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Best Fishing Trip Of My Life - One of the best fishing trips you can take and the best free fishing trip

One of the best fishing trips I ever had was a float a friend of mine and I took when we were in college down the Sacramento River from Redding to Chico.  It was the one of the best fishing trips for a lot of reasons, mostly because we caught so many different varieties of fish.  But, it was also one of the best fishing trips because it was free!  Free fishing trips are hard to come by and we had no idea we were going on one of the best fishing trips money could buy when we started this float trip.  It was a classic “wild hare” that ended up taking us on a nine day journey.  We caught largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, huge channel catfish, and an 8 pound steelhead.  I am almost 60 years old now and this was one of the most unforgettable fishing trips I have had in my life and one of the best fishing trips that I have even heard of anyone taking.  Let me share one of the best fishing trips of my life with you below in case you too decide to get a wild hare of your own!
Having one of the best fishing trips of our lives was not our plan when we started this multi day float trip.  We had been floating the river on inner tubes and drinking beer many times and on one float trip we hatched this idea.  We meant to just experience a long float fishing trip and we did zero research on the types of fish to expect, the waters we would encounter, or the time it would take to get from Redding to Chico.  Having the best fishing trip of our lives was entirely an accident!  We left with very limited tackle including some gaudy looking crankbaits that were about 5 inches long, reddish orange, that swam on their side that were two for a dollar in the clearance bin at the bait shop, a couple silver hotshot deep divers from a yard sale, and some hooks and weights.  Had we know we were going on a great fishing trip like this, we would have sold the sacred cow and upgraded our tackle by hitting more yard sales!  We were in college and we had to take donations for beer!  This great fishing trip, it turns out, couldn’t have gotten any better than it was.  I would change nothing today if I had to actually plan a fishing trip down the river again.

Again, planning a fishing trip was not at the top of our agenda.  Planning anything would have been out of character for my buddy and I, however we went out of our way to make room for a huge ice chest for our beer.  The raft we had was called a 6 man life raft and that meant that you could cram 6 men in there shoulder to shoulder with a shoe horn in an emergency!  Realistically, it was a 2 man raft that was small for a multi-day fishing trip, leave alone a week and a half trip.  To make room we each got an inner tube and put our sleeping bags and our clothes (one more t-shirt and another set of cut off jeans) into about 4 plastic garbage sacks for waterproofing and lashed them into it and then tied them together with a rope with the rope tied to the raft in the middle.  This allowed the essential equipment (beer and tackle box) to be in the boat with us and enough room to stretch our legs out.  The way we tied the tubes to the raft turned out to be a major issue when we turned around and they had become untied from our raft, yet tied together.  They drifted so that each one went on a side of a log sticking up in the center of the river which took us hours to paddle to shore in the swift water, haul our raft along the bank upstream far enough to paddle out to it as we floated by to retrieve them.  Then, we almost missed getting to them and dark was nearing.  Would have been a cool night on the river!

This best fishing trip began right when we were launching our raft at the launching ramp in Redding.  The water was clear and swift.  My buddy made a last minute trip with his girlfriend to the store (that is the story but he came back happier and more relaxed than he left drinking the soda he managed to buy!)  While he was gone, I walked out and made a few casts with one of my favorite trout fishing lures, a panther martin, and by the time he got back I already had almost a limit of nice fryer rainbow trout for our first dinner.  We proceeded to catch trout after trout the following two days as we made our way down the swiftest part of our journey and the best fishing trip of our lives was on!

The river was not the slow semi-dangerous easy float like down in Chico where we all floated to drink beer and socialize with the girls.  This was very fast with many snags, fallen trees, and huge whirlpools – some big enough to suck the entire side of the raft down a foot and cause it to pop up when released.  You had to stay alert and paddle for your life to navigate these waters!  Of course we had no life vests, which we ended up getting a ticket for from two sheriffs in a jet boat (that we never paid!).  I probably have an outstanding 35 dollar ticket with a couple hundred thousand dollars in interest and penalties by now since this has been almost 40 years ago!  Actually, knowing what I know now, a life vest would be something I would not go without in those waters again.  Even though this was a great free fishing trip, it could have cost us our lives, looking back on it.

The one thing we did do accidentally that contributed to this being one of the best fishing trips is scrounging up maps from the local forest service office.  This showed us where any tributary little creeks ran into the river and about where we were at any time.  We planned our nightly stops at these incoming creeks if we were near enough to them when the evening came so we could swim and fish their mouths.  Turns out, at every one of them we caught smallmouth bass!  We camped on gravel bars every night even if we weren’t at some creek.  We would stop early so we could gather firewood and fool around before we lost our light as we had no unnecessary equipment such as a lantern.  We did have one flashlight that lasted part of the way through the trip!  

This camping ended up being a huge part of the reason that this turned out to be the best fishing trip we could dream of.  The river meandered and flooded at high water every year over these low lying gravel bars and nearly every one of them had some sort of pond left over from an old slough or the old river’s path.  Turns out they were crawling with both smallmouth and largemouth bass that were landlocked there in years past and most had never been fished at all.  Many were less than 5 feet deep and had grass beds along the edges and real hungry bass in them.  For some reason they were particularly fond of the two-for-a-dollar lures that we had invested in.  We couldn’t keep them off our hooks and this went on evening after evening for our entire fishing trip! From time to time we world switch to fishing with spinnerbaits, at least the one or two we had, and they worked well also. If it wasn’t this, it was catching smallmouth at the creeks that ran in.  We also started catching channel cats on the same crank baits!  We ended up catching about 10 huge channel cats in these ponds on our trip.

Another aspect that made this an exciting fishing trip was another accidental fish catch.  We were floating on the first half of the trip and my buddy was dozing off.  One person always had to be alert and paddle.  I was sitting on the side of the raft with my feet in the water on a slow section of the river and taking a break and just relaxing.  The raft was floating backwards.  I had casted for bass with one of the silver hotshot lures we scored at the yard sale earlier when we drifted by a tree lined river bank but had no luck.  I would cast this lure every now and then when the drift took me to a place that looked like a good bass fishing spot but when not using it, given our raft was cheap and susceptible to being popped by a sharp hook (or even a dull hook) I left the lure dangling in the water.  As I floated I happened to look down and I saw a huge fish come within view just a foot deep right behind the boat 5 feet.  I couldn’t believe my eyes and about that time I saw him grab that hotshot lure and he took off and almost yanked the pole out of the raft.  I grabbed the pole on its way out and sat the hook with gusto!  He shot straight out of the water and when he landed it splashed water all over my sleeping buddy and the fight was on!  It was an 8 pound steelhead trout that meant business.  Luckily, my drag was set just right and he tore off about 40 yards of line and broke water again shaking his head to throw that lure.  Luckily, there were no snags in the area and I fought him to his demise.  I didn’t even know what a steelhead was at the time.  I thought I had the record rainbow trout for the area!  Only later when we paddled in to a riverside harbor to show it off did we find out what we had.  What a battle and what a catch!  We never traveled a minute without our line dangling a hotshot lure over the side the rest of the trip!  I have since taken up steelhead fishing in the rivers in the winter, which is a great way to die. You can read that article to see why and learn some good tips on steelhead fishing.

Half way through this best fishing trip and fishing journey of our lifetime, there was a dam in the town of Red Bluff.  This backed the water up for miles and left us paddling against the prevailing south wind to make any headway at all.  We finally made it to the town and a launching ramp and called our girlfriends of come and transport our raft and us to below the dam where the water was once again flowing.  This time we both took trips to the store separately and came back smiling and more relaxed!  But from here on out, the water was flowing slower as some of the water had been removed at the dam for irrigation of the valley and the river was wider and the topography much less sloping.  We often found ourselves having to paddle to make headway.  The trout fishing kind of disappeared for us, although they were in there if we knew more about what we were doing, but the bass fishing picked up big time.  We started catching smallmouth and largemouth at the mouth of every little slough and creek as well as the landlocked small ponds on the gravel bars.  We floated among the otters, cormorants, and beavers and lived among the deer, coons, and rattle snakes for several more days until we finally reached the gravel bar where bikini clad college girls were abundant and we rafted up with a bunch of folks we didn’t know and shared their beer and our story of our best fishing trip of our lives.  Some were envious and some thought we were nuts.  We noticed a couple of girls that preferred au-natural with no tops and we thought we were in heaven.  We finally made it to our home port of Scotties Bar and Grill on the river and headed to a soft bed and some lovin'!  We never made the trip again, although even at my old age I often think about doing it again.  After all it was not only the best fishing trip of my life but the best free fishing trip that anyone could ask for.  Who knows, summer is just beginning!

This was the Sacramento River, but I am sure most rivers have many of the same features and fishing opportunities of some sort.  Perhaps one of the best fishing trips of your life is right at your fingertips and best yet, one of the best free fishing trips!  I was raised in the Sacramento delta and this summer I am going to take a boat from here in Chico, where I live about 150 miles north of the delta, down to it.  This will mean that I will have floated pretty much the entire nearly 300 mile river.  I have already done it all but about 50 miles anyway, but I am looking forward to the trip.  I already have a stop at Joe's Crab Shack planned!  This article is one of over 100 articles here in Capt. Garry's Blog site with great tips for catching salmon, stripers, sturgeon, spearfishing in the ocean, abalone diving, frog gigging, clam digging, shad fishing and much, much more!  Put us in your favorites and our site is 100% free so check out our site a few minutes folks.  You can write your very own blogs here, share your ideas and thougts in our fishing forums, share your pictures, and more.
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