Early last week I got a message from someone I look up to, Shane Kohlbek from Redding. I was stoked when I read it through and he said we should fish. So friday morning came along and I rolled out around 4:30 to be on the water around 9am.
The drive to Redding isn't so bad when number one, the 5 is empty, two, metallica is blasting your brain and rattling your brainstem, and last of all when your munching on various machine made HFCS filled baked goods. I digress. Made the drive up and right before I went to the put-in hit up The Fly Shop right off of the 5 to get some flies and then Safeway for their great sammiches.
Shane arrived right at 9 and to both of our surprise the river was loaded, not only with the locals but also with plenty of out of towners like myself. Being that all those guides were on the water Shane did the courteous thing and left the prime water for the guides working that day. We fished up above the put-in for a while, maybe got a few jiggles but my rusty "alaska hookset" wasnt cutting it, apparently setting the hook like you do with 10lb maxima is not good when your using 5x. I guess thats what 4 months fishing in the great north will do to ya.
We made our way down to the sundial and like always got a fish on the first pass.
It still never fails to surprise me at how strong these fish are. This average Lower Sac bow really put the wood to me. He was almost down to the backing a few times and was a great way to start the day off for me. I really do love these fish and this river. Its simply amazing how these fish can live in what could be called an "urban area," but to be honest the Lower Sac is definately in the top 5 of the best bow rivers in California, if not the West Coast. You really have to hook one to know what I'm talking about.
A few minutes of drifting downstream of the sundial brought us into the midst of quite a few other driftboats, and some killer salmon redds. Just as i made my cast and mend Shane told me with confidence that there was gonna be one right there, and sure enough my indicator shot beneath the surface, i set the hook, and the very moment it felt the sting of the hook it took a cue from its anadromous cousin and shot straight into the air and Shane started laughing and said "small fish dont do this, its a toad", and at that point i really knew i was in for it. He really went after it, and shot about 30 yards down stream before he yet again launched into the air cartwheeling like a tarpon. After a few minutes he finally started to calm down and we got him into the soft water in between two redds and got the net around him. Lets just say i was beyond stoked.
The first thing i noticed was the deep red blush on his gill plate and the dark red band running down his side. This was one colored up buck. And man did he have some shoulders.
Catching a fish like this is the reason why people visit this river, and it really made my day. The weather was perfect and the lighting let us get some good shots, which i always like to get. A few trophy shots never hurt anyone.
This was one gnarly fish. Right when Shane first saw him all he said was "look at the teeth on this guy," and really they were impressive, with a pretty unique face to hold them. His nose was like that of a gator, snubbed but round and clean, from a lifetime of fighting the river and its rocks for a meal. This dude was a brute.
Some fish are just super spunky, and this guy was one of those, from the way he took down my cator' i knew he was going to be fun, and if you can see that riffle in the background, thats where he got before i had to put the wood and start pumping him back upstream. That meant one thing. Backing, the glorious sight i have not seen for a few months. He made my Hatch scream the tune that really makes my hands shake.
I know this may just look like a picture of a bridge, but all those little dots that look like i keep a dirty camera are actually caddis, and for a few hours there were literally millions of them on the water. Seeing a full blown big river caddis hatch is really something special, along with the extra protein it provides if your talking while facing the wind.
This was the last fish of the day for me, and as the picture shows he was barely there. I got to wade for this guy, which is always a little cherry on top for me, as i love getting fish when im waist deep in moving water. Shane waded across to a channel behind me and got a few pretty much at the same time.
I really do love how a fish like this is considered a "cookie cutter."
Shane was awesome to fish with, and is one of the best guides Ive ever had the pleasure to wet some lines with. Being that im a rookie guide in AK and he is a veteran of many seasons it was really helpful to pick his brain all day and share fish stories with. The tune up he gave me is definately going to come into play this summer. Shane will be managing the Big Ku Lodge in one of the best areas of Lake Illiamna, home to some of Alaska's biggest rainbows, being that 30"+ fish are not uncommon.
This short video shows a small portion of the massive caddis hatch that was going on, but doesnt even come close to doing it justice.
All in all it was one of the best days i have had on the water in a long time. Fishing with a guy like Shane is a big plus on days like this. If your ever in need of some fish and a great time give The Fly Shop a call, as they book for him, and check out his Lower Sac website that has constant reports and plenty of shots of gorgeous bows. www.lowersactrout.com
Stop arguing on you favorite message board about the steelhead your not catching and book a day with Shane, the memories and fish you will catch will remain at the forefront of your thoughts for some time.
As always, keep your lines wet and get out there