Last week, I was lucky enough to spend a few days on my favorite river (The Pit River) with Octave Zangs of Zangs Films. Although early April, we woke up to cold temperatures and snow. In total, we spent three days fishing from sun up 'til sun down and found its fish to be strong, healthy, and eager to take a fly. Most of our fish were in the 10-15 inch range but we saw many easily exceeding that size.
The reason The Pit is so special to me is the solitude it provides. Living in San Francisco can be hectic and there's solitude, miles of fishable river, and healthy wild fish fish on The Pit. Providing hydroelectric power, irrigation, and recreational opportunities over its 207 mile course, this river plays an important role in the Northern California landscape. Its waters come from one of the largest contiguous freshwater spring systems in the US and runs through the Cascade Range. Only the Columbia and Klamath (great company) flow through this range with it. As the longest tributary to the Sacramento river,it is a major water source for California and it provides upwards of 80% of Shasta Lake's water.
Located just east of Redding, fewer and fewer people come to fish this rugged river. It's bowling ball sized cobbles covered in algae and increased water flows make for one of the toughest wading experiences you'll have. If you go, don't go alone and be sure to bring a wading staff! Every review of the river says the same thing. It's completely doable to fish alone and to not carry a wading staff. However, if you do, you'll find yourself at some point wishing you had some support. I've spent many cold winter days up there as one of the only people on the river and have regretted not having a wading staff or fishing buddy. It can be a dangerous river with the current water flows.
The best parts of the river though, its beautiful wild stocks of rainbow trout!
Any way you look at it, healthy fish need healthy habitat. Water flows, dams (or the lack there of), strong riparian zones, large amounts of river biomass, and water temperatures all play into the health of a river. The Pit has many of these important features in place but the impact of the hydroelectric damns on the river have certainly weighed heavily on the anadromous fish species that use to ply the depths of The Pit. I can't help but feel lucky every time I step foot in this beautiful river but can only image how it could have been different if left to its own devices.
Words by: Tyler Graff
Photos by: Tyler Graff and Octave Zangs