The next day found us on the American River with Charlie Gonzales of Big Valley Guide service. The America is one of Bisharat's main stomping grounds and the major testing area for many of his striper fly patterns, including the Pole Dancer, Air Head and craft fur minnow. The day started out as a beautiful morning. We were on the water before the hot valley sun came up over the hill. We had about an hour of calm, then the evil east wind kicked back into effect. Cold blowing wind makes the top water fishing considerably more difficult. That didn't stop Charlie from trying though. The green belt that surrounds the America has become a major refuge for wild life that cling onto their historic range in the central valley. The highlight of the day for me, was seeing 8 different river otters, a muskrat, coyote, deer, osprey and some cute little squirrels playing along the banks.
Top water fishing is a tough game. You really have to put the time into it. It takes dedication. You might fish hard all day for one fish. But, when you do get a blow up, it's so spectacular, that it's probably worth more than the couple fish you might have hooked on streamers. Charlie was really working hard and putting in the time sticking to his guns with the Pole Dancer. I was intent on filming every cast to get that blow up. About half way through the float though, the light got really glared out. The wind and chop made it almost impossible to get a good shot on the top of the water. I decided to take a little break from filming and just take it all in. Charlie suggested that i grab his back up rod that was equipped with a rainbow flavored Air Head. I figured what the hell, i'd never fished the American for Stripers and had always wanted to. I threw a few cast out with his back up 10wt Xi2. We were in a long froggy section with some clay heads submerged throughout a deep run. I chucked out a cast from the back of the drift boat and let it settle into the water column. I can't remember if it was just as i started to strip, or just as i grabbed the line to strip, but all of a sudden, there was a huge THUD! I reefed back on him and his initial run almost stripped Charlies rod from my hand. After a few blazing runs and some frantic moves on my part, I managed to regain my composure and put the boots to him. It was an epic fight, but eventually the giant fish tired and i was able to lip him. We put the boca on him and he weighed in at just over 19 lbs. My biggest striper on a fly!!! Hell of a treat for a day I wasn't even expecting to fish. I told those guys I'd trade 10 American river steelhead for that one take and fight. I almost feel bad fishing for the steelhead some times these days. With the state of Salmonids and how poor the salmon return is this year, it's starting to worry me if we will even have steelhead much longer. Stripers on the other hand are totally invasive and non native to California. I can't feel bad one bit ruining one of their days. Especiallywhen you start to think what a threat they pose to young trout, steelhead and salmon. Striper are the monsters lurking in the dark shadows just waiting for some small fish to make a bad move.
For guided fishing on the American, Contact Charlie at bigvalleyguide.com
Charlie Bisharat's flies, including the Air Head, are available from Umpqua feather merchants.
My personal biggest stiper on the fly.
Charlie G. is a great guide and excellent host.
Air Heads rock! In fact, this one caught this 6lber off the bottom of the river.