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Dunsmuir: Headquarters for the Upper Sac

By Gary Heffley
07/14/15 -- For a fly angler looking to ply the trout rich waters of the Upper Sac., a stop into Dunsmuir and a visit to the Ted Fay Fly Shop is a must. The shop in downtown Dunsmuir at 5732 Dunsmuir Ave is the place for my current information on river conditions and the best flies and techniques to use to maximize success. Bob Grace the current owner will give the anglers the straight skinny even if prospects are less that optimal. Remember the name of the game is fishing not catching and Bob would rather have an angler visit when prospects are good and as a result return again than have a disappointed angler leave never to come back. But truth be told the sheer beauty of the river and area should be enough to attract any angler to return no matter the creel count.

Lunkers planted by City of Dunsmuir
The City of Dunsmuir also supports a supplemental stocking program to that of the trout provided by the California Fish and Wildlife Department. The city supplies regular stocks of trout from the Mt. Lassen Trout Farms in the Hat Creek Valley with rainbows in the 14 to 22 inch range and larger. There are many easy access points within the city including Dunsmuir City Park and Teuhindoull Park. The bridges on River, Butterfly, Shearer and Financial Avenues also provide access points to the river.

Woman smiling ear to ear holding her trout she caught on the Upper Sacramento River. Photo courtesy of the City of Dunsmuir
The Upper Sacramento River is one of Northern California’s premier destinations for anglers who want to fish a wild river for hard-fighting trout. Photo courtesy of the City of Dunsmuir

I gave the above-mentioned Bob Grace a call 530-235-2969 this morning and was given a fair rating for the river as a whole. His recommendations were to concentrate on deep holes or swift pockets of highly oxygenated water. Slow shallow pockets and runs have seen increasing water temperatures which may cause undue stress to trout. Concentrate on the river north of Gibson to Ney Springs. As for fly selection concentrate on LBS, “little black stuff.” Dark caddis nymphs, Prince Nymphs and small BWO should all produce results. Nymphing under a “bobbercator” or “high sticking” should be utilized as there is little if any dry fly opportunities at this time. The report also holds true for the nearby McCloud River.

The Ted Fay Fly Shop bears the name of one of the two men primarily responsible for popularizing the “High Stick” nymphing method that literally put the Upper Sacramento River on the national fly angling map. Ted adapted and taught many anglers the technique of short-line nymphing with heavily weighted flies that had been introduced to him by a local Wintu Native American, Ted Towendolly in the 1920’s. The rest as they say is history. The technique has proved very effective in tackling the pocket water and short runs that make up much of the Upper Sacramento River. Many local guides today utilize and continue to teach this technique on the river.

Great for bait & hardware, too
While fly fishing is king on the river many areas support general tackle angling, where anglers use bait such as night crawlers and crickets as well as tossing spinners or spoons to willing trout. This is especially attractive to family fishing but fly anglers can always find isolated stretches where wild trout roam just a short distance away. With about 30 miles of river to explore the angling opportunities are vast. General river access to much of the river is easy as Highway 5 parallels the river from Shasta Lake to Dunsmuir. Most any exit along the highway will provide quick and easy access to the river. Many park along the river and use the rail tracks to hike north or south along the river seeking productive looking pockets and runs.

Dunsmuir hosts numerous angler friendly motels and lodgings, along with many cafes and eateries including a local micro-brewery. The town’s rich railroad heritage is also on display throughout the town, in fact the tracks run right along the river in most parts of the town and provides for much of the access to the river itself. (Note: the once popular stretch of track from the now closed parking area at the Scarlett Way Bridge to Mossbrae Falls has been closed for a few years by Union Pacific over very valid public safety concerns. This has also closed this stretch of river to public fishing access.)

One thing that all anglers fishing the Upper Sac should carry and be familiar with is the California Fishing Regulations. There are many special regulation areas on the river; in fact, some of the river is open year around with fly fishing only, catch and release being the rule of thumb when the general trout season regulations are not in effect. Like I said, carry the regulations, read them and know the river boundaries and what area you are fishing in.

Dunsmuir not only serves as a great headquarters for the Upper Sacramento River but is a great kick-off location for exploring Lake Siskiyou, Mt Shasta, Castle Crags State Park, and Castle Lake as well the nearby McCloud River and Mc Cloud Falls area. For many angling is secondary to everything else the immediate area has to offer, with many visitors enjoying the rock climbing, hiking, bicycling, kayaking and nearby golf opportunities. Some visit just to enjoy the sheer beauty of the area.


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