Fishing the Upper Sacramento and McCloud: Home Again, Naturally

We interrupt our account of the Grand Lake Stream adventure—Day Two was Exciting!—to give you this account of fly fishing the Upper Sacramento, on the way to the McCloud River east of Mt. Shasta. The mother of mountains looked like this on the way in:

Why I Miss California!

First I flew into San Francisco though, arrived at 1:00 am and was in Walnut Creek by 2–on the road at 7:30. Stopped in a dive off highway 5 in the mountains, got coffee, and in my waders, went into the one bathroom. I jumped back when I faced this beautiful lady stretched out seductively in the Olde Californ-i-a  bathtub:

Lady Luck

This sultry mermaid of the higher waters wasn’t all. There was an infra-red trip somewhere that set off this recording: “Oh–help!–bothering a girl in the bathtub! You pervert!” When I left, a woman was waiting to use the facilities. I told her “there’s a woman in the bathtub in there, but don’t worry–it will be okay.” She hadn’t met the the Fishing Professor before.

Only managed one fish on my way up—camped near Sims. The next morning meant getting up at 4:30 am. I lived in hot dogs fried on my propane stove and a bucket of Walmart Mustard potato salad, a bag of apples and pop tarts for the vest. Ate like a king! After more freeway, then seven miles of twisting, dirt road curving back into the McCloud canyon, I got to Ah-Di-Nah campground. Missed so many fish that morning! The famous McCloud rainbows are lightning quick. They were propagated all over the world as early as the late 19th century; New Zealand is full of them and they’re in Europe too:

They Weren’t Kidding About the Wildlife

After missing around ten fish that morning, I met a really nice guy who’s fished there for 25 years. The Nature Conservancy owns three miles of river past where I fished, but they only ten or so rods per day. Five are reserved as early as January, and another five are for guys who show up at 5:00 am. at 10:00 am they distribute the no shows. But Chris told me that you can go later and if someone’s out early, you can get their tag. He was a great guy! So that’s what I did. Following his advice, I hiked in and caught a fish before the reserve proper in water like this:

Close to Perfect if You Ask Me

On the way in I met his friend Ron, his guide, who was coming out. I said: “you Ron?” He said: “Yeah–how far you going in?” Turns out that Ron had an encounter with a mamma bear with her cub and she “gnarled her teeth” at him. He said he crossed the river a couple of times to make sure she wasn’t nearby. His good advice: don’t go into the reserve too far. Though I am not generally afraid of California bears (they’re not grizzlies), I followed his advice. I managed to get five McCloud rainbows–the largest 12 inches, and they looked like this:

He Has Bigger Friends

This should be a video of a super hatch on the McCloud with a fish rising:

Rising Wild

That night in the tent I cramped up so bad I couldn’t move. Happy pain though. The next day I fished my way home down the Upper Sacramento, and I managed to nymph this guy out of the lower exits. They say the bigger ones come up out of Shasta Lake:

He Jumped Twice and Was A Bitch To Land

Don’t worry about the red gill. He was revived carefully in the water and swam happily away. He was caught nymphing using the follow rig—a stone fly with a caddis pupa dropper, all on 4x tippet, no strike indicator:

This Nymph Dropper Combo Was The Ticket

The Upper Sac is magnificent water with the strongest fighting, native rainbows at the I-5 exits closest to Shasta Lake. Unbelievable runs like this:

Many Big Rainbows Hiding Behind Rocks in the Chop

The Fishing Professor has a lot more schooling to do in these stretches and back on the McCloud, mother of trouts of legend. As I fall asleep now, I hear the sound of rises slapping the surface and see the sight of dark flashes of huge trout, shooting up from the depths of the surprisingly deep pools, then turning away at the last moment. I did not want to follow the road out:

The Road Taken Must Be Taken Again



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