thought just if he lived a bit closer or I had more free time…

What I will remember about Gabe is the fact that everyone loved Gabe. In a game like guiding there are clicks, feuds, rivalries, and down right enemies but Gabe was above all that, he rose above it all and spread his positive attitude and vibe where ever he was and whom ever was out on the river had a better day after crossing his path. No matter what crew you ran with or were part of you liked Gabe…everyone liked Gabe and in all the years that Gabe was a guide in Northern California I can honestly say I never heard anyone say a bad thing about him. I even remember ounce someone saying “its not like I can get mad at Gabe”

He was one of the most humble self affacing guides I ever met but one of the most competent and skilled guides I knew. He could put clients on to fish on some of the most technical spring creek fishing around on the Fall to Steelhead on the coast to draggen row down the sac for salmon. Guy was just fishy. He understood the personal aspect of guiding as well. I never saw someone in Gabes boat without a smile on their face or that at some point with in ear shot did not let out a huge belly laugh. He knew how to make people smile and have fun on the water no matter how many fish they caught.

Gabe was the real deal as we say…he lived and breathed fly fishing, rivers, and the fish that swam in them. He built his life around rivers and decided a “normal” life was not for him living the life that people in cubicles, long commutes, and suburbia dream of. I truly loved him and will miss him.

Hogan Brown