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Huge Number Of Hook-ups”… fishing for steelhead on the Klamath River. St. Helena fly guy Pat Fetzer also added, “… fishing egg patterns at the tails of salmon redds; unbelievable number of adults and half-pounders landed.” Pat was fishing with pro fly guide Ryan Williams, one of Jack Trout’s great young protégés (and who seems to have gotten my name backwards!).

Have a look at one of Pat’s perfectly beautiful 5-pound wild steelhead. Steelheading is a special outdoor experience: they live in beautiful places, and they are strong and smart – the essence of a “worthy foe.” You have to use very light leader and tippet so you don’t spook them in the clear water they like best.

Bringing a big wild animal like this to the net in a swiftly flowing river tells the perfect story about teamwork. You don’t just drop the anchor when you hook a steelie. First, the angler must get control of the fish. Then, the guide must find a quiet stretch where he can stop the boat. Both must be alert and ready when that fish comes up shallow. Miss it with the net, or hit him on the nose with the net rim, and it was all for naught.

Here’s the perfect holiday gift for the experienced fly anglers on your list: call my friend Jack Trout to book some trips. He’s at jacktrout.com or 530-926-4540.

Brown Water Coming Down… Here’s a recent look at Sulphur Creek up here in St Helena. That water is chocolate brown, and we are sending it right to you in Napa to call in the sturgeon for your winter pleasure.

They like to dine on those little critters that live in the feeder stream banks all summer, and then get washed downstream during the rainy season.

Does Work? Has the “pig got a curly tail”? Of course it works. One of Sweeney’s Sports’ top field scouts, Tom Dudenhoeffer, caught a dandy diamondback right in town last week. You all know how shy Tom is; he wouldn’t let me publish the photo or tell you where he caught it. He did say his bait ball was a combo cocktail of three different ingredients. Better stop in to get some of that good stuff, and some more clues from Tom at Sweeney’s on Imola (255-5544).

Lake Berryessa News… Thanks to the head man there, Peter Kikus. Look at this lead sentence: “Lake Berryessa has started to rise!” Since hitting its low point of 422.46 feet above sea level on Nov. 20, it’s on the rise – already up 4 inches on Dec. 2. That puts it just 17.2 feet below the Glory Hole.

Peter reminds us that, on average, the lake rises about seven inches per inch of rain once the ground is saturated. And it takes about three or four inches of rain before significant runoff occurs. It sounds like a good omen for our 2019 fishing adventures on Berryessa. Here’s a holiday gift idea that can fit right in: call pro bass guide Don Paganelli at 916-502-FISH to book a gift trip.

Winter Bassing On Clear Lake… has been good to us. One reason is the success we have using live jumbo minnows for bait. Name me a big fish that wouldn’t be attracted to that wiggly minnow scooting around on the bottom of the lake. Well, it seems to be working again this winter.

Here’s pro bass guide Bob Myskey’s latest report: on Nov. 28, his client, Ed Klofas, caught and released an 8-pounder, a 7 and a 4-plus, bringing his top-five weight to 26 pounds. Believe me, even in the summer, a 26-pound bag can get you into the money in a lot of pro bass tournaments. Call Bob at 274-0373 to order some holiday gift certificates.

It’s Time… for me to start our winter-spring water level watch. For years now, I’ve enjoyed keeping an eye on both the Smith River and Clear Lake – along with some others from time to time. Here are your baselines:

*Smith River (JED recording station) on Dec. 5 at 6 a.m. – Depth (stage) 6.51 feet. Flow 1,289 cubic feet per second. Best steelhead numbers (December-February) are depths between 9 and 11 feet with flows up around 8,000 cfs. That depth band gives the water a nice “steelie green” tint. It helps to mask your line in the water so it doesn’t scare away the fish.

*Clear Lake (Rumsey Gauge recording station) on Dec. 5 at 4 p.m. – Depth 1.10 feet. As you can imagine, the lake depth varies with the season and outflow for agricultural irrigation during the growing season. A Rumsey 1 is considered “empty.” A Rumsey 7.5 is considered “full,” and a Rumsey 9.5 is flood stage.

Many Of You Will Go… challenge yourselves this winter. Have at It! But please come back home safe and sound. Outdoor Life online caught my eye. Hope you will consult their piece titled “Survival—Our tips, tricks, tactics and tales will help you get out of whatever it is you’ve gotten yourself into.” A couple caught my eye: “10 Tips for starting a fire in bad weather” and “Order of Operations in a survival situation.”

*Here‘s that article – outdoorlife.com/tags/survival – early enough to provide everyone a holiday list of key items your loved ones might need to survive in the bush.

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Email Bill Ryan at acorn_3@comcast.net.

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