Such a Winter’s Day on the Klamath

Written by: Jason Cotta

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Jason Cotta shows off a Klamath River steelhead.

photo courtesy Jason Cotta

It was a cold, wet morning when we began our drive north out of Sacramento. Our trio included my good friend Jason, and Hutch Hutchinson, Orvis’s West Coast regional business manager. Hutch and I just had just finished working the International Sportsman’s Expo in Sacramento and were invited up to fish the Klamath with John and Chuck from Wild Waters Fly Fishing. Chuck and John guide all over Northern California and southern Oregon, and these guys flat-out know how to fish. Their website is loaded with photos of insanely big fish and John does a great job of keeping their blog updated.

Our trip started out with a bit of a late start on Monday, and the snow was piled high as we pulled into Mt. Shasta City. We weren’t meeting Chuck and John for dinner until 7 o’clock, so we amused ourselves by watching the A Team and spooling up a few new lines for the following day. Dinner consisted of pizza, ribs, and a few beers at the Wayside Grill. There was a lot of shop talk around the table and discussion of the fishing ahead. Regardless of the week’s previous precipitation, John and Chuck were optimistic. They said water conditions should be perfect, and we should be in store for a great day on the water.

The following morning we met Chuck and John at a park-and-ride just outside of town and followed them to the put-in. After a quick shuttle, we were on our way down the river. Since Jason and I share the same name, John was a little confused about the best way to communicate with us without confusing the other. I quickly solved the problem and let John know he could refer to me as J-Sizzle, and Jason as J-Fro. I merely suggested this as a joke, but sure enough John stuck with it, and called us by our nicknames the rest of the trip.

Within the first 15 minutes down the river we had a grab, but those Klamath River fish are quick this time of year. John estimated that even experienced anglers will miss about 80 percent of the strikes. When John told me this at the beginning of the day, I was a bit skeptical, by the end of the day, Jason and I would have been thrilled to hook up 20% of the time.

By noon we had brought to hand a fair number of “half pounders,” and even a few adult steelhead. When we stopped for lunch, I was pleasantly surprised with what Chuck and John had planned for us. Out of the storage compartments came elk chili and lasagna, home-made by Chuck’s wonderful girlfriend, Amber. Both of these were served steaming hot, which was a welcome surprise on such a blustery winter day.

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A warm lunch is a welcome diversion on a blustery winter day.

photo courtesy Jason Cotta

We continued down the river for the rest of the afternoon and landed several more fish. The Klamath’s surroundings are incredibly diverse, and it is amazing how you can feel you’re in the middle of nowhere, come around a bend, and have the bank lined with houses. I think a big reason so many strikes are missed on the Klamath is the ease in which it is to be sucked into your surroundings.

The sun sets early in Northern California this time of year, and we were off the water by 6 o’clock. After bidding our farewells to everyone, we started the five-hour journey back toward Sacramento. Such drives home are always long, regardless of how many miles one must actually travel. Reminiscing of the day gone by and dreading the next work day to come are standard for all of us. Jason and I passed the time as usual, talking about fishing, eating cheap fast food, and devouring a kilo of peanut M & M’s.
This was a fantastic trip, and everyone was able to catch fish, which is really saying something when it comes to winter steelheading.

Jason Cotta is the fishing manager at Orvis Roseville, CA.

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