A fishing escape to a simpler time

Dottie and I meandered up I-5 this week to our favorite fishing shack on the bank of the upper Sacramento River in the rustic village of Castella, about three miles south of Dunsmuir. We’ve been renting the place for brief fishing getaways from owners Ken and Mona Carr for more than a decade.

It’s the first time we’ve left Sonoma since February, and it was nice to get away, even if it’s only for a few days. Our friends and neighbors Chad Overway and Jeanne Montague joined us. The shotgun-style shack built in the early part of the last century, when the only way in was the railroad, was spacious enough for safe distancing, and we spent most of our time outside and fishing on the river.

The weird weather that started early Sunday followed us north, and we spent the first two days with clouded skies and surprisingly cool temperatures, with occasional showers and even some lightning and thunder.

Normally August is hot in this lower part of the Siskiyou Mountains only about 35 miles north of Redding. The Sacramento River was clear and cold though, and once in a while a trout was actually interested in what we threw at them. It is not the best time of year to fish here, and if you do try it is best to fish early, get off the water by 11 a.m. and don’t get back in until 6 p.m. Even in that early part of the evening before sunset, you’ll want to wade in so at least the lower half of your body is in icy cool water.

We were mainly interested in a change of pace and scenery, and this trip fit that bill nicely.

In the era when Californians took their vacations by rail into remote locales barely passable by horseback, the majestic dormant volcano Mount Shasta, surrounded in all directions by the heavily forested Siskiyou Mountains, sprouted numerous small resorts by the tracks, which ran parallel to the river.

People could ride all the way from Los Angeles to enjoy the mountain air and fantastic fishing. Back then, there were no dams, like Shasta Dam, so salmon and steelhead came all the way up the canyon. I’ve read stories of the bountiful numbers of large fish the visitors were able to catch.

Today, the dam blocks the salmon and steelhead and I-5 carries the cars and their passengers along the ridge well above the river. The railroad mostly conveys freight now and only remnants of the resorts remain scattered along the tracks, waiting to be discovered by some 23rd Century archaeologist, who may wonder what kind of civilization once flourished here.

I would say a very good one for its time, with beautiful forests, clean air and clear cold streams teeming with trout and salmon.

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