Apr 15

Not Fishing

I’m up in my hometown on the trout opener (although the river is now open all year). We are up with the family to visit my dad since we haven’t been up in ages. With a recent calf rupture, I can’t really walk around the banks and rocks of the Upper Sacramento on this trip. So, this is a non-fishing trip to a fishy place on a fishy weekend.

Dunsmuir is a mountain town and you can feel the difference.

Up here the mornings are crisp. That crispness is just not in the air down by the Bay, down in the flats or valleys. Maybe it’s the lack of moisture in the air, I’m not sure, but the sharpness of the morning air and the hit of evergreen it carries is something that feels unique.

Sunsets are hastened and sunrises delayed by the canyon walls.

We went to the Fireman’s Breakfast on Saturday morning. A very small-town thing. The fire department here is all volunteer and they move a couple of trucks to make way for tables and chairs. At the breakfast I managed to see an old day care provider from when I was tiny, an old football coach and the son of one of my classmates (who, it appears, is now one of the volunteer fire fighters). I have no idea if there is such an event in Alameda and if there was, it wouldn’t be the same. There would be hundreds of people instead of dozens and I wouldn’t know any of them.

Hanging out in the Ted Fay Fly Shop is almost as good as fishing. Seeing the folks coming in and preparing to head out on the water is something I’ve always enjoyed. The conversations are easy, interests are aligned and people are in a good mood.

It is getting harder and harder to get up here. Between careers and kids it is just not easy. But I enjoy it when I’m here. I’m making a home down in the Bay Area, but this still feels like home to a part of me.

Next time, there will be rods in the car.

Swing Time

Swing Time

Aug 13

Lessons from the Weekend

This is where I was this last weekend:

Some pretty water. We fished both the Upper and Lower Mac.

Some pretty water. We fished both the Upper and Lower Mac.

This is what I did:

A bow. One among many.

A bow. One among many.

I brought a friend up there for their first time fishing these waters. He was appropriately smitten with the rivers.

Here’s what I learned this weekend:

  1. I enjoy showing people my rivers, especially if they enjoy being shown them.
  2. I love a good fly shop. Ted Fay is my home shop and I always enjoy going in there.
  3. A little bit of the right advice can really go a long way in taking some of the edges off someone’s learning curve.
  4. Dunsmuir continues to have way better food options than is reasonable.
  5. It is always good to have a Plan B tucked away.

May 12

My Upper Sac

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.

Matt at Prospect

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.

Kinda purdy out here.

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.

Mossbrea Falls… part of it, anyway.

A great trip.  The McCloud, the Upper Sac… my rivers.  I miss them and I look forward to seeing them again.

Jul 11

Project GTFO, Day 1

I GTFO and headed North.  Got there in time to hit the river.  It was exactly what I needed.

Not big... but pretty. Love these fish.


And after a few hours of fishing… this…

Beer at the Dunsmuir Brewing Company

May 11

Thoughts on Cantara Loop

On June 4, 1991, fishermen and residents of the area saw nearly 40 miles of the Upper Sacramento River essentially sterilized, and oddly enough, we were probably lucky it was metam sodium and not something more persistent.

via Trout Underground talks Cantara Loop Spill, 20 years on.

That’s where I grew up.  My folks still live in Dunsmuir.  My home water is the Upper Sacramento River, the same river cleansed by that spill.

I didn’t really know it before the spill.  Sure, I had fished it, but not with the intensity I did later.

It was the summer between my Junior and Senior years in high school and my first experiences with fly fishing were still a few years in the future. We knew something bad had happened, but we didn’t go near the river.  It was all a bit scary.

The most amazing thing to me is how the river came back.  It came back on its own in its own time.  There were no trout planted, no bugs were imported, no plants were brought in.  The river just healed itself.  It took a few years, but it healed.

It is a promising story.  It give me hope that so many of the things we’ve broken might just heal, if we let them.

Natural repair


— paid ad below —


Learn everything about boating safety at BoaterExam.com

Apr 11

Home Waters – First Trout of 2011

It is April… APRIL and I just landed my first trout of the year.  There is something really weird about that, but there it is.  This was also the first time I’ve been trout fishing this year, so, at least I haven’t been skunked.

I’m up in Dunsmuir while my daughter is on Spring Break (from Pre-School).  I actually had to go and buy a 2011 Fishing License.  Yes… I didn’t even have a fishing license yet and it is APRIL.  Uff da.

I have to say… I’m pretty disappointed in Union Pacific.  The railroad that nearly killed off the whole river thanks to a train derailment (back in 1991) has decided to cut off the parking access that folks use to get up to Mossbrae Falls.  This is douchebaggery.

Note: My folks have lived in Dunsmuir for 42 years and they cannot recall anyone ever being injured by a train along the tracks to get to Mossbrae.  That has got to be tens of thousands of people that have made that short hike in those years.  I think that is a pretty good testament to common sense.  Union Pacific seems to think that we’ve run out of common sense to the point that we are now in danger of falling asleep on the tracks and suing them.  This is a good example of everything that is wrong with the mentality of “better safe than sorry.”  It kind of pisses me off.

Keep it classy, UP... keep it classy.

The river is beautiful.  It’s high, sure, but the color is good and the Upper Sac can be fished at very high flows so long as the color is good.  You just need a good supply of tin shot and, presto, you are fishing.

The gateway to awesomeness.

My batting average wasn’t too hot.  I hooked three very, very, very nice trout but was 0/3 before I got one fish to cooperate enough to actually come and shake hands.  Not a big fish, but, a wild, beautiful trout. That will do wonders for your mood.

Officially on the board for 2011 in the category of "Trout"

Ah… that’s nice.


– paid ad below –


Learn everything about boating safety at BoaterExam.com

Mar 11

Godspeed Joe

The summer I really got into fly fishing I was home for the summer, in college, waiting for a year abroad in France.  I was working as a fire watch at a lumber mill and doing some bartending too.  I didn’t know what I was doing, but I knew rivers and water from years of steelhead and gear fishing.  I was picking it up, tiny bit by tiny bit.  One place that really helped was the Ted Fay Fly Shop, located (at the time) a few blocks from where I grew up.  I had never noticed the fly shop, tucked into one corner of a pretty cheap motel.  I started making pretty regular appearances there and one of the guys I met there was Joe Kimsey.  Joe had been around for a long, long time.  He grew up in McCloud and after service in the Air Force (Korea and Vietnam) he returned to Dunsmuir.  He remembered the Upper Sac and McCloud Rivers from when they still had steelhead and salmon.  He was always quick with a joke and a handshake and he was just a joy.

The shop moved downtown and Joe remained a big part of the Ted Fay experience.  I few years ago his health started to fail and he was forced to leave the shop he had given so much of his life to.  I understand the owner of the shop (Bob Grace) and his wife would go down every Sunday to take Joe out to dinner.

When my dad got into fly fishing (the year after I did) Joe took us down to the river and showed us how Ted Fay had fished it.  Two flies, short line, lots of weight, high sticking right through the pockets.  I caught fish where I didn’t even know they could exist.  It was eye opening and it started me on a path that has been full of joy and adventure and exploration and so much of what I think of as the best parts of myself.

Joe passed on Thursday.

Godspeed Joe.  You will be missed.


The Trout Underground broke the news.

Jun 10

When life gives you high water

Get out yer split shot.

That water is high...

That should do the trick...


Fishing the Upper Sac is like that sometimes.

Jun 10

Snakes on a River (eating trout)

When you get out there, on the water, you give yourself the chance to see things others might never see in their lives. One thing that fits into this category, I’d think, would be an Aquatic Garter Snake catching and eating a rainbow trout.

I’ve actually seen this four times.  I saw it on Hat Creek.  I saw it twice on the Lower McCloud (in the same spot in different years) and today I saw it on the Upper Sacramento River, across the street from where I grew up.

Is that what I think it is?

Well... it sure is... a Garter Snake eating a Rainbow.

Suffocated first...

Down the hatch.

Jun 10

High Water Home Water

I managed a few hours of fishing today while my daughter was either napping.

The water continues to be just silly-high.  Places I’ve had locked for high water were under water.  Drifts I’ve come to depend on in difficult times were nowhere to be had.

This willow normally isn't 2 feet under water...

This usually isn't under water in June either.

On a day like this you are forced to look at the river through fresh eyes and let go of the mental map you have of the river.  I don’t think it was a coincidence that as soon as I came to that conclusion I caught the first fish of the day.

Lip hooked with a Mercer Stone.


Dunsmuir Tail

On the journey along the tracks I also took maybe the best picture I’ve ever taken of the Upper Sac.  This particular vantage shows my favorite water on earth.  It isn’t a bonefish flat.  It is my home water.  To the left, I caught my first trout on a fly by myself.  To the right, my favorite riffle.  Of course, there is about 3-4 feet more water in the river right now, but this water is just dear to me.  I want to share this spot with as many people as I can.


This is where my fly fishing life started.

I don’t think I’m going to be getting out on the water tomorrow, but that’s OK.  My dad and I have a day on some private water on Thursday before we head back South.  The weather is supposed to turn with showers showing up on the weather outlook.  I noticed snow still under the trees as we went over the summit to McCloud this evening.  There is a lot of water still to come down.

These are classic rainbows in their native range.

I ended up landing 6 fish today, losing a handful of others.  That is probably about as much as I could hope for and probably better than most would expect, given the rather challenging conditions.  Still… you go fishing in the river you have, not the river as you might want it to be.