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What Would Zane Grey Call … a big, burly and bearded fishing guide? I’m positive he would have named him “Dakota” in a novel back in the ’30s. Well, fast forward 78 years (from 1939 to present) to meet our river fishing guide, Dakota. He is smart, consumer-oriented and a hell of a fishing guide. Dakota is a member of the Kevin Brock team.

Stan Press and I just returned from fishing for king salmon on the Feather River at Oroville, where Dakota guided us for the two days. You measure guides best when the fishing isn’t red hot. The salmon had lock-jaw mostly. So he went the extra mile, working well beyond a normal trip length to try to put us on some “biters.” Our take was well below our best years; we brought home just four salmon. Our combined legal take for two days would have been eight fish. I’m pleased to tell you that I caught the first, most and biggest for a change.

Don’t worry, Dakota, we’ll be back to fish with you again.

Local Fishing Opportunities … close by. One of my Sweeney’s Sports field scouts, Jose Rubio, who specializes in fly fishing, said “Fishing is hot on the river.” With water clarity much improved recently, baitfish patterns such as Clousers and Deceivers in white and chartreuse are scoring well. When you drop in to Sweeney’s on Imola to get some flies, ask Jose for an update on the honey holes. Apparently, with flows dropping and evening out, Putah Creek will give up trout to flies from sizes 14-18. Try zebra midges, wd-40’s in the smaller sizes, and pheasant tails or hares ear nymphs on the larger ones.

Bassman Luke Lipanovich, another Sweeney’s Sports field scout, gave us some good information on fresh water bass action here: “With fish in both Berryessa and Hennessey chasing shad, baitfish imitators such as swim baits, crank baits, top water and Alabama rigs are coming into play.” He also pointed out that you can fish the grass at Hennessey – flip or frog the red leaf mats to draw a strike.

Create a VFA (Vicarious Fishing Adventure)? … Sure. Start with two lovely distaff anglers from St. Helena – and read on. Kirsten Hampton Brown and Marty Moe Mullarkey, friends of mine forever, went off to Livingston, Montana on a three-day odyssey to fish the mighty Yellowstone for trout. By the way, the dictionary defines odyssey as “a long journey full of adventures.”

They rented a pontoon drift boat and Kirsten manned (womanned?) the oars while also fishing at the same time. No wimpy guide trip for Kirsten and Marty. Fishing was excellent – but before we get to that little detail, here’s one for the books: During one drift, Kirsten’s line got tangled with another piece of fishing line on the bottom of the river. She hand-over-handed it forever to find an expensive Orvis fly rod and rare English-made Hardy reel at the end.

Ummm, ummm.

What to do? Of course, a savvy and modern St. Helena woman would look in local social media posts to see if anybody lost a fishing rig. Yep, she found a posting that fit the circumstances, made contact, and offered to return it to its owner after he described it to her. Happy ending, indeed.

Oh Yeah, about fishing: Kirsten and Marty caught and released an amazing 62 total fish – 19 on day one, 21 on day two, and topped both of them with 22 on day three! Tah DAH! – drum rolls please. I’m waiting with my sharpened No. 2 pencils in hand for their next VFA for all of us left at home.

All Hands On Deck … for Napa County’s 33rd annual California Coastal Cleanup Day from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 16. This is the perfect example of “many hands make light work.” Last year, close to 430 volunteers collected over 3,500 pounds of trash and 5,000 pounds of recycling. The unwritten code of the organizers is to have more volunteers collect more stuff each year, and it has held true most of the time.

You still have time to gear up and go tomorrow. Get details at the Napa County Resource Conservation District’s website,

Recreational Pacific Salmon Closure … was Sept. 10. That’s when we hit the targeted 34,580 pounds caught in the 2017 season. That was up 5,000 pounds over the 2016 number. While the Pacific Halibut has a wide range, they are not usually found south of Point Arena in Mendocino County.

Email Bill Ryan at