The Upper Sacramento River turns back and forth in riffle, run, pool sequences for thirty-some miles providing a buffet of great fishing opportunities. I’ve caught big brown trout, and big rainbows. Nothing of epic, wall-mount size, but a few of each that are a season or two from 20-inches. I love rainbow trout, but because they are more common, each hook up comes with the hope the line is holding a feisty brown.
I could hardly wait to get on the water, so at one of the first exists north of Shasta, I turned off and my buddy Kurt and I got to fishing. Within five minutes I was battling a 16-inch rainbow. We caught a bunch of fish, and though none were browns, we were satisfied.
We camped at Sims Flat and the next morning we drove east to the famous McCloud. Neither of us had fished it before, so all I wanted was one trout. The river was smaller than I had expected and there were more snakes than I would ever like to see again. Not that three is a lot, but I have a completely unreasonable fear of snakes.
A black bear isn’t going to leap out from a crack in a rock. You don’t have to check your sleeping bag for wolves. Granted those animals would remove appendages rather than inject them with venom, but that’s not the point. I hate sneaky, slithery creatures.
Anyway, I took a similar angling approach with the McCloud that I did with the Upper Sac. I bounced a rubber legs off a rock to simulate a bug falling into the water and instantly a 16-inch brown trout took it. It wasn’t the biggest brown I have caught, but it was the most beautiful for sure. Naturally the fish flipped out of my hands before the picture could be taken so there is no photographic evidence, but that’s how things work sometimes. Later that day I nailed the biggest rainbow of the trip back on the Upper Sac. I had bookended both days with big fish, one of which was a brown. All was right with my world.
The next day I was shut out at the Conant exit, then Gibson, then Pollard Flat. Kurt and I had fished for hours and I hadn’t had so much as a hit. The horrific notion that after two unreal days of fishing, the trip would end with a skunking was almost nauseating. I started losing focus, rushing my casts and dragging my drifts. Finally I hooked up. I was so relieved to be fighting a fish, that I didn’t care if it was a brown or rainbow.
I again mentally deleted the first draft of my “skunked column” and netted a 17-inch…squawfish? Since when was there an option C? I didn’t even know this fish lived in the Upper Sacramento drainage. Squawfish or pikeminnow are detested by some anglers and just tossed on shore to rot. So I wasn’t skunked, but wasn’t exactly relieved.
About an hour later, shortly before we headed back to Manteca, I hooked up with…another squawfish. The fish I didn’t know existed had twice taken my micro mayfly.
There is no doubt this is why I love fishing, just when you think there are two ways things can go, along comes a big, predatory third option which provides great conversation for the drive back to the real world.
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