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An Evening on the Upper Sacramento: Fly Fishing Big Dries for Big Trout

Posted by Tom Chandler 11/18/2008

Last night Wally the Wonderdog and I found ourselves creeping along the river's edge, fly rod in hand (my hand - the Wonderdog doesn't have hands, but manages to get into trouble anyway).

While the weather was unseasonably warm, the river had a Fall's-over feel; most of the leaves were down or headed that way, and summer's lush habitat is a memory.

Wally the Wonderdog on the Upper Sacramento River
Wally the Wonderdog is always happy to go fishing.

Despite the blanket October Caddis hatches of a month ago, the year's best October Caddis dry fly fishing often comes later in the year - long after the river's been largely abandoned. Some speculate it's because the bugs are dying in greater numbers, and that trout "know" dead bugs don't fly away at the last minute.

Others think it's simply a matter of supply and demand; the trout are used to eating the big bugs, but fewer emergers and far fewer adults come between big trout and your fly.

Rather than enter into the debate, I simply fish a big dry, and marvel at the size of the fish I sometimes catch.

Last night, happily, was no exception.

In about two hours of fishing a relatively hard-fished stretch of the river, I hooked ten fish, the smallest of which went a foot.

The biggest was bigger than my net and both ends stuck out, and once I eased the hook out, he simply straightened out and fell into the water.

Powerless

And yes, I'd have photographic evidence, yet somehow managed to remove the good battery and insert the discharged battery into my old Pentax digital, so I fired off exactly two frames of the Wonderdog before the dreaded "battery discharged" warning popped up.

So much for the digital age.

Still, I got the important picture; when I fish with the Wonderdog and don't post a picture of the brave-but-dumb pup, I get emails.

Irritated emails.

Thus, do I bow to the will of the people.

Trout Where They're Supposed to Be

The best fishing wasn't in the longer runs; it was the seams and short slots often found in rock gardens, and hooking big fish in conditions like that reminds me of the lessons I've already learned - but always forget.

Like - when you're chasing a good fish downriver, you need to keep reclaiming line - or that fish will always remain the same distance away.

Or that steering fish into quieter water and running down is a hell of a lot easier than winching them through faster water. Stuff like that.

After a long stretch off the water, fly fishing the big dry was reviving: the trout were still where they were supposed to be; the 8' Upper Sac Special bamboo fly rod cast like I was throwing darts (yet handled big fish brilliantly); and I wasn't weighed down with any deadlines, staying and fishing exactly as long or as short as I wanted.

Winter's approaching, and the small meadow I call "Bear Meadow" was filled with bear scat, courtesy the bears eating apples off the old, old apple trees.

I always call a warning when walking through that meadow in the late fall, and yes, I did once startle a bear (me more than him, I think).

You feel a little foolish doing it, but I'd feel a lot more foolish trying to dial 911 after having both arms pulled out of their sockets by a drooling carnivore who only wanted to eat green apples in peace.

And yes, you can't embrace nature without arms.

See you on the river, Tom Chandler.

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AuthorPicture

Tom Chandler

As the author of the decade leading fly fishing blog Trout Underground, Tom believes that fishing is not about measuring the experience but instead of about having fun. As a staunch environmentalist, he brings to the Yobi Community thought leadership on environmental and access issues facing us today.

15 comments
Actually, Michelle, Wally's the 2nd-best thing about TU. But Tom's very protective, so you don't get to see much of the Lamp;T here... Remember, you'll be able to tell your great-grandkids you read Tom Chandler even before he was cool...
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Wally is the only reason why I visit TU! Ok, sometimes its for the well written content from the future Pulitzer recipient-envrio-politico-fly fishin' Tom Chandler.
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I am new to your blog and am loving it. I have never fished the Upper Sacramento but hope I have the chance soon. Great post.
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Wally looks like a great water dog! I lost my Lab Zeke a few months back so it's nice to see some Fishing Lab pics~
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Happy dog, fall colors, big dries and fish!? Holy cow batman, someone's leading a charmed life.
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Bigger than your net? Sounds impressive-but nets come in all sizes, including a size for minnows. Wally looks like he was having a great time.
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Jim: We're nominating you for the President slot of the Wally the Wonderdog Fan Dog Biscuit Club. Wally's agreed to be worshipped, and asks that donations of tasty dog treats (bacon bacon bacon!) be sent to ensure a bountiful harvest.
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Yeah, ok. Now I see him. As I've said so many times before, fine hound dog! Great smile. "...Brave-but-dumb pup"...humph.
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Yes, you should see Wally when Tom hooks a fish. It's full retrieval mode for Wally. It's not funny (although I'm LAUGHING inside) watching Tom twirling around in circles trying to keep Wally from clamping hooked fish in jaws. But what do you expect from a hound that points at rising fish? The dog has needs...
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Yo Kentuck, I wonder if something's up with your browser or settings? It's a long, tall pic of the pup, and he's clearly the brains of that fishing duo...
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Well, the Chile Doctor is getting it, but I don't see any picture of Wally, although I do see the caption.
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and hooking big fish in conditions like that reminds me of the lessons I've already learned - but always forget. Thank you Tom. It's reassuring to know that I'm not the only fly fisher who often finds himself relearning the skills.
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Wally is exceptionally well trained. He can ferret out a Kashi bar or a scrap of beef jerkey in fifteen foot of water in a driving hailstorm - and he can do so without stirring his big arse from off your foot - or relinquishing his spot at the fire.
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P.S. Nice portrait of Wally. If we didn't know better from your previous posts, we'd have to assume he's a pure-bred Lab, and well trained...
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"I hooked ten fish, the smallest of which went a foot. " I'd say this is a fish tale, but I think it's more misidentification or stilted English. I don't of any fish that can be mistaken for a foot. And last I knew, none of them ever 'went afoot" in California. Even those mud-crawler thingies don't have feet... (Just remember: We only heckle because we can!)
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