Every January I sit next to a warm fire and read my journal. Not the type I wrote in as a child but one that is filled with a years worth of outdoor adventures.
A properly used journal can be one of your best tools, if it is used.
I was introduced to keeping a journal by my father, who has kept one for as long as I can remember. So I have known how important it is to keep good records of places-been for many years. As I get older my memory does not take me to the exact spot where I landed that beautiful rainbow, so I have resorted to a journal of my own. When I return from an outing, I write in my journal - what I went after, where I went, what I used and any additional notes or revelations. As I was flipping through the wet and crinkled pages, I was reliving the highs and lows of 2010.
My journal is filled with fishing and hunting opportunities, some are success stories and others are not. During this reflection period, I wanted to pull three experiences to share.
The first excerpt took place in late June. I took my family to the Wild Plum Campground just off Highway 49, near Sierra City, for our annual kickoff-to-summer outing. While camping for three nights, we hiked to the magnificent Upper Sardine Lake that is located on the backside of “The Sierra Buttes”. The mirror-like lake gave way to a stunning reflection of the mountain peaks that were blanketed by snow. The fishing was poor, as the waters were still running cold and high. The time spent with my family is fleeting, so the focus is on the memories, not the fish. My daughter, who was then 12, is such a great camper, she sets up her own tent. My wife knows her way around a camp kitchen. Her little touches make the campfire food just wonderful. My son did catch the only fish of the trip. It was a small brookie, which he pulled from the icy waters using a #16 Copper John nymph fly, while casting into Haypress Creek directly under the bridge in the campground.
In early January when the peaks of the Sierras, around Truckee become frozen, the Truckee River begins to fall. Break out your 4-pound test line and some snow shoes and target the water shed’s monster brown trout. As I did in January 2010 when I landed and released a 31-inch brown trout while fishing in 3-feet of snow. When the weather gets cold and snowy, fish the pockets of slower water, as well as the cut banks. If you have wanted to try the mouse pattern this is a great time of year to try, but I would recommend using a fish pattern or Rapala. Get to the water early and leave early; I have never caught a 20+ inch Truckee brown when the sun was on the water. Remember just because the water is lower it is still cold and fast. Don’t fish it alone, wear a floatation device, and don’t get in the water. Danger abounds the Truckee River, but in the winter it is even more so. Stay off the ice shelves, as they will break and you could find yourself pinned in the current.
I had a difficult time picking a third and final excerpt, but when I thought about who I went hunting or fishing with this season, one person came to mind, Les Jundy. Les a hunting/fishing friend of 23 years. He and I had the opportunity to walk the high mesas of Nevada this past fall, while on a quest for Sage Grouse. Neither one of us had harvested one in our lives, so we prepared for months. It was three days of camping in the vastness of the Great Basin. We both bagged a limit and carried on some incredible conversation. The adventure was a two day hunt in the Sheldon Antelope Reserve which is by permit only by the Nevada Department of Wildlife. Les and I had been applying for a permit for the past three years. We were feeling very optimistic about the hunt as we scouted for three days in July and we saw many birds. We camped a quarter of a mile from that very spot, and it paid off.
Thank you to my family for making the sacrifices which allows me the opportunity to have these wonderful experiences. As I make plans for the coming year, I hope to Mearns quail hunt with my father, camp Grouse Ridge with my wife and kids and land a 20+ pound stripper on 4-pound test line.
When the “old man is snoring”, take the time to reflect on where you have been and where you want to go, and create a 2011 journal. If it were not for my journal, I would not have remembered in which hole that 31-inch Truckee brown trout lurks.