Fly Fishing a Day on the River

Yesterday was supposed to be a mother and son fly fishing trip to Putah Creek. This is a creek known for some wonderful trout. The starting point for our trip was supposed to begin at the base of Montecello Dam. This dam is at Lake Berryessa in California and Putah Creek flows from it.   There are about four miles along the creek that have easily accessible spots to fish. It is a beautiful area.

This probably was not the best choice for us to start our adventure.  We are both new to the fly fishing world and from what I’ve been told the waters are a bit “technical” to fish.   I’m not sure what that means other than I think the fish might be able to outsmart us beginner fisher people.   Also, at this time of year water is being released from the lake.   This results in a high water flow. To high to wade into safely. It’s also an agricultural area so they are releasing water for irrigation. I’m learning a lot.

I don’t know who was more excited for our fly fishing day to begin, my son or me. I know I was excited because I finally jumped into fly-fishing feet first after over three decades of wanting to try it. Mostly though, I was excited about spending the day with my son after so many long teenage years of him pushing me away for no other reason other than that’s what teenagers do. I took no offense to the process.  I know our children have to go through this to become the adults they are supposed to be. Who wants a kid that has never learned to be independent and strong? Trust me, mine is both independent and strong!   He’s also 29 years old now and loves to spend time with me.

Getting ready to prepare his fishing rod.
Preparing his fly fishing rod for the take.

We originally agreed to be on the road by 7:00 a.m., somehow that got bumped up to about 6:15. No problem, I could do that. It’s a little harder for me these days even though I’m an early riser.   I’m retired and normally don’t have to be anywhere at any specific time.

I didn’t get much sleep that night because anytime I set an alarm clock I spend half the night waking up to see how much time I have left before I have to get up. Before retirement I was up at 5:00 a.m., no alarm clock necessary.

Needless to say I was up and ready to go fly fishing by 6:00 a.m.. Tick, tock…6:15, no son, tick tock…6:30 no son…I checked my phone for a message.   Sure enough…”mom, I’m running behind, I forgot to water my vegetable garden last night and it’s going to be hot today.” I responded, “no problem,” which it wasn’t because little did he know we had to make alternate plans.  Just our luck, there was a massive fire near our planned destination and we could not access Putah Creek. I felt bad, not for us, but because of the fire. That’s never a good thing and people were be evacuated.

My son showed up around 8:00 and we began to make alternate plans. First, we decided to head out for a nice breakfast so we could decide what plan B was going to be. Then we stopped by the local fly shop.  W checked out their new store location and their rearranged inventory and talked to the guys running the shop that morning.

They gave us a couple of suggestions of places to fish. We decided since it was getting late in the day we would just head down to the American River and try our luck. The American River runs right through town so easy, peasy.

We stumbled our way to one of the river access points that we were both somewhat familiar with. It was a beautiful wide spot on the river.   The river flowed wide and gently towards our position and passed by us calmly but swiftly. The flow broke downstream and glided past a huge gravel bar where on each side we could see ripples and white water as the water continued to flow downstream.

We stood there at the waters edge for a few moments just taking in the beauty of it all. We  looked at each other and smiled. I said, “it’s hard to believe there is housing and traffic and the hustle and bustle of life just on the other side of the tree line. He nodded in silent agreement.

Fly fishing
Low water gravel bar.


We didn’t bother with waders and boots, we were both dressed in shorts and water shoes. It was a 90 plus degree-day and the water was surprisingly cool not cold…refreshing. We waded across a short shallow width of the river onto a gravel bar, taking each step carefully on the slippery rocks. We dropped our back packs and rigged our rods.   He was done and in the water while I was meticulously trying to tie a fly onto my tippet with a clinch knot.   Even though I was painfully slow at the process I was smiling inside just for the fact that I was doing it with no assistance! This meant I was making progress in my fly-fishing journey.

We were out in the river for several hours. Close enough to each other to communicate, but far enough from each other that we each felt the solitude of the river.   We would talk occasionally and change up our lines with different flies, adding and removing weight and maybe adding or removing an indicator. It all seemed to come naturally for my son.  He must have remembered fishing skills he learned with his childhood friends when they fished a local pond together.   I’m thankful for that.

That day for me was more of just getting out on the water and trying different things.  I was glad to have my sons company. I was glad to be with the “boy” I raised even though he’s a man now. It’s been a long while since we have had the opportunity to go out and do something like this. I’m thankful he is taking an interest in this new world that we are both learning about together.

Now, the journey continues…

fly fishing
A visiting duck.