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Fishing the Upper Sac and Fall River

Dan Millis, Tom Greenup, Jimmy Toy, Bill Becher

November 6-10, 1998


This trip started with a plan to pull Larry Martin's boat up to the Burney area, where it would be available to fish the Fall River. We would meet up with Jimmy Toy, currently on assignment in Sacramento. Larry was to fly up later with Nathan from Malibu Tackle and Larry Garfinkel.

Larry's Snowboat

As you can see, we delivered the boat, but we should have brought skis. The plane trip was scrubbed, and the hard core headed out the next morning in a snowstorm toward the McCloud River in a car and Bill's Minnie Winnebago. We were traveling over a mountain road following a snowplow. I knew I was in trouble when we passed the snowplow, which had stopped to put on chains. Of course we didn't have chains on. Thanks to expert coaching by Dan, Bill made it though.

The McCloud looked like a tough access in the snow, so we decided to press on to Dunsmuir and fish the Upper Sacramento. We got some bum information and headed down-river too far, below where tributary streams had dumped in enough run-off gunk. We were 0 for 4 for the afternoon. That night we explored beautiful downtown Dunsmuir, crashed a party for the owners of a local bar, and played some darts.

The next morning we visited the Dunsmuir Fly Fishing Company. We got some good suggestions, and fished higher up in the river. Tom found a good hole and caught some nice 'bows on drys. Jimmy and Dan fished upstream and did well nymphing with Prince Nymphs and small PTs. Bill was striking out - the fishing was challenging with the fish concentrated in the deeper holes. Finally Dan took Bill by the scruff of his neck and proceeded to give him an excellent lesson in advanced nymphing. (Tips: spread split shot out at 12" intervals above your fly for better casting and presentation. We were using 3 #1 shot. Also be sure to lift your rod tip before the fly hits the water, then keep the line off the water for a better drift. After a few good drifts through a likely spot, move on. Don't just pound the water with no results. A shorter 7.5ft leader helps keep the line off the water and makes for easier line control.) Thanks to Dan's help, Bill soon hooked three fish and landed one.

Tom's Hole on the Upper Sac

Tom and Jimmy had to get back to Sacramento, while Bill and Dan drove to Fall River Mills to meet up with guide Steve Marugg the next day. The weather was holding, but it was COLD! After a demonstration of wind chill on the ride upriver, we spotted some rising fish and started to fish them. Fall River, a classic spring creek, has the advantage of not being affected by the preceding lousy weather, but the disadvantage of requiring downstream presentation of tiny flies on long leaders. There were sporadic hatches of Baetis and some larger PMD's. We were able to hook and land 8-12 fish, the largest a pink-cheeked rainbow about 14.5". We saw some much bigger fish, but didn't hook any.

The technique for dries was to cast downstream toward a rising fish, raise the rod tip until the fly moved to straighten the leader, then strip off line with one hand while bouncing the rod tip up and down to feed out the line. It was possible to get a drift into the backing with this technique, but hard to follow the fly and set the hook at extreme distances. Nymphing with small PTs or the Mercer Micro-Mayfly nymph produced some fish. We didn't use indicators, and cast at a 45 downstream with floating lines and lightly weighted flies. We allowed the fly to swing, then retrieved with small strips. Most fish were hooked on the swing using this technique. (We caught a few fish retrieving the dries, suggesting that fish were favoring emergers.).

Dan fishing the Fall

The Fall is a pretty river, but only fishable from a boat, as it is entirely surrounded by private land, and the average 5-6 foot depth doesn't allow getting out of the boat to wade.

We generally nymphed both rivers with 5wt floating lines, 3 or 4 weights for drys.

by Bill Becher


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