The Feather River Trip
I’m done brining and smoking the salmon from a fantastic trip to the Feather River above Sacramento. My friend and former colleague from my Amgen days, Marco, and I went out on the Feather with Dave the guide. Dave has been doing some great guiding over the past few weeks and he has found sturgeon, salmon, striper and shad milling about the Thermalito Outlet and around Yuba City. I've never fished with Dave before, and after this trip, I think I will be seeing more of Dave in the future.
Marco and I met Dave and his deckhand, Sal, at the Outlet at 5 am(%*&^(*^*%$#@@!$%^*&??). Both Marco and I were ready to go, both of us were psyched at the possibilities of a combo trip. Marco is an experienced fisherman, but has never fished for salmon before. Dave said that he had seen shad and sturgeon jumping the previous day and he bought bait for the sturgeon. I had never seen a live sturgeon before, but I had heard of their monstrous size and appearance.
As Dave got the gear prepared, he warned us of the turbulence of the waters we were soon to fish. If you haven't seen the Thermalito Outlet, let me give you some idea of what we were dealing with. The Thermalito Afterbay is a reservoir that forms after Lake Oroville which, I suppose, is there to help regulate the flow of water into the Feather River. The Outlet is where the flow enters the Feather as thousands of cubic feet of water per second rushes out of a concrete water superhighway causing rapids and whitewater that would sink a 24 ft boat in seconds.
Of course, Dave steered clear of the major turbulence, but after skirting around the main white water, he settled into a relatively calm pocket right next to the rushing water. The boat was rocking, but it wasn’t too bad, kind of like being on the ocean, and a relatively calm ocean at that. Dave warned us and hoped that others would not try this, as only very experienced boatsmen could do what he does here. Dave somehow kept us stationary and told us to drop our lines into a hole that he promised would be productive.
Magic on the water, even without fish
Dave’s confidence certainly calmed me, even after I lost the first two bites of the day. I was really surprised I lost the fish, because the Kwikfish lures we were using had these massive treble hooks and I thought I had set them. Oh well.
I wasn’t too concerned, especially after Dave and Marco also lost fish. But the real reason I wasn’t concerned was that the sun was coming up and the beauty of the scene was startling. First, double rainbows started to form in the west. Then, the sun peeked through the clouds and its light glistened off the little bubbles that were popping on the surface of the water. I was so taken with the glistening bubbles, that I didn’t even stop to take pictures. I was almost feeling guilty that I was enjoying myself so much and I hadn’t yet caught a fish. In fact, I had lost two already, and I think in the ten trips I had made previously I had lost a total of two salmon.
No worries this time. The sun, rainbows, glistening bubbles, river and jumping fish made all of this very magical. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, at this time I saw my first sturgeon. It surfaced like a whale and it’s big head, being prehistoric and all, looked like some smaller relative of Nessie. Whoa!!!!! What a fish.
Salmon “R” Us
Then, wham, I hooked and landed a beautiful 18-lb chrome salmon. It was gorgeous. Soon after, Marco landed another beautiful chrome Chinook and we jetted out of the mouth of the turbulence and into calmer waters.
Sturgeon in the otherworld
We rested a little and settled into some sturgeon fishing. As we sat in the very calm water, we saw a few of these monsters rise. It was otherworldly. One shot straight up out of the water, completely perpendicular to the surface, like some dolphin shooting up to catch a ring in a show at Seaworld.
The sturgeon didn’t seem to want to bite, however, so after an hour, we moved to Shad City. All of these different holes were within eyesight from the Outlet. It took about 30 min, but we then started catching shad. The shad were small, 3-4 lbs, but they were full of fight. Shad are thought to be the best fighting fish, pound for pound, anywhere. We found this to be true. We both caught about five each as we figured out where the shad were hanging. There were times that, like a salmon, the shad would run and there wasn’t anything you could do about it. These little guys were lots of fun.....but our arms hurt from fight them!!!!! I didn’t want to admit it myself, but Marco actually complained about the soreness of his arm!!!
5-minutes a bite
Since we had already caught Marco and my limit of salmon (which is one until July 16th, then it goes up to three), we went back to the salmon hole to get the deckhand, Sal, his salmon. Since we bagged two salmon earlier, a couple of boats tried the same hole after we were there, but found the waters too tough and bailed. Dave moseyed into the spot and as soon as Marco’s lure hit the right spot, BAM, he was hooked. marco graciously handed his pole to Sal and after a minute, the fish got loose. It wasn’t 5 min later when I hooked into another fish and handed the pole to Sal. This time Sal brought home the beauty and we had another 18+lb chrome chinook.
The bank fishermen were stunned, as we must have been at the spot for less than 10 min and we hooked two chrome beauties.
Later, we went back to the spot and I hooked another 18 pounder for Dave within five minutes!
Dave sure had the spot down cold by this time. I found out later that Dave hooked a 36 lb king the next day in that same salmon hole.
It has now been a week since that trip, and today I’m taking the boys back to the Feather River! Life is good!
Tomorrow, Kendra and Brenda go to Washington DC for the National Spelling Bee!!!
Good luck Kendra!!!!!!!!!!!!!!