The Fly Shop in Redding provides an appropriate introduction to the Pit on its web site:
“The Pit River consists of a series of dams and reservoirs that stretch for some 30 miles from Lake Britton to Shasta Lake. If there’s one river around here that intimidates people, it’s the Pit. One reason for this could be the common descriptions of the river: “The Pit River is a nasty, gnarly thing… like walking on greased bowling balls all day,” or “It’s not a question of when you fall in on the Pit, it’s how many times!””
With an introduction like that, I was IN. To me this sounded like the North Branch. And, when I read the additional description of wading described as standing on a bowling ball covered with snot, I knew it had to be good.
This sounded like just the ticket; a tough physical experience on a great river. It was only a matter of time until the opportunity presented itself. I was stuck out in California over Easter weekend on business, but rather than feel sorry for myself and mope around San Jose and the Bay Area, I struck north for the Mount Shasta region of Northern California without really understanding what I was getting into. After a late drive up on Thursday, I stopped into the Fly Shop in Redding and asked for advice. They sent me to the Trinity River on that day and to the Pit the following day.
It was about an hours drive north and east of Redding, but not to hard to find with the good map the shop provided. I studied the map and decided to do a survey trip of the entire river from “Pit 5” up to “Pit 3” near the Lake Britton Dam. Each section of the pit is separated by a numbered dam.. The release from the dam contributes to the experience and what you see.
My high expectations were met as I pulled into Big Bend and looked up this nasty river. There were big rocks, boulders, slippery looking slopes and other hazards evident from the bridge. Clearly, this was a river that demanded careful attention. Since I had decided to do a complete recon to lay in intelligence for a future trip, I knew that a long hike and a demanding day was not in store, but what great potential! If you look at many of the pictures below, they whisper of hard hikes and remote stretches of river that may harbor massive, massive fish. In that regard, I was not disappointed.
It is my understanding that the Pit is not stocked. All the fish are wild and grow to a large size as a result of the catch and release ethic with the biggest fish available at the lower sections of the river. The most productive area of the river – Pit 3 – is a designated wild trout fishery and subject to special regulations. The entire river demands that the fisherman use barbless hooks.
The road that parallels the river was my high speed avenue of approach to quickly work up the river. I would stop where it looked good, stare with lust down hard looking trails to the remote sections, but kept moving and fishing. My goal of catching a fish in each section of the Pit I visited was realized with a little bit of work and a little bit of end of day panic in Pit 3 at the top.
The monsters were definitely out in the morning as you can see from the representative picture below. My luck was probably enhanced by the initially overcast and rainy weather. As the weather cleared, the action slowed down.
I used nymphs all day. They were hitting on size 18 red copper johns rigged as a dropper off of either a larger copper john or a Prince Nymph.
Getting There: Stop in The Fly Shop in Redding and pick up a map. The Pit map is at the middle of this page
The net of the Pit is that you can have a hard day or a tough day. The river is long enough that there are plenty of roadside fishing areas that are matched with an equal number of fuzzy trails that lead off down a steep ridge with 100s of feet of vertical drop to get to some fishing promised land at the bottom. Real bummer if they are not biting after a hard hike – but the scenery, the crisp air and the ambiance of this remote river will complete the experience. If you get skunked, you may not have had a great day of catching, but you cannot avoid a great day of fishing!
Given that, anyone in normal physical condition can have a great day here. If you are in better shape, you have more options.
Typical wild Pit River rainbow
Looking upstream from Big Bend in Pit 5
These were the only other guys we saw all day. This is in Pit 5
Pit 4 continued the beauty of the river
Here is a copy of the map you can pick up at the Fly Shop in Redding. They are happy to share maps to all the key destinations in the Mt Shasta area and are full of advice.
Pit 4 section
Pit 3 section
Looking down on the road up to the Britton Dam
Another shot headed to Britton. There is a trail down on the ridge to the front
More photos… this was just sooo nice
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore