We’ve been nymphing and throwing streamers most of this year and really didn’t expect anything different when we made it to South Fork, CO and the Rio Grande River.  We met our guide, Aaron Horrocks, at Wolf Creek Anglers, talked about which section of the river we’d be floating and headed out.

As usual, the guide gets the boat ready, backs it down into the water, drives their truck/trailer up to await the shuttle, and comes back down and we all get in.  The next step is to rig up our fly rods.  As Aaron started this process, he said “double dries” today.  We were both VERY pleasantly surprised by this, but were still a bit skeptical given other guides had talked about fishing dries during our floats but it never panned out.  However, that skepticism disappeared in about 5 minutes when we hooked up with our first fish of the day;  it hit a small, black caddis and the fishing was on.

Throughout the day we fished caddis, stimulators (a bit of everything fly), drakes, yellow sallies, stoneflies, mayflies and a few I’d never seen before.  When one “hatch” stopped, another was already starting.  We lost track of the number of fish we caught because we were all laughing and having so much fun watching these amazing trout come up and sip or devour our dry flies.  It was truly a “Dry Fly Daze” we were in and it was awesome!

We took time out for lunch to interview Aaron in his boat on the Rio Grande.  We found out that Aaron was a middle school math teacher, but had taken a job as Assistant Principal of the K-8 school in the area.  Furthermore, we found out his school was going 1-1 iPads this fall.  While we shared a few Apple stories and jokes, we still kept our focus on fishing and fun, as you will see in Aaron’s “Guide Talk” on the Rio Grande.

Mo

By TB

Don’t get confused by the title of this post.  It’s NOT about the Missouri River at all, but our guide on the Big Thompson, Jeff “Mohawk” Curran of Kirk’s Fly Shop.  When you watch the video, it will become apparent why the nickname.

We’ve really enjoyed all the “characters” we’ve met along our Ramble and Mo is no exception.   When we asked him about his perfect day guiding on a trip, he summarized it in one word, FUN!  We had a blast fishing with Mo, sharing stories, and seeing this beautiful landscape that surrounds the Big Thompson River through his lens.

Mo took us to really cool places to fish, IF the river had not been raging as it was.  I’m sure you’re seeing a theme of our western adventures, lots and lots of water.  However, seeing them with Mo, you could easily imagine when the flows are normal, how special fishing these locations would be.  Needless to say, we’ll be coming back to the Big Thompson and to the streams of Rocky Mountain National Park again to fish with Mo.  For now, please enjoy our “Guide Talk” with Mo, on the banks of the Big Thompson River near Estes Park, CO.

We’ve heard the stories about the Big Hole, especially at this time of year… “Sammietime”… Salmon Flies.  Everything was setting up nicely for our June 14th trip on the Big Hole, except for one thing; the Big Hole was nearing flood stage and flowing at over 7000 cfs.  In other words, yet another western river flowing very fast and very high.  Add to that, there was more rain in the forecast.

We did see evidence of these huge flies that trout love to gorge on in the trees and bushes along the river.  However, because of the strange weather, the big bugs weren’t landing in the water and more importantly, no fish were rising.  So, as we took off in our drift boat, traveling over 10mph on the water (aka. fast) with our dry/dropper rigs, we were hoping to lure them up, or if not, have them eat the rubber legs we were nymphing about 3 feet below the surface.  When that didn’t work, we realized the fish were down, and we switched to dredging nymph rigs, which proved successful.

We had a great day on the Big Hole fishing with Cory Calkins.  While it was difficult fishing, Cory kept swapping out our rigs to find the right combination of flies that ultimately brought fish to the net.  We can’t wait to come back and actually hit the famous Big Hole salmon fly hatch with Cory.  For now, please enjoy his “guide talk” on the banks of the Big Hole.

Ramble On

When we looked for hashtags for some of our Instagram posts, we encountered #californiaadventure.  This hashtag made sense given that our time in California turned more adventure than just fishing.  Why?  Water…. and more water…. and more water…. and not just any water…. raging, dangerous whitewater that was much more suited to thrill seeking kayakers than anglers.  At any moment, if you had a slip, a flip or a misstep you could find yourself in real danger.

So what could have been a normal fishing trip to seven different California rivers became an adventure finding safe, fishy water.  We had to hike deep into forests in search of small tributaries to fish the Kern.  We sloshed through marshes thick with mosquitos to fish the waters of the Owens.  We bushwacked along the Truckee to find waters that looked fishy.   We carefully navigated the banks of the McCloud, flowing at over 5 times normal, and hiked along the Pacific Crest Trail to catch the McCloud Rainbow.  We event took the “Road from Hell” to fish near the McCloud River Preserve.  We had a lucky encounter at a fly shop in historic Dunsmuir that led us to a spot on the Upper Sacramento where, after we traversed several railroad tracks, we caught a couple of bows.  We hiked over 7 miles along Hat Creek in search of trout.  About the only spot where we fished in what might be a “normal” way was on the Fall River, and even then, we had to lay down in the boat to get under one bridge to get to the hole where we ultimately had success.   All in all, the California rivers on the TU Top 100 trout streams list were challenging, exciting, and definitely provided us a #californiaadventure.

We always try to fish other waters than just the TU Top 100.  While in California, we wetting lines in Hot Creek, the Little Truckee and the Lower Sacramento.  We hiked down into the Hot Creek Canyon where Barb hooked a beautiful little brown that was hiding along the far bank.  The Little Truckee was flowing wild but we found time and a little spot to fish right next to a bridge.  As for the Lower Sac, we actually took a float trip with Matt Dahl and hooked into some big, beautiful California rainbows.

Speaking of rainbows, two strains of these gorgeous fish are local to California waters, the McCloud and the Kern river rainbows.  In fact, most all of the rainbows in trout streams around the world come from these two strains.  No matter if you’re fishing trout streams in Montana, New Mexico, New York, Argentina or New Zealand, when you hook a rainbow, chances are it came from the McCloud or Kern lineage.

As always, our trip isn’t just about fishing and we constantly remind people, “Its Not About the Fish”.  Our trip is as much about the people we meet and the places we visit along our Ramble.  California did not disappoint on both counts;  we were blessed with great guides at each stop.  Matt Dahl took us on a “Sac Attack” down the lower Sacramento when the Upper was dangerously high.  Matt also took us on our “Matt in the Hat (Creek)” adventure.  The venerable Ernie Dennison took us on the “Majestic McCloud”, even though it was flowing at the highest levels he’d ever seen and guided anyone on.  Matt Mitchell navigated the Fall River with us, even under the bridge, to experience the “Fall River Spring”.  As we headed down further south in California, “Stonefly Guy” Jeans showed us several Kern River tributaries which will go unnamed, but provided an awesome day of fishing small streams with 7’-3wt rods.  And finally, our man Gilligan showed us his backyard, “Gilligan’s Truckee”.   We’re already planning a trip back to California to fish all these rivers and hopefully fish for the Heritage Trout Challenge.   Our guides were awesome, and made our time on the water productive, interesting, educational and safe.

Even with all this fishing, we still had time for more adventures.  We took sightseeing trips to Lake Tahoe, the Trail of 100 Giants, Sequoia National Forest, Dunsmuir and Mt. Shasta.  We’d have gone into Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks, but, the roads into the parks from the Eastern Sierras were all still snow covered and closed.  Speaking of snow cover, we watched skiers and boarders STILL skiing at Mammoth Mountain, which is planning to stay open for skiing until August/September and Squaw Valley was also still open and planning operations until at least July.  Did we mention the BIG winter/spring snowfall CA experienced and the amount of water in the rivers? 😉

We also enjoyed some great food and music along the way.   We want to give a big shoutout to Crumbs in McArthur, CA.  When we were fishing the Fall River with Matt Mitchell, he recommended Crumbs to us and wow, what an amazing meal we had there.  This is a MUST VISIT place if you are in the area.  In historic Dunsmuir, you should definitely visit Yaks, a burger joint that made Yelp’s Top 100 list.  It had a great selection of local beers as well. Speaking of local beers, Mammoth Brewing and its Golden Trout Kolsch is not to be missed.  We also want to highlight Professor Colombo, a Huntington Beach band that was playing at Moody’s in Truckee.   Great music and vibe.

Finally, we hope you enjoy this montage of pics we’ve put together to highlight our time in California.   We try to highlight local musicians when we put together our state highlight videos and we are so very lucky to have music by the Stoneflys, an alternative/ska/reggae/jazz group from Kernville, CA.  What’s extra special to us is that this is Guy Jeans’ band!   Guy is a renaissance kind of guy as we found out during our visit to the “Nunya” creeks of the Kern drainage.  He was kind enough to let us use one of his band’s tunes for our “#californiaadventure” post.  Enjoy!

Ramble On

We started our California “Ramble” in Truckee on our way to fish the Mt. Shasta area.  We went through the area again on our way down the Eastern Sierra’s, to fish the tributaries of the Kern and the Owens.  Finally, we came back to Truckee to actually fish the Truckee River.

We setup the SaraLinda in a campground a stone’s throw from the river.  This proximity to the river made meeting  our guide, Matt “Gilligan” Koles, the owner/head guide of Gilligan’s Guide Service, a breeze (and let us sleep later than usual before a guide trip!).  When we met Matt, we saw he had a buddy with him; Elliott, Matt’s dog.  We proceeded to drive down the right side of the river on a one lane gravel road,  to a pullout above the river’s edge.

After gearing up, Matt, Barb, Elliott and I headed down the hill to the river.  The river was flowing very fast, so we fished from the bank and also waded carefully out into the water a ways, so we could hit some seams and soft areas.  Within a few moments, we’d hit into a few fish, including a really nice rainbow for Barb… and a very large brown for me.

What we learned from Matt, is that the Truckee is more about “quality” than “quantity”.   The Truckee did not disappoint, as all the fish we hooked were of a good size… and much more.  Matt was great getting us to the right spots to experience success and he also rigged our rods with flies specially suited for Truckee River fishing.

When you come to Truckee to fish, you need to make sure to call Matt, well in advance, and take a trip with him.  Until then, we hope you’ll enjoy this “Guide Talk” we had with “Gilligan” on the hillside above the Truckee.

Ramble On

When we called the Kern River Fly Shop about a week before our scheduled trip to fish the Kern, we talked to Guy and Kimberly and they forewarned us that the Kern was flowing high and fast and that we would likely have to fish some of its tributaries.  After we arrived in the area and hooked up the SaraLinda, we headed to Kernville  just to look around and grab some groceries.  As we crossed the Kern river in town, we looked down and saw just why they’d prepared us to fish the tributaries;  it churned wildly and looked like chocolate milk.

The next morning, when we arrived at the fly shop, we met Guy and Kimberly and talked about our day;  we’d be fishing several “nunya” creeks that are a part of the Kern drainage.  We left the shop in Guy’s 4×4 truck and headed up Mountain Highway 99, a road that parallels the Kern River.  As we climbed higher and higher, the Kern flowed even faster as it tumbled down the riverbed and in many spots, overflowed its banks.  The landscape changed as we crossed the Kern River bridge, becoming a beautiful forest on both sides of the road, and we climbed even higher  into the Sequoia National Forest.

Guy was really kind to us, taking us to some “secret” spots where we would be fishing in beautiful surroundings for Kern River trout and golden/rainbow hybrid trout.   Barb and I both love fishing tributaries to larger streams that hold beautiful smaller fish.  I was using my 4wt rod and Guy had Barb using a Reddington Trout Classic 3wt, which would ultimately cost us, as Barb loved the 3wt so much, we got one the next day.

We had an absolute blast fishing these small creeks with Guy, walking from hole to hole, eating lunch right on the banks of one creek and getting a double right after lunch…both Barb and I with a fish on at the same time.  FUN!!!

We interviewed Guy in a stand of huge pine trees after a great day on the water.  We know you’ll enjoy his “Guide Talk” interview as Guy is a great guide, and as we found out, a man of many talents.  Enjoy and as always….

Ramble On

The first thing we noticed as we explored the Upper Sacramento, or Upper Sac as it’s better known, was that most everywhere you looked at the water, if you looked up, you’d see Mt. Shasta.  The mountain dominates the landscape in this area, and was actually visible from three of the four rivers we fished.  I think the only reason we didn’t see it from the McCloud River was that the McCloud River Preservation trail was closed (aka. under water) so we couldn’t get to a vantage point.  Even as you drive up and down I-5, Shasta is either in your windshield or your rear view mirror.  The picture above was taken from a pedestrian bridge on the Upper Sac.

Fishing the Upper Sac was another story all together.  Our first attempt was with our guide, Matt Dahl.  We looked at the river in three different locations, gave up due to the VERY high flows and went to the Lower Sac.

The next day, Barb and I decided to go to the historic little town of Dunsmuir, to the Ted Fay Fly Shop. We talked with Bob in the shop about where we might try to fish and as he was giving us some suggestions, another patron, Andy, told us what had been working for him and that he’d caught fish the day before.  After getting some flies from Bob, off we went to the river where the first image was taken.  As we were walking out of a spot we tried to access the river, we ran into Andy.  Andy told us to follow him and he’d show us a good spot to fish.  We followed Andy, and actually went back to one of the access spots Matt had stopped at originally, but Andy walked upstream a bit and showed us an “easy” access spot to scramble down to the river from the railroad tracks.  While we didn’t fish there that day, even though Andy invited us to join him, we made note of the spot and would return later.

We decided to go back to Dunsmuir for lunch at Yaks, which was voted by Yelp as one of the “Top 100 Restaurants in America”, 2015 edition.  Yaks is very cool place with incredibly unique and awesome burgers.  They had a pretty good selection of local brews as well.   We left stuffed and happy as we went to try a couple of other spots, but to no avail; the river was just too high and fast.

The following day, after we’d fished the McCloud with Ernie Dennison, he took us over to a different spot on the Upper Sac near the town of Mt. Shasta.  The river was still raging as we tried one particular spot and still, no fish.

Back we went the next day, with the flies in hand Bob had sold us, and directly to the spot Andy had shared.  We crossed the railroad tracks, scrambled down the path to the river and set to fishing on the rocks above the river (see pic 3 above).  After getting the right amount of line out, setting up our nymph rigs deep, we started casting out toward some large rocks submerged under the water.  BOOM…. first one, then two fish hit our flies and we’d scored our Upper Sac rainbows….  no “Skunking” on the Upper Sac.

After catching our Upper Sacramento rainbows, it was back to Dunsmuir, only this time, for a picnic lunch at a park by the river.  The park had numerous plaques on rocks and picnic tables commemorating area anglers who’d made contributions to the community and river.  One of the most famous of those was Ted Fay, whose fly shop in Dunsmuir we’d visited.  All of the plaques had wonderful thoughts and sayings on them that reminded us of the beauty, tranquility and peace to be found in the art of fly fishing and the outdoors where these streams flow.

We’ll not ever forget our time here in the “North State” as locals call it.  After spending a couple of weeks here in the area, we’ll also always feel Shasta is watching over us as our River Ramble adventures continue.

Ramble On

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few days before we met our guide to fish the McCloud River, we decided to take a drive out to the stretch of the river we’d be fishing.  As we drove along the McCloud Reservoir on narrower and narrower winding roads, with gallon jug size rocks that had fallen down the mountains onto the roads, we began to wonder when we’d get to the dam and then finally downstream to the river.  At one point, we saw a sign pointing to Ah-Di-Na Campground (7 miles) and the McCloud River Preserve (8 miles) and decided to take it, having heard that some of the best fishing was there.  About a mile into the drive, we decided the road was far too rough and scary and turned around, returning to the paved road that wound above the reservoir.  Another several miles on the road finally brought us to the dam.  We crossed the dam and headed down a gravel road, high above the McCloud River.  As it wound further and further, we found several crossings of the Pacific Crest Trail.  We decided to take the trail and it led us down to the river and to a foot bridge that crossed the river.  As we’d been informed, the river was running high and fast, but we still had to “wet a line” even though we would not go with a guide until the next day.  We caught nothing on that exploratory visit to the McCloud but were in awe of its beauty and majesty.

The next day we met our guide, Ernie Dennison, from The Fly Shop in Redding, CA, at 8am.  We headed back to the same bridge, along the Pacific Crest Trail, we’d visited the day prior.  This time, Barb hooked up with a small McCloud strain rainbow under the bridge.  We stayed there and fished a bit more before checking out a few other possibilities, all of which were too dangerous to fish.   As we learned from Ernie, normally the McCloud River flows at about 200 cfs (cubic feet per second); the highest he’d ever guided anyone on the river before was at around 700 cfs.  On our river day, it was flowing up over 1000 cfs, which was the highest Ernie had ever attempted with clients.  Safety was our biggest priority, and Ernie found spots that kept us safe, but allowed us to fish on the McCloud.

We decided to drive to the Ah-Di-Na Campground for lunch and off we went, down the same road that we’d decided was too treacherous the previous day.  We figured, if Ernie was headed down, we were going right behind him, even though another angler we’d talked with, while recommending the fishing near Ah-Di-Na, also described it as “the road from hell”.  Ernie later described it as the longest 8 miles of driving he’s ever encountered.

After about 25 minutes of bone rattling driving along “TRFH’, we made it to the campground, had lunch and hit the river near the campground.  We both hooked into fish in this spot and had a great time.  Next, we drove another mile to reach the trail to the McCloud River Preserve.  The Preserve is another Nature Conservancy project similar to where we fished Silver Creek in Idaho.  We hiked the Preserve trail for about 15 minutes before coming to a spot where the trail disappeared into the river, which again was raging downstream, so, we turned around and bid adieu to the McCloud.

We ended up heading over to the Upper Sacramento River since Ernie knew a spot he thought we might be able to fish.  A couple of days prior, Matt Dahl had tried to get us on the Upper Sac, but it was too dangerous to even get close.  While Ernie had found a couple of spots for us to test, the fishing just wasn’t great.

It was a gorgeous day, so we decided we’d sit down with Ernie along the Upper Sac and chat with him about the McCloud, and many of the other fisheries in the Redding area.  Ernie has been guiding for The Fly Shop for nearly 30 years and really knows all of the waters nearby.  We quizzed him on not just the McCloud, our focus for the day, but also all the other area streams.  We know you’ll enjoy his take on fishing, life, beer, more fishing and having fun while learning on the water.  Please click the video above to hear Ernie’s wisdom.

Ramble On

We met our guide for the day, Matt Dahl from The Fly Shop in Redding, at the Chevron at the Castella exit off I-5.  We’d already fished with Matt over on Hat Creek and were looking forward to another day with him on another river.  After a quick discussion about where to fish, we headed off to Dunsmuir, CA, to a local park with several plaques commemorating anglers who’d made contributions to the community and to the sport.  One of the biggest names in fly fishing in this area is Ted Fay, a master fly fisherman and guide.  A fly shop in Dunsmuir still bears his name.

While the park in Dunsmuir was beautiful, one look at the cascading waters of the Upper Sacramento, or Upper Sac as it’s known, told us all we needed to know;  don’t fish here, but, if you do, don’t step into the water for fear of getting swept away.  We quickly decided to look for another spot on the Upper Sac we might approach.  Down I-5 we went to the Sims exit, out by some railroad tracks, and we found the same situation, a raging river.

At this point, Matt indicated that finding fishable water on the Upper Sac was going to be difficult, so we headed down to Redding to fish the Lower Sacramento.   Matt went and grabbed his drift boat and we met him at the famous Sundial Bridge.  After getting our steelhead licenses (no we weren’t fishing for steelhead but because steelhead might be in the river we had to get them), we oared our way out into the Lower Sac that was flowing pretty fast itself, at 13,000 cfs.  It wasn’t anything you’d want to try and wade into, but in a drift boat, it was safe and we were off.

Nymph fishing was the order of the day on the Lower Sac, so with a 3 fly rig, we starting searching for the big rainbows the Lower Sac is known for.  Luckily, we found a few along the way and had a great day fishing with Matt.

Our interview with Matt was done right on the banks of the river with the Sundial Bridge in the background, along with some wind and noisy horses.  We hope you enjoy our interview with Matt on fishing the Sacramento.  We even tried to coax him into revealing some of his favorite “nunya” streams, but to no avail.  Cheers Matt!

Ramble On

Our second California River, Hat Creek, and our second Matt… but this time it was Matt Dahl of The Fly Shop in Redding.  We met at Hat Creek Park which is a small park dedicated to fly fishing.  There is a major project happening on Hat Creek, the “Wild Trout Project” being done by CalTrout.  We saw great stream side work being done to shore up the banks of the Creek, miles of paths providing great Creek access and even large trees placed in the water to provide trout with cover.  It was impressive.

We took out hiking our way downstream, looking for some “fishy” water and found some where Barb landed a really nice size and colorful trout.  Matt was even excited seeing the size of the rainbow in his net.  Downstream, I got a hit and landed a much smaller rainbow, but it was still a fish.  Unfortunately, those were the only fish we landed that day.

While the “hooking and catching” was tough, the fishing, scenery and great coaching from Matt were awesome.  We tried some dries to rising trout in an area of Hat Creek Matt described as “church”, which really meant that these fish were REALLY hard to snare.  However, trying to get one of these Ph.D. level fish to think the fly attached to your 6x tippet, was a blast.

Matt worked really hard to get us on fish, but as we talked to other anglers that day we found that in catching one each, we’d had a pretty good day.  Afterward, we had a chance to interview Matt in the cool shade of a tall pine.   We know you’ll enjoy hearing how Matt got into fly fishing and why Hat Creek is so special.

Ramble On!