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.

May 12

A weekend on the home waters

I love bonefishing and tropical places but I really can’t get away from being a mountain boy at heart. My rivers are still dear to me and I was glad to share them with one of the guys I met down in Cuba this past weekend.  I picked Matt Hansen up in Santa Rosa after work on Friday and kept heading North until we arrived in Dunsmuir, my home town and where my parents still live.

Saturday morning we had breakfast at the house with my folks and then we ran down to the Ted Fay Fly Shop to talk to Bob and hear how things were fishing. The Ted Fay Fly Shop is a great shop, key to my entry into fly fishing, and I’m glad they moved downtown a few years back.  Bob told us that someone had stated, “the McCloud was the most crowded I’ve ever seen.”  That wasn’t good news as the McCloud is sometimes referred to as the McCrowd for its tendency to have an angler in every run at certain times of year. It didn’t sound ideal, but that is where I wanted to go, so we went anyway.

I-5 to 89 to the lake to the dirt road headed down toward the river. We got down to Ah Di Nah and decided to take a tour of the campground to see how bad things were.

There was almost no one there.  Two tents and one still had the people in them. We stopped there and started off upstream.

The McCloud is one of the most beautiful places you can hope to see or experience. I know Montana is wonderful and Oregon is beautiful and then there are the flats of Andros and the expanses of Cuba and the mangrove lined channels of Belize… but I’d put the McCloud up against any of them.

Luckily it isn’t only beautiful, it has pretty little fish and they started cooperating almost immediately.  The crowded river was ours. We picked our way along the banks, up and over the boulders, through the brush (avoiding the staggering amounts of Poison Oak). We didn’t see another rod waving above us for 3/4 of the day.

After I felt I’d caught “enough” on nymphs I decided to put on a stimie and see what would come up.  The answer was very un-California like. Fish started rising at 2:00 to a big, bushy dry fly.

The Elusive Blurry McCloud Rainbow (I need a better camera).

I sometimes feel like my rivers have personalities and, maybe even feelings. I think they get a little mad when I don’t see them, when I ignore them. They can act a little hurt if they feel slighted.

I was glad the McCloud wasn’t upset with me.  In fact, it seemed to welcome me back with open arms.

We fished up the canyon from pool to run to riffle, tracking back toward the source.  We turned one bend and found the sun hidden by the steep walls of the canyon and something seemed to have switched off.  Despite putting decent numbers in the book, I just had a feeling the fishing was done.  Matt had a similar feeling and we just decided to find the trail and head back.

A wonderful day.

Matt really appreciated the beauty of the place and it is always nice to share something special with someone who gets it.

The McCloud... Upstate California, from a trip in 2011.

Next up… the Upper Sac where the pictures were better and the fishing was slow.

May 12

Me, in Cuba

This is me, fishing with Avalon down in Cuba in the Jardines de la Reina.  This is back in the mangroves… deep in the mangroves and Matt Hansen was Johnny on the Spot with the video.  What you’ll see here is me botch two bonefish in about 4 minutes.  It was pretty difficult stuff to fight a fish in, but it was exactly what I wanted to be doing.

Warning… there is some profanity, in case you are worried about your ears bleeding.

May 12


I just got this photo from Cuba taken by Matt Hansen.  I know exactly what happened here and I think this picture pretty much sums it up.

We were pushing through the back country looking for bones and we had just emerged into a little lagoon.  Off to the left flashed an impossibly large bonefish tail. I made the cast right on its nose and it ate almost immediately. It went streaking across the lagoon, pulling off 100 or so feet of line and then it took a slight left detour, brushing up against the clump of mangrove right below where my rod tip is.  The fish came off.  This fish was my immediate reaction to losing the fish.

It probably would have been my biggest bonefish ever.  That tail haunts me.