My Parent River

I know it sounds ridiculous to say that the river was upset with me. It can’t really get upset at me, it isn’t a thing capable of carrying a grudge.

However, the river was upset with me and it was carrying a grudge.

It was never my river, not really. I fished it a bit over the span of a couple of years and got to know it a little bit, like a second cousin. The river is big and broad, cold and fast. The trout are unreasonably large and the river is open all year long. The only thing the river lacks is a really dependable and prodigious hatch, the kind that people come for from around the world. It doesn’t have that, not really.

The Lower Sacramento. Big, broad, fast.

It has a hatch, a massive hatch, the Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch. I’ve seen millions in the air at one time, rafts of caddis floating down the river and not a single nose poking up to take them off the surface. The fish eat nymphs all year and eggs, when that sort of thing is happening.

Now, that sort of thing is happening.


As I walked out into the water at the Posse Grounds I could see salmon. Living, swimming, powerful and full of rot and fungus. These fish are near the end of their journey, but they still have a redd to make, a mate to find and then there is the dying. Where there are salmon, there are salmon eggs and trout that eat salmon eggs get large… really large.

But, as I mentioned, the river was upset. I haven’t visited this river in a few years and it has been keeping track. I fished for three hours and only touched one fish, a salmon, snagged, which I quickly popped off. The river was clearly giving me the cold shoulder. It wasn’t going to give it up.

I had my choice of water, I had flies that have worked there before, the rig has worked there many, many times. My casting was looking pretty good as I pounded out cast after cast after cast, Nothing.

“Too little, too late.”

Three hours of standing there watching the water go by and I decided to head back to the river that really is mine.  My river is a few miles upstream, the same river, but also totally different. This one I know. This one is like a parent. This river has taught me so much, has been there for me through good and bad and has so often given up the goods.  I’ve put my time in on this river and it wasn’t going to be angry. This river loves me like a child, always and forever no matter how long it goes between calls.

The tracks and the river. Companions.

It wasn’t angry. An hour of fishing brought four trout to hand as the sun, already hidden by clouds, slid behind the Western rim of the canyon. I picked apart one run of nice pocket water, fishing a short line, which always seems to find the fish. Wading knee deep and sometimes deeper, I moved slowly and surely so as not to orphan my child or widow my wife. Studs and a wading staff help.

Hello lover.

Upper Sacramento Sunset

Then, I was done. I had caught fish, the sun was down and it was time to go.

This river still loved me.

  • Unique Post


  1. Eduardo Otero-Cossio

    Beautiful county out there… ENJOY!

  2. I anthropomorphize quite often…and it always makes me think of Kathy Scott’s book “Changing Planes” where she reasons that it’s okay as long as it’s, “mixed with a self-deprecating smile.” Rivers most certainly can be angry…and I’m glad that after a time, you were forgiven. Great post. Gorgeous pics.

  3. Heh heh, the ol’ Sac can be a fickle host. I was up there in August and I caught a really chunky 3+ lb rainbow in the first place I stopped. Didn’t see another fish over the next 36 hours. I had brand spanky new felts and after climbing down the hard part, let my concentration wane walking along the flat river bed. My right foot slid right off a smooth, sloped rock and I went down hard on my right side. Bent up my eye glass case which was in my vest pocket, whacked my knee and my head on rocks. Makes one think twice about fishing alone and climbing down into some of the more remote sections.

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