My Turn: A balanced perspective on fishing
I’m in a good place. Total relaxation and total concentration ” in rhythm with the river. My offering drifts silently through the run I am fishing. I follow its progress with my eyes and rod, taking in slack line as needed. The line pauses in its decent, almost imperceptibly. I take in more slack and set the hook… Yeah! Fish on!
A friend downstream notices and shouts encouragement. The fish makes a run and jumps, a rainbow, then settles in to battle me and the current. A short while later the fish is netted ” a beautiful 15-16-inch, chunky rainbow with the orange-red slash under its gills that so many Truckee River rainbows have (maybe a bowcut?).
The fish never leaves the water and is never touched. I reach down and with one twist of the pliers remove the hook from its jaw. The fish rests in the net a while before being released to swim back into the run to fight another day, to give another angler pleasure.
I’m content knowing that this scene will repeat itself many times in the months and years to come, as it always has. Maybe next time it’ll be one of the elusive browns the river holds. This scenario and many similar ones have played out countless times for my friends and I over the past 25-plus years. We do keep some fish and release many more ” but only those we know will survive.
Unfortunately, I will not be allowed to have this experience this year. You see, I wasn’t fishing a nymph. I was bouncing a crawler along the bottom in the Truckee River between Boca Bridge and Gray Creek. Both methods require considerable skill and concentration to be able to catch fish with any consistency.
The California Fish and Game Commission, at the behest of the California Department of Fish and Game, has needlessly made it illegal for me to bounce crawlers in this area. The river from Boca Bridge to the Nevada state line was the last section of river left where I had a realistic expectation of catching good-quality wild trout in running water in the entire Tahoe-Truckee area. The new regulations prevent about 90 percent of the anglers who were fishing this area from doing so.
Catch and release wild trout water in California is defined as an area that must have a zero-, one- or two-fish limit and a self-sustaining population of wild fish (no hatchery plants). It’s not necessary to impose size or gear restrictions. The area from Boca Bridge to Gray Creek has been managed as catch-and-release wild trout water for years. The area from Gray Creek to the Nevada state line has been managed as de facto wild trout water for over two decades per the Department of Fish and Game (only thing missing was a two-fish limit). This management approach has proven to be very successful. There were no gear restrictions and bait fishing was allowed. The fishing is actually better today than it was 10 years ago, based on the statements and results of many long-time Truckee River anglers.
Why did they change this successful management program? All that has been said for the reason is simplification of the regulations ” that’s it.
Anglers using all fishing methods (flies, lures, crawlers and other bait), have coexisted peacefully for over two decades in this stretch of the Truckee River under the previous regulations. We shared the water, as it should be. We only want our right to fish this water to be restored. There should be no controversy or
confrontation over this. We all should have the opportunity to catch the beautiful wild trout that populate the Truckee River. We care about protecting and preserving this valuable fishery as much as anyone who fishes the river.
I would like to provide a counterpoint to some opinions a recent contributor to the Sun expressed. The people I fish with don’t leave trash by the river. We regularly pick up cans, plastic bottles, discarded line and leaders, tackle packaging and, yes, the occasional crawler box left behind. I don’t know of anyone who fishes this section of river with any regularity who totes a lawn chair along. It wouldn’t be practical since there is a lot of walking or hiking and rough terrain. It would be virtually impossible to fish the way we need to and have any chance of success sitting in a chair.
I hope this column has helped give you a little more understanding and a better perspective of guys like me who simply enjoy the challenge of bouncing a crawler along the bottom trying to catch the beautiful wild trout that reside in the Truckee River. Whatever method of fishing you choose … tight lines, my friend !
For more information or comments, go to http://www.wishtofish.blogspot.com. All comments are welcome, and please plan to attend the Fish and Game Commission meetings in Truckee on June 7-8.
Rocklin resident Ron Talmage is a life-long bait fisherman, casino tournament manager and member of the Wish to Fish Alliance.
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