delta 95

Took N to the airport for the flight to join H in Orlando, at
6 am. Felt rather grizzly. Got back at 7:30 or so, showered and
breakfasted. Snatched up two stale bagels and an apple for my
customary sumptuous fishing lunch, and set off in the trusty van into
40 degree (F) rain.

Once off the highway and into the Delta, the usual backroad
devastated landscape: junkyard followed trash-heap below the
pylons stalking the skyline. I passed Discovery Bay, a development
with expensive houses crowded close together behind a six foot wall
with razor wire, and a spuriously grand entrance flanked by risible
palm trees. Most peculiar. Bridges over the sloughs revealed the
water, islands of hyacinth floating by on the tide. On the green hills
in the distance, white windmills stood in a strange forest, cranking
out the electricity for San Francisco's many breakfasts. Arrived on
the island bordering Frank's Tract, where I planned to fish, and
couldn't find anywhere to put my canoe into the water. The marina
wanted $7 launching fee, and the rest of the waterfront was private.
There were no signs of life at Frank's Marina, so I slipped myself
and canoe under the fence.

Paddled down a horrible little canal, flanked by marinas and seaside
shacks on one side, a grey prefabricated concrete wall on the other.
A flock of idiot coots convinced themselves that I was pursuing them
and repeatedly fled, twenty yards or so ahead of my progress. Broke
out of the canal after a half-mile, a blessed relief. The water was
wide and grey under a grey sky. I paddled for the opposite shore,
which looked less inhabited, a distance of some two miles. Out in
the middle, I seemed the small centre of a circle of flat water
stretched to distant ragged horizons. Trawled a Rapala minnow all
the way, to no effect. Good-looking weed beds, tule reeds, and a
rocky levee wall all promised good bass habitat, but the tide was
ebbing and near dead low, so there was no activity.

Fished eventlessly for some time, paddling up to the slough that
came in from the San Joaqin river. Two otters swam across the
channel in the distance. Boat traffic here was heavy, lots of seriously
cool fishermen in dark glasses (in the rain) roaring around in a
macho way with 100 hp outboards, making a dreadful rackety row
and noisome smells of oil. Left these unappealing environs for
another slough with less traffic. The tide was flowing now, creating
strong currents and eddies on its way into the slough. Fished these
currents for some time. Several grebes watched me from a distance,
doing their famous imitation of a rusty hinge 'creak-creak'.

Paddled out to a log where numbers of cormorants sat, figuring that
cormorants must know something about fish. The wind had dropped
a little, so I drifted across the flats, casting as I went. Nothing.
Blackbirds were having some sort of good time invisibly in the
reeds, twittering merrily. Three flights of snow geese came by,
honking. Their calls were in such a variety of tones and loudness
that it sounded quite conversational. White wings rippled along the
edges of the inconstant V of their flight pattern, outlined against the
pearly grey of the lifting clouds. I watched as they went, my legs
sore from balancing on a rocking canoe all day.

Gnawed on a stale bagel, and began the paddle back. Planned to fish
the rock walls again, but it took so long to get there that I decided to
head for home across the two miles of water, now troubled by a
gathering wind. Once out in this open windy stretch, I couldn't keep
the canoe on a line, and had to kneel in the centre of the boat and
tack up into the wind. There were two lights on the far shore, one
green and one white, which I took for beacons, tacking up towards
the one, then across to the other. This took a long time. Arrived back
at the horrible canal as dark was falling.

Trawled disconsolately down the canal, in the lights of the marinas,
and caught two small striped bass of about 1 or 2 pounds each. They
are really saltwater fish, which always seem a spikier, harder, more
silver creature than trout. Handsome creatures. The rigging of a
yacht moored at the jetty slapped against its mast as the boat rocked
gently on the ripples, sounding like a solitary tinker in the dark.

Frank's marina was still closed, but Frank's Bar and Grill was doing
a roaring trade. Sneaked guiltily back to the van, hoping that none of
the hard men in rusted-out old Ford pickups would turn out to be
Frank, wanting to know what I was doing in his marina.