Episode 09 - Fishing in Siskiyou

Episode 09 - Fishing in Siskiyou

From the Klamath and it’s many tributaries to the Upper Sacramento — Siskiyou is full of world-class opportunities to fish for everything from bass to Steelhead. On this episode of the Discover Siskiyou Podcast, host Drew Alvarez talks to several local experts on how to best enjoy fishing in Siskiyou.

Man fly fishing in stream in Siskiyou County

Episode Transcript – Fishing in Siskiyou:


Hey there! I’m Drew Alvarez and you’re listening to the Discover Siskiyou podcast locally produced in beautiful historic Dunsmuir. We highlight the best that California’s North has to offer. On today’s episode, we’ll talk about one of the star attractions of Siskiyou County – fishing.

Maybe you need some time spent alone in waiters. Maybe you’re looking for that perfect spot to take the kids and practice casting, or maybe you’re looking for a guided fly-fishing adventure. Whatever the case, and this is probably no surprise, Siskiyou is the place to grab your tackle box and head out from the Klamath. And it’s many tributaries to the upper Sacramento and Siskiyou is full of world-class opportunities to fish for everything from bass to steelhead. And we’ve got the folks who can help get you out there for yourself. So let’s start at the local fishing hub, the Ted Fay Fly Shop in Dunsmuir, a locally-owned store that’s been serving anglers for over half a century.


Well, I’m Bob Grace. I’m the owner of Ted Fay Fly Shop. Uh, I’ve owned it since 1997. I am the third owner. Joe Kimsey is the person that I bought the store from. And Joe bought it from Ted’s estate. He didn’t change the name, so I didn’t see any reason to change it either, so it marches on with that name. It’s probably the oldest fly shop in continuous operation in California.

I look back at my first visits to Dunsmuir, uh, and I walked into the Ted Fay Fly Shop as a customer. And Joe showed me where to go and how to do it. Low and behold, it worked. So then I progressed as an angler, uh, and I progressed as, you know, Siskiyou County angler as I, as I learned those things. So yeah, there are opportunities, really solid opportunities. If the people take the advice that they’re given and, you know, they’ll, they’ll be able to catch fish.


We have a lot of angling opportunities for the beginner here in Dunsmuir because of the way the regulations are set up. That there’s a significant portion of the river, about seven miles from a bridge site here in Dunsmuir, in the Scarlet Way bridge site, down to the Sweetbriar bridge, which is about about seven miles south of here. And that area is relatively heavily planted, so on any given day, a beginning angler can, can go out and fish to a planted fish. It’s not something that everybody craves, but frankly, it’s, it’s a great opportunity is a great educational opportunity for a beginner. It’s an opportunity to get feedback with fish that may be a little less cautious, uh, but that’s how you learn and, and it’s how you progress.

So, uh, yeah, there’s some great opportunities right here in town. And, uh, when I bought the store in 1997, uh, there were three fly shops in Dunsmuir and I always joke. I’ve had my taste of competition. I was the third place store in a one shop town. It’s worked out well.


There’s no doubt about it. You can’t talk about fishing in Siskiyou County without the shop coming up in conversation. We, with some of the most experienced anglers we know Carol Skalko and Curtis Knight.


The Ted Fay Fly Shop. When I got into the foray of fly fishing and eating flies, because I’m a little too impatient to make them. I became friends with Joe Kimsey who bought the store from Ted Fay. And I went fishing with him and we went in his truck. We went on a hunting roads that were so small. We were, branches were hitting the truck. My daughter was with me and he took me to a little creek that we had to sneak up on. You have to tiptoe before you get to them and we’d sneak up on it and catch these little golden trout or different kinds of trout that were in this creek. that was not more than 10 feet across.

He was a great resource. He would always want to, uh, tell you his stories, take you places. And he even taught me how to fly fish for bass in a Lake Siskiyou. Quite extraordinary. My connection with that store is great, and Bob who owns it now is he’s super.


We’re fortunate here in Siskiyou County to have, I think, one of the coolest, best fly shops on the planet with Ted Fay, Bob Grace. I mean, it’s the history with that shop and what he has for a small town shop too. And the knowledge you get, you get a lot when you go in there. So that’s a, that’s always a great first stop if you want to want to go fishing here in Siskiyou. And the guides that live here, I mean, it’s amazing the talent level. I mean, I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising because we have such great water and it is such a great place, but there’s a number of really good guides and outfitters out there.

And if you’re a beginner, you learn years of things in one session with some of these great guides that are here locally. So definitely encourage doing in that. You’ll get the same advice when you come up to Siskiyou and have a chat with Bob himself. And, of course, there’s a lot of great guides, a lot of great guides in the area. If, if the time and the resources allow, uh, you know, you can hire some of these people. They’re great instructors.

So how does a visitor get a chance to learn from these fabled fishermen to find out? We spoke with Davis Elliott, a local guide.


Um, so my name is Davis originally from Fayetteville, Arkansas. I’ve been living in the Shasta area for the last five years. Um, I was guiding in, I started out my guiding career in Estes park. Colorado was doing that for a few seasons. And within the past two years started guiding with Wild Waters Fly Fishing, which were based in Mount Shasta, just about seven of us guides that are actually living in the area.

However, the company contracts out up to 30 guides during our busiest season. It’s capable of, you know, taking out big group trips and running people everywhere, all over the state, really. Um, but yeah, we operate all year round John Rickard and Chuck Volckhausen. Those are kind of the names to look out for as the owners of the company and Rick Cox, he’s our booking manager. Um, he has been in the area for about 20 to 30 years. He guides trips as well. If you guys would like to book a trip,


Find more information on booking a trip in our show notes or by visiting DiscoverSiskiyou.com. So now you know where to get your gear and who to call for your personalized adventure, but what’s so special about fishing in Siskiyou?


Water, actually, how close together everything is. We have four different rivers, all jammed in here. Granted not all of them are within Siskiyou County lines, but all of them, all their headwaters are based out of Siskiyou County. Being that we have Mount Shasta and plenty of other like lakes and whatnot, bass lakes, bass ponds, everywhere, and all kind of the nooks and crannies. If you see just about any piece of blue on a map within 60 County, it’s most likely holding fish.


The water. We have a lot of water and a lot of spring water, and that in particular makes for a lot of good trout fishing waters, cold. It’s clear, it’s beautiful. And it’s like that year-round. Geographically, if you look at this area, there’s probably not much like it in California, where you have all these trout fishing opportunities, uh, in, in the North state that we have. To the East, we have the McCloud River a little further east. We have the Pit, of course the upper Sacramento is here. We’ve got other lake fishing opportunities.

I have favorite places. Uh, Cantara, the Cantara Loop is, is very special. Uh, one winter, maybe five or six years ago, uh, I was spent a large amount of time up in the upper reaches of the river below Cantara Loop. I kept a, uh, ad hoc total of occurrences. And over the course of the winter, I think I fished Cantara up probably six, seven or eight times that winter. And, over the course of that winter, I saw more bold eagles than I did other fishermen.

The waters of Siskiyou will, without a doubt, leave you with your own moments to remember the area can’t help, but provide pristine flows and picture scenes and folks like Davis, make it easy to get out there yourself.


Around here, we generally don’t get up crazy early. Like about eight is about the earliest we’ll start really. And then we’ll fish our little hearts out and grab some lunch on the river and then wrap up the day around four or five far as the upper set goes that’s within Siskiyou County lines. The, the access on that river is phenomenal. You have I5 running alongside the river all the way from Shasta all the way to Lakehead, right? And within each of those exits in between, you can drop down to the river and fish right there. So it makes for a lighter day on the legs and you’re able to kind of drive around and kind of spot these fish based on what you’re seeing on the river as a big picture. That’s the cool thing about the upper Sac is you have the access, you have access to the whole thing.


And so based on conditions, you can get to exactly where you need to be based on the fish that might be swimming upstream to spawn from the lake or the residential fish and what they’re doing based on hatches and the conditions where they might be kind of spreading out to or consolidating. You have to really zoom out. When you’re fishing for trout, you’re with a very like closeup lens in a way you’re trying to pick out your bugs, you know, and, and really trying to really trying to target these, these fish almost on a microscopic level, right? Because most of the trout that you’re seeking, they’re kind of residential fish. And it, honestly, sometimes it just comes down to what’s on the menu that day for him, you know, and matching up with that for steelhead. Um, they don’t really care. They’re not out there to eat that much, right.


They’re just up there to spawn. They have one thing in mind. And so the, the hardest part about finding a steelhead is really zooming out and putting on your steelhead hat and looking at the river as a big picture, based on what kind of rain we have, if there’s a dam above what kind of ww- what’s the dam release doing, um as far as increases in influxes of water, and what’s gonna actually pull fish up river. And so you’re putting it all together as this big puzzle, essentially, that’s pretty attractive to me. I like really trying to solve it. And a lot of the times you don’t, you know, but say, okay,


So that’s a fun aspect of it. So say you show up, you know, if it’s, if it’s may on the upper Sac, you’re thinking, wow, you know, may June, I’m thinking golden stone fly on the surface. This is going to be fun. It’s kind of what you’re thinking about. You know, same thing, McCloud and or here on the upper Sac in October, October, Caddis big, dry flies out, and that’s a fun way to fish. So you thinking about the time of year, for sure.

And then once you get in, you know, you’re fine tuning again, you know, you see what’s going on. You know, I’ve had many times on the McCloud where you’re fishing and all of a sudden your arms covered with these little mayflies, and you’re like, okay, time to switch, and that can be really productive too. So it’s telling a combination of the big picture you have an idea, and then you get there and you’re adjusting to what’s going on around you. That’s what makes it really fun.


No, it was over on River Road and, uh, was hard to get down there. And I said, Oh, that looks like a good spot. I’m going to get down in there. And so I was in the river and so people can fish all their lives and would never be in a hatch, meaning these insects are being born in within that hour at that time. That’s when they’re all coming up at the same time.

And when I was in the river, it, it hatched, these insects came up and out. And, it went dark. It was just like, I don’t know what locusts looked like. You know, but I mean, it was heavy filled sky with insects that the fish were going to feed on. And when they come out, there’s a frenzy in the river. You can almost feel it. And I caught, I think, nine beautiful rainbows in a row that were all over it seemed like 12 to 16 inches and beautiful red stripes on them.


And, and it was all happening and went, oh my gosh, I’m in, I’m actually in the river in a hatch. And so I just love the idea of the sport of fly fishing when you’re in the waters and this fish thinks that what you’re presenting is something natural and they’re going to go after it and you’re going to catch it and then reel it in, look it in the eyes. Thank you, and then let it go as gently as you can. And sometimes when I’m out on the river and I don’t catch a thing, I still have the hope that I would.

But the river is, is more than just fly fishing. It’s hope. It’s always running. It never lets you down. And all the eyes that have cast their eyes upon the river all these years, they are long gone. These humans, it’s still there for me and still going to be there for my daughter and for her daughter and for everybody’s kids, you know.


Catching is fun, but it’s more just being out there. I mean, I think you’ll get that from most people who fish, you know, part of it is where that opportunity brings you. You know, whether it’s sitting in a boat on your favorite lake or it’s, you know, beating down the trail to your, your favorite trout stream or hanging out knee deep and an Osprey comes in and scoops a fish, you know, 10 yards in front of you and Whoa, that’s cool. I mean, those are the kind of, uh, those are the kinds of experiences. And then, and then, then yeah, then you catch fish. That’s cool too.

Walking up to the water, like so slowly, but, but surely it just like, you know, taking in every little bit, really observing and, uh, didn’t see a single fish that day, but just purely with the idea of being a complete observer to your environment like that, that really flipped a switch in my brain as far as like what I wanted to be as a fishermen.


And from there, like, you know, it was something I wanted to master at that point. I wanted to be able to really pick up on what’s going on around me when I’m outside, especially by a river.

Each time I stepped onto a trail, take a deep breath, cold Alpine air, or dip my hands in fresh water, there’s something about being outside that resets my perspective and lets me just sense. All of a sudden, the quiet around me is filled with creaking tree branches, glittering scrub, Jays, and the kerplunks and babbles of the river. So far, my experience with the waters of Siskiyou has been limited to rafting swimming and teeth-chattering dips after a day of climbing. While all of that has been amazing, and I’m always happy to do more. I’m really looking forward to starting to fish. I think it’s going to be good for me, even if I come home empty handed.

You know, I think as you progress as an angler and the things that bring you to the river or that you enjoy most, when you’re on the water, a change over the course of your career, first, you want to catch a fish and then you want to catch a lot of fish. And then you want to catch just a few big fish. Then as you get older, uh, and it’s just number one, being able to fish, which is important as, as I age and as I talked to my customers who are aging, that’s, that’s an important thing.

And then number two is just being there. And I know that’s cliche, but it’s, it is, it is a cliche, but it’s also real. So when you get to spend a, um, you know, a few minutes or a few hours or a few days in, uh, in something that’s not bombarded by opinion, uh, not bombarded by media, not bombarded by anything other than maybe a yellow jacket or a rattlesnake. Over my lifetime, I’ve gotten a different sense of what’s important to me and you sure the fish, the fish are why we think we’re there, but it’s probably not the real reason.

Many thanks to Carol Skalko, Bob Grace, Curtis Knight and Davis Elliot for the help of this episode. And if you’d like to plan your own trip, visit DiscoverSiskyou.com.

Show Notes

Thanks to Davis Elliot, Bob Grace, Curtis Knight and Carol Skalko for helping us with this episode!

Helpful Links to Plan a Siskiyou Fishing Adventure

Watch a Day Fly Fishing in Dunsmuir

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