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Sac River Trout Adventure

By Gary Heffley
11/04/16 -- Drifting along the Sacramento River Tuesday, fly rod in hand, I was offered a totally different perspective to areas and neighborhoods that I travel through almost daily. Waterfront homes, riverf ront businesses and even road side banks looked totally different from the water. Every bend in the river offered a new discovery. Catching a number of wild and colorful rainbow trout was a wonderful bonus to the day.

I was offered the opportunity to join guide Jerry Frye, of Frye's Guide Service, for a drift down the Sacramento River from the Bonneyview Ave ramp in Redding to Anderson River Park, a stretch of river I had yet had the opportunity to drift. I jumped at the chance as I recently had the pleasure to fish alongside Jerry with guide Todd LeBoeuf on a recent steelhead outing on the Trintiy River and really enjoyed his company and knowledge of fishing the region.

Setting off from the Bonneyview ramp, Jerry quickly had me onto fish, a beautiful 16 inch buck rainbow just before we hit the first riffle. That fish was quickly followed by a 12 inch female with the robust colors found on most Sacramento River Rainbow trout. These are wild trout, most with steelhead genetics although most all never leave the river for the ocean. The result are hard fighting fish that jump frequently.

Just another beautiful Sacramento River Rainbow Trout. Picture courtesy of Jerry Frye of Frye's Guide Service.

Just another beautiful Sacramento River Rainbow Trout. Picture courtesy of Jerry Frye of Frye's Guide Service.

While Jerry and I thought that we were in for a great day starting off quickly, we knew the reports from earlier in the week were for relatively slower action. Part of the speculation for the slow action was due to the removal of the “boards” at Caldwell Park where a small weir dam is created to channel water to the Anderson – Cottonwood Irrigation District canal during the spring and summer months. The removal of the boards was causing and allowing a lot of grasses and vegetation debris to flow downstream, often fouling fly presentations or conventional anglers lines. Grass on a submerged fly is an instant trout repellent, lines and flies must remain clean to attract a strike. This necessitated a constant checking of flies and line.

Well the speculation for slow action began to creep into the morning, but remember what is considered slow action on the Sacramento River is relative. While I might not get a chance at 20 to 30 trout, I would get a crack 15-20, a great day as far as I'm concerned. As Jerry forewarned, my arm would be worn out from setting the hook, for it is difficult to distinguish between the indicator being taken down due to a trout take, or the grab of the fly by rocks, vegetation or in one case, a large underwater branch . If the line bounced back with authority, a trout had a hold of one of the flies.

One of the great values of a knowledgeable guide is the recognition of patterns, insect hatches coming off the water, and making the critical adjustments in fly selection to increase the anglers opportunity for takedowns. Jerry noticed that one of the first landed trout had spit out some eggs and Jerry quickly adjusted the top egg bead to resemble that pinkish orange color. A few caddis coming off the water led to a change to a caddis pupa fly on the middle of the 3 fly set-up. Both fly changes paid dividends as both the pupa, but especially the bead, began to produce more takedowns and landed trout as the morning turned to early afternoon.

My conventional tackle mindset began to interfere with my growing skill set of fly fishing in that I would rush to get the flies back into the water following a vegetation take. For those who have not fly fished on the Sacramento and would love to try it out, do so. The adage of 'if I can do it anyone can,' is very true. You just have to listen and follow a few simple instructions. When casting, it is an easy 9 o'clock to 3 o'clock motion. Bringing the rod to 9 o'clock allows the flies and indicator to land on the water behind where you are looking to cast and load prior to moving forward to the 3 o'clock position. Failure to allow the flies to lay out and “water load” properly will cause, and did cause, many fly tangles which Jerry was very patient at, and expert in removing. As I am still learning the fly fishing game, another step in my learning curve is to slow that part of the process down.

But don't slow everything down, as Jerry noted, “hook sets are free” and never assume it is not a fish, react quickly with the hook sets when the indicator goes under or even twitches for that matter.

Jerry pointed out many changes in the river during the float, and most prevalent was the amount of hydrilla clinging to the bottom of many runs and riffles. At times you felt as if you were floating over a forest of green. The growth greatly limited the fishabilty of some attractive stretches of water.

The final tally for the day was 7 trout landed, 4 unintentional long range releases and numerous missed takedowns, a great day as far as I concerned. Plus spending the day with Jerry, exploring another yet to be personally drifted stretch of river, seeing the world pass us by, what could have been better. And the fishing should improve greatly shortly; as if this day was not good! Once the board removal is complete, less drifting vegetation will hamper fishing efforts, a process which should be hopefully completed within the week. Also, based on the amount of takes on the egg imitation bead, once more spawning salmon enter the river the egg bite should really take off. The trout will gorge themselves on salmon eggs

It is amazing the difference an area looks from the river, this stretch offered both urban and rural backdrops. A vast amount of bird life, including a majestic bald eagle which flew overhead, was seen along the drift as were a couple of deer just enjoying the day along the banks of the river. Even with the hustle and bustle of Highway 5 often in view, the river places you in a whole other mindset.

For those looking for a great fishing adventure on the Sacramento River, Jerry Frye is definitely a guide I would highly recommend. His personality and patience is ideal for novice and experienced anglers. He just makes the trip fun. To contact Jerry and enjoy a great day on the water catching beautiful trout, give him a call at 530- 515-8498. Jerry also fishes the Trinity for steelhead and salmon on the Sacramento River.

Gary Heffley has been a valued contributor to MyOutdoorBuddy for over seven years serving as manager, sales representative and reporter for much of Northern California. He is an avid outdoorsman and loves to fish and write about his adventures. He has long history in the Sporting Goods field and is presently managing the Gift Bar and Camping Department at Sportsman’s Warehouse in Redding.

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