Sacramento R 95
 

Nearly got up early to get to a Nature Conservancy bird walk
on Sat morn, but we resisted the temptation quite sternly,
thereby ensuring that we would be late again. Fortunately we
met up with David who was also late, but had been
there before, so could show us the way to the barn where the
group was meeting. Hiked over the fields and marshes,
sandhill cranes croaking in the reeds and in the sky. Met John
S., the leader of the group. Bird counting was going on. Some
rare white-faced ibis in the ponds directly in front of the
observation deck, as well as immense rafts of ducks. Some
expert birders were picking out cinnamon and blue-winged
teal, rusty ducks, etc. from the mass, but we could hardly tell
one bird from another. Bitterns were eying the sky, frozen in
position like so many bronze statues of themselves. A work
party left from the barn to plant more oaks along the river.
This startled the ducks, which all lifted off the water and
turned the sky black with birds. There must have been several
thousands of them.

Monday I had a vacation day.
Dragged myself up the Sacramento River, currently enjoying
one of the best runs of salmon in a decade. I had vague
thoughts of salmon, which were quickly dismissed when I
saw the flotillas of boats at anchor in the pools. So off I went
flyrod in hand to look for trout following the salmon for the
easy meal of salmon eggs. Fine morning, warming as I
walked through the riverine forest of oak and bramble.
Arrived at a tailout full of old red salmon jumping and
splashing. No percentage in that, so I walked on down the
riffle below, which was packed with spawning salmon.
Figured there had to be trout in the pool, so began near the
head  and fished up with a Glo-Bug. Lost a fish of about a
pound in the first few minutes. Water was only knee deep, but
this fish encouraged me to continue. 

I was next to an old
snag, just below another, when the next fish hit strongly, ran
and leapt high into the morning sun. I thought, now there's
one of the big trout they promised me - 'they' being all the
articles on the river, suspected as always of being economical
with the truth. I held the fish hard, as there was a long run of
water below me, and I didn't want to hike all the way
downstream to land the fish. After a while it was hanging in
the current below me, kiting back and forth as I attempted to
turn it up. The hook came away. This fish was 20" plus,
really a good big fish. Serves me right for being lazy. Fished
on  as the salmon splashed and swirled in the shallows above.
Hooked another , smaller but just as spirited. Same story in
all details, except this time because I had been too lazy to re-
tie the knot, it broke off with the fly. Resolved to follow the
next fish downstream. 

The take came at my feet, a moment's
confusion as the dark fish shape darted around my legs, then
it took off so fast and far that I wondered if I didn't have a
salmon on. No choice but to follow this one down. The
backing was well out by the time I arrived downstream,
opposite the fish. Not much fight left in it after that run. A
handsome 18" cutthroat, I'd never heard anything about cutts
in this river. Walked back up to the snag, left the fish in the
shade, and fished on . In about 20 minutes. another long-
running fish hit, jumped, and departed downstream at a great
rate. A slightly smaller cutt. By this time there was a salmon
boat anchored below me. I was worried that the fish would go
around the anchor rope, but fortunately it came back. I
remember the fish heavy in the current, the long curve of the
line hanging its weight across the stream, the pulsing beat of
the distant fish's swimming. Well satisfied with the riffle I'd
found, I ate half a bagel before I saw two bait fishermen
working their way down towards me. I rushed out into the
riffle to establish rights of prior ownership; since I know bait
fishermen are deficient in the normal sense of etiquette, I
thought standing in the water and fishing would be enough to
deter them. Ha. The one caught a salmon above the riffle. I
waded out and let him come through with his fish, which he
lost. The two of them then started throwing their hooks and
sinkers into the riffle I was fishing. Once they nearly hooked
me in the leg. Assholes. I left.

The rest of the day slipped away. I went downstream to
another riffle, much shallower, and caught a small  trout of a
pound or so. The bait fishers came past in their canoe. I went
back up to the riffle, but the water was dead, except for
another small trout. I don't know if the lead and bait wrecked
it, or the advancing afternoon with the changes of light. In
the distance, Mt. Lassen appeared, as the haze of morning
cleared. Salmon boats roared up and down, as they had all
day. This also detracted from the calm of an otherwise fine
river. More bait fishermen appeared on the horizon, so I left.
Drove and drove as usual to another riffle downstream, but
there were no salmon in it. Trout were rising, far out beyone
my casts, as the sunset lit the brown dead grasses over the
water.