For me, in the past, November has been a time for a pilgrimage North. This is the time of year I think of heading to the McCloud.
This year, that isn’t in the cards. With my wife a very 8 months pregnant, the possibility of me being out of cell-phone range and 6 hours from home is not a spouse-friendly idea.
The McCloud in November is a crowded place, not only in terms of angler pressure, but in terms of fish population as well. The rainbow trout are joined by masses of brown trout, most up from Shasta Reservoir (it isn’t a lake and I won’t call it one). The browns are there to make their babies and eat the eggs that come off the redds. The rainbows live there, but also enjoy the extra protein.
The days are short, and cold, and usually wet. This year the days are dry, but the weather is still cool and the sun still sets at the same time. Your fishing days are compressed by the cool weather and the short days cut shorter by steep canyon walls.
You have to fish hard. You have to cover the water, miles of it. Normally, anglers clear off the water when football season comes around, but the McCloud is special, so you have to pick your beats carefully to try and avoid sharing the water. You can’t fish behind someone on the McCloud. You won’t catch fish. You have to find fresh water to work. If you see someone ahead of you, you have to get off the river, find the trail and put some serious time between you.
The river is cold and swift and mixed with leaves that snare flies in November. Much of the poison oak has fallen from their stalks, but not all of it. You have to dress warmly, but you need to be able to stow your jacket for after you hike the trail for a mile.
I love the river at this time of year and I’ll miss it. But I have more important things to attend to. See you next year, McCloud.