When people think of California they often imagine the bright sunshine, palm trees, busy freeways and crowds! However, the Sunshine State has much more to offer than the bustle of the big cities and heavy population. For those in the fly fishing world, Northern California is the center of incredible water. Perhaps there is no better wild water in Northern California than those of the Upper Sacramento river, or the Upper Sac as locals refer to it. This road side fishery is one of the finest in the West. And while access is relatively available, this river can provide serenity and quiet away from people on water that is seldom fished.
The Upper Sac begins below Lake Siskiyou near the town of Mt. Shasta and works its way downstream through the wild scenery of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, eventually dumping into Lake Shasta. This incredible stretch of water is nearly 40 miles long and offers a variety of water types that hold numerous and great sized rainbow trout. Fly fishing the Upper Sac is an amazing adventure filled with challenging water, beautiful scenery and the chance at some incredible fishing.
One of the best parts of fly fishing the Upper Sacramento is the variety of water. Because the river has such a diverse amount of terrain, each section of the river demands its own attention to skill, bug selection and casting. The river is friendly to beginners but also holds great challenge for those who appreciate the finesse of technique.
The High Stick Method
Ted Fay was a legendary fisherman on the Upper Sacramento River. His understanding of the water, bug patterns and casting techniques are still in use today. He pioneered the guiding business from his Hotel near Dunsmuir, California and was the “go-to” person to find out the secrets of the river. The High Stick method or short line nymphing was a technique he had learned from Ted Towendolly, another famous local who had created this unique way of fishing the waters of the Upper Sacramento River. This casting style consists of short, leader length casts, that aggressively sink weighted nymphs into fast pools of water where the fish hold. Standing no more than a rods length away from these waters, the technique is perfect for the kind of pockets that are all along the river bed of the Upper Sacramento. This cast and nymph set up can yield surprising results and the consistency and size of fish is astounding.
History of The Upper Sacramento
The history of the area is fascinating. The Wintu Native Americans were the first to discover the incredible fishery of this area. When the fur trade brought European traders and trappers to the area, they too found that these waters held resources that they were after. Following the Siskiyou Trail, the trappers decimated the beaver population. In 1850 Gold was discovered along the tributaries of the Upper Sacramento and the West would be forever changed. Fly fishing started to see a resurgence on the water in the 1920’s and 30’s but really became a legendary water for fly fishing in the 1960’s under Ted Fay’s influence. The aggressive rainbow trout, who’s acrobatics are showcased with the slightest taste of steel in their mouths have brought anglers here for decades. This amazing video from the 1980’s has legendary guide Joe Kimsey, an apprentice to Ted Fay, discussing the water and seasons along the river.
Our Recent Visits
MoJoBella loves fishing the Upper Sacramento. One of our recent visits yielded some great adventure as well as some fantastic fishing.
If you are looking for a guided experience in this amazing part of California we would love the opportunity to take you fly fishing on one of our favorite rivers.