Dottie and I recently spent two days in the historic Scott Valley, a remote ranching area northwest of Mount Shasta, on Highway 3 between Fort Jones, Etna, and the nearly deserted town of Callahan.
Throughout the valley, small seasonal creeks meander toward the Scott River, which is only a slightly larger creek-sized waterway that winds through the valley and eventually connects to the Klamath River.
Sugar Creek, one of those little streams, together with eight small ponds, a nice lodge and interesting scenery, comprises Sugar Creek Ranch, a privately owned and operated fly-fishing destination. Its new owners are determined to develop it into the best place in California to catch really big trout.
The Scott Valley in which it sits was known as Beaver Valley until the early 19th century when fur trappers from the Hudson Bay Company hunted the beavers to near extinction.
Then a pioneer by the name of John Scott discovered gold there in 1850. Whatever was left of the natural trout and salmon runs in the streams were devastated by the mining operations that went on for decades. Native American residents of the area fared even worse than the fish and wildlife of the area.
Logging was also practiced nearby for many years before that industry also faded.
Today the Scott Valley is mainly used for ranching.
Signs of the gold mining past can be seen in the huge tailings that the giant Yuba dredges left behind.
Some of that dredging created deep holes that eventually became Sugar Creek Ranch’s eight ponds, some as large as five acres. Today they contain icy cold, clear water and lots of big fat trout. Nearby, the Scott River is slowly being brought back to life thanks to a small but determined group of local residents who formed the Scott River Watershed Council (SRWC) in 1992.
The river which dried up during most summers, was no longer suitable for trout and salmon fry. But a few years ago, SRWC began constructing “beaver dam analogues,” which are human-made structures that mimic natural beaver dams, store water and create habitat for all kinds of local species, including steelhead trout and Coho salmon. Over time, these natural-looking dams create pools where fish can survive.
Other restoration and wildlife preservation efforts are underway in the area.
Nestled right next to the Scott River, Sugar Creek Ranch has been operating as a catch-and-release fly-fishing destination since 1993, but, until recently, not many anglers knew about it.
Last year, Kal and Mike Kalpins, the original owners and developers, leased the property to Tiburon resident Jerry Lewis, an avid fly-fisher, business and real estate manager, who along with several friends, had formed the Corinthian Fly Fishing and Investment Club in the 1980s.
The Corinthians were among the first clubs to book the fishing lodge at the ranch for an outing and have been its best customers ever since. Now they’re running it in association with their original mentor, Mike Michalak, owner and founder of The Fly Shop in Redding.
Over the past 20 years, I have visited several of the private-water properties Mike and his staff manage, and have always been impressed with the quality of the fishing and facilities.
The Fly Shop handles all of the bookings and maintenance of the Sugar Creek property with the goal of turning it into a prime fly-fishing destination spot.