I was a fly fishing guide for the blink of an eye. One season, that was it. I was lucky to do that guiding on my home waters and with some really good guys. All of this went down about 14 years ago, so this is not recent history.
Toward the end of that season I got stuck doing a Hat Creek Morning/Pit River Afternoon program and I got a little burned out on the Pit River. Really, I didn’t go back to the Pit after I stopped guiding… until today.
With my dad awaiting heart surgery tomorrow I headed down to visit with him in the hospital, but I took a long route that brought me to the Pit River first. The flow regime has changed dramatically since I last fished it over a decade ago and there is now much more water flowing through the river canyon. While the roads were familiar, the river was like a whole new body of water.
The Pit is notorious for being a horror to wade, but I’ve always managed not to end up ass-over-tea-kettle and today was no different, which was nice.
The river produced. I had my section to myself… well, myself and a family of river otters, which I managed not to get a picture of. Always a highlight to see the otters. They move so fluidly through the water.
I caught fish and got a feeling for the river again. It is a river that plays to my strengths and I think I’ll be back again before I let another decade slip by.
The river is low… lower than I’ve ever seen it at this time of year. It could be that the snows have not started melting just yet, or it could be the record dry winter. I’m afraid it is the latter.
Low, cold, clear water. Somehow that combination never works for me. Not just that, but I don’t know this river like I used to. I don’t have much of a Plan B.
I made it out for about 2 hours yesterday and I felt exactly one fish. I hooked that fish and landed that fish.
It was not big, but it was pretty and it certainly was a trout. I’ll take it.
My dad turned 70 earlier this year and for his gift I got a day on the water for the two of us to fish together. That was back in April and a lot went down between then and yesterday. One of those things was a health scare with my dad that threw this and pretty much any trip in question. That fear seems to have abated (dad’s doing great these days) and so it was time to get fishing.
We were going to fish the Lower Sacramento out of The Fly Shop. I love this river. It is big with big, big fish. We met at the shop, got all our stuff together and headed to the river.
Pretty much no one could predict that the river would blow out overnight for no readily apparent reason. We got to the boat launch, got out of the car and it was clear, within seconds, the Lower Sac was pretty far from fishable. The river had looked good the day before and there had been no rain for several days. The river had been clearing, not silting up. No explanation, just 4.5K of chocolate milk. So… on to plan B.
My dad and I headed to some private water accessed through The Fly Shop which my dad had fished (and enjoyed) previously. We didn’t need the guide for that, so he went his way and we made our way south to a private lake called Luk Lake.
It was cold and foggy, but there were fish. It was fun to row around the little lake and catch some fish with my dad. He actually caught more fish than me, which is one of those things that doesn’t happen too much these days. Another late birthday present.
While I was behind on numbers, I did manage to catch the biggest trout I’ve landed in a few years. Now… I wouldn’t say this is a wild fish, or a pretty fish, or a spectacular fish, but it was big. Sometimes you need a big, ugly, frankenfish and that’s pretty much what I got. This thing was fat with a broad back. You can see the tail is a mess and it has one of those snub noses indicating it grew too quickly. Still, it is a thrill to see that big, broad flash in the water when you see the flank of the fish for the first time.
The day was about fishing with my dad, something I get to do too seldom these days. You can never fish too much with your dad (I hope my daughter feels the same).
This last weekend was my Bachelor Weekend and saw 7 guys hitting the waters around North Tahoe. Three of us had experience with fly rods, most had little to none. The fishing was secondary to the drinking and eating and that was a good thing, because the drinking and eating was much more successful than the fishing. It was pretty out there though… really pretty.
It is hard to get a group that big on the water and we had some difficulty finding the right bit of stream or river to make that happen. A few caught fish, most didn’t, but a good time was had anyway (I can say that, as I caught the most fish).
There was a large amount of beer consumed and we stayed up until about 3:00 AM each night. This did prevent an early start to any fishing expedition, but again, that was really secondary. Glad to report there were no injuries either from the booze or the fishing.
There is something just profoundly satisfying about getting a group like this together in a beautiful place like Tahoe.
On Sunday most of the group headed back to their various home ports and my friend John and I struck out to try some new water. I’m glad we did. Fantastic little creek with some surprisingly large fish in it. I can’t divulge the name of this creek as I don’t think it can stand the pressure, but it just goes to show that trying new places sometimes really pays off.
I was up near Mt. Shasta again this last weekend with both my girls (daughter and fiancee) to see my folks. There was a beer festival, a patio boat picnic and a little river time planned and that is exactly what came to pass.
This was my fiancee’s introduction to fly fishing (or any kind of fishing) and I made sure she didn’t feel too much pressure. I told her “I don’t need you to love this, I just need you to understand why I do.” She was game, which was a nice starting position.
With light expectations on the line, we headed off to the Upper McCloud River. The Upper McCloud is very different in character from the Lower McCloud. The Upper is less remote, shallower, narrower and home to much smaller fish. Basicaly, it is a great place to start out.
I got Renee all decked out and we were ready. I got her the shirt, some quick dry pants and a pair of wading boots. I figured the waders could wait until it wasn’t 95 degrees out. That was a good call.
My fiancee is actually Dr. Fiancee and as you might guess, she’s pretty smart. She also turns out to be a good student and it wasn’t long before she was hooking fish on dry flies. Her first “landed” fish was a small fish that we got to touch the leader on, but it got off before the photo op. In the first hour she hooked 4 and landed 1.
We met my folks (who brought my daughter) after lunch and Renee was still interested in fishing. With no prodding she picked up the rod and started fishing again and it was then that she landed her biggest fish and got it all the way in.
I brought a bucket along so my daughter could see the fish. That was a hit.
It was a great afternoon on the water, fishing next to my future wife and having my little girl so thrilled to be there, soaking up the wilderness, and my folks there enjoying their grandchild. At dinner on the way home I asked my daughter her favorite part of the trip and she said it was getting to see the fish in the bucket. Yes… that did not hurt my feelings.
All said, a pretty awesome weekend. I rather like the way this Marriage #2 is shaping up.
When I asked Renee what she thought of fishing she answered:
I liked it more than I thought I would. I really enjoyed standing in the river.
A woman after my own heart. Now, in under two months she’ll be casting to bonefish. That might blow her mind.
After fishing the McCloud for a full day we stopped by the Upper Sac in Dunsmuir to assess the river. It was high, but not tooooo high and, in the fading light of dusk, the sky was full of stone flies. These weren’t the little dark stones of winter or the bright little Yellow Sallies, these were the big boys, the Pteronarcys Californica, the Giant Stonefly. I quickly put on a big, massive foam stonefly and had a few grabs before the light faded. I knew we had to get to dinner anyway.
My folks bought dinner for Matt Hansen and I and then Matt bought a few more beers afterwards (on the drive back I got word that my divorce was finalized, so, we were celebrating), all at the Dunsmuir Brewery Works, which I like because it is open late and, well, its a frigging brewery. What’s not to like? Matt liked the Pale Ale, I dug on the Porter and we both had enough that we had some sore noggins in the morning.
After I made some Mother’s Day breakfast we set off for the river. The river was indeed high, but Matt started off the party with a little bow followed by a nicer one. The Upper Sac in high water is not unfishable unless the water is off-color. High water just means the fish are out of the riffles and sitting on the seams in the more protected and slightly deeper water. You find those places, you find fish and we found fish, although the number of places we had to fish was greatly reduced.
The Upper Sac is a wonderful river. It has about 40 miles to fish and has access to just about every single bit of it. Railroad tracks and the highway see to that. Because of the access and the tracks and the highway, it doesn’t maybe get the respect that more remote locations get. It’s too easy to get there.
If you are fishing the Big Hole, odds are you either drove there or flew there and it took a long time. It took the opening of wallets and dedication of time. To get to the Upper Sac you just drive up the highway… 4 hours from San Francisco.
Still… it is beautiful, even in high water when the fishing is compressed and you can’t get in and wade around the place like you can in mid July.
We hiked up to Mossbrea Falls and then decided to head back South. It was a good day on beautiful water. The fish were there, but largely stayed hidden in the bigger water, despite those massive, impossibly large awkward flying stones that passed by like slow moving hummingbirds. Had a couple grabs on the big bug, but the fish were largely elusive. We had a few fish to hand, but nothing big and not too many. Such is the fickle river. Maybe she was a little upset that I waited until May to visit her. She’s open all year now and must have noted that I fished Cuba before I fished the Upper Sac in 2012. Sorry honey.
A great trip. The McCloud, the Upper Sac… my rivers. I miss them and I look forward to seeing them again.
It is a story you want to read… guides from Kiribati entering a fishing competition in Tasmania.
“It might be our first time catching this fish — there’s no trout and no rivers in Kiribati — but I’ve seen pictures before,” Bataeru says as he practises his casting from a small wooden boat on Tasmania’s Arthurs Lake.
“And we all have grown up fly fishing for bonefish in our coral lagoons, although this is different. The trout are a little harder to catch, they’re on the surface, and you use dry flies, so we do have a bit to learn.”
It is a tiny creek just minutes from all the money and might of Silicon Valley. In some stretches the deepest part might be 4 inches. I have not fished this creek in a few years. It is closer than is reasonable and I have not fished it for an unreasonable length of time. I set out today to right this wrong and that’s what I did.
I think even The Trout Underground would approve of the expedition. Small stream, small fish, solitude and beauty. It was a nice way to spend a couple of hours. A park ranger stopped me as I walked back to my car… just to see how I’d done. “We don’t see too many fly fisherman these days.”
The fish are tiny. Maybe as long as my finger… maybe smaller. They are tiny, but what they lack in size they make up for in splendor, and that’s why I sought them out.
Here are some pictures from the trip.