An argument could be made that Golden Gate park, in the heart of San Francisco, is the epicenter of fly fishing.
Okay - maybe that's a tad dramatic, but it is home to a certainly influential place.
The Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club is a hidden gem in the heart of the San Francisco bay area that most avid anglers across the nation do not know about. In fact, most bay area anglers don't know it exists.
I recently visited the casting ponds and old lodge at the club.
They were completed in 1938 by the Work Project Administration. The casting pools are still considered to be some of the best in the world, and home to national and international casting competitions.
The fly fishing talent in and around this club is amazing. My visit was mostly unannounced, and yet I met one of the preeminent bamboo fly rod experts and collectors in the world, one of the top spree casters in the world, and master certified casting instructor John Till.
He has been a member for decades, was a past president, and is still chairman of the casting program.
He showed me around the club and did a quick roll cast lesson.
The lodge is simple, small and rustic, yet warm, welcoming and functional.
There are lockers, a long table for fly tying, and a big stone fireplace for those cold bay area days.
Hot coffee is always brewing.
There are fly fishing books and videos, and samples of the world class fly tying that takes place in the club.
Fly and Rod Shadow Boxes
Some of the best fly tyers you will find, craft their creations in the old lodge. And several displays of their artistry can be found mounted on the clubhouse walls.
On any given day, amazing talent could be casting in the pools, strolling through the lodge, or chatting on the park benches.
Some of the big, big names in the business frequent the club. In fact, the club plays a big part in what you and I use, or buy in the market place.
Major vendors come so that these anglers will test the feel of a new rod, or the handling of a new reel, or even a new vice for fly tying. Much of what we buy might have been tested or designed based on the opinion of the greats at the GGACC.
And yet, the members are welcoming. I found them tremendously inspirational, helpful and accommodating.
You need not feel intimidated at all if you should ever venture a visit. The club hosts luncheons and dinners with guest speakers. There are casting tournaments year round. There are free casting and fly tying classes, open to the public. In fact, the entire club is open to the public, although you can become a member for as little as 40 dollars.
Swing by sometime for a lesson or inspiration, or check 'em out at http://www.ggacc.org/
Most every angler has one. That secret fishing hole where they always do well - where they always catch fish. And they don't want anybody else to know about it. The location of that special fishing spot is a closely guarded secret. If you take friends, they must be your most trusted friends. Or you blindfold them so they don't know where you have taken them.
My Favorite Hole
I had a secret fishing hole. It wasn't a "top" secret place. People knew about it. But I could count on going and probably not see another angler.
I always caught fish. Always. Sometimes I felt like it was so secluded I was a little worried about going alone.
It required a little climbing. What if I fell and broke something? What if I fell in the river? What if a bear or mountain lion ate me? Who would ever know? How would they even find me?
But I went anyway. The fishing was too good, and the beauty of nature too alluring.
Netting a trout
Why am I telling the world about it? Because my secret fishing spot is no longer secret!
I recently took a few members of my family. I loved to fish the middle fork of the Yuba river, near Sierraville, CA.
We came to a bluff where I could see the river below. It looked great. The water flow was excellent. The natural beauty was breathtaking.
We drove down the canyon along a rugged dirt road - and came to a pond where there are a handful of campsites. Nobody is ever there.
But as we rounded the bend - TENT CITY!
There were people everywhere. Every campsite was full - and people were in the trees, and the meadow, and along the river. It was packed.
A Nice Brown
There were anglers all along the river. Every few yards there was somebody fishing - and kids swimming - and dogs. It was a circus. No longer my secret fishing spot.
I didn't catch a thing. It was a fly fishing only spot, but people were using worms and power bait.
It was catch and release, but people had trout in their coolers and on the campfire.
I didn't see a fish all day. Never got a bite. It was all fished out.
I have mentioned I have noticed a decline in fishing productivity in California over the years.
I believe that due to the bad economy, people are turning to cheap, fun family entertainment.
They are going back to camping and hiking and fishing - which is great. But they are not following the rules. They leave trash everywhere and fish illegally.
With drastic budget cuts in California, I suspect they don't have the funding to stock fish as they once did.
And I hear reports there are very few if any wardens on duty anymore. Some wildlife areas are patrolled by a single game warden, tasked with covering hundreds of square miles.
I posted pictures of my former secret fishing hole, but not of the way it was the other day. I posted a few from the good times I remember, just a few years ago.