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Winter conditions inviting, but be careful
A little lint goes a long way

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My parents told me to save when I was growing up. I ended up being better at saving rolls of lint from the dryer than money, but it might end up saving my life one day.


After my basketball team lost Friday night, I went home; booked a hotel room in Redding and the next morning took off for a fishing trip to clear my head. Saturday I got into some fish from shore in town and Sunday I made the drive to the Upper. Since some time has passed since the last snow, mild days allowed much of the snow to melt, but plowed edges make for obstacles while shaded areas are still pretty deep. Fishing alone and in the winter would be considered by some to be stupid, but growing up in Alaska instilled preventative basics and an enthusiasm for enjoying the outdoors no matter the season. 

 

First off, be careful and don’t just trust your thermometer. Black ice can do more than ruin your weekend. Most of the roads are cleared and sanded, but early morning turns on shady roads with steep grades can be treacherous, especially since many of the exits on the Upper don’t have guard rails.

 

The crusty snow has packed down the berry bushes that blocked much of the river access so it is tempting to take any snow trail, but tread lightly and cautiously. Snow is likely to be deeper away from trees as branches prevent much of it from reaching the bushes. Thin areas can give way leaving you waist deep in thorns, or worse yet, with one leg down and your other boot on solid footing, but at eye level while you...over-stretch vital areas.

 

Walking in shorter steps and concentrating on stepping as vertically as possible is something I’ve done after I hyperextended my knee trying to walk too quickly over snow that didn’t have the strong crust I had expected. If you are leaning, slips put joints in awkward angles.


Once at the water, stay dry. Duh. I kept waterproof matches on my person, not in my bag. If I were to drop my pack to fish and it was swept down river, by the time I got ashore I might not have time to get back to my pack. If you have a vacuum packer, pack handfuls of lint from the trap in your dryer.

 

 It’s not a hot burner, but it is very flammable and when stuffed in an empty toilet paper roll, it burns slowly, giving you time to add whatever tinder is available. 

 

Warnings aside, the Upper was beyond beautiful. The water is running high but incredibly clear. I walked down the tracks and for most of the first hour, just took pictures. When I got in the water, I was conservative, choosing only the slow edges and not putting myself at risk for the sake of a fish I’d never be able to show anyone.

 

Of course I did hook an absolute monster rainbow which took me down river. It jumped twice proving it was probably a top three all-time Upper Sac fish for me before it broke off. I was too excited to be devastated. Since I have no photographic evidence, you’ll have to trust me.


It’s a good time to be using small midge patterns dropped off larger bugs like a rubberlegs, black AP, or birds nest. Zebra midges are a little cliché  - I know, but patterns only reach that level by being effective. When I am on the Upper, I rarely fish without a rubberlegs. The only thing that really changes when nymphing on the Upper is what I will drop off the ‘legs and amount of shot I use.  

 

If you go, make sure you check the weather, and bring your camera. 

 


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