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Ian Stratte

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Ian Stratte

Published: January 12, 2021

We would like to welcome Ian Stratte to the guide team here at The Fly Shop®.

Ian Stratte
Ian Stratte helping with river cleanup on the Lower Sacramento River

A California native originally from Eureka, Calif., Ian began fly fishing at an early age after finding his grandfather’s fly rods in the garage and taking them for a spin. His family transplanted to Redding, Calif., and he has pursued many different species of fish in the North State’s most known waters. Ian is equally at home guiding from a drift boat for trout and steelhead, wade fishing with clients on steelhead rivers with a two-handed rod or Euro nymphing on the McCloud River for trout. Most of all, Ian enjoys sharing his passion and joy of fly fishing with new and seasoned anglers alike, and you can count on him to put in a full day on the water and help you more than likely leave a better angler.

Q&A with Ian Stratte:

How did you get started in fly fishing?
I started fly fishing as a kid when I found some old Hardy Brothers fly rods in my dad’s fishing gear that were his father’s. I asked my dad if I could try to use them, and after that I was hooked.

How did you get started as a fishing guide?
After the loss of my father, I stopped fishing and kinda went to a dark place. Another fishing guide got me out on the water again, and I realized what I was missing and that what I wanted to do no matter what it took was to be a fly fishing guide.

If you had one piece of advice to give to your guide clients, what would it be?
Enjoy the journey — the rewards will come when you least expect them.

Favorite fish to pursue?

What fly fishing destination is on your bucket list?
I think going for trophy sea run trout on the swing would be so much fun, and one couldn’t ask for a more memorable situation than doing it in a place as beautiful as La Villa de Maria Behety with the expansive ranch and five star lodging. The Patagonia area of Argentina would be amazing, and the landscape and vast country make it beautiful in its own magical ways. The brown trout there have a different fight about them, and getting a sea run possibly pushing 20+ pounds seems like something only dreams are made of. Many anglers have much more amazing and extravagant species on their bucket list, but to me there is nothing more amazing than fishing for anadromous fish that run from salt to fresh water. I believe the fishing trip of a lifetime for any anadromous angler must include Argentina’s sea run brown on the swing, and add in the luxurious accommodations of a five-star luxury stay, and even the non-anglers would not want to leave.

Ian StratteFavorite fly rod?
R.L. Winston – The Winston Air Salt is becoming a new favorite. I got to cast one recently and it has everything I want in a rod. The action is fast with lots of backbone to turn over big salt rigs or stripper rigs. It feels like the rod that can handle most big fish you would want to target whether it’s steelhead or redfish. I personally love two-handed rods and swinging flies. But, the Winston Trout Micro Spey rod is my favorite for many reasons. The rod has a super light feel, and with a soft but fast action, and it’s featherlight but with the power of a precision nail gun. You can put little sculpin patterns tight to the bank blasted up under willows or set a dry skater down with a delicate light touch. Winston has longevity in the game of rod building that can’t be matched. I believe their experience and standards for quality makes both their two-handed rods and single-handed rods the best in the business.

Favorite reel?
Ross Reels! I like that they were started in Etna, California, and they feel solid in your hand.

Favorite fly?
The Boss — it’s a classic that is still very effective.

What is your greatest fly fishing extravagance?
Fly fishing in Alaska as a child

Which living or non-living fly fisher would you want to spend a day fly fishing with?
Jimmy Green – Jimmy Green grew up in San Francisco in the golden era of fly fishing. At that time, the Bay Area happened to be the Mecca for West Coast fly fishing. You had the Golden Gate Angling & Casting Club, and many of the fly fishing companies of the day were based out of the area. As a child Green worked in the fly line industry, and he also went to many distance casting tournaments. He later became known throughout the fly fishing world for many reasons: He was the first person to cast a fly over 200 feet with a two-handed Winston rod; he created the shooting head; and he’s the reason fly lines made a giant progression to lighter and better materials. He focused weight to the tip of the line and shortened it while evenly distributing the weight over a small section of monofilament, and the rest is history. I would want to fish with Green because he was a great caster and engineer, and he understood the mechanics and the science of casting but also what he was casting. I would really want to pick his brain on how he could generate so much distance with little effort. I think he had the largest impact on how we target so many fish now with integrated sink lines and shooting heads.

Who are your favorite writers?
Walt Whitman, Theodore Roosevelt and Henry David Thoreau

What single issue in fly fishing do you feel has the greatest adverse potential?
Hatchery operation and effects of dam removal to anglers and fishing runs

What is the most memorable fly fishing trip you’ve taken?
A trip with my dad to Alaska — we went fly fishing and didn’t catch a thing, which is tough to do in Alaska but we only fly fished for the day. Dad lost a grayling.

Which talent or natural gift would you most like to have?
To learn new languages easily

Who are your heroes in real life?
My father for teaching me to follow my passion. My mother for showing me life will get a lot tougher, but so will you.

What is your fly fishing pet peeve?
Losing gear that is retrievable and leaving it in a tree on the bank.

What do you most value in your friends?
Honesty and fairness and being a little competitive

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
I would come back as myself.

Winter Stillwater Fly Fishing in Northern California

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Winter Stillwater Fly Fishing in Northern California

Published: December 24, 2020

We are blessed to have so many fishing venues to choose from in Northern California when winter rolls around. No matter what the weather and river conditions, we literally can find somewhere to fish nearly every day of the year. Large winter storms that roll into the North State can often turn our rivers and streams into raging torrents. Even the Lower Sacramento River, our local tailwater fishery, is susceptible to high and turbid water episodes after heavy storms. When our moving water fisheries are blown, we turn to the many lakes, reservoirs and ponds in and around our area. These are solid alternatives that can keep you on the water and on the fish. These stillwaters are excellent fisheries in and of themselves and should not be overlooked or dismissed as mere alternatives.

Fishing Regional Lakes

Baum Lake
A top choice among area fly fishers during the winter is Baum Lake. Formed by a small dam on Hat Creek and right next to the Crystal Lake Hatchery, this little trout gem is accessible to anglers on foot and ideal for small watercraft from float tubes to drift boats. With over a mile and a half of water to fish, Hat Creek enters the lake on the south end and flows north toward the dam, which creates a nice spring creek fishery. There are planted and wild fish, and rainbows and brown trout that will chase wooly buggers and damselfly nymphs. In the winter this lake is known for its sizable midge hatches, and on cloudy days you can see fish sipping emerging blue winged olives. Access is from the parking lot around the boat ramp, and on the west shore of the lake, anglers have foot access for those who don’t own a boat. With a pram or drift boat, you can cover the entire lake chasing down the groups of actively feeding fish in and among the weed beds. This is a nice little fishery that should not be overlooked.

Lewiston Lake
There are times when the parking lot on Baum Lake can be pretty full, and if you are looking for solitude, another mountain lake that’s a short 45-minute drive west of Redding offers strong winter trout fishing. Lewiston Lake is formed below the Trinity and Lewiston Dams, and is essentially a forebay to Trinity Lake. The lake follows the old Trinity River riverbed and on days when releases from Trinity Dam are high, the upper section fishes just like a freestone trout stream. Further down the lake, trout prowl drop offs and flats in search of midge larvae and dragonfly nymphs. Warmer days will see some Callibaetis emerging, giving lucky fly fishers the chance at some decent dry fly fishing. While you will need a powered watercraft to fish the upper section right below Trinity Lake, a drift boat or pontoon will work fine on the lower sections. Lewiston Lake can be technical, but rewarding for those fly anglers who enjoy unlocking the secrets of a new fishery.

Iron Canyon Reservoir 
When river fishing is not feasible, our guide staff is always game to take fly fishers to Iron Canyon Reservoir – a little known gem near Big Bend, California. Iron Canyon has saved many fishing days and anglers from heading home early. Iron Canyon Reservoir holds water siphoned from the McCloud River drainage on its way to the Pit River system. Where this redirected water enters the reservoir lake is where rainbows congregate to feed on aquatic worms and midges all winter long.  These chunky fish see little pressure and will mob your offerings all day. Bring a good selection of mayfly dries, emergers, duns and adults. Warm days on the flats will have some fish looking up.  Access to Iron Canyon Reservoir is best using a powered boat, but kayaks and pontoons will suffice. If you can hike, fishing from the shore can get you into some good action as well. Iron Canyon is smack down in the middle of nowhere and one of the least utilized still water trout fisheries in our area. Give it a try; you’d be surprised by what you might find and experience.

Russ Kegler with a beauty at Luk LakePrivate Waters

The Private Waters Program developed by The Fly Shop® has a couple excellent properties that offer solitude and reliable wintertime, still-water trout fishing. Luk Lake, just south of Corning, California, is only an hour north of Sacramento. This 30-acre lake holds rainbows all winter and is a great location to get away for a day to work on your cast, test out some new fly patterns or just enjoy the outdoors… and catch trout! This is a perfect lake for a float tube, pontoon or pram, but if you do not have access to one we have several small boats that can be rented. The rainbows key in on any hatching insects, and Luk is known for prodigious midge populations, and on cold, clear mornings – the lake can literally boil with rising fish. Damselflies are present in large quantities too, and stripping woolly buggers and damsel leeches can be effective and fun. And if the trout are not enough, the plentiful native bass and bluegill will come to a stripped woolly bugger. For folks in the Sacramento area who are eager to trout fish, but don’t want to make the run to Shasta County, Luk Lake is a great choice.

Sugar Creek RanchNorth of Redding in the Scott River Valley is our Private Waters stillwater venue, Sugar Creek RanchSugar Creek Ranch offers fun and exciting sight fishing all winter to wild and stocked rainbows on four of its seven ponds. Created in the early 1900s by a large gold mining operation, the tailing fields are now home to spring fed ponds teeming with rainbows and aquatic insects. Just a two-hour drive north of The Fly Shop®, the ranch sits right at 3,000 feet and remains ice-free nearly all winter long. Each of the four ponds can be fished from shore, while some anglers prefer to use float tubes. The fish will cruise the weed beds in search of insects, and midges are the staple of these fish’s diet, but with Callibaetis, blue winged olives, Glossosoma caddis, damsels and dragonflies present, just about anything can be on the menu depending upon the temperature and the weather on any given day. Bring a full box of your stillwater offerings, a five or six weight rod, floating and intermediate lines and some polarized sunglasses for spotting cruising fish —the water is gin clear! It’s a blast sight fishing for these trout all day, and the cold water makes these fish hot. Sugar Creek Ranch is a sleeper, a bit of a poke for most folks, but so worth the effort.

So not all is lost when our rivers in NorCal are blown out or unfishable. The choice is yours – you can stay home or go explore new waters and fish some of our excellent stillwater fisheries in the North State. Still waters offer an alternative to throwing up your hands in surrender and a great way to keep your fly fishing skills current and sharp. Besides the obvious benefits of getting outside in some fresh air and enjoying the outdoors after being cooped up inside, it can be just plain fun! If you haven’t had the pleasure of fishing any of these great stillwater fisheries, give them a second look this winter – you won’t be disappointed.