October 2007 Archives

Williamson River Delta Restoration

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Duck hunters, start your engines...
October 30, 2007


Mark Stern, Klamath Area Conservation Director for the Nature Conservancy, remarked that making a marsh was easy, “Just add water.” That and ten years of planning and engineering, 10 million in construction costs and 200,000 pounds of explosive reversed sixty years of farming practices to add 2,500 acres of new marshland to Upper Klamath Lake and Agency Lake. For thousands of year, the Williamson River deposited sediments across a vast delta where the river enters Upper Klamath Lake. However, in the 1950’s 22 miles of dikes were constructed around the delta and along the river to convert rich bottomland wetland soils into farmland. These barriers channeled the lower Williamson River directly into the lake, which eliminated extensive critical habitat for fish and wildlife, as well as a degradation of the lake’s water quality.


Stern described the shortnose and Lost River suckers, which are native fish only to the Klamath Basin, as the counterpart to the canaries in the mind shaft. Since the early 1990’s, fish and wildlife experts, including those from the National Academy of Sciences, have identified the restoration of the wetlands at the Williamson River Delta as one of the highest priorities for recovery of these two endangered fish, along with other fish and wildlife. Although the channel between Upper Klamath Lake and Agency Lake has always been a natural connection, The Williamson River prior to the 1940’s provided many side channels and marsh that connected the lake, which in turn provided sanctuary for larval fish fry to gradually move towards the lake as they migrated down river from their spawning beds upstream.



Photographs courtesy of Tom Templeton, copyright 2007

Matt Barry, Williamson River Delta Preserve Director for the Nature Conservancy, has managed the 6,800-acre wetlands project since 2005. In order to get the most bang for their bucks, Matt coordinated with the Bureau of Land Reclamation to create a computer model on the best spots to breach the existing levies. “We were looking for the best flow spots into the designated flooding area, and we had to assess fish movement, which meant we had to remove many interior levies prior to today’s explosive breaching of over two miles of existing levies.” Each of the four detonated areas ran for almost a half mile. Three thousand holes were dug twelve feet deep on alternating grids ten feet apart. Each hole was packed with 70 pounds of explosives along with boosters.

Adding 17,000 acre feet of water to Agency Lake, the newly flooded lands will offer anglers and waterfowl hunters new water to explore and map. The estimated depth of the newly flooded land is between two and five feet at full pool. Some areas have sunk over the past fifty years due to compressed peat moss and will provide some depressions 6 to 11 feet deep. Although there was some talk about anglers and hunters not being able to drop anchor and technically be trespassing, I talked to two officials who assured me that the issue was deemed by the Nature Conservancy as not being enforceable, although they will consider anyone leaving a boat and entering on private lands as trespassing. When I asked one official how long it would be before a duck hunter was hunting a flooded field, he looked at his watch and said, "Probably now." Gentlemen, I'll see you on the "new marsh."

Dave Archer


Lower Sacramento River

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Redding, California - Oct. 25, 2007
The Sacramento River from Redding to Red Bluff


So where does a former Montana fly fishing guide residing in Chiloquin, Oregon get his float fishing river fix. Perhaps the nearby Williamson River, maybe the Rogue or the Klamath or even the Trinity, but my choice will probably be the broad, big muscled lower Sacramento River. Flowing from the Keswick dam at the outlet of Lake Shasta, the lower Sacramento River flows through the town of Redding on its way to the San Francisco Bay. Miles of prime trout habitat line both sides of the river all the way down to Red Bluff. Offering four separate salmon runs, along with steelhead, the trout are healthy and fat. According to Michael Caranci, director of outfitters for The Fly Shop in Redding, California, when the dam operators were required to control flows and water temperatures to protect salmon runs and salmon fry, the trout benefited, and the fishing gets better year after year. I met with Michael at The Fly Shop, which may be seen from I-5 just north of the Churn Creek Exit. With October being their busiest month, Michael estimated they would finish the month with close to 400 trips. In spite of the hectic flow of anglers asking to book if there were any cancellations and the phone ringing constantly, Michael took the time to describe and promote the lower Sacramento River. I was impressed, but then maybe that is the reason The Fly Shop was voted the “Top Shop” by the fly fishing industry in 2003.


Two of the most productive months of the year are April and October. March and April basically kick off the season with prolific hydropsyche caddis hatches. The “Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch” bursts on the scene blanketing the air with millions of bugs on warm, sunny days. Michael said, “The trout gorge themselves and eat, eat, eat, but the problem sometime becomes too many of the real thing surrounding an imitation.” The caddis continue to hatch throughout the season and into the summer during the last hour of the day, which provides some good dry fly fishing. Many guides, in spite of the hatches, continue to fish under the surface with sparkle pupas, peeking caddis, Bird’s Nest or bead-head nymphs in size 12 to 14, along with smaller emerger patterns. In May sporadic “hatches” of salmonflies appear through out the system but not on a predictable basis. Each year the salmonflies presence in the river grows.


With rising temperatures of summer often exceeding 100 in July and August, the pressure of anglers on the river wanes, but the fish continue feeding in water temperatures from 55 to 60 degrees. I met a preacher working on his sermon on his tailgate at the Bonnyview Bridge near the water’s edge. He said he liked fishing from his kick boat during the summer. With his legs submerged in cold water and his torso absorbing the hot rays of summer, he said he experiences heaven and hell in the same moment. He told me to emphasize to readers that sitting this close to the water was actually about ten degrees cooler. He said he keeps himself hydrated with lots of water and very busy with good fishing. Typically, however, the first and last hours are the most productive fishing of the day. By late August the nights are cooling and day time temperatures began dropping to the nineties.


By September the first salmon runs appear. By October the salmon are busy building reds and kicking up debris and dislodging nymphs. The trout move in behind the spawning beds and feast on nymphs and the loose eggs that get washed downstream. Michael described it as “salmon omelets.” Michael advised me to be especially vigilant when wading so as to not disturb or destroy the beds, which are easily identified by the light-colored depressions in the gravel. One successful technique to employ during October is a strike indicator, lead split-shot, a single egg pattern and one or two nymphs.


In spite of the increased pressure during October and November, guides spread themselves out over seventy miles. Michel stated thattypically by Thanksgiving or earlier the rains sweep up the valley and blow the river out below Cow and Cottonwood Creek, but it is rare that the upper stretch will be gone for more than a day or two at a time. That is actually one of the big assets of the Lower Sac, that it remains a viable fishery almost all winter long.". Most anglers wait for spring, but Michael pointed out that late winter on the lower Sacramento River offers good fishing between storm fronts. The latter part of the winter does not have the impact on water flows that November and December experience. Although air temperatures hold in the 50’s and 60’s and the fish slow in their feeding activity, more larger fish in the 18-inch range are caught during this time period with an added bonus of late winter baetis hatches. By early spring trout are gorging themselves on alevin, salmon fry, and gaining up to one pound a month from these tiny fish with the egg sacks still attached. If there is a dry fly period, it is in March and April when the caddis return and a new season is heralded.

To contact Michael and book a trip with The Fly Shop, you may reach him by phone at 1-800-669-3474 or at Michael@theflyshop.com or www.theflyshop.com

Launch Ramps and Access Points: Keep in mind that the time of year and the water levels flowing out of the dam determine whether wading is a viable option. Because the current is so strong, I recommend inflatable suspenders and a wading staff. For a detailed guide to the river, I recommend that you purchase the map, Sacramento River Fishing Access & Accommodations. The map may be purchased at The Fly Shop in Redding or by visiting their web site at www.streamtime.com. I welcome all scrutiny, corrections and advice, as this article will be a work in progress over the next year. Contact David Archer at dave@glaciertoyellowstone.com

2007 Shuttle Fees from The Fly Shop:
Posse Grounds as far as Sacramento RV Park…$25
Posse Grounds to Anderson…$30
As high as Bonnyview to Balls Ferry…$35
As high as SAC RV to the Barge Hole (Balls Ferry road near old mouth of Battle Creek)
As high as Balls Ferry to Jelly’s…$45
As high as Balls Ferry to Bend Bridge…$50
Add map 1



1. Posse Park Boat Launch + Wading: From I-5 take Highway 299 West and make a right onto Auditorium Drive (convention center). You may also reach the Posse Grounds from Cypress Street by turning north on Park Marina Drive, which ends at the convention center. This is the first launch past the A.C.I.D. Irrigation Dam a couple of miles below Lake Shasta’s Keswick Dam. The launch site is behind the rodeo grounds near the convention center and provides good parking for all sized rigs and excellent access to Posse Riffle, as well as the numerous riffles and runs down to Redding’s famous Sundial Bridge. During low water periods in the fall, wading anglers have numerous hot spots they may reach in a half mile stretch below the launch. During the summer months the numerous shaded, picnic spots provide welcome relief when temperatures climb to three digits. Turtle Bay Trail, across from the convention center and downstream from the launch, also provides access.


Two of Redding’s bridges are under construction for the next couple of years. The river has restricted passages in two places.



2. Cypress Street Bridge Area: Exiting from I-5 onto Cypress Street in downtown Redding, move to the left lane and turn left on Hartnell at the light just short of crossing the bridge. This is a business section. Make the first right turn onto Henderson. Look for the sign “Road Ends 400 feet ahead.” Turn right here and drive behind the businesses and park. Take the dirt path towards the Cypress Street bridge or turn downstream fifty yards and fish the riffle and pool by the old bridge abutment. This is a popular spot for the float fishing guides before they cross over and fish the western bank of the river. Crossing the bridge, anglers will find some water above and below the bridge.


3. South Bonnyview Road (Bridge) Launch: This is an excellent boat launch and parking area, although it doesn’t provide good water for fly fishing in the near vicinity. From Posse launch to South Bonnyview is a half day float.

4. Cascade Park: Exit I-5 west on South Bonnyview Road. Turn left on Market Street or Highway 273 and then left again on Girvan and proceed a short distance to Cascade Park. I did not get far without waders. The park is adjacent to islands, although the channel was very shallow. South of the park is Niles Riffle, but I never made it – another time.


5. Anderson River Park (launch): This is another spot that I missed. The Fly Shop provides maps to local wading spots, and this is one of them. South of Redding on I-5, take the Deschutes Road Exit (Factory Outlet Stores). Go west and turn left (north) on Balls Ferry Road and then right on Dodson Lane to Anderson River Park. Follow the trail down river for good riffles. An improved boat launch is located on Rupert Road, which may be accessed from a loop off Dodson Lane.


6. Deschutes Road Bridge: From I-5 take the Deschutes Road Exit a couple of miles east to the Deschutes Road Bridge.

7. Balls Ferry Bridge (Bridge) Launch: From I-5 take the Gas Point Road Exit and follow Balls Ferry Road until it intersects with Ash Creek (sharp corner). Follow Ash Creek about a mile to the boat launch. (The bar here serves a good burger.) It is five miles to Cottonwood, a quaint little town close to I-5.

8. Reading Island: From I-5 take the Gas Point Road Exit and follow Balls Ferry Road until it intersects with Adobe Road. Turn right and proceed to the parking area less than two miles. Maps are not always accurate; the public campground has been closed by the county, and the launch is only good during high flows onto a side channel, and even then for smaller boats. Now, I did talk to a lady who lived close by and was walking her dog. She said she often sees fly fishermen casting on the main stem a short distance from the parking lot.

9. Old Mouth Battle Creek (Launch and primitive camping): The primitive camping is just that – primitive and rocky! Look for a drop off onto a dirt road. There are a couple of water holes to cross, but they are solid underneath. Nonetheless, after a rain this could be a potential mess without four wheel drive. The beach is hard packed cobblestone, and during October it is a popular spot for local salmon anglers (especially during the weekend). It is also a launch for boaters heading up to the Barge Hole just upstream. This section offers a beautiful riffle that left me frustrated and perplexed. I chalked it up to a full moon – not my skills! I talked to two neighborhood river watchers who said that during the caddis hatches the riffle comes alive with trout just at dark. From I-5 take the Jellys Ferry Road, cross the bridge and continue until you crest a plateau and see the river stretching out below you. From the crest, some anglers hike down to the river and fish Lawrence Riffle. As you drop off the crest down the slope, you will see on your left a long beach with a primitive boat launching spot. Just ahead on the left in the trees is the turn-off to this primitive site.


10. Jellys Ferry Bridge (Launch): From I-5 take the Jellys Ferry Road to the bridge and parking area and boat launch. (No camping.) This is a rough boat ramp; during low water periods you will be launching in wet sand and mud. I would recommend 4x4 vehicles after a rain. The site is run by the Department of Interior, but it does not allow camping.


11. Bend Bridge (Launch): From I-5 take the Jellys Ferry Road Exit. Turn right on Bend Ferry Road by the Bend RV Park (916-527-6289) and store and cross the bridge to a county launch site. Fish the Lower Bend Riffle or take the trail on the north side of the parking lot to riffle water upstream.



RV Camping Parks


JGW RV Park: The JGW RV Park is located on Riverland Drive on the west side of Interstate-5, south of the Knighton Road exit. Exit 673 is approximately five miles south of Redding. (530) 365-7965. Reservations: 1 800-469-5910. www.jgwrvpark.com. Email: jgwrvpark@charter.net. (In the north corner of the park is a 5-strand, barb-wire fence. Go around it at the river’s edge and walk upstream 100 yards to a great riffle, where I met a couple of fat rainbows. The resort provides a rough boat launch.


Sacramento River RV Resort: The Sacramento River RV Resort is located on Riverland Drive on the west side of Interstate-5, south of the Knighton Road exit next to JGW RV. Exit 673 is approximately five miles south of Redding. (530) 365-6402. www.sacramentoriverrvresort.com. Email info@sacramentoriverrvresort.com. Beautifully shaded, the resort offers a concrete boat launch for high water conditions and a dirt launch for low water conditions. Launch fees for non-guests is a bargain $3.

Marina RV Park: The Marina RV Park is located at 2615 Park Marina Drive. Although it is not a park like setting with lots of shade, it is within walking distance to restaurants and movie theaters. The launch fee for non-guests is $22.

Duck Opener '07

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Agency Lake -- Buddy's First Retrieve!


Can a young pup teach and old dog a new trick? Buddy, my seven month yellow lab, taught Max how to rumble with and retrieve a pissed off Honker on Sunday of the opener. I left Buddy home with Pauline on the opening day. I had invited Steve Barrows to join me, and I didn’t want to be distracted all morning disciplining Hyper-Baby. After my great success last year, I headed out on Saturday prior to opening day. Duck hunters were already out scouting one week in advance. When I climbed the levy to check out last year’s spot on the BLM land, I was disappointed to see dry fields. Last year numerous parties had set up on the corners of the Four-Mile Slough adjacent to Agency Lake. When I went to one of the corners, I could see only a feint trail leading up and over the dyke.

Climbing out of my boat and busting through the willows, I was surprised to see little water except for the long channel, which had very little cover. No one was around. I returned Wednesday, and still I found no established spreads or evidence of passage. I hiked out pulling a decoy cart about three-quarters of a mile and spread out a dozen duck decoys and eight floating honker decoys to hold my spot. A smaller channel drained into the main slough. The closest cover was forty-five yards from the main channel, but there was a small pocket of water that bulged from the drainage ditch just before dumping into the main channel. It seemed like as good a spot as any, but I was troubled that no one was around.

Friday I returned with another two dozen decoys and my portable blind and all the materials that I would need to hide two hunters and a dog. This time there was another boat, but I had no idea where they had headed. I set everything up for the next morning. Shooting time came and went without incident. Miles away everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. The other party had walked another half mile past us, and they were very active. A few ducks flew by us along the water’s edge too far to shoot. I theorized that we would get some action mid-morning when fleeing ducks looked for quiet water. But then the geese started flying. We called one or two small flocks towards us for one or two passes, but each time they would flair or fly by us at about fifty yards. Finally, we saw four Canada Geese cross the channel about two hundred yards down from us. We called to them and pulled them in for five wide, looping passes. We were sure they would land, but then on the last pass they refused. Again, they crossed in front of us at about fifty yards. We picked up three ducks and then broke for a nap in the afternoon.

Sitting up from a rest, I watched as about a hundred mallards dropped into the field of tulles about two hundred yards behind us. I had rejected going into the tulles because the water slicks floating over the mud are treacherous and lethal to a lone hunter. Putting out my decoys two feet from the shoreline the previous day, I had dropped into the mud up to my chest. I could barely extricate myself. Fortunately, I could reach a rusted metal fence post to help me ashore.

I decided to explore. Steve found a willow staff and walked across two small rivets of mud. I was encouraged and left Steve in the blind and took Max out into the tulle field. Two hundred yards out I found inter-locking, skinny patches of water and jumped all those mallards, knocking down one drake. We set up six decoys there for the late afternoon. We had numerous mallards slip behind us, surprise us or land just out of range. The next day I decided to pick up my decoys and knock down the blind. I arrived late in the morning, after wandering in circles in the fog out on Agency Lake in my Gator-Trax boat and Mud-Buddy motor. Hyper-Baby and Max were out of control on my approach to the water slick. I didn’t dare yell at them as they got out of range for fear of jumping a bunch of birds. Both dogs were ahead of me and off to my left. Breaking out into the open, they put up about forty honkers.

I dropped down into some high grass and fumbled to shuck my decoy bag and un-sling my shotgun that was strung over my head. As luck would have it, a small group broke my way, and I had just enough time to rise up from my knees and dump one goose. I am a man with limited expectations, and low levels of success satisfy me in the field. I declared my weekend a success. I quickly selected a patchy island in this prairie pot-hole and tossed out a dozen dekes. Within twenty minutes I worked a flock of green-heads around my blind twice. They didn’t brake for a landing as they flew over me at twenty-yards. I decided I wanted to bring them in for a classic landing. I peeked up and could see their eyes, their beaks, their green heads, their feet, and of course, they could see me. Pale-white face with shinny glasses, say goodbye, dummy. Some duck hunters are destined to repeat the same old mistake over and over again.

Ten minutes later I called in a flock of geese. They made two passes, and locked their wings fifty yards out heading straight into my back. I squirreled down into the mud and watched their silent approach through heavy foliage of green tulles. Both of my dogs were frozen in place totally visible to the approaching B57 bombers. At 63 I am a bit slower to stand up from a squatting position. When I did rise and throw up my shotgun, the leaders were eye level at ten yards. Bang! I dropped a goose that broke to my right. I moved the barrel up into the sky to pick up a second goose. Bang! He wobbled but did not fold so I dropped him with my third shot. I have never taken three birds in the air on three shots. Had the second goose dropped with one shot, I believe I would have had my first triple, a feat that has eluded me with the exception of shooting out of a scull boat.

Both of the geese were up walking ten yards away having been shot with number two steel shot in three-inch casings. I couldn’t shoot them in the mud as my dogs were right on top of them. Buddy charged right at the closest goose and knocked the goose down with his chest. In his charge he lost his footing on impact and flipped over the goose. His feet flailed in the mud and air, and by the time he spun around, the goose charged him and boxed him with both wings. Buddy feinted and lunged at the goose, but not before he had been pecked and hissed at. Max, my timid eight-year old black lab who will not retrieve a wounded goose, jumped back out of the way of the brawl before him. He sat down and watched the fight safely out of the way.

Buddy had knocked the goose down twice, but each time the goose would jump to its feet and attack Buddy. Buddy was unflinching and kept charging the goose, knocking it down and then trying to grab a good hold. Each time he attempted to drag the goose across the mud, the goose would escape his hold and attack. At one point Buddy was dragging the goose by its ass while ignoring the pecks to his head. Finally Buddy nailed the goose by the neck and held the goose’s head under the water. The goose expired, and Buddy made his first retrieve dragging the goose ten yards to my feet. I set the two geese along the mud bank behind us and returned to the blind with the two dogs. Not to be out done, Max had run to the other cripple and brought him to me. Buddy would not let me hug or congratulate him. He stood sentry staring at the two geese. About five minutes later I saw Buddy jump to all fours. His goose had stood up and was walking out onto the mud flats! Before I could shoot it, Buddy charged, and it was round two. This time Buddy took him by the neck and dragged him back. I wrung the goose’s neck. I always shoot a wounded bird until it is dead. I never want a downed bird to experience fear and panic. At no time was I able to shoot either goose without endangering my dogs. The goose’s second demise, however, proved a valuable learning experience for Buddy. He took the goose by the neck and brought him to me. Hunting alone in the field just got safer. I won’t call Buddy anymore names like, Ugly Buddy, Hyper-Baby or Needle Nose. He’s my good old duck hunting Buddy!

Second Saturday of the Season


I packed light this time, and I carried everything on a cart, and yet I am still exhausted. I worked a flock of specs right over me with no goose decoys and dropped one. Later I brought in a large flock of Honkers. I could have had...should have had...might have had a double but I had only one shell in the gun! I was a great day, and in addition to the two geese I dropped four ducks. Max still refuses to retrieve a goose, although he will lead me through the tulles to the downed bird. Buddy was stubborn, uncooperative on the retrieves and bolting out of the blind, usually in the wrong direction, every time I shot. He was a pain in the ass, but I realize he is only seven months and we have much work ahead of us. At 63 I am feeling my age when I have to haul materials and supplies a mile out into the marsh. The cart helps, but the last 100 yards I have to haul everything on my back, and two geese and four ducks really adds to the load. I think I will design an aluminum cart with heavy bicycle tires or motorcycle tires. It will be a two-man cart pulled in the front and pushed from behind. It will have two swivel seats and a breakdown blind. I still haven't got around to painting my boat blind. Everyone I have talked to has done quite well on Agency Lake this year

If any duck hunter stumbles on this entry and has experience with carts, email me.

Dave Archer / dave@glaciertoyellowstone.com