Last night Wally the Wonderdog and I found ourselves creeping along the river’s edge, fly rod in hand (my hand – the Wonderdog doesn’t have hands, but manages to get into trouble anyway).

While the weather was unseasonably warm, the river had a Fall’s-over feel; most of the leaves were down or headed that way, and summer’s lush habitat is a memory.

Wally the Wonderdog on the Upper Sacramento River
Wally the Wonderdog is always happy to go fishing.

Despite the blanket October Caddis hatches of a month ago, the year’s best October Caddis dry fly fishing often comes later in the year – long after the river’s been largely abandoned. Some speculate it’s because the bugs are dying in greater numbers, and that trout “know” dead bugs don’t fly away at the last minute.

Others think it’s simply a matter of supply and demand; the trout are used to eating the big bugs, but fewer emergers and far fewer adults come between big trout and your fly.

Rather than enter into the debate, I simply fish a big dry, and marvel at the size of the fish I sometimes catch.

Last night, happily, was no exception.

In about two hours of fishing a relatively hard-fished stretch of the river, I hooked ten fish, the smallest of which went a foot.

The biggest was bigger than my net and both ends stuck out, and once I eased the hook out, he simply straightened out and fell into the water.


And yes, I’d have photographic evidence, yet somehow managed to remove the good battery and insert the discharged battery into my old Pentax digital, so I fired off exactly two frames of the Wonderdog before the dreaded “battery discharged” warning popped up.

So much for the digital age.

Still, I got the important picture; when I fish with the Wonderdog and don’t post a picture of the brave-but-dumb pup, I get emails.

Irritated emails.

Thus, do I bow to the will of the people.

Trout Where They’re Supposed to Be

The best fishing wasn’t in the longer runs; it was the seams and short slots often found in rock gardens, and hooking big fish in conditions like that reminds me of the lessons I’ve already learned – but always forget.

Like – when you’re chasing a good fish downriver, you need to keep reclaiming line – or that fish will always remain the same distance away.

Or that steering fish into quieter water and running down is a hell of a lot easier than winching them through faster water. Stuff like that.

After a long stretch off the water, fly fishing the big dry was reviving: the trout were still where they were supposed to be; the 8′ Upper Sac Special bamboo fly rod cast like I was throwing darts (yet handled big fish brilliantly); and I wasn’t weighed down with any deadlines, staying and fishing exactly as long or as short as I wanted.

Winter’s approaching, and the small meadow I call “Bear Meadow” was filled with bear scat, courtesy the bears eating apples off the old, old apple trees.

I always call a warning when walking through that meadow in the late fall, and yes, I did once startle a bear (me more than him, I think).

You feel a little foolish doing it, but I’d feel a lot more foolish trying to dial 911 after having both arms pulled out of their sockets by a drooling carnivore who only wanted to eat green apples in peace.

And yes, you can’t embrace nature without arms.

See you on the river, Tom Chandler.

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