The grab was so hard that the light spinning rod was nearly wrenched from my hand and I actually had to adjust my grip to keep from losing control.
For much of the morning I’d been shooting video of other folks catching fish and now it was my turn. I was hooked up and the cameras were rolling. The problem was that the current was ripping and the fish was far downstream when the hook up occurred.
The fish surged and gyrated and the rod was sharply bent. Ever so slowly I worked the reel as I spoke the camera. The tactic almost worked. The fish was perhaps a boat length away when there was a surge and a flash and the line went limp…That’s why they earned the moniker of “Papermouths” long ago…Too much pressure and that tiny hook will pull right out!
The date was June 6, the location was the American River Parkway upriver of Sunrise Boulevard. The fish that just escaped me was an American shad. My partner for the day was Fish Sniffer contributor and trout fishing fanatic Tom O’Brien.
When Tom shared with me several days before that he’d never caught a shad, but wanted to, I immediately got on the phone to Captain Cameron Beck.
My buddy Cameron is the owner/operator of American River Charters. He is an avid river fisherman that also spends a fair amount of time chasing saltwater species both inside and outside San Francisco Bay.
I knew that Cameron had been putting his clients on big numbers of hard charging shad and I asked if he’d take Tom and I out to shoot some video and give me some fodder for a feature in the Fish Sniffer.
Cameron enthusiastically agreed, but shared that he had been feeling a little under the weather, but that he thought he’d be fine by the day of the trip.
“I’m still feeling pretty sketchy, but I’m up for the trip. I’m always up for a fishing trip,” Cameron chuckled over the phone on the evening of June 5.
With that I called Tom and we fleshed out when and where we’d meet.
The next morning when Tom and I rolled into the Sunrise Boat Launch at 6 o’clock, Cameron was already waiting for us. We tossed our gear into Cameron’s rig and left my truck there. The plan was to launch Cam’s 20 foot drift boat about a mile upstream and then drift our way back down to my truck which we’d use as a shuttle to get back to Cam’s van and trailer.
By 6:45 Cameron had rowed us out to the middle of the river and dropped the anchor.
I’m always blown away by the beauty and serenity of the lower American. If you didn’t know better, you’d have no idea that you were fishing in the middle of the State Capital!
Anchored about 150 feet was us I was shocked to see an old friend of mine, Alan Plumbridge, from my Bay Area days. Sometimes the world seems really small!
It wasn’t long after the anchor was set that Tom got his first ever shad. The fishing wasn’t wide open, yet Tom and Cam and just about everyone within sight was hooking up, landing and release silver bulldogs that ranged from 1 to 3 pounds.
After about 90 minutes Cameron suggested that we drop down river to check out another hole. This hole boasted several pods of shad and when they came into range we’d hook several. This is where I lost the fish I described at the beginning of this piece.
As the morning rolled forward Tom and Cam enjoyed steady action while I captured all of it with my cameras. I think I got some pretty cool underwater segments of hooked shad near the boat using my GoPro, but I won’t know for sure until I do a download.
At the start of the day, Cam had a little cough, but as time went on the cough got worse and worse.
“When I lay down at night it feels like I have water in my chest,” Cameron related, stifling back a cough. “When we pull off the river I think I’m going to stop at the doctor and get checked out.”
At about 11 o’clock with around 20 shad to our credit, I told Cam to head in so he could get to the doctor and I could get back to the office. It took us until 11:30 to fight the rod out of Tom’s hands. He’s hardcore and never wants to stop fishing especially when the bite is on.
After shuttling vehicles back and forth, Cam graciously shot a couple shad rig tutorials for me at the Sunrise ramp and we parted ways.
Four hours later my phone rang and it was Cameron. “Dude, I’m sicker than I thought. The doc said I’ve got double pneumonia. He shot me full of antibiotics and told me to stay off the water and out of the sun for the rest of the week at a minimum.”
Of course I told Cam that he needed to slow down as he is now an old weak middle aged man and chastised him for disregarding his health to take a couple morons like Tom and I fishing, but I doubt he was paying attention. Tough guys like him never do!
If Cam listens to the doctor and lives, he’ll be available for shad fishing trips on the American until the run thins out and he’ll be chasing salmon on the American and other valley rivers when the season opens in July.
To book a trip with American River Charters or to pepper Cameron with questions, give him a call at (916) 342-0444. Cam is a talented guide and lots of fun to fish with!