|A rainbow from Henderson Springs, maybe over 6 pounds. The largest trout I had ever caught.|
Having never experienced a private fishing camp I had only my imagination to feed my expectations. Pre-trip research revealed that Henderson Springs was a 500-acre fly fishing ranch located in remote northern California, near Big Bend on the Pitt River, just north of Redding, California. The ranch has four lakes and a ½ mile meandering spring creek, all catch and release waters open only to guests of the ranch. The fishing is private and unpressured.
|The Henderson Springs Lodge... you gotta love that salmon fly art on porch cross-member beam.|
Bill’s work associates were very affable guys, though most were a little out of my league, financially. I was somewhat of a novelty because I was not a client of Bill’s, but rather a government executive with that sinful little city of Las Vegas. Mayor Oscar B. Goodman was the new Mayor, and his mob-lawyer background was still getting national media interest, not to mention that "Mayor" Goodman was developing into quite a media caricature himself. Being somewhat affluent, comparatively speaking, Bill’s clients all had the finest of rods (Sage, Loomis, etc.) and reels (Abel, Ross, etc.) that were available at that time. I admit to being somewhat intimidated with my hand-made Fenwick HMG graphite rod from the early 1980s. Causing additional anxiety was the fact that I had never before fished for really large trout (i.e., measured in “pounds” rather than “inches”), let alone land one. On top of that it had been many years since I had done any serious fishing, years spent raising a family of five boys without much angling at all. All these thoughts were conspiring to cause me to feel unsure of myself. I didn’t want to disappoint Bill with a poor showing among his friends; after all, I was the one that taught Bill to fly fish. Bill had progressed beyond my abilities, and I didn't want to embarrass him, or myself. He has a passion for the sport of fly fishing. He's able to take time to feed it. Living in northern California, the heart of great fishing, his experience and interest broadened to multiple species, including brackish and salt water species. Traveling around the country to support his angling habit was an alluring quality woven into his fishing tales. I confess my sinful ego wanted me to make a good showing.
There was yet another dampening effect on the trip: weather for the entire weekend was overcast and rainy. I don’t recall seeing many patches of daylight. The rain was not hard, but consistently relentless. Most of us wore hooded rain jackets layered over fleece and thermals. Dark flies with sinking lines seemed to be the proper presentation, preferably woolly buggers or streamers.
|Nothing like a 21-inch trout to calm performance nerves. My first rainbow of the trip, on my hand-made|
Fenwick rod and click-pawl Hardy real.
Having been convinced about the size of these trout based on Thursday evening’s offerings, the next morning Bill easily persuaded me to use one of his nine-foot, five-weight Sage rods with an Abel mid-arbor reel. Frankly, I gladly accepted his offer. That Friday morning I fished Big Lake with Bernie and Mike. Bernie owns a Sacramento Fly Shop, and Mike owns/runs a Sacramento housing construction company. I watched Bernie from a distance, and he certainly was an accomplished angler. He caught a lot of trout that morning. As for me, I caught three rainbows (two over 24 inches) and three browns (one right at 20 inches), and lost two others (one very good fish).
|This 18-inch brook trout from Clear Lake was a total surprise. I only wish I could have taken|
a more complete photo of his spectacularly colored body. Isn't the hump of his back impressive?
On Friday, all my fish were caught on a black woolly bugger.
Saturday morning, day three, I finally got to fish with Bill and Mike on Frog Lake. I hooked and lost four fish that morning, one that could have been close to eight pounds (it leapt and the hook pulled out when it hit the water). I did manage to land one of about 24 inches, but rather thin compared to the other brutes (I guessed him at five pounds). All were rainbows. While I got a lot of action Saturday morning, I found it the most frustrating of all because I couldn’t seem to bring anything to the net. Perhaps I was overconfident from the early success.
The three of us fished Big Lake again that afternoon. While I only caught three trout, one was 24-25 inches, a rainbow trout of six-plus pounds. I caught another rainbow that was about four pounds; it was a male working on a hooked jaw. The third was a small 15 inch brown trout, which had eagle or osprey wounds on it. There are resident bald eagles in the area. I also caught two bass, and hooked and lost a couple of other trout.
|Bill showing off a six-pound rainbow from Long Lake, the last trout of our|
4-day trip to Henderson Springs.
|All but a few of the 17 trout were 18 inches or longer.|
|Me and Bill - a long-time friendship of angling aficionados.|
|Picturesque Clear Lake, home of the brook trout.|
|Another 24-inch rainbow.|
|Longest brown trout I'd ever caught, right as 20 inches.|
|One of Bill's clients with five pound rainbow in the morning drizzle.|
|Another client with a smaller, three pound rainbow.|
|Bill netting a 25-inch rainbow.|