Thursday, October 12, 2017

Fly fishing the California Delta Part 3 Places to fish by Headwaters Fly Shop

Now that we've covered tackle and vessels, it's time for the fun part: places to fish. The delta is huge, consisting of over 1,000 miles of waterway, so if you're just starting out it can be a little overwhelming choosing a place to fish. My hope with this article is to get people new to the delta started fishing with some of the spots that I have fished over the years, that are easy to launch at with a kayak, canoe or stand up paddle board. My focus will be on the north delta and the central delta near stockton, as these are the areas of the delta that I frequent most.
The delta offers spectacular scenery and captivating sunsets.


North Delta
For the purposes of this article the north delta will be the sloughs that feed into the Sacramento River and upper Mokelumne River North and East of Rio Vista. This area has heavier current flow with relation to tides, as well as cooler water temperatures than the rest of the California Delta. As a result the primary species caught here are smallmouth and spotted bass, as well as some redeye bass in the Cosumnes River. The north delta is a great place to fish during the heat of summer as the cooler water temperatures give the angler some relief from the heat, not to mention that peak time to fish this area is June, July and August, when the water temps have warmed a little, producing epic topwater fishing. The North delta is also the best place to fish if it is windy, because you can always find a narrow channel out of the wind, or a slough that runs perpendicular to the wind. 50 plus fish outings are common, and most fish are taken on topwater poppers. My favorite flies for this area of the delta are size 4 black and white Lil Fatty Pultz Poppers, Size 2 Purple Lil Fatty Pultz Poppers on a floating line and size 8 near nuff crawdads in brown on an intermediate line. I usually use a 4 or 5 weight rod as the fish tend to be smaller than in other areas of the delta.
A Prime example of a north delta smallmouth with a Pultz Popper hanging out of its mouth.
Cosumnes River Preserve 13501 Franklin Blvd Galt Ca 95632
This is one of the places where I learned to fly fish in the delta. The free launch and parking as well as an abundance of small fish, not to mention the shallow water, keeping power boats at bay, made it an ideal place for me to learn about warm water fly fishing. Here you will find lots of bluegill, along with a fair amount of largemouth bass (the most I find in this part of the delta), and quite a few redeye, spotted and smallmouth bass. If you're really having a good day, you might even catch a warmouth and a few crappie.
One of the things I love most about the delta is you never know what you might catch. Pictured here is a warmouth, something you don't see everyday in the delta.
One of the nice things about Cosumnes River Preserve is most of it isn't very deep, maybe 6ft max, making it easy to find fish most of the time. Here I vary in my fly selection compared to the rest of the north delta as the fish are smaller on average. I like to use a size 10 foxee red clouser minnow on an intermediate line. For topwater I use a size 6 or 8 Pultz Poppers Lil Fatty. Be sure to bring wheels for your kayak, as it is a long walk from the parking lot to the launch.
A bluegill caught at Cosumnes River Preserve
Walnut Grove Public Dock 14173 River Rd, Walnut Grove Ca
If it is smallmouth you're after, or you're just looking for a quick trip before or after work, this is a great place to start. Located across the street from the Post Office, this is a free place to launch and park (just to clarify, there are 2 docks in Walnut grove and this is the older looking of the 2). Just park, carry your craft down, drop it in the water off the dock and go! From here you can access the Sacramento River, Georgiana Slough, and the Delta Cross Channel and Mokelumne River  if the locke is open. If you have a buddy that can help with a vehicle shuttle, floating from here to Ko-Ket Resort is an ideal float, with plenty of good fishing along the way.  This stretch is particularly fun on a SUP or kayak you can stand in, as the water is clear enough to be able to see the fish eyeing your popper!

A Walnut Grove smallmouth that fell for a crawdad fly.


Georgiana Slough Fishing Access Link to map
This launch tends to have more of a mix of smallmouth and spotted bass, as well as a few largemouth compared with the Walnut Grove Public Dock. Also the fish here tend to be grouped up, so move quickly and cover lots of water and if you do catch a fish be sure to make at least one additional cast back to where you caught them, you will often be rewarded with a second or even a third fish. Also the fishing is best if the water remains clear in this slough, so if there are lots of powerboats coming and going, check out a different spot.
An example of a bass taken out of Georgiana Slough.


Central Delta
For the purpose of this article this area is composed of launches around Tower Park and Stockton. The primary target species is largemouth bass, but there are huge bluegill and redear sunfish, as well as striped bass in the spring and fall. I usually target this area in the spring to take advantage of spawning largemouth and then again in fall as the water starts cooling. In the fall the bass are fat and eager to eat as the water temps start falling.
Me with a nice central delta striper


Paradise Point Marina 8095 N Rio Blanco Rd Stockton Ca
This marina is a nice launching point because marina is right on the channel, creating a 5mph zone, so you can spend a morning or evening fishing the docks in the marina or the adjacent rockwall without getting constantly waked. You also have multiple choices for fishing venues: you can fish disappointment slough, which is some of the bassiest water in the delta, with miles of tule islands and a few side channels, you're sure to catch something. Or you can head north and fish a huge rock wall and head toward bishop cut. The rock wall can be particularly productive in fall as the water is cooling, as the rocks absorb heat and keep the fish a little more active. This is one of my go to spots for fall largemouth and stripers. The bluegill can get rediculously big here too.
A prime example of a fat fall bass caught in Disappointment Slough


Unnamed Launch on Empire Tract 15180 W Eight Mile Rd, Stockton, CA 95219
This is an old shipping dock that has partially fallen into the water, so I would only recommend it if you are the adventurous type and have a good sense of balance. At low tide this launch is very slick. That being said, parking and launch are free. Also there is a good variety of habitat here: cuts in islands, narrow side channels, and tule islands all make it very fishy. This area is fairly exposed, so it isn't the best in the wind.
An average size largemouth from this location.


Westgate Landing ParkGlasscock Rd, Lodi, CA 95242
This is a San Joaquin County Park set off the channel along the South Fork of the Mokelumne River. The nicest thing about this venue is you can camp out, and the campground is highly underutilized. Unless it is Memorial Day, 4th of July, or Labor Day you have a better than fair chance of getting a site. Definitely bring wheels as you have to cart your craft up a levee and along the top of the levee to reach the launch. There are docks there that you can tie up to as well. You can also just fish right off the docks, which can be a fun way to spend the morning or evening if you bring out your whole family. There are 2 Tule islands very close to the launch and plenty of rock wall to work so you'll run out of time before you run out of fishing spots.
A largemouth I caught with my daughter at Westgate Landing.


These are just a few of the many launches found in the California Delta. If you have further questions, or would like to book a guided fly fishing trip on delta, don't hesitate to e-mail me at bill@headwaterskayak.com or call the shop at 209-224-8367 and ask for Bill. Another great resource is Fly Fishing the California Delta by Captain Mike Costello. This is the book that got me started fishing the delta. I keep a copy in the fly shop that I am happy to lend out.


Friday, September 29, 2017

3 Waters Kayaks Big Fish 120 on Water Review

So I got to do my first walkthrough video of the Big Fish 120 at Icast this year, and it got a ton of attention. Out of everything we saw at Icast this was the boat I was the most excited about.

Fast forward a few months and I was finally able to get my butt in one at this years WORA Show, and I decided to bring the camera along and share my initial thoughts with all of you guys.

At this price I'm not sure there is anything that is as good of a value. I'd say the Vibe SeaGhost is very close, but if you like to stand up and bass fish, this one is going to be tough to beat. The quality and design are top tear, but the price is middle of the road. As always dont take my word for it!!!!!!!! Demo boats and see what works best for you. If your a smaller guy check out a SeaGhost, if your a big guy that like to bring stuff, and that wants that ability to stand up this kayak is going to serve you well.

Also please note that this is pre production, the production model comes rudder ready and with a foam reenforced standing platform.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Fly Fishing The Delta Part 2 by Headwaters Fly Shop

Now that we have covered a proper fly rod, reel, line and flies to get us started we will move on to a vessel to get us to the fishing grounds. For this article, I will be focusing on 3 craft types: kayaks, canoes, and stand up paddleboards, and I will offer my preferred makes and models in each category.


One of my first time kayak fly fishing clients standing up and casting with ease off of the Eddyline C135.
First up are kayaks. We are fortunate these days, as kayak fishing has exploded in the US so there are tons of makes and models to choose from, each offering pros and cons for fly fishing. Kayaks allow anyone to get out on the water easily and efficiently as using a double bladed paddle allows for a short learning curve, so you can focus on fishing. Also the vast majority of kayaks are made out of rotomolded polyethylene plastic, which is easy to manufacture, leading to reasonable pricing for you, the consumer. When I look at a kayak, the first thing I am looking for is an open deck. If there is anything that will be near my lap that might hang fly line up, I either figure out how to remove or cover it up, or I move on to the next kayak. My top choice in a snag free deck is the Nucanoe Pursuit.

Close up and zoomed out views of the Nucanoe pursuit as I use it for guided fly fishing trips. Tons of deck space on this yak.
It has next to no fittings on the deck and the capability to stage up to 4 9 foot long fly rods horizontally on the edges of the boat, so your expensive fly rods are protected and your back cast is clear. Another added bonus is this kayak has a square stern allowing for easy mounting of a trolling motor, which is a growing trend in kayak fishing.Honorable mention in this category goes to the Eddyline C135, which has the second most clean deck out there and is my personal choice for fly fishing the California coast for rockfish (more on this in another article).

Me in the Eddyline C135 with a Schoolie striper. This kayak has both an open deck and is very lightweight for its size.
Next up is my personal favorite: canoes! Now I know I am not going to win any popularity contests fly fishing out of a canoe, but for my needs, a canoe is hard to beat. You can find them made out of composite materials, so the hulls are lightweight, they are offered in long lengths of 15 to 16 feet, making them fast on the water, and you can haul a ridiculous amount of weight in them, so if you want to do an overnight camping/fishing trip on the delta you don't have to decide what not to bring because it is too heavy. My one and only choice for fly fishing the California Delta is Northstar Canoe's Northwind solo in the white gold layup.
Efficient on the water with tons of deck space and able to carry 700lbs while weighing in at a mere 38lb hull weight, the canoe is my delta craft of choice!

This canoe is 15.5 feet long and is constructed of a carbon kevlar inner hull, with fiberglass over the carbon kevlar and then gelcoat over the fiberglass, providing plenty of protection for the occasional rock or rip rap bank that you will find in the delta. In this canoe I can easily keep up with people in pedal drives, and yet maintain the shallow draft that makes a paddle driven craft desireable in the delta and it weighs a mere 38lbs, so most of the time I just throw it over my shoulder and walk it down to the dock or launch ramp, rather than have to wheel it on a cart. Another aspect of the canoe that I enjoy is that with a single bladed paddle, the paddle can easily be stowed completely out of my way.
An 8lb delta striper on the deck of my canoe.
There are a couple of downsides to the canoe. One is that using a single bladed paddled requires mastering a few additional strokes that you don't have to worry about with 2 blades. The other is that it is not very stable to stand up in, due to its rounded edges near the waterline. The other con of not being able to stand up is on long trips you either have to exit the boat on the bank to stretch, which can sometimes be tricky, or you just deal with getting a little sore for sitting in one position. If your idea of a kayak fishing trip is 8 plus hours of being on the water, a canoe not be your craft of choice.

The Pau Hana Big EZ Angler is as stable or more stable than most fishing kayaks out there and weighs in at a mere 32lbs so it's easy to get down to the water. It also holds a ton of gear!
Finally, we've got stand up paddleboards. The two reasons that I enjoy stand up paddleboards is they are very lightweight averaging between 30 and 40lbs for common fishing models and still offer a ton of stability. Also you can either sit up on a cooler or stand up entirely, giving you a much higher vantage point than if you were sitting lower to the water in either a canoe or a kayak without a high seat or standing platform option. My top choices in this category are the Pau Hana Big EZ Angler or the Pau Hana Endurance.

Me paddling the Delta in search of smallmouth on the Pau Hana Endurance. Compared to the Big EZ Angler the pointed bow of the Endurance makes paddling long distances easy.






Thursday, August 17, 2017

Testing out the new Nucanoe Proped Pedal Drive


Nucanoe was kind enough to send Headwaters Kayak Shop one of the new Proped pedal drive units to test out and provide feedback before it is officially released in October. Since I had a fishing trip planned on the north delta for smallmouth the weekend that the drive arrived, I decided I would kill 2 birds with one stone and test out the drive.

The entire system installed on a Frontier 12
When the drive arrived there were several parts in the box, which made me nervous, since I am not the handiest guy. In addition to the box, Blake from nucanoe sent me an e-mail with a link to their instructional videos on how to install the drive on either a Frontier  or a Pursuit kayak. My hat goes off to Nucanoe on these instructional videos.


A Close up of the stern bracket that supports the drive.
Not only were they easy to follow, they broke the install up into several short videos, so if I got stuck I didn't have to scroll through 20 minutes of video to get the help I needed. With the help of these videos, I had the drive fully installed in less than 30 minutes and didn't have any trouble with the install. Once the install was complete all of the shop staff took turns sitting in the Frontier 12 we had the drive installed on and gave it a couple of turns of the pedals. The drive was super smooth and ultra quiet and with the different seat base options for the Frontier you can tweak all of the ergonomics more than any drive system that I know of.
The Steering Lever 
We also played with taking the system on and off. The only negative thing I noted is that to easily take the drive on and off the boat, I would recommend removing the seat, otherwise you have to disconnect the drive cable which takes a little playing with to align and connect. Other than that, it's a snap! The steering cable is attached to the drive with a spring loaded disconnect, the drive attaches to the bracket mounted on the kayak with a push pin, and the retract cord is attached to the drive with a caribiner, which only leaves the retract cord and the steering control on the boat and the steering cable and the steering cable and steering control can be removed if you want.  I couldn't wait to get it out on the water!

The Retract Cord.
We launched at Steamboat Landing, I deployed the drive, made sure it was locked in place and started pedaling. The first thing I noticed is that when more than a small amount of efffort is applied to the pedals, the prop starts cavitating. I have spoken to Nucanoe about this and they plan on sending out a drive unit with a longer shaft to hopefully alleviate the problem. That being said if you are into effortlessly cruising along in a super stable kayak, you will love this drive. It has a higher gear ratio than a lot of other drives out there, so a minimal amount of input from you will get even a wide boat like a Frontier 12 cruising along, without fatiguing the user.


The Frontier 12 with the Drive System Removed. All that is left on the boat is a Jam Cleat, A Pulley, 2 steering cable brackets and 2 extra pad eyes.
The next thing I wanted to test was maneuverability, so I started fishing. In the delta there is almost always either a little or a lot of wind and there is always tide pushing your kayak around. This drive absolutely shines in the maneuverability category. With the drive mounted in the stern of the kayak, it takes one to 2 rotations of the pedals to rotate from side to side. I felt like I was in a fly fishing turret, able to pinpoint casts way more easily than if I had been paddling or using a different pedal drive system for that matter. Even with the wind blowing 90 degrees to the side of my kayak, I could easily sweep the bow from side to side allowing me to fish the the bank incredibly effectively. The drive works great at turning the kayak in both forward and reverse, which is not always the case with other drive systems.
A North Delta Smallmouth I picked up while testing the drive.

My conclusion on this drive system is that it puts maneuverability and cruising ahead of covering miles at high speed.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Kayak Bass Fishing at Rancho Seco




Team Member Ernie Williams is our self proclaimed Rancho Seco Kayak Bass Expert. Here is his latest report. 

He reports that bass bit is still slow; he has put in four trips with only six bass, with only three bass over 12”.   His biggest going almost 22” and he reported that on the next cast he landed an 18” and that was it for three hours.  Bass are moving chasing bait but not taking top water baits even when landing on the blow ups.  Water temp is 74.6* in the morning and climbing to 76* by afternoon.   Water Clarity is 6-9 feet depending on wind and what part of the lake. Submerged vegetation is coming thicker than in years passed and at greater depth too.  He has been throwing, dropshots, swimbaits, jigs, bladed jigs, Swim jigs, Spybaits, umbrella rigs and deep diving crank baits. 



Bass Selfie

Solid Fish


For those that don’t know Ernie he takes his Son with him on his Kayak and was able to keep him happy by moving along the shore line looking for small pan fish land countless bluegill, and red ears on ¼” night crawlers on 2lb test and size N/#2 hooks.  Casting or just dipping the worm in the water will have 3-8 pan fish rushing to your hook.
Ride with Ernie and see the action.


General information about Rancho Seco, it is 162 acers, with a max depth of 46 feet, gates open at 7am $13 for car top and $15 for trailers.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Fishing Report: Bass at Pardee Lake for May 2017 by Ernie Williams


With Memorial day weekend coming up you all may want to fish a lake
with less boat traffic. Lake Pardee may be the place you are looking
for as they don't allow water-skiers, wakeboarders or Jet ski... Just
fishing boats, but they will inspect your vessel before launch so make sure the
kayak is dry.

Map of Pardee
A nice example of a Pardee Bass

I have put two days on lake Pardee the over the last two weeks. Water
temp in the marina is 63 degrees in the morning and 65 degrees in the afternoon/evening. In the main body of the lake temps are around 58 degrees and upriver was 62 degrees.
Water clarity was 9 feet over the whole lake. The first trip on 5/14/2017 catch consisted of
all bass both largemouth and smallmouth. Bites came on a dropshot rig in 18'-24' had 9
total bass with a bonus four trout, which also fell for the dropshot rig. This past Saturday,
5/20/2017, I was able to catch one trout, three largemouth, and 12
smallmouth, but six of those smallmouth were locked onto beds. Bed fish
were caught on dropshot rigs and small 4"  juvenile trout swimbaits. The non-bed
fish were in 12'-18' of water and were caught mostly as my bait was falling so a darter head may
also work. Dropshot worm color used was Morning Dawn.
Look for hard rock bottom for bedding small mouth, long points with
deep water nearby or underwater island tops.  Good luck and be safe.

Some examples of the Morning Dawn color soft plastics that have been catching fish lately

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Fly Fishing the Delta Part 1 by Headwaters Fly Shop

In the last five years I have taught myself how to fly fish the California Delta from various human powered craft. The delta is such an amazing fishery, that I feel it would be selfish of me not to share, so I decided that I would write up a multi-part series how to on fly fishing the delta, so that hopefully others will come to appreciate just how awesome the California Delta is. In this first installment, I will talk about rod, reel and line choices geared toward the average fly fisherman, who is most likely transitioning from fly fishing from trout to fly fishing for bass.

The first part of this equation is finding a suitable rod. My personal favorite rod for learning to fly fish for warm water species, as well as being a flat out fun rod to catch warm water species on is the Gloomis 8 foot 5 weight Shorestalker. I chose this rod for several reasons, and there were several rods tested before I found this one. The prime reason for my love of this particular rod is castability, or more plainly put, ease of casting. Because it is a 5wt, there is plenty of flex in the blank and because the vast majority of fly fisherman chase trout as their primary targets, they are used to the blank flexing during the cast, so having a blank that does this makes transitioning to a new type of fly fishing easier, and in this article you will see me use the word easier a lot, because let's face it, if something is easier to do it's more fun and we are more likely to continue doing it. The other reason this is one of my favorite rods is it has a very wide grain window so it is easier to find a line that will properly work with this rod, compared to competitors bass fly rods. Anything from 190 up to 290 grains (yes that is not a typo, 290 grains on a 5 weight is a lot) will work well with this rod (more on this later in the article). Finally, due to the fact that the blank of this rod is fairly flexible for a warmwater rod, it makes catching small fish more fun. Let's face it, if you are learning a new fishery there are a ton more small fish out there than there are big fish, so if you want to learn about a new fishery, targeting small fish makes sense. The only con of of this rod is the price. At $350, it is a big initial investment, but I have a solution to this problem. At the Headwaters Fly Shop I keep demo rods of everything I sell, and I keep extra demos of this particular rod, so I would be happy to let a prospective buyer rent one of these and try it out on the water. As an alternative, The Headwaters Fly Shop has a guide service operating on the California Delta and I can show you how great this rod is.

The Shorestalker easily manages fish up to a couple pounds and is light enough to make small fish fun too.
The second decision you need to make is choosing a reel. I will be upfront and honest, in this category there really isn't one right choice, literally any kind of reel will work, from click and pawl to the most high tech reels out there. My choice for reel really comes down to personal preference and experience. The reel on my shorestalker is a Galvan Rush Light R-6. I chose to go with Galvan because they are a small, local business, that makes a top notch quality product and I know from personal experience you don't start a small local business to get rich or become famous, you do it out of love of what you do and you want to share your passion with others. I chose the Rush Light Series because it is the least expensive reel they offer with a one way clutch bearing, so you can adjust tension of the reel as you are pulling line off the reel, without affecting tension on the reel while you are reeling up. Not to mention with colors other than just black and clear metal finish, these reels look awesome in photos!
The Galvan R-6 spooled with Airflo Bass 8wt line. A great combo for the delta.
The third part of this puzzle is choosing fly line. I could do an entire article just about fly line, and I probably will in a future part of this series, but since we are talking about getting started I will keep my selection simple. The line on your delta fly rod should carry as much grain weight as the rod blank will handle without breaking. As you further master fly fishing the the delta, you will want to throw bigger flies, and more grain weight will turn over bigger flies easier than less grain weight will. The fish inhabiting the delta are far from spooky and a strong splash down on the water will more likely draw a strike than spook a fish. My personal preference thus far is an airflo Bass/Muskie weight forward floating fly line in 8 weight. This line has a 40 foot head and the entire head weighs 290 grains. If I were throwing the entire 40 foot head, 290 grains would completely overload 5 weight shorestalker. In my application, which is usually kneeling in my ultralight canoe, I am only getting 15 to 25 feet of the head up in the air and piling a bunch of line into a line management device and then shooting the line to complete my cast, so I am really only carrying between 108 and 181 grains . Also because this is an 8 weight line, it is very large diameter, which bigger or wind resistant flies easier, which is a lot of what is thrown on the delta. I know that this setup sounds outlandish, but you don't have to take my word for it, come out to the shop and try it, it works.

To this line there are two options for leaders: a furled leader or a poly leader mated to 3-5 feet of 20lb high quality fluorocarbon, such as Airflo G5 or Seaguar. The goal of this setup is to make turning over bigger flies easier and furled leaders or poly leaders along with large diameter tippet accomplish this task. The advantage of the furled leader is you can get it with a swivel which keeps flies like gurglers from twisting up your line. The advantages of the poly leader is it will last you several season and you can also get it in various sink rates, turning your floating fly line into a sink tip, creating a less expensive system for covering the water column compared to keeping three full setups (a floating, intermediate, and full sink), and will cover the majority of fishing conditions you will encounter in the delta. I use the bass/pike 4ft polyleaders from Airflo. The reasons for my choice of fluorocarbon line in 20lb test are it is large enough to turn over the largest flies you will throw on this setup, but slightly smaller than 20 lb test mono, so it will sink more easily than 20lb test mono, and then I only need to carry one tippet spool and if there are less items I need to remember to pack for a trip, it it easier for me to get out and fish, not to mention the downsides of using a human powered craft is there is less space and your speed is greatly affected by how much weight you are trying to move.




The final and probably most important part of this whole setup is the flies you will be using. Now as you progress you will have many, many flies in your delta box ( I know from experience, I currently have three fairly large boxes full), but right now we are just trying to a catch fish, any fish, and build your confidence, so you should keep it simple. I recommend 2 flies: 1 topwater and 1 subsurface. My personal recommendations would be: A Pultz bluegill special size 8 (topwater) in chartreuse and an umpqua perch darter (subsurface) also in size 8. I have caught everything that swims in the delta on these 2 flies.



A few examples or delta fish that fell for the size 8 perch colored darter.
So there you have it folks, the nuts and bolts of getting started fly fishing the California Delta. If you wish to discuss this topic further, or to book a guided trip on the delta, call The Headwaters Kayak Shop at 209-224-8367 and ask for Bill. Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of the series, where I discuss choosing a craft for fly fishing the delta, and recommendations for spots on the delta to catch your first fish.