5 Rivers Challenge – as good of a Nor Cal report as you will get.
Last year when Cal Trout & Clearwater Lodge resurrected the 5 Rivers Challenge I really wanted to participate. Not for competitive aspect, but it just sounded like a great way to spend a few days. This year after attending I can confirm it is a blast. First, Clearwater Lodge is one of my favorite places to stay and fish from. The property, the lodge, the guides, the food are all fantastic! Michelle took great care of us morning and evening while the guides: Mike Peters, Jay Cockrum, Dave Neal, John Fochetti, Bucko Theriot, and Brooks Provence took us to all 5 Major Nor Cal Rivers. At the Base of Mount Shasta we fished, Fall River, Hat Creek, Pit River, Upper Sac and The McCloud River.
We spent our first day on Fall River. The fishing was good and there are several big fish around. The group has caught a couple of 18in fish, 20, and a 21. The fish are on the spinner fall late morning when they switch to emerging PMD’s for a couple hours. Once the wind picks up the PMD’s get knocked down and we had success on caddis. In the morning, many fish were in shallow water feeding and moved into deep water in the afternoon. Don’t forget your bug spray and sun screen it is blazing hot out there right now. In the evening, we found one of the most prolific Hex hatches I have ever seen. The water was blanked with Hexiginia and their shucks. Just two days later not very many bugs could found emerging but the spinner fall was prolific.
Fishing was disappointing on Hat Creek, at the Riffle at least. We showed up to 5 people and a pelican all fishing the riffle. We landed a good number small fish but the I think the pelican pushed a lot fish into the weeds. A size 16 dirty bird, Zebra Midge, and green caddis all found success on Hat Creek. We didn’t fish below 299 bridge, but I suspect fishing will be much better down there. You could find some risers mid to late morning and again in the evening.
The Pit 3 is fishing very well. We fished pit three in the afternoon. We tight lined with caddis and had great success as long as you find water that had not been fished recently. There is plenty of water in the pit that rarely gets hit. Caddis were the name of the game on the Pit, but PMD’s and Golden Stones were working too!
Upper Sacramento River
We had some of our best fishing on the Upper Sacramento River. This was the river I was most worried about in the competition. Fish were chowing caddis with Vengence until the sun hit the water and then you needed to find shade or deep water to get hook ups. In the late afternoon, you can find fish rising to Golden Stones up and down the river! Break out your stimulators and have some fun!
We finished our competition on the McCloud River where fish were eating caddis as long and you found them in the shade or deeper pools. On the McCloud, be aware of Rattlesnakes. A couple anglers have been bit this year who were not on the lookout. Thankfully both bites I heard about were dry, meaning no venom.
I hope that if you have the means to do the Five Rivers Challenge you will put it on your list. Growing up in northern California, I have fished all of these rivers more times than I can but fishing them in such close succession and with excellent guides and people was a really neat experience.
Here is what I say to those of you getting out:
- Fresh waters is key, try and hit the spots that are not getting pounded
- Caddis are a must have, Fish were chowing size 18-12 Caddis
- Tight line nymphing was extremely effective on nearly every river except for the Fall River and PH2 Riffle.
- Plenty of dry fly opportunities in the Mornings and evening on every river we fished.
- Wet wading is essential!
- Studs and wading staff are a good Idea on most of these rivers.
- Fishing is excellent right now and you should get out.