Frozen waters have been gathering and releasing near the Trinity divide in the shadow of mighty Mt. Shasta, gently quenching, replenishing the Upper Sacramento River ever since Zeus ordained its creation. Minute trout fry squirm and learn within the cradle of these secret upper flows.
The river is divided into two distinct sections upper and lower.
The upper area between the towns of Mt. Shasta all the way down to The large reservoir of Lake Shasta. The lower section exists from the city of Redding all the way to Anderson. Within the span of time between ancient and modern northern California.
A kind of divine intervention on behalf of fly fishers has to be the highway corridor that at times hugs the Sacramento River. Scenery no less dramatic then conjured from the minds of John Muir or Norman Rockwell.
The inclination is to refer to this majestic freestone jewel as simply a great roadside catch and release, which of course it is. Natural stands of oak and wild brush that was once the main fodder for lucky dinosaurs that followed the river all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. In recent times this once world-class section of water has been the victim of a toxic spill.
On July 14, 1991 A Southern Pacific Railroad tanker spilled toxic chemicals into the waters. A 35-mile section was affected and virtually wiped out of all life. The wonderful news almost ten years later and $33,000,000 dollars into recovery, a miracle has transpired and everyone is quite surprised!
Rainbow stock was captured and replanted from healthy sections of water and the complex insect life is well on its way to reestablishing. The pre spill count of 6700-8800 per mile is still a ways off, but the river has made grand strides back in a short time. One of the obscure and rare benefits is the wiping out of the so-called junk fish like the Squawfish and other foreign introductions.
The Caddis and mayfly families have returned in big numbers, stoneflies and salmon flies have yet to fully recover. The river is now at perhaps fifty percent or more of what it once was. That fifty percent ought not to be taken lightly by fly fishers thinking this water is not yet productive enough. The news this year is quite positive as many fly fishers report big fish and plenty of them at classic runs this June and July near the Lamoine area. Rainbows in the 14-24 inch have been caught and released.
Dry Fly Fishing
The upper river is widely known for outstanding dry fly opportunities. Pockets full of usual terrestrials like hoppers, ants, bushy looking March Brown type flies score well on warm days. September through October is dry fly heaven. Water begins to slow into deep pools and evening morning hatches are almost as spectacular as they were in the late 1980’s.
Those who have mastered classic short lining techniques will love this fishery in late fall. Equipment able to handle potential big fast water is best in early season when flows are strong in the 6/7 weight range, nine feet at least to reach out. Long throwing shooting heads and ability to throw 60/70 feet a real plus. Leaders nine feet at least, with enough tippet to match the situation. The river can get up to 100 yards plus wide.
The best news about techniques is no matter what your pleasure, throwing tiny midges on big slow pools or throwing long distances.
This river can accommodate all comers, with the added attraction of world-class dry fly opportunities. If a more productive and varied fly fishing area exists, it would have to be modeled after the Upper Sacramento even at fifty percent of it old glory! Those seeking small water abundant small wild trout can be found on the feeder streams near the South Fork of the Sacramento.
This area above Lake Siskiyou has many paved roads for access. The area from Box Canyon Dam ending at the city of Dunsmuir has limited access, but quite dramatic shear rock walls make the trip worth it. Ney Springs fishermen’s access can be reached by crossing Box Springs Dam and going left onto Castle Lake Road, first gravel road to the left and follow signs.
Access to parking areas
Late fall is best slow water time here, better call for any special regulations. The area is large and subject to changing regulation priorities. Cantera loop a fine starting point to wade late season.
Take Old Stage Road South from Mt. Shasta to Cantera Street; go right a gravel road continues for about a mile a half into area known as the Cantera Loop. Here is a solid beginning place to explore all the way back toward Ney Springs access area. Least private area from Soda Creek to Sweetbriar is more populated, there are many fish here, but one must deal with solitude issues!
If campgrounds are of interest heading south on I-5 take Sims Rd. into. Sims Campground. Another easy access area is Shotgun Creek a hard to miss exit. The last access of note is Lakeshore exit following a mile and a half onto a dirt road that leads down to the water. Highway I-5 is the main artery that follows the many access roads available.
Season runs last Saturday April till November, check for special regulations. Late season fly outfits can be 4/6 weight armed for dry fly presentation of well tied midges and Blue winged olive Baetis. Bring good assortment of your favorite hoppers, ants, bees, big bushy march browns and thin tippets for dry fly nirvana. With over 37 miles of river available, you have more then enough real estate to test your casting skills.
Large pools and excellent surface action rule the early mornings and late afternoons near dusk. The central cities for this area is Dunsmuir, Mt. Shasta and Redding. For more info contact Dunsmuir Chamber Of Commerce.