October 25th & 26th, 2008 Upper Sac
Time: Friday 5:30pm - 6:30pm , Saturday 4:30pm
I rolled into town much later than I cared to on Friday. So late I got very little fishing done that evening. Work's been pretty demanding all year and though I had planned to leave the Bay Area early in the morning, I was on my computer, dialed into work until noon.
I had hoped for a nice, leisurely, morning drive up HWY 5 to The Fly Shop in Redding, followed by a nice warm afternoon on the Upper Sac.. I rolled into Dunsmuir about 4:00pm and many of the Gathering attendees were milling about the Dunsmuir Rod Company shop. They chatted and drank beer while Chris Raine, the proprietor, cooked ribs.
Chris hosts the rod gathering the same weekend each year but this is the first time I'd ever been up early on a Friday night. Antsy to start fishing, I said my "hellos" to a few folks and then excused myself. I had fish to catch.
I'd been looking all day to fishing the Soda Creek area properly. Sure, I fish Soda Creek often, at least every other year if not every year; but, it had been about 7 years since I'd fished more than just the pocket water and even then I was pretty much playing guide. It had been years since I crossed the river and headed down stream to the longer runs and pools.
Friday though would not be that day. I had about an hour to fish and so that meant the pocket water. I'd been warned that the fishing had been tough and so when I wasn't immediately getting into fish on my chosen flies, I switched to something else. I did a lot of switching of flies and techniques this weekend but found that as always, the best producer was my "not a bird's nest" fly, fished slowly. The fish were hitting the flies but they were doing it lightly. If I wasn't on the ball, I wasn't catching fish and I'm sure that for a two hour period on Sunday I was simply fishing too much line and missing fish.
Friday was a different matter. I wasn't picking up fish on the nymph, so I switched to a dry. Not an October Caddis dry, which seems to be what most folks were fishing but a Klinkhammer Special. I picked up three fish that night.
Saturday I spent most of the day at the Dunsmuir City Park casting rods at the gathering. There were lots of rods and I enjoyed casting the day away. When I finally tore myself away, it was again early evening. It was too late to drive anywhere so I opted to fish the City Park. There's a back way into the park from the hotel, so I was dressed and on my way in no time.
The park was a wee bit crowded. There was a women's club on the river and quite a few of them seemed to be fishing the park. The water down stream is beautiful but most folks don't go upstream much, so I headed up. No secrets here. I waded through the near run to get to the pocket water on the other side. The cased caddis nymph was the ticket, as I presume it was last year.
These chronicles are my only fishing notes and I find it hard to remember what fished well unless I write or hint about it here. Last year the fishing was great and I can't remember how I did it. It took me a while to get the cast right, get the weight right and get the drift right but once I did, the fishing was consistent. Consistent enough to say it was good but not predictable and by no means a sure thing.
I suspect that most if not all the fish were planters. Fish and Game plants fish the length of the river within the city limits. A few looked like planters but several didn't. All the fish were about the same size though, 12 to 14 inches, maybe slightly longer, and hardy- quite fun on this section of river.
That night I shared brisket with the rest of the Gathering folk.
The next morning a bunch of us met at the rod shop. Antsy to fish as always, I said my good byes when we all seemed to be just standing around. I wasn't feeling particularly well. I'd been fighting off a sinus infection and was on my second round of antibiotics; but, I had left them at home. Three days without the meds and the infection was starting to take hold again. I figured I'd stop by Soda Creek for a little while and then retire early.
The lower section of river at Soda Creek had become overgrown in my absence. The run I use to cross the river had become deeper at the crossing point, forcing me to walk a few feet further down river where more gravel had accumulated. The once open banks were now filled with brush. It even seemed that the dirt face that forms a canyon wall had encroached a bit. When I've got the daylight, I like to start fishing the lower section of river below Soda Creek near an old wall. I'm sure I've read somewhere about the origin of the wall, an old resort or power station- something to do with the railroad rings a bell but I can't quite remember what it was. Whatever it used to be, it's now simply a landmark that begins my favorite section of stream.
The last time I was here, in 2001, I was just picking up Czech Nymphing. Czech Nymphing is all the rage now but back then it was probably only known to those Americans that read the European fishing magazines or had Oliver Edward's video on the subject. It's an effective method of fishing but I found it a bit boring and less challenging than the Humphrey's method.
If I had to put food on the table though, dragging 3 heavily weighted nymphs through a run is the way to go. Anyway, an assortment of rolling Polish nymphs in hand, I hooked into a fish just below the wall which pulled me all over that starting run. Up, down, left, right, there was no way anyone was going to catch fish from that run for the next hour.
That year I sort of cheated. I fished the Polish nymphs but also had my "not a bird's nest" on. It was that fly that picked up the fish. This year, I didn't manage to hook a fish below the wall. I was having trouble controlling my drift and simply decided to move on. Just above the wall I hooked a couple of fish, landing a small wild rainbow. From there I worked my way upstream through several stair stepping pools.
At the head of one run, I quickly hooked into what would have been the largest fish of the trip and lost it just as fast. "I'm sure there's another one in there", the man picnicking with his wife on my right said. "I'm sure there is", I replied, thinking I'd probably hooked the big boy of the pool on the first cast. Two or three casts later I was into another but smaller fish that I did land.
The stair stepping pools can be tough to fish. They cascade over rock and in time the current has created what are large pits filled with water. They are beyond plunge pools and difficult to fish because of their many currents. The first is essentially two pools. Water comes rushing in on the left in a narrow slot, hits the back of the pit and swirls across the pool. Some of the water spills over the lip, most of it swirls back into the pool. To the right of that, more water flows into the pool; this current is wider and less swift. Most flies run down the wide current when cast. The fish however hold below the narrow current. Flies in the wide current, which might drift into the fishes' feeding lane are pushed away as the water flows back toward the center the pool.
It takes a precise cast to put the fly into the proper lane of current. The drift is short and fast and so a tuck cast has to be used to get the fly down fast. It's a challenge, and I try to stay until I get it right. It's a three part challenge, I guess all fly fishing is- cast, drift, set. Here the set is tough as well. You're not going to feel it, chances are you aren't even going to see it by watching your line, you have to watch the fish. It's tough but if you concentrate, you can see through the swirling current and watch the fish. I miss several takes before I get it right and land a decent sized fish.
I decide not to push my luck and fish the other side of the pool. A small mound of rock divide the two. The right side is larger than the left. The main current is stronger and pretty straight forward. The fish generally hold along the lower back wall. I decide to move on when I don't see any fish. Above a couple is playing catch with their two dogs. They throw large branches into a plunge pool above and let is float down into the next pool. Their game takes four or five good fishing pools out of action. Too bad, I was looking forward to fishing them.
Upstream I found myself at the pocket water I'd fished on Friday and again put on the Klinkhammer special. This small bit of pocket water is my favorite beat, in this favorite stretch on the river, bar none.
The fish had no love for the Klinkhammer or the way I was fishing it that day. At the top of the run, I again threw on my cased caddis/ "not a bird's nest" combination. In this rough and roily water the takes were savage. The fish were strong and their first instinct was to jump into the fast current and break me off. Several fish did this before I decided to follow the last fish down stream with the current. I was still feeling ill but ill fishing beats ill home in bed any day. It was time to go. I was feeling ill and wanted to get home to Vita early. I landed the last fish and still left a full one third to one half of this favorite part of the Upper Sac un-fished. It will have to wait until next year. I had planned to fish the Upper Sac again next weekend but.....Vita unexpectedly spent my gas money on a new Coach handbag.