Bill: Here's one for the Upper Sac, up to date as of last Wednesday.
The Upper Sacramento River is fishing very well for those willing to do some aggressive wading into pocket water. The river is still a little bit high but is very fishable. I've been guiding and fishing on the river with some extraordinary success. Aside from the plant areas around town, the river's population of wild fish is good, and the fish are very healthy and strong. It's remarkable how strong, wide, and deep a 14" rainbow can be.
The keys to success on this river, in my experience, are:
1. Learning how to short-line nymph the pocket water--and this river is a classic pocket water stream, at least down to the Delta area. This technique, once learned properly and practiced, is far more productive than using floating indicators.
2. Stay away from all the "usual" areas if you want to catch larger, wilder fish. This is not to say that you should ignore the traditional spots such as Sweetbrier, Conant, Sims Flat, etc. However, once you arrive at one of those areas, my advice is to take to the tracks and walk a mile in either direction. You will find such areas tothat are delightfully lonely where the fish will be larger, and they will be eager to eat your flies.
3. If you want to catch planters, then fish around Dunsmuir. One good place to catch planters is in the City Park. The entrance is just north of the big Highway 5 bridge. Go down to the gardens area at the bottom of the road, park, and walk either upstream or down along the river-side trail. In addition to the DFG plants, it is my understanding that the City of Dunsmuir, as it did last year, has planted some big triploid fish in this area. Some of them look like logs, most have no tails, and they are a bit ugly. But if you get a really big one, you'll have a fight on your hands. If you are lucky enough to land the fish, you'll likely find other flies and/or a bunch of hook holes in its jaw. These fish should probably not be released, even though they cannot reproduce.
4. Try fishing above the park. From the parking area mentioned above, take the trail to its end at the river, cross over to the island, and fish up from there. The area has a lot of homes on the east side of the river, so please respect property rights and stay off of people's private property. The water will be a little thinner here because there are creeks below town that add considerably to the river's flow.
5. Try hiking up to Mossbrae Falls. Turn off Dunsmuir Ave. at Scarlett Way, park down by the bridge, and walk along the tracks on the west side of the river for about a mile. You can't miss Mossbrae Falls--a spectacular sight. This flow of near 40 degree water puts in roughly 25-30% of the flow of the river downstream, and keeps the water cool for the trout and bugs.
6. Try fishing at the Cantara Loop area. You will find the directions to this area on the Upper Sacramento River map that is available at Kiene's Fly Shop and at the Ted Fay Fly Shop in Dunsmuir. Here the water is even thinner, and wading is easier.
7. Visit Bob Grace at the Ted Fay Fly Shop. Bob is extremely helpful and generous with advice, knows the river intimately, and will have the latest fishing info. He has a great stock of flies that work on this river, and a lot of other necessaries and "nice-to-have" items.
8. For nymphs, I suggest using "LBS" (little black stuff, such as Prince and Dark Lord) for at least one of the flies on your nymphing rig. Hare's Ear, Copper John, and Birds Nest flies work well also. For larger nymphs I have had a lot of success will Bill's Stick Caddis (available at Kiene's) and the big Brown Jimmy Legs (available at Kiene's and at the Ted Fay shop). Flies such as those that are "suggestive" rather than precisely imitative work far better as they look alive in the water. Proper presentation is foremost in importance; fly selection runs a close second.
9. Dry fly fishing can be good in the evenings. With a few seasonal exceptions, dries are not that productive on this river during the main part of the day. However, a dry-dropper rig can be surprisingly successful, so that's worth a try. Most of the large fish that I've taken on a dry fly have been on a fly that I call, simply, Bill's Big Fish Fly. It imitates stoneflies and October Caddis flies very well, and lives up to its name. Small fish try to eat it, but can't, and large fish smash it hard, hooking themselves solidly. For smaller flies, be sure to have a little pink (not too bright) mayfly imitation, including emergers, adults, and spinners. There is a hatch or spinner fall (or both) of this mayfly every evening, and it brings up some big fish. A small Parachute Adams will work well also, as will PMD patterns.
10. Please don't over-play or "grandstand" wild fish, and release them carefully.
Take a plastic bag with you and clean up any litter you run across. And, please respect private property rights, paying special attention to where you park (especially in the Castella area), and be very careful to remain within the streamside area that is called the "mean historical high water mark." If you park near the tracks, stay far away from them. We don't want to have UPRR closing off areas because of poor parking practices that interfere with their operation. They've done that in a few places lately, so we really do need to be careful. We have access to roughly 48 miles of this river simply because of the tracks, and we don't want to lose that. We fly fishers don't want to get a reputation for being "ugly anglers," especially on this rare gem of a river.