When people think of traveling to California, they often think of Southern California, the Golden Gate Bridge, Yosemite, wine country and the redwoods. Many overlook one of the state’s crown jewels – its world-class fly fishing.
Mike Michalek founded The Fly Shop in 1978, and it has grown into the largest fly fishing retailer in the world. Much of the Redding shop’s business comes from introducing anglers to some of the North State’s finest fishing.
“We have excellent access to a whole bunch of private fisheries that aren’t open to the public, if you’re looking to go someplace cool and unique,” Michalak said. Some of the fisheries have day access, while others have overnight accommodations that range from rustic cabins to full-service lodges.
One such private fishery is Clear Creek, a narrow mountain stream on the Kutras ranch that is protected behind locked gates. “Chris Kutras’ grandfather won it in a dice game in 1906,” Michalak said. “It has fantastic fishing for the price of a lift ticket and lunch.”
Bollibokka, the first seven miles of the McCloud River above Lake Shasta, is “a piece of the most famous water in the world,” Michalak said. The wallet-friendly bass fishing at Steiner Lake in south Redding is “every man’s kind of thing.”
Antelope Creek Lodge is for “people who really want to get pampered,” said Michael Caranci, who coordinates 2,500 guided trips to the region each year through The Fly Shop in Redding. It fits up to eight people, and meals are provided, along with “two lakes full of trout and a couple miles of stream surrounded by 40,000 acres of Klamath National Forest,” he said.
Rock Creek Lake just outside of Manton is right along a mountain lake and offers “the definition of seclusion,” Caranci said.
“We’re fortunate in this area to have a ton of great places to go – literally hundreds of miles of publicly accessible waterways,” Caranci said. “But there’s never a guarantee that you’re going to have it all to yourself. A lot of people, when looking for outdoor pursuits, are really looking for a place to get away from it all. These private ranches are a place they can go, pay a modest fee and guarantee they’re going to have the place to themselves.”
For Caranci, the best spot depends on the time of year – and his mood.
“In the springtime, I like going up to the mountain streams. In the fall, I love the steelhead runs in Trinity and Klamath. It’s hard to beat, anywhere in the world,” he said. “I grew up in the Bay Area and my family came up here regularly to go fishing. We ended up relocating here as soon as we could.”
And although many are quick to tout the wonders of fishing in areas like the Rocky Mountains, the North State’s waters are tops, Caranci said.
“We just have a ton of water and a year-round season, which is priceless,” he said. “A lot of those other places, you have to cut a hole in the ice to go fishing.”
Some fisheries book up well in advance, but folks can feel free to call for a spur-of-the-moment trip, too. “If you just want to go somewhere and go fishing, we can find somewhere for you at just about any time,” Caranci said.
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