I’ve heard people slam the Upper Sacramento River because it’s so close to the freeway and the trains are a nuisance.
I’ve heard people call the Upper an overrated fishery when compared to the McCloud or Pit.
I love it for what it is.
It doesn’t have the Pit River footballs, but it does have its own huge fish. You don’t get the same seclusion as on the McCloud, but you also don’t have to wrap back around on CA-89 then head south to get there.
The trains can be a little jarring when camping, but the tracks also provide incredible access making the Upper full of favorite stretches, rather than a singe, simple spot.
As is the case with any river, you must take the good with the bad. Be thankful it’s got fish and you can try to hook them. (Side note: In 1991, a chemical spill killed everything in the river for a 38-mile stretch.) With the flows around 800 cfs, the Upper is fishing well, or slow depending on who you talk to. Of course that’s a general statement about fishing.
Compared to the past month, the flows are down, but if you haven’t fished it since late fall, you’ll notice that the river is up a bit. You realize how up is up when you get to those deep slots. You could load up on shot or go with a sink tip and wiggling buggers, but I stick to edges, seams and pockets for the most part.
I’ve been described as “impatient”, but with the trout a little picky, I prefer to call my angling approach “targeting opportunistic fish.”
If I’m high-sticking behind a rock, I’ll give a fish a few chances then move on. Same goes for a seam. I’ll adjust my weight to ensure I am getting deep enough and give myself a good amount of runs through all the good water then move on. Sometimes this is 10 minutes, sometimes half an hour depending on the size of the water. The key of course is making sure the nymphs are reaching the fish. If you used two pieces of shot in October, 150 more cfs is going to suspend your nymphs and take it down river faster than you intend. Try larger or more and be absolutely sure you are actually fishing. It can be frustrating, but if you aren’t getting hung up on the bottom once in a while, you’re not on the bottom. Losing a rig or two is the payment for a nice fish.
I lost plenty of both over the weekend.
As far as patterns, 80-percent of the time I drop a small black nymph off a rubber legs. Outside of a specific green streamer I use on the Thorne River in Alaska, no other fly gets such exclusive and habitual use as the rubber legs. It works. There are several shades and sizes, but I stick to the brown, non-bead head in a size 4 or 6. There are some fancy ones with little joints tied in the legs, but I haven’t noticed fish caring. Black A.P’s, birds’ nests, Micro Mays, Copper Johns - red and zebra and Mercer’s beaded poxy back stoneflies are staples in my Upper Sac box.
Weather is on the way, so expect flows to be up so fish smart and enjoy this great water for what it is.