Monday, February 6, 2017

Conservation in the Catch All.

Last Sept, I was out of town playing shows down south and missed the Lower Yuba River Cleanup led by South Yuba River Citizens League otherwise known as SYRCL, also missing the cleanup led by the Army Corp of Engineers on Englebright Lake held on National Parks Day on Sept 17th.  These two waterways are incredibly special to my family and I in both my personal and professional life so naturally I was disappointed to miss them but it wasn't the first time I'd traded home life for road life.  When I got back into my routine of getting out, I ended up on the lake chasing fall smallmouth and noticed there was still quite a bit of trash around even after the cleanup.  The truth is the trash is always on it's way.  The good folks down at the Army Corp of Engineers, Skipper's Cove Marina, the volunteers and my friends and I all do what we can to keep the place beautiful, the water clean and the fish healthy.  Truth is, it's not and never enough as long as there are living humans around from the coast to the headwaters.  Trash will show up in the water.

I'm all for cleaning up the river.  As an admirer of the outdoors, it's simply what we do to help preserve the wild places we love and to rest easier at night.  That's just one of the duties and price to pay for the opportunity to be on a river and the right responsibility to take if we want to return.  I have the utmost respect for any individual, group or organization who goes out of their way to take part in any cleanup campaign but what I feel is lacking often all over this country is going straight to the source more often, wherever that may be to capture it early and eliminate it entirely.  Or going to whatever or whomever it may be that's causing the problem to raise that awareness. I participated in a cleanup on a day off from a Warped Tour where 185 of us joined Blue Water Baltimore and removed over 2,000 pounds from the Gywnns Fall River one morning. I remember that it seemed like the majority of the garbage consisted of single use plastic bags or fast food containers. What's unfortunate is that as we cleaned up a bit, the culprit was still very much at large so to speak. The parks and roadways were being littered as we worked. The unaware people with no conscience demonstrating to their children that there's nothing wrong with throwing a candy wrapper or trash bag over the bridge and into the water. It's hard to blame the ones who contribute to the problem. In a way I feel as if it isn't their fault. I feel the problem lies at the very source of that persons ideals and on whomever it was that raised them. When someone isn't connected with the outdoors at an early age or throughout their life, they most certainly will not grow to love, nurture, respect and protect the natural world around them.

The Lower Yuba.  Photo by Scott Toepher
The vast majority of the garbage that we carry out of the Lower Yuba does not come from Lower Yuba river recreation.  Some folks may believe that a lot of it is from irresponsible lower river campers or negligent motorists who literally throw a bag of garbage or bottles out of their car while passing over the bridge to land less than 50 feet from where we launch our drift boats...  Yes, some garbage comes from the sky or out of the car campers care but it's a small percentage with the exception of the occasional bonehead who has no problem dumping off old entire boats or broken down campers in the riverbed full of you name it.  From Parks Bar Bridge up to the dam, there's very little public traffic which means very little garbage coming from that zone unless it's coming out of Deer Creek which begins well above Scott's Flat Reservoir and winds it's way down through Nevada City past many residences with accessible and used trails all around it. The impact to the creek itself has been and can be tremendous and whatever is left, leeched or lost on the bank before the heavy rains come gushing, will find it's way into the river.

So where else would all the trash be coming from? Understanding that is understanding where all the water comes from and what roadways, development, recreation areas or the like are neighboring that water.  Understanding the sources and their locations can help remedy the overall problem.  Below is a map pulled off of
Just for a moment, look at these reservoirs on the map and imagine them for exactly what they are. Catch alls catching everything that floats or rolls with a heavy enough current.
What that means is that anything dropped on the ground, left at a campsite, washed down the mountain or blown off the boat will most likely end up in one of the catch alls if it doesn't get lodged within the river bed or hung on a snag. From there it either gets picked up, pushed on or becomes one with the dirt and water, seeping whatever it's made out of into the drink.  This is the main reason why there is always room for more efforts.  Because it's never-ending.  Not just on the lower, not just in our local lakes but all the way up the hill.  This is how the trash moves and how it eventually ends up on the banks or in the bays.

Before the Lower Yuba, Englebright is the last bucket in the chain after a series of rivers, tributaries and reservoirs. This has been one of my go to places since I've lived here and if anyone spends a lot of time anywhere, it's simple to observe and mark changes easier than just visiting once in a while. Many of us who live up in the mountains, foothills or down in the valleys of Northern California are very familiar with the last major event we had where our rivers rose drastically along with reservoir levels during a heavy warm rain storm that quickly melted off a lot of our snow up the hill.  The Yuba right out our back door which we had been drifting on at 1800-2K cfs 6 days prior went to over 81,000 cfs.  The amount of water was strong enough to level hills, structures, move boulders, remove trees and of course carry any non organic materials in it's path to the bay and then out to sea with the tide.

Photo found on
from Rich Shipley.
Throughout the year when the water is low, the weather is gorgeous and activities are high, so will be the rubbish.  As the rains come and the snow melts that rubbish is sent down the hill passing and collecting more and more through every overpass, campground or residence until it reaches Englebright Reservoir.  We have a lot of beautiful boat in only campsites on EB and a lot of folks who care deeply about it but that doesn't mean accidents don't happen there either. The reservoir there is a wild place, when the flows are pumping out of the South Fork of the Yuba as well as water released by Bullards and joined by The Middle Fork and other creeks, it basically becomes a  mammoth and merciless 220'+ deep flowing river complete with massive eddys and collection pools where trees, lumber, debris of all sorts and garbage collect in abundance.  If the flows are pushing and filling enough for the dam to spill, that garbage finds it's home on the rocks and trees as the water recedes.  If not, it's pushed and sent over and into the Narrows which is the canyon below the dam and the beginning of what we know as the Lower Yuba River.  So that's where it comes from in a nut shell.

Shot found at
of the 1997 flood.
As far as what we do about it, my only answer is to do our part wherever and however we can within our local community.  Either alone or with one of the many organizations that band together to make a difference. Again, preaching to the choir in a lot of ways on this one but that doesn't mean we can't share that ethic with someone on the fence about it or even a complete stranger. Let's vow not to let negligence slide.

Last November, the Reel Anglers Fly Shop crew made up of Tom Page, Clay Hash and myself brought our boats down along with 9 members of our club Gold Country Fly Fishers to go straight to the source as we know it.  We organized a get together for a day of walking the banks and picking up garbage.  There had been a cleanup a month or so prior and the banks were pretty good but we still managed however to pick up and weigh out just over 150 pounds of trash.  I know this sounds like nothing but it was really something within the short period we worked since the majority of the garbage were plastic and small pieces at that.  Micro Trash as Tom Bookholzt down at USACE calls it.  It was great but we all knew that the heavy stuff would be on the way soon.  Well it's here now and we aim to continue these efforts and purposely stagger them as far away from any other efforts out there for the greater good and a constant public sweep.  Especially since this reservoir rises and falls like a tidal system and the trash appears and disappears at random.  I've been out on the lake since the last big water event and the amount of trash and debris is absolutely incredible.

Reel Anglers Fly Shop along with USACE will be hosting another cleanup day on Earth Day, April 22nd and we're inviting anyone willing to join with boats, canoes, kayaks, paddle boards or just a good pair of waders or hiking boots to meet us at Englebright Reservoir at 8a.m.  With the help of the Army Corp of Engineers we'll provide boat shuttles to different locations for those on foot.  Kayakers and canoers will be assigned to closer locations.  We'll be providing a big shore lunch BBQ at noon at Long's cove.  The Army Corp will provide the trash bags and we will be weighing out and recycling or disposing of it at the end of the day.  No one will be charged for parking fees and every participant will receive a coupon that will be good for free admission to any park under USACE in the future.  We ask anyone who loves this area, cares about clean water, healthy fish, healthy kids and a healthy river to please join us.

Fair winds and tight lines,

What: Englebright Lake Cleanup to benefit the fishery there and every living thing, from here to the coast and beyond.

Where: Englebright Reservoir.

When: APRIL 22ND  EARTH DAY. 8 a.m.- 4 p.m.
8 a.m.- 4 p.m.

Take Highway 20 East from Marysville / Yuba City 
Or Take Highway 20 West from Grass Valley / Nevada City 
Turn North onto Mooney Flat Road.
Take a left on Englebright Dam Rd.
We'll meet at the launch.
Additional parking will be above the launch or at Joe Miller Launch

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Yuba River Jubilee 2017

In my opinion there isn't a better time than now to be out and about supporting the wild places we love and respect along with the organizations and folks who do the same.  As most of us know, we are now in a day where our country is extremely divided due to the ever so dark and fierce beast known as politics.  Big surprise.  No matter what side of the table we threw our cards on, today is here.  Whoever you chose to be the chief doesn't change the fact that right now at this very moment, conservation, renewable resources, clean water, sustainability and a healthier future for our children's children may not necessarily be the highest priority.  Policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. Rule otherwise known as The Clean Water Rule are out with the old.  Freezes ordered on grants and contracts while imposing new restrictions on EPA scientists is underway.  Times are changing rapidly and at first glance it looks as if the environment will suffer greatly for it.  Will the new changes benefit the health and well being of our families, communities and planet overall?  Will the new policies set into action help us and our surroundings beyond ways we're able to understand?  Only time (and real efforts) will tell.  I'm not claiming to know everything there is to know about the policies, projected outcomes or the grand scheme being set into place at this very moment.  I'm not coming down on anyone who voted for this person or that.  What's done is done.  It's a new day and we can either settle, believe everything we hear and trust others to do the right thing or we can stay informed, active and aggressive in our own lives to change our world in a positive way.  What does seem clear is that if we don't take responsibility for our environment and continue to live unapologetically on this rock, she will have no problem whatsoever crushing us in a heartbeat.  Taking part in conservation efforts, spreading the word of the good fights and focusing on our communities and our surroundings day by day with an eye on the big picture are a few ways to take responsibility for a better tomorrow.  

Feb 18th on the Yuba River, we'll see a gathering led by Jon Baiocchi and Lance Gray who love the river and all the joy she gives as much as the rest of us that live near, on or far away and they've founded this gathering to help give back.  

It will be held between 1-4pm at 5560 State Hwy 20, Browns Valley, CA 95918

The event will host a wide range of folks, organizations, demonstrations and presentations from guides to clubs, groups and shops.

I'm looking forward to being there in support of Jon and Lance and their gusto in putting this together.  I'll be there running the Cast Hope booth with Hogan Brown as well as being alongside The Reel Anglers Fly Shop tent with Tom Page, Clay Hash of Fly Fishing Traditions and Dave Barbieri.  

Read all about it below and come join us on the beautiful river we all love so much!   

Jon Baiocchi and Lance Gray would like to invite you to the first annual “Yuba River Jubilee” held on February 18, 2017 from 1pm-4pm at the Hammon Grove Park on the Yuba River. The Jubilee will showcase guides, clubs, fly shops, environmental groups, and state agencies that are all working hard to make the Yuba River and her watershed the best it can be. Jon and I want to give back to the river that has given so many wonderful memories to us. The river is a wonderful place to fish, drift, and hike. We are looking to protect it for future generations. Educating anglers is the key to the Yuba River's success. We are hoping to make this an annual event.

This event is free to all who would like to participate! We will have a great raffle with all proceeds going to a non-profit benefactor which will be announced at the Jubilee.

Celebrities - Lincoln Gray, Clay Hash, Hogan Brown, Chuck Ragan, Jon Baiocchi, Mac Noble, Lance & Kirsten Gray, Darin Elmore, Alex Ramirez, Tom Page, Jerry French, Doug Brutocao, Brian Clemens and more!

Exhibitors List for Jubilee- Sierra Stream & Mountain Fly Shop, Fly Fishing Traditions, Cast Hope, Hogan Brown Fly Fishing, South Yuba River Citizens League, Truckee Trout Unlimited Chapter 103, Gold Country Fly Fishers, Fish First Fly Shop, Reel Anglers Fly Shop, Aqua Flies, Nor Cal Fly Guides, Orvis - Roseville, and more!

Tailgate Presentations & Demonstrations - Clay Hash – Classes at Sierra College, Jon Baiocchi – The Yuba River, Tom Page – Building Indicator Rigs, Mac Noble – Switch Rod Demonstration on the Water and Jerry French Switch Rod Casting and more!

Raffles – Driftboat Trips, Full Day Guided Trips, 1 on 1 Schools, Hats, Flies and more!

You can find out more and follow Jon and Lance here:

See you on the river!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Hot Water Music in the studio.

I landed in Gainesville, Fl. the morning of Jan. 11th after a red eye flight from home, got picked up by old friend George Rebelo before we walked straight into Black Bear Studios to begin recording the new Hot Water Music record.  It's been a little bit since we've headed to the box like this mainly due to timing and scheduling between four individuals constantly on the move in their own directions.  We've got a strong group of new tunes that have us all pretty pumped up and looking forward to our second release on Rise Records out of Portland. which will be engineered by our buddy and owner of the studio, Ryan Williams.  The fellas and I rendezvoused for writing sessions, sent countless tunes and ideas back and forth while Black, Wollard and Rebelo living close to each other have done a ton of groundwork together after those sessions.

From the first chords and beats ringing out this past week of pre-production, we all had the feeling we were on the right track.  It's never until we all get into the same room together that we can really tell if a song is worth it's salt.  Or if we can really tell what condition the surplus of songs are in and if they'll hold up.  Once we got the train moving, it all fell into place.  Rebelo is playing better than I've ever heard him play and building a solid foundation that these songs will live on.  Jason Black as always has his way of being so in the pocket with George that I find myself in their rhythm and forget about the fact that they will explode and put me on the floor at any given moment.  I feel damn lucky to have had the opportunities to play music for so many years with such an incredibly distinct and talented rhythm section.

Chris Wollard never ceases to amaze.  He's been my favorite guitar player for over a couple decades now and it's always uplifting to be reminded and witness the reasons first hand.  After we already had a good batch of songs we were dialing in this past year or two, Wollard flew out to my stomping grounds to continue the process.  We kept trucking on the existing material and came up with some new ones as well.   

Energy is high, vibes are good so to say the least, we're stoked to have this new record underway.  We owe everything to our loved ones for standing by us all these years of us continuing this path.  Without their support, we would've run out of fuel quite some time ago.  Our fans have been a constant inspiration as well.  A beautiful community of music lovers that share the same vision and ethics that this band was born into and continues to share through songs.  Thank you for all the years of support and always going above and beyond the call whenever it came to making it to our shows to sing your hearts out.  Our gratitude is much more than what I could ever put into words.  We'll be trucking along in the studio and looking forward to getting everyone some new music soon.  Until then, stay tuned and keep it together!

Our last record Exister was released May 15th, 2015 if anyone missed that boat or is interested in checking out where we left off.  Find out more news and updates at

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Midnight Mayhem.

I took my buddy Tom Page from Reel Anglers Fly Shop up the Yuba today to see if we could find some wild fish.  We actually did fairly well hooking or holding 14-16 healthy fish that were only willing to eat a rusty worm, prince of diamonds or pink micro spawn after very little success with our preferred method today of ripping streamers.  

We shot the breeze about whatever it was we had been tying and whether or not we thought it’d be worth a damn in the water.  In fact we laughed hard at one point at the fact that here was a fly shop owner and one of his local guides talking about all these fancy tying materials, intricate recipes, methods and secrets, all the while most every fish we stuck during those conversations were taken on a stinking strip of chenille or clump of cheap yarn.  But hey, fish gonna eat what fish gonna eat and you either observe, adapt and rope or just have a nice day casting and enjoying the scenery.  Flows were running around 641 cubes with slightly off color water. Fish had been eating streamers on the edges but not as much today. High of 52, low of 44.  At least that’s how part of last years log entry read.  

The day or two before and the days after were spent with my buddy Hogan Brown and a gentlemen by the name of John Lowman who I'm now proud to call a friend.  Similar flows, clarity, etc.  Fair to great fishing.  At least for January in a Northern California river.  Hogan and I had a great day in some super dirty water.  Found strong numbers.  Boated some and missing some laughing, talking bugs, fish, amps, guitars and recording music.  Lowman and I fished hard for a few days and found em throughout but worked pretty hard for them until we cracked the ever changing code and leading us to the epic but short lived battle with Mr. Grapefruit Head.  A diamond in the ruff, rogue steelhead that I believe may still keep Lowman gritting his teeth sometimes and certainly keeps my eyes and ears perked.         

Thumbing through a handful of days from early last year reminds me that it got pretty damn good before she went.    When I say went, I mean to 30K but that’s old news now.  She was off and on at times but for the most part at least fishable up until March.  Tough but fishable.  I find that these cold January days after the fall bank anglers are done beating it up and the fair weather crowds have dispersed, there can be some brilliant days to be had if she holds.  Some of my favorites are the solitude streamer days throwing or swinging meat.  I look through the entries and get taken back to some glorious days on the Yuba finding aggressive opportunistic hunger strikes, no people and avoiding frost bite.  Thankful for making it through another year, thankful for my family and toasting the river gods for the opportunities they give me while receiving funny looks from my dogs while they wonder who the hell it is that I’m actually speaking to.  That is, if the river lets us. 

Today a year later, January is a bit different.  About 80,000 times different.  At around midnight January 9th, 2017 she just peaked at 81,744 cubic feet per second from where I was standing and that’s just what the gauges read.  She may not be done either.  Big step up from fishing a handful of days ago at 1,956 cfs.  To understand the gravity and weight of a situation or natural event like this is to stand on the waters edge from a higher point a couple stories above where we normally launch our boats.  To say it’s powerful and immense is almost an understatement.  The massive volume pushed through the canyons and reservoirs and released into the wide open space of the river bed amongst the tailings of the Yuba Goldfields is hard to truly imagine without seeing it move first hand and photos barely do any justice.  

Two shots, same location, same time of day, month apart.
Above 1,237cfs, below trucking at 76,878.
The amount of rain or even the amount of snow it took to create that raging beast is almost beyond comprehension.  Snow that was melted off from a warm storm front at a high elevation only added a few more arms and legs to the monster.  At that point there isn’t much to do but take care of your own if you're living close to the rising water, spend more time with the family, maintain boats, trucks and trailers, tie up more bugs, house chores, write music and admire and respect the living things that will somehow survive such a torrent.  Imagine the process and how often it’s occurred in our short lifetime and how the fish and bugs are always able to comeback and survive in one way or the other.  May take a minute but they’ll be back.  It gives me a great sense of admiration to witness the undeniable force that mother nature can serve up.  What she can bounce back from and transform into.  How the thought of the different species that wake us up in the morning and keep us up at night find a safe haven in a hostile hell hole is always one worthy to ponder.  I find it significant and valuable, getting to know a stump a while to sit and soak all that up.  At least before I need to head back to the fly shop to spend more dough on that ever so valuable chenille and yarn.