By Stacy Barawed
The night before embarking on my first-ever trout trip, I tried to remain cautiously optimistic as 30 MPH wind gusts howled and rattled the windows of my tiny hotel room.
I had been looking forward to fishing with guide Mike Bogue’s Guide Service for the last two weeks; and after one of my recent bass tournaments was cancelled due to weather, I was keeping my fingers crossed that Mother Nature wouldn’t derail my plans the next morning.
Luckily, I woke up to calmer conditions, and Mike was ready and waiting for me at 6:30am on the dot at the South Bonnyview boat launch right in the heart of Redding.
After shaking hands and settling in, I informed Mike that I typically target bass and this was all new to me. “I’ve never actually targeted trout…I’ve caught a couple trout, but only on accident when I started fishing with nightcrawlers and a trout would take my bait!”
There was no chance of that happening this time, as we would not be using live bait, but rather, Mike’s favorite lures.
“I use Mag Lips – they dive around six to eight feet. We’ll be backtrolling with them about 100 feet behind us.”
Once we took off, we didn’t have to go far to get started. With the boat launch still in sight, we put our lines in and Mike gave me a quick lesson.
“Just give that lure a little hop every once in a while. If you stop feeling that vibration, there’s probably moss or something caught on the lure. In that case, a quick, sharp tug will remove it,” Mike advised.
“The nice thing about the Sacramento River is that there’s a lot of fish here, but they’re also wild…so some days they bite, and some days they’re just not biting,” Mike warned.
After a while, I got my first bite. I guess it caught me off guard, because it came off after what I’m assuming was a weak hookset.
“At least it felt good!” I laughed.
After a couple of fish bumped our lines without biting, we took off southbound. I enjoyed the relative calmness of the water, watching families of deer roam the banks while soaking up a little warmth from the sun as it rose above the trees. It was so tranquil I almost forgot it was a Monday morning.
At our next stop, I started to have more luck. The first fish I landed was barely a pound, but it sure was feisty!
“It’s a start!” Mike chuckled.
I landed another, slightly bigger this time, and then we continued further south.
With nearly three decades of guiding experience, Mike knows this area of the Sacramento River like the back of his hand.
“After 29 years of doing this, there are two things I know for sure,” he said, confidently.
“You can’t get ‘em if your line’s not in the water, and you’re always one bite away from a really big one,” he grinned.
Don’t let Mike fool you – he knows a lot more than that, and he’s got more stories than you can probably count. This is why his customers come back year after year. In fact, my time chatting and laughing with him between bites was just as enjoyable as reeling in the fish.
Around mid-morning is when we started finding the bigger ones. Mike handed me his rod once he had a fish on, and I clumsily started reeling it in left-handed, something I was obviously not used to. It zigged and it zagged, but luckily it stayed on, and once it was landed Mike took a fantastic photo of me and my gorgeous rainbow trout with the backdrop of the Sacramento River behind us.
“Let’s do that again!” I laughed. I examined the beautifully speckled trout with its pink line right down the middle before plunging it back into the river.
More of the same continued for the next couple of hours: great conversation, land a fish, repeat. We wrapped up our trip just as the sun was positioned high in the sky, which I learned affects the bite.
“The water’s so clear here, they start becoming skittish,” Mike explained. “When it’s darker and their visibility is limited, it’s more of a reaction bite. Now, they have time to examine the lure, so they’re less apt to bite it. This is why we start at 6:30am and not 10:00am.”
Learning more about the fish I’m targeting as well as the different methods used to target them is why I love spending time with guides like Mike Bogue. Salmon season begins in August; and since I’ve only caught salmon out of the San Francisco Bay, I can’t wait to join him again to learn how his methods differ in these completely contrasting conditions.
Big thanks to Mike Bogue’s Guide Service for putting me on my first wild trout! Book your trip soon if you’re looking for a guaranteed good time. You won’t be disappointed!