Thursday, September 18, 2008

Upper Sac Family Weeked

I spent the weekend of September 13th and 14th on the lower portion of the Upper Sacramento River at the House on the River. The House on the River is a vacation rental in the small community of Delta that used to operate as a fly fishing lodge. The house was great, well equipped with hot tub, an HD projection system with all the channels, a serious AC system and good access to the river and with plenty of room for the three families that went. The three husbands would go fishing each morning and evening and spend the day and night with the family. The House is also set up great for cooking with a full kitchen, coal grills, gas grills, smokers...If there is a way for meat to be cooked it can be accomplished there. Just, please, leave the fish in the river!

The House on the River:

Happy families at the beach.

My new daughter enjoyed herself.

Family friend and kids. Also happy.

Suffice to say, the family vacation aspect of the trip was fantastic. So how about the fishing?

As most know access to the Upper Sacramento is pretty good and where there is not vehicle access one can always follow the railroad tracks, although be careful as these tracks are highly used with trains going up and down day and night. The old feel for vibrations on the track trick is not very reliable and sometimes when the trains are at speed you have very little warning. There is always room to get out of the way but being so close to a huge locomotive shakes the soul and is tough on the ears. Nevertheless, following the tracks is key to getting to the lesser fished honey holes.

I learned something new this trip that I had not realized on prior trips to the Upper Sac: There are big wild fish there, although they are few and not easily caught!

We started off fishing near the most obvious access from the house which is also a heavily used beach and swimming hole. Don't let the good looks of the hole fool you, if there are any fish there they get hammered. This is the hole at the beach.

Although with some walking and aggressive wading the fishing picks up considerably. My trusted source of great fly fishing information, Leo at Fish First, convinced me that the Upper Sac was indeed a tail water masked as a freestone as Tom Chandler on the Trout Underground once reported. Taking that to heart, I primarily fished size 20 and smaller midge patterns. They produced well.

This guy had a bit of a belly on him.

This is not a great picture, being blurred by the water, but I think my hand gives some perspective to the size of the fish.

Fish on the rocks (from where I was standing it was either this or get swept away).

One cool thing that Craig the proprietor of House on the River does is let people who catch fish over 20 inches sign the wall. The wall gives a great sense of the history of the place, both who had been there, what they caught and on what flies. Most people got their big fish on big streamers and crawfish patterns (I swam a goblin through a dark, deep hole and it just got hammered, unfortunately I did not hook up).

The wall of fame.

This is the wall a bit closer in.

For those of you that are also fisherman, fathers and husbands, the House on the River might be great way to succeed at all three.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Northeast California/Southeast Oregon

I managed to free up a few days and decided to make a long drive north to chase down a few new native trout. I headed up past Alturas California and then up 395 a ways right to the border of Oregon and into the epicenter of redband trout diversity. According to Behnke there are seven distinct populations of redband in the neighborhood (not to mention some cutthroats, bulltrout and maybe some remnants of the extinct alvord). I had my sights set on two redbands and one elusive char.

First up was the Warner Lakes Basin redband trout. This trout is found in a few creeks and streams in Oregon and just two in California. I wanted to get mine in California. The creek I fished was pretty skinny at it's headwaters and when I pulled up to where the dirt road crosses I was surprised to find a substantial herd of cattle on the creek. The creek was pretty well trampled here and very dirty from all the cattle walking through it. I managed to find some clear water upstream but it was darned skinny water. I dapped a fly over a grassy edge and picked up a trout.

After the first trout I decided to head downstream a bit and see if I could find some water that might hold bigger fish. I found what I was looking for.

The water downstream was great. I might have been in Oregon at this point but I didn't care. The creek was great, the water was ice cold and each pool held a dozen or so hungry trout. The water temp was shockingly cold for a high desert stream. But what was even cooler than the water temp was how great the creek laid out for fly fishing. Incredibly spooky trout that could be cast to from a distance that rewarded a soft landing and well placed fly. I hooked a cast around the bush on the left in the shot below that drew a nice redband.

As I moved upstream the creek got better and better with pool after pool full of wild native redbands.

Me creekside in Northeast California. Or was it Oregon?

Next up I wanted to catch an Upper Klamath Lake Basin redband. I dropped down into Lakeview and got an Oregon fishing license because for the next fish I was certain my fly would be landing in Oregon waters. From Lakeview I made my way north east into the Fremont National Forest.

Me at the trailhead.

This creek is home to pure populations of both Klamath Basin Bull Trout and Redband Trout and if you enjoy crawling through the most choked thicket of alders, willows and who knows what else to emerge into ankle deep water flowing through a tunnel of vegetation where not only is standing out of the question but you can forget about wiggling that 7'10" one wieght than this creek is for you. Sometimes it can be harder to get a fly on the water at 3 feet than at 30 and let's not even talk about a good "drift".

But when you do manage to get a fly on the water the reward is pretty sweet.

I hiked about two miles up the creek hoping that it would open up a bit. Unfortunately it did not. The hike was nice and the canyon boxed up a bit but the creek was largely inpenetrable so I decided to hit another nearby stream that I thought might be a bit more "fun" to fish and that I knew to hold pure redbands. This last creek was spring creek clear, about 20 feet wide and had great trout holding structure and was a great way to finish off the trip.