For the first time since February I braved the high, off-colored waters of the Upper Sacramento river. It didn’t disappoint, though a certain decision of mine involving a knot did.
Before I get there, here’s some context. My buddy Kurt and I left Manteca at 4:30 a.m. and were exiting I-5 four hours later just as the first thermos of coffee was spent. Heading north on 5, the water is really big until the Sims Flat exit as lots of little creeks tip the river above the comfortable fishing level.
From Sims past Dunsmuir there are some nice runs, the edges of which provide havens for big trout. The key is access. With the water feet higher than the late summer, reaching the water is difficult with the thick thorns of berry bushes poking at your waders, not to mention branches and undergrowth.
When you do get to the water, the issue of casting becomes the next obstacle.
Quick-loading, fast-action rods are nice, especially if low branches are making you do the front-side, back-hand flick up river to start another drift. Kurt was using his Sage ESN which is a rod made specifically for nymphing. I absolutely want one, but its 10-foot length, and super supple tip made for a long morning of snags and searching for room to throw his rig. I had my 9-foot 5-weight. I’ve also used a 9-foot 6-inch 7-weight which really gave me nice bang for my casting buck.
An obvious solution to getting out of the bushes is to wade, but venturing too far into the water to clear up some roll-casting room can be extremely dangerous. Just a few inches of swift water add a tremendous amount of down-river pressure. Cloudy water can hide drop-offs or snags to trip on.
The closer you get to Sims, the higher the water gets, but as I mentioned, there are some nice deep runs with adjacent casting lanes that are accessible. I don’t necessarily like using depth charge split shot to get down into the many abysses, I prefer the edges of longer, more consistent runs with submerged boulder cover and the obvious gravel bottoms. There’s a spot near Sims Flat that provides just that.
Since the water was swift, but not raging, I only put on two tin split shot above a No. 4 Rubber Legs and dropped a No. 16 Signature Prince. It didn’t take long to get a little casting knot. The modified roll-casting, and unbalanced rig made things difficult. I looked at the casting knot and decided to do nothing. It wasn’t that I didn’t expect fish, or one big enough to break the line, I guess I was just dulled by the long drive and the cold water.
Sure enough I hooked up with a brute of a brown trout I worked from the current into the slower edge, then back toward my net. It was close enough to see that it easily went 18-inches before the knot gave and the fish disappeared.
I re-rigged and hooked more fish, but that first one bothered me. I should have known better. It doesn’t take that long to clip the line and retie – minutes at the absolute most. With much of the water up thanks to recent rain, conditions won’t be perfect, so taking advantages of the chances you have is vital.
I’m bound to do something dumb like that again, but I’ve at least learned my lesson for now.
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