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The hex hatch is On


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It is this dark when the bugs come off

 

 

 

 

Spending the day being guests of the Spinnerfall Lodge, and exploring the broad spring creek waters that are Fall River has left my friend and I pretty pooped out. Sack  time by nine o’clock, and up for a complimentary full breakfast buffet by eight. We weren’t to meet up with our guide, Cody, until around nine the following morning. Perfect!

At the appointed hour we are driving down the broad, graveled drive under the massive country log sign of the Circle 7 Guest Ranch. On both sides of this drive are the cool, lush greens of new growing hay, and some animals a short distance across the fields. At the end of the drive are rambling ranch buildings, surrounding the square of lawn with walkways and a gazebo. There are more rental houses here along the river, a small tackle shop, an access to the river for launching, and a couple of ginornous barns stuffed with their award winning hay.

We use a walkway between two of the rental houses that leads down to a small dock where a bunch of flat bottomed  john boats  are moored. Cody leads us to one on the end, and we get loaded up as Cody sizes up our equipment while courteously probing about our experience levels. He was ready to provide all the gear needed, but we opted for our own stuff.

John boat loaded, up the river we go!

Cody began pointing out fish swimming away from the boat’s shadow almost from the beginning, but when we arrived where my pal and I anchored the previous day, the groups of fish fleeing became much larger. We ooed, and awed, and didjaseethesizeofthatone’ed all the way from there to the stretch of water Cody had in mind for us  to fish. There are so, so many big trout in that water!

We anchored and Cody tied flies and indicators to our lines. The flies were of his own design,  and we did catch some nice fish, but I never did see what they were. I think he was cagey about that, and I didn’t think about it until the following day when my pal and I were discussing what to use. It went something like this; “Did you see what we were using yesterday?” “No, I always passed the line back to him.” They were itty bitty though.” “What the heck were they?”"I duno, I didn’t see em.”

Cody  did tell us how he determined what to use by inspecting some of the grasses floating by. He showed us all the little larvae, and nymphs adhering to the grass. He used these indicators for size and color in an artificial. We used his teaching, and managed to boat a couple of nice trout!

Still on the previous day though, we fished the morning and a couple hours into the afternoon where the bite kind of just pooped out. We went back in with agreement to meet back at the Circle 7 a little before seven o’clock.

It  had been a really great day. We caught fish. We learned from our guide’s experience. We had great food. What’s not to like? The only thing is we didn’t get into the hex hatch yet. I will have that for you in a couple of days.

No, don’t look at me that way! I promise, I won’t take months to get it done. So please stay tuned.

Mr Hook

Hex Hatch


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This is what we used during the hatch

My fishing pal and I were ready for the legendary Hex Hatch on Fall River. We had been reading up everything we could find on the internet about the hexagenia limbata. This time in late June was perfect and we were ready!

Our arrival at the Spinner Fall Lodge felt just right in the late morning sun shining through some big  trees that separate a big meadow from the lodge. Some of the fellas from the Shasta Trinity Fly Fishers club were just finishing packing to leave. They had booked the first three day segment, and we had the final three days. They told us some fish were caught, but not nearly as many as in years past. They suggested we use one of the guides since we were beginners in this fishery.

We checked in, talked to Cody Waltrip about a guided trip for the following day (it’s best to book him through the Fly Shop), and headed right for the launching ramp. A small detour was necessary though. Since the hex hatch happened right at dark, we would need a spot lamp to navigate back up the river, so we went into Fall River Mills to buy one. Then we went right down to the launch for the beginning of our exploration.

After we got on the water, a few minutes were spent looking at the river near the red barn, and then headed up river where some other boats had gone. We found a couple of nice looking spots to fish, but flailing away at them produced maybe one small take. Oh boy this is going to be tough!

Sitting in the blazing hot afternoon sun on the water in an open boat started us thinking maybe a short nap was in order. Further more the hunger bug was bugging us too, so back to the lodge we went. The hex hatch was still about four hours away after all. We may as well rest up!

A few luxurious minutes of nap time recharged our excitement, so off to the dinning room we went. I didn’t take notes about what we chowed down on, but the chef sent us some really great meals. (I was told there will be an even better chef there in 2013) We made it back to the boat about seven o’clock, and headed down river where the hatch was slated to be. Luckily we followed a couple of other boats that left at the same time. This was a stroke of good fortune, because the distance traveled was a bit more than first thought. On our own we may have stopped short of the hex hatch area, and missed out entirely.

We found a spot to anchor up a few hundred yards down river of the confluence with the Tule River, and once again began flailing away. Our fly selection was about what we perceived the literature to recommend, and what some other angler’s had described, but there were no takes. The fish jumping everywhere around us drove us a little crazy. We were afraid the hex hatch was going to be a bomb.

Adult Hex

Adult Hexagenia Liimbata
permission by scdittes@sbcglobal.net

The funny thing is the hex hatch had not even started yet. When people said “right at dark” they were telling the exact truth about it. At our lowest point of excitement, and thinking about heading back to the barn, the hatch started!

We had anchored so our casting was right into the moon light. Luckily that was perfect. The water just exploded with fish, and there were these gigantuous bugs flying around everywhere. We only had a couple of grabs, but boy was that exciting. We couldn’t wait to get back there the following night!

I will continue on with the next day in a post a few days from now. I hope you have found it entertaining.

Mr Hook

 

Presidents Day on Lake Shasta


The lack of rainfall through out the month of January is presenting an opportunity for anglers to explore much of Lake Shasta with complete opportunity for great spring like success. Turbidity of the water is clearing each day, and the color is greening up. I noticed my downrigger weight is visible on the way up from 24-30 inches. The visibility is getting pretty clear. Some of the bass guys I have spoken with are even experimenting with more colorful bait presentations with success.

During this past week there existed an opportunity to spend a day on the water, and I took it! I blew a fuse hooking up the downrigger and thought, “Oh boy, one of those days?” False starts, unexpected niggling little things for the rest of the day. But everything else was fine. Yay, and I caught fish!

I began my morning where the water was running into the coves of Little Squaw, and Dry Creek using a leach pattern with the fly rod. The screen didn’t show very many fish, but I tried anyway to no avail. I thought maybe some trout would be staging for spawning. I then moved out along the banks tossing a brown plastic worm, and a Berkley Gulp biodegradable minnow and hooked a couple of smallies; one using the Gulp, and one using the worms.

Fish began showing up on the screen at 15-25 feet as I entered deeper water, so I prepared the downrigger for action, and the action didn’t come for a very long time. My ‘go to’ wiggle hoochie just wasn’t working. I began changing lures, and passing through the fish time after time. Finally, the first hook up. A beautiful little rainbow grabbed a Rapala Countdown, but that fish was the only one to be fooled. I just couldn’t find the right combo for the fish in the shallow water.

Although I was told many of the successes from anglers happened from shallow water, I noticed large concentrations of fish being marked from 50-65 feet. The hoochies have done well for fish at this depth, so I went through my favorite three colors white, blue, and purple. The result was one nice spot at 37 feet on the line using the white hoochie.2013-02-07_12-42-14_699

Not enough hoochie love for me, so lure changing I went again. The next strike was on a little chrome and blue Kastmaster. I missed it though, and that was the only strike. I changed to a Blue Fox with the same colors, but larger hook, and boated a 15 inch rainbow. I hooked another similar rainbow in the same water column using a Humdinger.

 

The long range weather forecast does not show any huge, rain laden storms headed our way, so by Presidents Day this wonderful lake should be a spring angler’s dream. Heck, the air temperatures have been as high as 71 degrees, but has been hovering in the mid-50′s to low-60′s most days. It may be even warmer come Presidents Day in a couple of weeks, so start packing your gear for Lake Shasta so you can be Ketchinnee!

Spinner Fall


Fall River in June

Fall River in June

When I was growing up in the 1960′s I was incredibly lucky to have a father dedicated to teaching his family about outdoor activities like fishing, hunting, hiking, water sports, and the like. Shasta County in northern California was a little known resource to the casual vacationer, considered to near to their metropolitan urban homes to brag about. Far more exotic trips to Alaska, British Columbia, or Florida seemed to be more brag worthy.

My dad knew our area was far more diverse than many of these other “exotic” destinations. Many of the high dollar adventures were known for only one or two featured draws like a certain species of salmonid, big game animal, or saltwater big game fishing. Our northern California resources were enough to whet the appetite of any outdoors’ enthusiast. There was even a spring creek fishery unlike any other. This largest and most famous of spring creeks in California is Fall River.

Before 1971 Fall River was completely private lands with owners giving little or no access to sportsmen. My dad tried and tried to gain an ‘in’ with ranchers to fish this fabulous water to no avail. He even spent an entire winter welding up irrigation pipe for hay ranchers, and they turned him down. They paid him, of course, but would not grant access to the river for an outsider.

In the early 1970′s a notable lawsuit declared Fall River to be navigable if one can get a boat into the water. CalTrout spearheaded this suit, and maintains a launch for small non-gas powered watercraft near the Island Road Bridge. This is the only “public” access on the middle section of Fall River above the confluence with the Tule River.  A current link for what CalTrout is up to right now is http://caltrout.org/regions/mount-shasta-region/the-fall-river/.

I was out of the area during the ensuing years. I didn’t keep up with local northern California politics unless brought to my notice from my mom or dad, and neither of them mentioned this development. Those water’s were still off limits as far as I knew until a presentation about Fall River at the monthly meeting of Shasta Trinity Fly Fishers..

The club president told us there were two three day trips scheduled for the last two weeks of June, and it was first come first serve at the sign up sheet. I said to myself “Oh yeah! Wish dad could go with me.”, and made a reservation for two. My fishing pal James would go too.

SpinnerFall Lodge

SpinnerFall Lodge

Where We Stayed

Nestled in a huge high mountain meadow is the Spinnerfall Lodge, and would be our base of operations for the net few days. This place was great! As expected, the rooms are decorated northwoods rustic, and like other small motel rooms, but that is where the similarity ended. A huge deck spans the entire length of the main lodge in a couple of tiers, and overlooks a giant lawn that leads right down to the river’s edge featuring a little waterwheel pump, and launch. A beautiful bar overlooks all of this in the main room, where tables are set for diners in big parties, or small and intimate. The food was fantastic, and very reasonable, with breakfast, bag lunch, and dinner everyday. We enjoyed their chef’s specialties very much thank you!

Water Wheel Pup

Water Wheel Pump

I am going to break this trip down into a couple of different posts, so come back to check out the actual fishing part in a few days. In the mean time you may like to check out what a trip like this can mean to you by going to The Fly Shop. They are one of the premier outfitters, and offer their help in a very courteous, knowledgeable manner.

The fishing part of the trip will be in a few days, be sure to come back.  Until next time, I hope you are out Ketchinnee!

Mr Hook

 

Shasta in January


It’s middle of January as I launch the boat on a crisp, windless, gray day at Centamudi launching ramp near Shasta Dam. There is about 6 inches of hard crusty snow lining the shore that seems to make the day colder than it really is. I have a vision of sparkly ice crystals blowing from my rod guides as I reel in line. I am thinking this must just be too chilly for any serious effort at hooking a fish. But the fishin bug has struck me, and I must answer.

Psych! The above description is one from memory about a outing years ago. This day’s detail goes as follows. Yes it is the middle of January but the day is as bright and sunny as any spring day could be with a temperature in the low 70′s. Can you imagine? The only snow shows as white patches along the higher ridge lines, and the brightly lit visage of Mt Shasta. The trees and bushes along the shore show heavy budding from the unseasonably warm weather of the past week. We can only hope the winter rains come back to fill the lakes, and ensure our northern California lands can stay as green longer into the hot months.

A fellow January angler is just  pulling out to go home as I prepare my boat to launch, and we talked a little about his successes of the day. We also shared fish pix from our phones in a nostalgic way about warmer weather catches. I found out his best lure of the day was a split tail root beer colored grub. His electronics showed fish suspended in the 45-60 foot depth range. He caught all of his fish right there. Slowly working rock outcroppings in that depth range only produced one small spotted bass this day.

I launched the boat and headed for my favorite coves near the Shasta Dam straight away. I noticed hardly any driftwood  on the forebay, and as a matter of fact, there was very little driftwood to be encountered anywhere. This is always a plus in the months that Lake Shasta is filling. Driftwood deposited on the shore from the previous year migrates out onto the water as the lake level rises, and this can make it dangerous for boaters not paying enough attention. Most of the time the little pieces of wood will only go tick, tick against the hull, but sometimes the thunk of a larger piece will sound and the possibility of getting stuck in the prop, or sucked into a jet pump is real. Just keeping vigilant “eyes forward” should prevent this danger to the excursion!

The water on this day was pretty turbid. I gauged the visibility to be about 16 inches by watching my downrigger weight coming up when I trolled. I have found darker colored offerings to show better in these turbid conditions. Black, dark brown, and purple seem to work really well, but not for me on this day.

I spent some of my time fly casting a black leech pattern in places having running water entering the lake to no avail. When the shadows crept into the cove I was reminded of January winter chill. The air temperature plummeted rapidly, and I left following the sun, and began to troll. There were a lot of fish signatures in the depth range stated by the fellow at the launch, and there were quite a few boats trolling in this area, but I didn’t get one hook up. The guys in the other boats I spoke with said my experience was much the same as theirs. No fish boated.

Fish boated or not, it was a beautiful day to try Ketchinnee on Lake Shasta in Mid January.

Mr Hook

 

2013 California Fishing License


 

I just went and bought my 2013 California Department of Fish and Wildlife license yesterday. In case you have not seen what is being given as a license yet. Here is a picture of mine. There will be additional documents with report cards, and validation cards. Fills the pouch big time.2013-01-16_15-37-42_523

The fee for a California Sport Fishing license has a base of $45.93. This is the basic license for sport fishing in the state’s open waters. There are two report cards I get every year. The first is for steelhead at $7.05, and Northcoast Salmon fishing report card at $6.22. I also add a second rod validation at $14.04.

To see all the combinations, and fees for California go to http://www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/fishing/fishdescrip.html.

How about that? I must spend nearly $75.00 to go fishing the way I like. Phew! I couldn’t come up with the correct search parameters, but I think my first license in 1967 cost $3.50. What a difference half a century can make.

Every year there are two Free Fishing Days for California, and they are July 6th and September 7th for 2013. These two days every year provide an opportunity for folks to experience the fun of sport fishing on California open waters. There are some stipulations though and more information about this program and rules can be found at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/fishing/freefishdays.html.

I hope this information was valuable for you, and you can do the same as me Ketchinnee.

Mr Hook

California Elves


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This is the new logo for, well you get the picture. I feel the change is appropriate, and would like feed back from you.

Before just setting the stage I would like to mention a few of my reasons for why I feel the appropriateness of this change for the California Elves.

In 1870, think about it as only a few years following the Civil War, California established the Board of Fish Commissioners, and expanded the inclusion of game to the board’s responsibilities in 1878. Obviously there was felt a need to protect from the wholesale slaughter of this state’s enormous abundance of fish and game. The population was growing like crazy. Food sources were needed. Habitat for game, and waters for fish were being compromised daily by not only the farmers and ranchers, but also mining and industrialization of the state in general.

The next name change was in 1909 when the Commission of Fish and Game was established, then again in 1927 as the Division of Fish and Game. In 1951 the Division of Fish and Game was elevated to the Department of Fish and Game, and has remained so until January 1, 2013. It has been over 60 years since the responsibilities of these elves was addressed for their impact on the resources in this huge state. Go here for a nice timeline, http://www.dfg.ca.gov/about/.

The scope of responsibility for these California Elves has been far more than the moniker Fish and Game denotes. Their mission statement posted in the above link plainly addresses much of what is involved, but falls short of the entirety.

I would like to tell of this small example to illustrate my point

Much of the responsibility for a volunteer fire department along the Trinity River in northern California is responding to vehicle mishaps along highway 299. I was a responding member at the site of a pickup that completely overturned on the road near a little creek that entered the Trinity River a few hundred feet from the accident, and the overturned vehicle spilled all manner of fuel and oil on the road near this creek. Our local warden showed up as we began clean up protocol, and coached us about how to control the mess from further endangering the water. Without his guidance we may have just kitty littered the mess and swept it off the asphalt, but he explained why this was a irresponsible solution, and helped us sweep up the kitty litter for depositing in the hazmat bin at the landfill. We could have unwittingly polluted a whole section of river habitat if not for his guidance, and teaching efforts.

The behavior, and perception of a warden’s responsibility is probably slewed towards the law enforcement side, because where is it you read about other things they do for the public? If anyone is silly enough to defy the rules set by our California Elves, let them experience the law enforcement side.

I am off to get my 2013 fishing license in a little while. The cost to obtain my license is quite daunting. How much of the fee is going to the logo change? And herein lies my misgivings about the whole change over thing. Why is the brunt of the cost placed upon the licensees instead of budgeted from the state. The entire public draws benefit from the endeavors of the department, not only the licensee.

If any readers know enough about the budget line for this change to post thoughts about it, we would appreciate it. For now I am off to purchase said license so I can go be Ketchinnee.

Mr Hook

As an aside, I have had some health issues preventing my blogging. I believe I am back. Stay Tuned!

 

Report for Trinity River at Indian Creek


The Indian Creek Lodge sent me this report yesterday so the information is current for the Trinity River near Douglas City, CA.  I thank John and Elena for keeping me updated about the river near their lodge.

Beautiful Place to Stay

Indian Creek Lodge entrance

THE SEASONS TURN–SALMON EXPIRING, STEELHEAD ARRIVING

As expected the great runs of Chinook we saw earlier in 2012 are being matched by the fall steelhead run. Steelhead have been arriving in good numbers since mid-October, and the rain we have received over the last week will undoubtedly bring a lot more. Last week the anglers who were willing to brave some rain showers continued reporting good numbers of hook ups, and then the big rains hit and the river was unfishable for two days, with the flow momentarily spiking up to 6,000 cfs at Douglas City last Sunday. Then we were back down below 1,000 cfs for a couple of fantastic fishing days, then rain last night created another surge up to 2,400 cfs. We are “blown out” as I type, but should be below 1,000 with good water clarity in the upper river tomorrow.  The one drift boat report we had from ICL guests yesterday was epic: 17 steelhead landed by noon, with a few more and some browns in the afternoon. All indicators (pardon the pun) point to an exceptional year for steelhead on the Trinity, and so far that’s spot on.  As always, feel free to give us a call for current reports.

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Tough Love Bassin


The wet stuff subsided for a few days this past week. The weekend temperatures soared into the low 80′s, so some research time on Lake Shasta was in order. Sunday was the day for me. Unfortunately the wind was blowing up a gale across the bay behind Shasta Dam, and creeping to a sheltered cove to fish in white capped water was a tense bit of work. But I made it with only a little spray. (Actually the spray soaked my ball cap!)

Okay, now I am all rigged up and trolling in the zone where I had been hooking bass. I have had good success with a brass/chrome dodger trailing a blue wiggle hoochie about 20 inches back at 33 to 41 feet on the wire. Spots (spotted bass), smallies (small mouth bass), rainbow trout, and Chinook salmon have all been produced using this tackle.  The other pole has a copper dodger with 15 inches of leader and a snap swivel in order to change lures quickly. I also have a slider for experimenting with weight. I am using about 1/2 ounce on it this day and began with a Rebel jointed lure.

Troll, troll, troll, but nothing was happening. Now I begin to alter depth, and switching lures. Still nothing. My sonar is showing almost nothing in the places where just a week before was full of fish, and the wind is blowing my little boat in a manner almost exactly away from my target areas. Grr! But I kept at it.

After a good 4 hours trying the techniques mentioned above, and quite a few others, (even dunked some worms), I decided to give in. On back to the launch ramp I went, and examined what I had learned this day. The best I could come up with was the sharp decrease in water temperature. In one week the temp went from 67-68 degrees to 62-63 degrees. The fish I had been targeting moved into different feeding patterns, and territories. I think the cooler water now up higher in the water column will send fish into shallower feeding zones, and will be striking offerings all the way to the top.

I will try again next week if the weather permits.

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