WON EVENTS UPDATE
BY BOB SEMERAU/Special to Western Outdoor News
CALLAHAN, CA — Finding a beautiful lake filled with huge, hungry trout is the stuff of dreams for most fly fishermen. Finding eight of them at one location is almost too much to believe.
The 12-hour drive to Callahan from Orange County meant leaving at 3 a.m. in order to get in some fishing the next afternoon, but fishing partner Dave Sivak was game for the overnight run. Clear skies and a light breeze greeted us on arrival at the Scotts Valley lakes known as Sugar Creek Ranch.
Taking a moment to leave our bags at the cozy lodge on the property, Dave and I headed to the north end, just above the New Pond and one of largest of the chain of lakes known as Lone Bear.
• NORTH PONDS AT SCR offer scenic views of Shasta National Forest in distance.
• SUGAR CREEK RANCH owner/operator Mike Kalpin transfers fish from rearing ponds on the property to individual lakes.
Mike Kalpin, owner and operator of the lakes has dedicated his life to building a dream fishery for flyrodders that want to tempt big trout with all manner of terminal tackle. Simply walking up to any of the larger lakes can be a thrill, seeing huge 25 inch-plus-trout cruising the shoreline.
Fly selection is key when convincing fish that have seen plenty of fishermen come and go. Streamers, nymphs (fished both with an indicator and slow-stripped), and even dry-flies, can be the right approach at any given moment.
RICKARDS RUST-COLORED SEAL BUGGER is proven for big fish in stillwater lakes.
Dave took a size 12, rust–colored seal bugger of the sort recommended by renowned stillwater angler and author Denny Rickards, who offers seminars on stillwater trouting at Sugar Creek Ranch throughout the year and his seal bugger is a can’t miss here at the lakes.
True to form, Dave’s eyes went wide when after just two casts of his five-weight a cruising trout turned hard after his slow-stripped fly. The take was explosive and the first run was followed by several jumps making a couple of feet of air.
A second and third run by the big fish was needed to tire out the beast since fluorocarbon tippet in 2- to 4-pound test is needed for these crystal clear lakes. Large, rubber webbed guide nets are placed conveniently around the lakes to make netting, pictures and a quick release, easy.
Not to be outdone, my bright orange Screw Ball indicator took a dive shortly after Dave released his fish. The indicator had been hung above a size 18 blood midge over a black zebra midge of the same size.
This fish would be of similar size and almost cookie cutter in color and girth. A quick measurement and pictures and the fish was released back into the water to fight another day. Calculations put the wide-shouldered 21-inch fish at close to 5 pounds.
• PARK-LIKE SETTING of Lone Bear Lake gives up 12-pound ‘bows and plenty of action.
• TWIN DEER LAKE HOLDS HUGE RAINBOWS like this for Dan Doble of Eureka.
The close of the day brought many more fish and at sunset, Mike Kalpin appeared at the Sugar Creek Ranch Lodge with locally collected Morel mushrooms and some fine steaks ready for the grill. Diving into the steaks while swapping stories and hearing Mike tell of the history of the area makes for great way to end any fishing day.
The ranch is situated right in the middle of what once was a rich gold mining region. Mike’s dad, Cal, originally came to the area to dig gold out of the river bottom along the Scott River. After years of pulling gold out of the river rock, Cal saw the amount of gold coming out to be less than it was worth and he gave up the mining operation. Mike found the remaining holes and mounds of rock to be a perfect place to build-in lakes and working together they have restored the area and created a beautiful park-like setting to catch trout.
The smaller lakes remain riparian with brush down to the edge and just a few breaks in the cattails to approach the water. These lakes hold plenty of smaller 14- to 18-inch trout, and for sheer numbers, they can’t be beat. Dry flies and slow-stripped nymphs work best in Beaver Pond, Alder and Blackberry.
The toughest decisions to make are about tippet strength due to the varying size of the fish. Too heavy and the larger fish get spooked. Too light and the behemoths break off before the fight begins.
Once the formula is figured out, the real fishing can begin and fish to 12 pounds can be enticed to take a fly.
Whether it’s fishing for numbers or finding that trophy trout dreams are made of, few places can match Sugar Creek Ranch for opportunities to get fish.
Two days of fishing at the ranch gave up several fish over 5 pounds and dozens of the smaller 18 inchers. Exploring each lake, finding the keys to success and applying knowledge gained through experience can only mean even greater success and better stories for the next trip to Northern California.
Sugar Creek Ranch
9926 So. Hwy 3
Callahan, CA 96014
• DAVE SIVAK, IRVINE, is practiced in the art of fishing big rainbows at SCR.