The Upper Sacramento River
Dunsmuir, California
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This was a very, perhaps extremely painful trip. It was pretty well planned and I thought perfectly tucked into existing trip plans to the Doozy of a Fair in Puyallup, Washington.

My brother-in-law, Bob and his wife, Jann own and operate the famous "Ya Gotta Empanada" food concession at the Western Washington State Fair in Puyallup. Their version of empanadas are from Argentina and unique to the fair. They have been written up in local papers of course and as far away as the Wall Street Journal. It's really quite an operation. My wife and I wanted to go up to the fair to work with Bob and Jann so we would be driving right through Dunsmuir...the center of the fishing action on the upper stretches of the Sacramento River. The trip to Washington is about 13 or 14 hours...a bit long for a single day. A stop in Dunsmuir cuts the long day to about 9 hours. Leaving at noon puts us into Dunsmuir at about 4:30 in the afternoon giving me time to rig up and get in the water.IMG_0938a.jpg (1775222 bytes)

Good plan and the plan was well executed. I booked our stay at the Dunsmuir Lodge (and yes we would to back and have) and turned my thoughts to the fishing aspect of the trip. However...Mr. Paul Harvey would then announce "the rest of the story."

The water is bueatiful and there are obvious signs of fish. The regular fishing reports from the area indicate that the fish take dry flies and nymphs. You can go to any number of shops in the town, the region and as far south as the Bay Area to get intel on the river. So I knew I would be successful with the plan.

I asked my wife to come along and snap a few PICs and to be there if I took a tumble into the water. There is always that possibility. I decided not to wear waders as the water is warmer than one might think and I don't have very sensitive feeling in my legs. My legs do get cold...I just don't get the sensation of cold.IMG_0941a.jpg (1240060 bytes)

Now all this information is about to come together and make some sort of sense. But first a few more details.

Yes I did catch a fish. Of course I put it back so that in 2 more years it might be 10 inches...yes it was that small.

No you will not see any fish shots in the PICs...I didn't catch any photogenic examples...just the little (dinky) thing. But for the 20 minutes or so that I was actually in the water...any fish is not too bad.

So why did the trip have any meaning at all? I am a firm believer that experiences are all learning ones...and I learned something about myself during the ever so brief time in the water. It will impact my future trips and weigh heavily on the types of fishing I will (and can) do and my expectatons of same.

I talk about my being diabetic in many of my stories and talks in front of groups. I've had the challenge for over 35 years. I take insulin and have done so just about from day one. I have never dwelled on the notion of diabetes shaping my life...but on this trip the reality of my "condition" came home.

The reason my legs don't tell me that I'm cold is directly related to long term complicaitons of diabetes...I have a pretty good (or bad depending on one's perspective) case of nueropolthy going on in my legs and just don't have the same sense of feeling that others do. Oh I can feel the lumber I drop onto the shin, but some sensations are nearly gone...like where my feet are. As an added complication to the complication...the balance on your feet (your nerves sending signals to the brain for part the information) is really screwed up for some folks with the neuropathy (like me)...no feeling and little balance...what a combination.

Now, I have to admit also that I've never been all that athletic. I don't do sports like football and basketball. I enjoy watching and telling others how to do it...but I'm more prone to walking around than running around. That said, I still like to get in the water.

The upper Sacramento is primarily a free stone-like river...small boulders and large rocks making up most of the bottom of the river. It's a great habitat...but without the ability to know where my feet are going (and where they are) it's a very difficult and frustrating experiences to just move a few feet. Oh, I have wading poles (two very good ones in fact)...and I have felted shoes. I just can not manipulate the feet any more. Staying upright in a fairly shallow river was more work than fun. Oh well.

I'll go back to float a section of the river, but the wading has to be worked around.

Another issue that is shaped by the diabetes (I'm not asking for sympathy, just sharing solutions if I have them) is that my eyesight is screwed up. My eyes are impacted by diabetic retinopathy. It's a major cause of blindness in the United States. Luckily, my case is holding it's own and not progressing anything like the first predictions (I have a great team of doctors)...but still, the work that has been done on the eyes has rendered them "curious" to work through.

Little tiny flies (10s and 12s) are impossible for me to thread onto a line. So you can just imagine what I go through to put on 16s and 18s. But for this challenging aspect of the adventure, the planning worked and it worked extremely well.

I went to Fish First in Albany, CA and spoke with Leo Siren about my situation. He didn't know me and probably thought I was just another nut case wannabe flyFish First! fishing kind of guy (good observation). I explained what I was trying to do and the situation with trying to get flies tied on. He told me he thought he had a solution, but it was a little pricey. I explained that the situation was such that if I couldn't find a solution I was going to need a guide for every trip...and if for no other reasion, just to tie on flies. IMG_0943a.jpg (1022963 bytes)

Leo introduced me to the   The system worked just like Leo told me (and showed me). Wow. Now...just one more situation to overcome...how can I tie a clintch knot reliable. 2x tippet is impossible for me to tie into anything other than a "rat's nest."

Leo had a solution for that also.

Basically you take the threaded fly and create a loop with your left index finger (I'm right handed, so it you're a lefty, reverse the process)...and being careful not to impale yourself with the hook, roll a twist into the line with the fly and your finger in the loop...insert the end of the leader back through the huge loop when you remove your finger and tighten it all down. If you think this is hard to explain or understand in print...try it a few times. It's extremely easy to do.

My local sporting equipment store did a number of me a while back and I won't go back. In my search for a fish shop I decided to go to Fish First...good decision. I can not thank them enough for the equipment help and the new knot technique. I generally like to shop locally. In California where I live, a hefty part of sales tax dollars comes back to municipatlities to fund the police, fire, etc...so shopping locally is a good thing. With the explosion of the internet, it is possible to get some really good information, goods and services from afar.

I subscribe to the Fish First's fishing report. It tells me what's happening throughout Northern California. I buy goods and services from Bud Lilly's Trout Shop in West Yellowstone, MT over the phone and the internet. Fly fishing is such a specialized interest, sometimes I have to forgo the shop locally mantra and go elsewhere.

Back to the trip...so I did learn some great stuff on the trip...some about me...some about new (to me) techniques and equipment.

I'm really thankful for my wife and her patience...she never asks how much any of these trips or solutions cost. She does however comment on the bargain Salmon has become at the market...at $15 per pound. I just tell her that the trout are priceless and then I shut up (hard to do, but in this case nesessary).

The PICs on this page were taken by my wife, Brenda...the white haired young man is me.

Madison River, MT
July 2006 (first day)


Madison River, MT
July 2006 (second day)

Upper Sacramento River, CA
September 2007


Madison River, MT
June 2007


Box Canyon
Henry's Fork Snake River, ID
June 2007


Madison River, MT
August 2007

Copyrighted 2006, J. Atchison, Spotted Dog Productions