Just back from a couple days on the Rattlesnake Fork. Before that the Old Man came down for a little bit to visit, and check out the progress here in the coast range of NorCal. Being a tree lover he was excited by the prospect of seeing the Redwoods. My old man is great. 0% fisherman, its surprising I ever got into this. He will fish, does occasionally, but rarely by choice. He says, "I feel bad for the fish" when explaining his lack of interest, but really it just isn't his thing. You'd never have known it growing up though. I was bitten hard by the fly fishing bug at 11 which meant that he put in 5 years of hard time playing driver before I finally got a license and headed out into the world on my own. Sadly, since then we haven't gotten out together too much. Having him down here was a great chance to show him my work as well as get him out on a steelhead river, which was a first. I sometimes think my dad missed his calling in life, he's one of the most intellectually curious, well informed people I know and having him in the field was great. He asked more questions than an excited 5th grader, ranging from food web ecology to questions about the native vegitation, which he actually knows more about than I do.
On our last day we drove North along 101, then jumped off the main highway to drive the Avenue of Giants, which definitely lives up to its moniker. We also made a brief pit stop at the Founders Grove at the confluence of the mainstem and SF Eel. There are some seriously epic trees there. Next we drove up through fog town and across the coastal mountains to the Rattlesnake Fork.
First Rays in the Canyon
Still pretty early for many fish to be around, but it was great to see the river again and do some more exploring. With water temps at the lower end well over 70 F I opted to fish the upper river near some cold, mountain fed tributaries hoping there might be a few early fish around. The drive up the canyon is pretty cool, the box canyon near the mouth of the Lower Tributary has some legit class IV water. Above, the river is slightly smaller, with the surrounding hills gradually become more arid as you move upstream.
Fishing pressure was nonexistent, probably owing to the fact that the bulk of the run is still 6 weeks from arriving, and the afternoon temperatures are over 95 degrees. Waking up at 4:50 for two or three days running really gets to be a grind, especially after fishing most of the previous day in the beating hot sun. Still, waking up early has its perks, and the first few hours of light feel so fishy this time of year. During winter, unless the pressure is absurd I'm not in too big a rush to get on the water early, but in summer its absolutely imperative. The cool morning and low, reflective light of dawn always feel so fishy. For the first time this season I skated a muddler, hitched. For some reason I have trouble seeing waking flies when they're further than about 60 feet away from me so I find myself balancing the desire to see the fly v casting the fly just out of sight to reach the holding water on the far side of the river. Often I see the fly as it lands but inevitably I loose it in the chop at the middle of the run. Sometimes, find myself wondering what the fly is fishing like as I squint towards the end of my line hoping to detect a rise in the general area where my fly is currently fishing.
Two dawn patrol mornings and not even a sniff, even threw some sink tips the second day through some pretty likely water. During the midday heat, when fishing is risking heatstroke I opted instead for a swim in a few fishy looking spots but didnt end up seeing anything. Now it might be a while before I'm back on the river. Worked 31 days straight in May and June and I've got a feeling it might be at least that many until the next time. The RattleSnake Fork will remain mostly a mystery now, buts it's some spectacularly diverse, spiritual country and I'm sure I'll be back as soon as things wrap up here. Also good to see my dad, glad he made it down.