A Fly Fishing Adventure
By Michael DiCiano
Conteplating Roostercomb II, 2016
By Susan Labiste
Roostercomb II is my first fishout with SCFF. Bass and scrappy bluegill are promised - so is a 4WD dirt ranch road and an early start to beat the beginning of what turned out to be two days of rain and the mud and high water that goes with it. Never mind the rollercoaster hills with the side-slipping mud and swollen creeks at the bottom of every canyon, or the insanity of being dropped off at a remote lake to fish all day in pouring rain trying to make the popper out-pop the rain, or the equally insane fish that obligingly took the lure.
The thing that you canŐt miss but might not be mentioned is the beauty of this place and the way history seems closer to the present than it ought to be. The way the land seems unchanged.
The ranch house is crammed with memorabilia - old memorabilia - jaw traps, antique bottles, a WWII grenade, wild west art- and farther back, before the ranch or the war-from before the adobe bricks of the bunkhouse said to be made by Joaquin Murrieta there on the table by the wall are a series of Indian artifacts stone mortars, pestles and a metate.
Outside, driving through the ranch, the surrounding hills were mostly blue oak savanna, lush with grass and wildflowers. Though the perennial grasses of old California have been replaced with mostly non-native annuals, the land appeared much as it might have been 100, 200 or 300 years ago. It invited the imagination to speculate about how this land was used by its original inhabitants. I found myself window-shopping for edible and useful plants. I can't help it. Knowing a bit of ethnobotany changes the way you look at a landscape.
The wood of chamise is so durable and dense that it makes an excellent arrow foreshaft capable of taking small game without a stone point. The manzanita now blooming will provide summer fruit perfect for a beverage not unlike lemonade. We pass a group of grey pines whose massive cones hide large edible pine nuts that also can be strung as lustrous brown beads. I see a profusion of wild edible bulbs- harvest brodiaea, globe lilies, mariposa lilies. MinerŐs lettuce is offering salad. Near the crest of a hill I spot a scrubby stand of mountain mahogany, a favored plant for making digging sticks. It has an extremely dense wood with purple heartwood and roots that make red dye.
In the creek there is willow for baskets, datisca for medicine and seep-willow for friction-fire. Here and there is cattail with its starchy tubers, celery-like stalk, and long, fibrous leaves perfect for quickly-made rope or basketry. The elderberry bush is blooming and in summer will be bent double with ripening fruit. I spot milkweed not yet blooming. It will provide silken fiber for high quality cordage in the fall. We see quail, many mourning doves, deer, rabbits. Everywhere is food, tools, and medicine. Though most of us have forgotten how to use this bounty, we know on an instinctual level, and we recognize this landscape as beautiful. It makes me smile. It feels good to be a bit of history moving through time.
First visit to Roostercomb Ranch - April 2016
by Gianna Holle
No one could prepare you for the beauty and serenity that awaited you at Roostercomb ranch. After over an hour of driving over gravel, mud, rocks, and streams (there were 31 water crossings), and over 19 miles you arrived at the ranch. This private 6,000 acre ranch had 11 fishing ponds and views of the valley that exceeded my expectations. The views of the valley were breathtaking and the sounds of nature surrounded you. At one time I thought I was being serenaded by bullfrogs, and yes they really make the sound of a bull. Each pond had its own character and fishing nuances.
To reach the ponds, a 4-wheel drive car was required. We drove up steep hills, over rocks, and sometimes streams. The Harvey pond was currently inaccessible with a regular 4WD car so an ATV was needed. The owner of the ranch took a few of us to the lake via ATV and the ride itself was memorable.
Since there were so many fishing locations, our group paired off and fished in different locations. We were on the ponds by noon. Each evening we gathered around for dinner and talked about our day's activities and shared our fishing stories. The evening social time was just an added benefit of the trip. We used this time to visit, review our knot tying, and talk about other things besides fishing. Some ponds fished better than others. Everyone caught fish, large mouth bass. The sleeping accommodations were the guest house and bunk house. Walking in the guest house was like walking back in time nearly 100 years.ago. Each room in the guest house was unique, I stayed in the Candy Stripe Room, which was on the second floor, a screened in porch with two double beds. It was delightful, as we could feel the cool breeze at night, hear the animals (bull frogs, crickets, and coyotes) during the night. The stars were stunning to view as there was no light pollution around.
We were welcomed guests by Scott Wilkinson and he was there to help us out in any way. Scott prepared some unique cowboy meals, which he shared with our group. He made corn with chilies, moose cream cheese stuffed chilies, and barrel chicken.
I enjoyed the fishing as much as I enjoyed being out in the nature. I could have easily spent my time lying in the hammock by the pond(s), sitting on the porch and watching the animals, bird watch, star gaze, a perfect location to just relax. The lack of wi-fi, cell phone, or internet on made this place even more special.
Thanks to Cecilia and Richard Stipes for arranging this trip for our group, Steve Rawson who let me ride shotgun and drove me endless miles over tough terrain and stayed out longer than he had wanted, Dan Eaton who tied and shared some awesome flies that the bass liked too, Elaine and Mark for tolerating my snoring, Elaine Cook and Mr. Bill being the best breakfast morning team, and The Foyfamily ; it was fun seeing their kids share our passion. Last but not least, Scott Wilkinson and his cowboy crew for their generous hospitality. It was a great trip, good fishing, sharing of knowledge, making new friends, bonding with old friends, good food and cold beer.
Roostercomb, don't change a thing and I hope to see you again!
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