The Fall River Valley, is a an amazing spring creek system in a remote part of Northern California, and is among my favorite trout fisheries on the planet, and that includes Montana, Idaho, Alaska, and New Zealand. There is just nothing like it, not because you go there to catch a bunch of easy fish, but because of the history, scenery, people, and unique angling style in which you fish it. Since my first trip there in 2002, I've been captivated by this most fascinating spring creek. I was fortunate to be mentored here by some incredible guides, anglers, and clients on the unique etiquette and angling techniques here, which will forever be an influence on me not only on the Fall, but for other unique fisheries around the world. Some fisheries are just special, and should be fished accordingly.
The traditional way to fish the Fall on the upper and middle reaches of the river is from a small Jon boat, anchored, making presentations downstream to fish. My favorite way to do this is to be patient, waiting to sight fish to specific targets feeding off of the surface. But with the absence of surface feeding, you can also fish with nymphs under drys or indicators, or fish streamers with sinking lines swinging down and across, then stripping them back. All these techniques from an anchored boat require a relatively accurate cast, sometimes at distance, and the ability to feed line downstream with a drag free presentation. This is unique in that most anglers who are used to fishing from a boat in a river are used to making a cast, and then side drifting for very long stretches of river, which is by far the easiest and most productive way to catch a fish in moving water with a fly rod. And thats great, because on almost every other river in the West, it is a universally accepted method to fish by the angling community on that watershed. However, side drifting over large sections of river from a driftboat on the Fall has never been a universally accepted method of angling, in fact, it has always been frowned upon until recently. And if one river deserves a reprieve from the numbers oriented side drifting community that is currently dominating all other fisheries, it is the Fall River.
The traditional style of angling from an anchored boat on the Fall requires the angler to utilize more precise fly fishing skills, such as actually casting a fly rod to make a specific presentation, and then actually fishing each and every cast/presentation. This is not because it is an elitist culture on Fall River (maybe a little)it's because the traditional way is the most respectful way to fish the river regarding interaction with other anglers, as well as to respect the history and culture of the river. Some newish anglers just don't care about the anglers who came before them or the etiquette and history of the watershed, and thats a global issue not just unique to Fall.
It's not like anglers like Bob Quigley, the famed angler and fly tier who created the best spring creek patterns known to man, didn't think of how productive side drifting the river would be...he just didn't care. He and all other anglers of his time were interested in the whole process of fly fishing. They wanted to accurately cast a fly, make a presentation, and catch their own fish. In fact, most of the anglers who came before the current influx of side drifting anglers on the river had drift boats too...at home. They used them on other driftboat oriented/friendly rivers, which these days happen to be the majority of all other rivers in the country. So why not just save the side drifting for all those other rivers instead of bashing your way down a quiet spring creek like Fall River where it is totally against the history and culture of the river?
Enjoy the process and the scenery...like Marlee here!
Art Teter, local guide who was guiding here before most of you side drifters were born...