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Dreaming of Sonoma trout

By Bill Lynch

Every time I see our local creeks flow with fresh, clear water on the days following a rainstorm, I recall a  dream I’ve had for decades.

In that dream, it’s the middle of a nice spring day and I’m fly fishing along a shaded section of Sonoma Creek, somewhere south of the Ig Vella Bridge that connects West Napa Street to Riverside Drive.

The trees are so high and large that their branches shade almost all of the water that still is flowing from pool to pool, riffle to riffle, even though most of the seasonal storms are long gone.

I cast my fly upstream into the tail-out of a large pool and a beautiful rainbow rises to engulf it. The fish is bright, colorful and full of fight. After several minutes I bring him close. Without lifting him out of the water, I shake the fly loose and he swims back to his spot in the pool.

I stroll along the creek bed, wading through riffles when I have to, catching and releasing more trout. None of them are very big, perhaps 9-to-12 inches.

But they are all healthy and will, when next fall’s rains come, swim downstream to the Bay and then the Pacific, spend a year or two eating, growing and becoming ever so much stronger.

Then, when their biological clock tells them its time, they return as steelhead (sea-run rainbow trout) to their home stream to spawn and carry on their species.

I’m not kidding. I really have that dream, or variations of it, several times a year, usually in the spring.

It is partly a memory of the days when I was a boy and did in fact catch rainbow trout in Sonoma Creek, Nathanson Creek and other creeks that are in our Valley’s watershed.

I remember that there was more water flowing later into the summer than there has been in recent decades. There was enough, at least, in shaded, spring-fed pools for trout to survive the long, hot summer and continue their unique, anadromous cycle of life.

As I was walking my Lab, Annie, this week, I saw quite a bit of water flowing in Nathanson Creek and wondered if there was any way to keep it flowing that way into our drier months. How marvelous that would be.

If price were no object, a guy could buy up a large portion of the headwaters area, get permission to put in some holding dams, and work with the Fish and Wildlife Service on ways to provide summer holding pools in as many valley canyon creeks as possible. There are still trout in those streams at some times of the year, not as many as there used to be, but some.

Unfortunately, most of our creeks will stop flowing in another month or two, and by July, the creek beds will be dry. The trout, if they went downstream before the water was too low, might make it to the sea. Most will not.

It is the hard part of waking up from my dream.

Back in the real world this week, there are still some fish to be caught. Clients of Capt. Rick Powers, of Bodega Bay Sportfishing, are bringing in limits of dungeness crab and sand dabs on virtually every trip. He also offers whale-watching trips on weekends. Salmon season is only a month away. Call Rick at 875-3344.

In the North Bay, fresh water runoff has improved the sturgeon action in the North Bay’s sturgeon triangle marked by the Pump House, China Camp and Buoy 5. Call Keith Fraser, at Loch Lomond Bait Shop in San Rafael, for the latest conditions and to book a Bay party boat, 415-456-0321.

Lake Ralphine in Santa Rosa and Bon Tempe Lake in Marin both got plants of rainbow trout this week.

I haven’t read many reports on other local lakes, but guide Larry Hemphill reported a successful outing on Berryessa last Sunday.  The fish are there, but unless you know the water, you should consider hiring a guide.

Steve Kyle sent me a report indicating that fly fishing on the Truckee River is good right now. Unless there is a rapid snowmelt, the Truckee could be good for a while.

The rains north of us have been significant, but have not blown out the Klamath, Trinity and upper and lower Sacramento. Anglers can find some fair to good steelhead and trout fishing by heading north. Watch the weather forecasts and plan accordingly.