Marcel Siegle Fly Fishing & Fine Art: Blog en-us (C) Marcel Siegle Fly Fishing & Fine Art (Marcel Siegle Fly Fishing & Fine Art) Wed, 01 Nov 2017 15:40:00 GMT Wed, 01 Nov 2017 15:40:00 GMT Marcel Siegle Fly Fishing & Fine Art: Blog 93 120 The Wine Country Fires This is a repost from our Wedding website. I had hoped to write about the once of a life time shot I took during the solar eclipse or my little scouting I did in Andorra, but then the fires came.
The Wine Country fires - our take. 

The Red glow as seen from our roof. This is an enhanced iPhone image. It's been a week now that we are back home and are slowly getting back to normal, what ever that normal will be. Many stories have and will be written about this unprecedented event, here is our take on the night when all hell broke loose in our beloved Wine Country. On October 8th, still jet lagged from a recent trip to Europe, I had gone to bed early, around 8pm. My wife Meher and my daughter Ava were still watching a TV show while I fell asleep to the tinkling sound of our wind chimes serenading the wind. At 11:15PM I woke up to the insistent buzz of my cell phone and the wind chimes screaming. It was our neighbor and friend Megan, a former bride of ours, and the main reason we ended up living in the wine country (long story short). Normally Megan never calls me directly, I also do not normally have my phone turned on at night and normally the wind chimes don’t sound like they want to murder someone, but there was nothing normal about this night. The red glow as it could be seen from our house. Enhanced iPhone image.

“There is a fire, it’s coming fast and you need to evacuate,” were the first things Megan said, then she hung up. I immediately woke up Meher and ran outside. The wind was howling and branches were flying everywhere. Towards the North the dark sky was an unforgettable blood red. We could tell that the fire was still relatively far away and the winds seemed to be in our favor, which gave us some time to collect our thoughts.

While we were coming up with an evacuation plan, Megan was driving up another country road, further up our hill, at 30 miles an hour to wake up friends, Cristy and Jeff who weren't answering their phones. 30 mph may not sound fast, but if you are driving a Mini on a dirt road, during hurricane force winds, with trees and branches falling all around you, you might think differently. She got there in one piece and after yanking them out of bed, headed back on the same dirt road towards the horse ranch.

Around 11:20PM, minutes after Megan’s call, once dressed, we sprang into action. The first thing we did was get the headlamps and flashlights, we knew power loss would be imminent and we did not want to be fumbling around in the dark. 

Second, we called the head of our neighborhood alert system, as it turned out he was already on top of it trying to get the automated emergency telephone calls to all our neighbors. 

Third, wake the neighbors . . . so this is where things went a little sideways for us. While we could reach some people by phone, others would not answer. Not being able to get a hold of a neighbor two houses down Meher took one of our cars, while I was running over to our other neighbor to "knock" him out of bed. When I came back home, Ava was already packing her things and was asking where Mom was. I told her that she had left to check on one of our neighbors, when she yelled at me: “You let Mom drive?!!?  Didn’t she take a sleeping tablet?” It’s never fun to be scolded by your 16 year old daughter, especially when she is right.

Meher is a lightweight, she does not drink and when she does a glass of beer gets her loopy. She also never takes sleeping aids, but on this night she had, and I just found out.

“She will be fine”, I thought grabbing bags out of the garage when I got the call:  “You did what?” I yelled before jumping into the Prius with Ava and heading down the road. Trying to get back from the neighbor, Meher decided to go to check on Megan who lived at the horse ranch further down.  When she got close to the stables she saw a commotion on the road around the barn entrance (more about that later), so she decided to turn around on our narrow country road, and in doing so placed her front two wheels perfectly into the newly cleaned up drainage ditch.

The scene in front of me was utter chaos. There were several trucks with horse trailers on St. Helena Rd, patiently waiting to get into the stables in order to evacuate the horses. Close to the entrance our car was blocking half the road, and in addition, cars were stopped in both directions trying to pass. At this point we were starting to really smell the smoke and we could hear explosions in the background. Luckily, thanks to our great neighbors it only took us a few minutes to get the car pulled out and the lane opened up again. (Thanks Scooby and Jeff)

After pulling out the car we immediately went back home to continue with our evacuation. Living in fire and earthquake country we always had a rough plan of what to do. I happened to have a ladder close to the house and climbing on the roof I was able to get a better sense of the fire. It looked like we had some time and that the winds were blowing westwards away from us for now. So we quickly established a priority of what we should pack. 

Here is the order we took things. Meher was in charge of documents/passports, photos and art, and other valuables.  She had everything packed up in less than 15 minutes. I was in charge of everything work related. Photo equipment, iMac, back up drives. Once those first items were packed we checked again on the fire and started with the next round of items. Clothing, laptop, workstation, couple more drives, chargers, clothing. Once that was packed, a quick check on the fire, next up some fly fishing gear, yes, I could not leave my fly fishing stuff behind, and last but not least we packed up our chickens. Evacuating the chickens was last on the list as that could could have been time intensive. Luckily chickens are night-blind, and pretty docile and we got them into a cardboard box without a problem. We were all packed up within an hour from Megan’s call, including waking up some of the neighbors and subsequent car trouble.

Meher was in communication with our friends Will and Carol, who lived in the Mark West area, just above Safari West. They had already evacuated and where headed to Will’s mom Lynn in Oakmont. Since Meher was still loopy from the sleeping tablet, Ava had to step up and drive our car to Oakmont dodging high winds, falling branches and even a fallen tree.

The Horse Barn

The Horse barn as one of the last horse trailers is leaving. Before joining up with Meher and Ava in Oakmont I headed down to the Horse Stables down the road. When I got to Mark West Stables, a crew of women were busy loading horses. In total they had to evacuate 26 horses, some of which had to be gotten from pasture. When Virginie (owner/trainer) had gotten the call around 11PM that there was a fire she immediately called Alicia Robinson, a professional horse hauling service in Cotati. Within 20 minutes they had several horse trailers at the ranch ready to be loaded. Twenty minutes from Cotati to the Horse Ranch is impressive with a regular car, with a truck pulling a large horse trailer that is mind blowing.  The women had a plan, they patiently waited on the road in order not to block the drive way and loading zone. They did not even show any signs of panic when we got our car stuck, which cannot be said for some other folks. The women had a clear plan in place as to which horses went first and which ones would go last. Duncan, a big draft horse was last, and seeing the trouble he gave everyone it was clear why. Most of the other horses, sensing the danger, evacuated beautifully, without problems. While the women where loading, the men tried to make themselves useful by staying out of the way; and do what ever else needed to be done. After the last horse was loaded and the last saddle packed the horse trailer convoy left for the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. When the convoy was leaving flames could now be seen, as explosions and trees falling could be heard in the distance. One can only imagine how terrifying it must have been driving these loaded trailers down the steep Calistoga Rd. grade with the fierce winds (up to 70mph) and a fire on your tail.  When they arrived at the fairgrounds they were the first barn in. They unloaded the horses in record time and within less than half an hour drove off to evacuate two more barns that night. It must have been quite a sight to see that convoy of horse trailers driving towards the path of the fires while most people were driving the other way!


After Meher and Ava left the barn, I got a text saying that they arrived safely at Lynn’s and that I should watch out for a fallen tree on HWY 12; and by the way, she saw fire there too. I made a few more calls and then stopped at Megan’s who was still packing her car. She had been so busy helping others that she had no time to evacuate herself. Scooby was hosing down the house as we frantically packed up some stuff and got out of there. Seeing Scooby putting a hose on the roof, I decided to head back home and do the same for our house. The ladder to the roof was already set up, so putting the hose on the roof was no problem, but once on the roof I realized I had no sprinkler. Fortunately, living in the country, I always carry a pocket knife and punctured the hose every two feet or so. The water was spraying all around me and I got somewhat wet, which felt surprisingly good. I remember staring a the red sky in awe listening to the wind chimes, and wondering if I would ever see our place again.

Fire crossing HWY 12 just one mile from Oakmont. You can get a sense of the fury of the wind. Since Meher had warned me about the fallen tree on HWY 12, I drove the back way through Oakmont to get to Lynn’s. For those who do not know, Oakmont is a well known retirement community on HWY 12 just east of Santa Rosa. Driving the back way, I got to some higher elevation and I saw that it was burning towards Kenwood. I was dumbfounded, this was a completely different fire. When I got to the house Ava was the only one still awake and opened the door for me, everyone else was fast asleep. On the radio I heard talk about the Kenwood fire, so I, unpacked a camera and Ava and I drove up the road, towards Kenwood, to assess the situation. Not even a mile up HWY 12 we were met with flames blowing across the road. I took some quick pictures and video and we headed back to the house. It was clear we needed to evacuate again and this time we were taking Grandma Lynn as well. Getting Meher up was not easy, she had settled into a deep sleep and was not wanting any of it. Since we had already unloaded the chickens in Grandma Lynn’s enclosed porch, trying to capture them was now out of the question. We packed up, made sure the chickens had some water and food and made our way outside. In a futile attempt to wake up the neighbors we put on our car alarm, but neither that, nor knocking on doors would get anyone up. We didn’t really know what to do when we heard the sirens, and on the radio came the news that Oakmont was being evacuated. “Let’s get out of here, before we get stuck in traffic,” our friend Carol shouted while we were still standing outside trying to figure out what to do. Carol used to be a school principal, so you don’t mess with her when she makes a decision.

The Fairgrounds.

The Veterans building, that red glow is not the sun rise. One of the communication lifelines during this event was our local station KSRO. The newscasters,  were giving live updates and relaying information to the public as fast as it came in. From what we gathered the Veterans building as well as the Sonoma fairgrounds were being setup as evacuation shelters, so we decided that going there would be our best and only bet. At around 3:00AM we found parking under the highway 12 overpass between the fairgrounds and the Veterans building. We all regrouped and then fell asleep trying to be comfortable in our fully packed cars. At this point we were still not fully aware of the extent and devastation of the fires and just glad to be at a safe spot.

At around sunrise we started loosing our cell phone service and reality started to sink in that this event was far worse than we could have imagined. Listening to the radio the news started pouring in, Fountain Grove burned, the Hilton in flames, Kaiser and Sutter evacuated, the neighborhood of Coffee Park burning, Mountain Ranch gone and so on. Those were just the fires to the North, to the east, parts of Kenwood area was burning. To the South fires were also out of control and then of course the fires in Napa Valley and Mendocino County, the scope was just unimaginable.

Our last evacuation spot. The black smoke is from buildings. There was also something else that was happening, something that would shine some light into the dark days to come. Something we saw in the night of the fire when neighbors where helping neighbors. A beautiful community spirit emerged, that could be felt throughout the entire wine country. Even before first responders from all over the state and out of state started arriving, private citizens and businesses stepped up. You could see people delivering food and water to the fairgrounds, local coffee companies set up free coffee stations, businesses and individuals alike would make hot food for first responders and evacuees. Others were handing out free breathing masks and water. At the fairgrounds where most large farm animals were evacuated to, barns and individuals that were not effected by the fire sent truck loads of horse supplies. People from all over the Bay Area and beyond donated to relief efforts and came as volunteers. And most importantly many people opened their homes to those in dire need. It was beautiful and reassuring to see the community support.

There was a brief period where we thought we lost our house, but we were very lucky. We ended up being evacuated for a total of 11 days and stayed for most of the time with a good friend who’s parents Wendy and John lost their house. We laughed, we cried, there was some dancing, but most importantly we made new friends. There were still some scary days, where Red Flag warnings were issued and we were afraid we had to evacuate again.  But fortunately the high winds that were forecasted never materialized.

One thing that kept our sanity was our love for cooking. We cooked a lot of comfort foods, nourishing body and soul. The rest of the days we spent volunteering, annoying the cops trying to get back to our house, and helping wherever we could. Oakmont ended up being evacuated for 9 days and our chickens tore up Grandma Lynn’s back porch, but they survived and are happy to be back home.

In total 42 people would lose their lives, more than 8000 structures burned, 5000 in Santa Rosa alone. Many people had to flee the fast approaching fire with just the shirt on their backs. In Sonoma county alone 70,000 students had to leave their homes during the fires, many did not have a home to come back to. In fact 11% of the students in my daughter’s school have lost their homes. Many of our friends did too, including Will and Carol who we evacuated with (here is a link to a story on Will and Carol in the Mercury News). There will be heartache for many more years to come as a new post-fire reality settles in. There also will be a lot of questions as to what made these fires so catastrophic. But one thing has become utterly clear is, that we live in an incredible community with an incredible spirit and that we are proud to be part of it.

Signs of appreciation can be seen throughout the wine country In closing we want to thank everyone, that wrote to us, offered a place to stay or were just checking in. We did have some communications issues, so sorry if we could not respond.

Kim and David thank you for taking us in that first day and taking care of our friends who were total strangers to you. Mary Beth, Abbot, Wendy and John, thank you for letting us "squat" at your place, we owe you ;-)

And of course a big Thank You to all the first responders, National Guard, firemen and women, police and sheriff’s department. ——————————————————————————————————



Some more pictures of the Wine Country Fires.

Sunrise at the Santa Rosa Veterans building - black smoke and wind

Sunrise at the Santa Rosa Veterans building - black smoke and wind

National Gard coming in.

National Gard coming in.

First evacuees arriving at the Fairgrounds. A lot of elderly had to be evacuated.

First evacuees arriving at the Fairgrounds. A lot of elderly had to be evacuated.

Road block at Calistoga Rd. Cops were very patient with all the residence trying to get back into evacuation zones.

Road block at Calistoga Rd. Cops were very patient with all the residence trying to get back into evacuation zones.

Rincon Valley on fire.

Ash and particulates on a car hood

Road block, one of many

Fire Engines as far away as Los Angles and Washington State came to help out.

Road block toward Oakmont

Smoke covered sun at spring lake.

This fireman has been going for more than 12 hours straight.

Outskirts of the Rincon Valley neighborhood still burning. This is not even half a mile from two Santa Rosa schools.

Fireman filling up water

Fireman checking on a open gas line

Neighborhoods became war zones.

Fire in the hills of Santa Rosa.

Staging area in Santa Rosa. Over 10,000 Fire fighters from all over the western states came to help fight the fires. There was even a team from Australia.

Devastating view from HWY12 towards Santa Rosa


A helicopter getting water from a vineyard irrigation pond near St. Helena.

Ground zero of the Tubs Lane Fire.

The smoke was so thick you could stare directly at the sun.

The Oakville Grade fire near St. Helena on the Napa County side.

A tanker helicopter approaching to refill.

]]> (Marcel Siegle Fly Fishing & Fine Art) country fire napa rosa santa sonoma strong valley wine Wed, 01 Nov 2017 15:13:12 GMT
Mel Krieger – The Lost Interview Mel and Fanny Krieger
In 2008 Fly fishing instructor and legend Mel Krieger passed away. Mel was an exceptional caster and fly fishing instructor and was the face of fly fishing for many years. In the 90s when I was still living in San Francisco, Mel was a regular at the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club.  I had the honor of interviewing Mel and meet his lovely wife Fanny. He was also one of the last people I photographed using film. 


FFJ: It was great today seeing you again in action. How many people do you think you’ve taught fly-casting throughout your career, any idea? 

MK: I couldn’t begin to tell you, but it has been thousands. 

FFJ: How long have you been doing this now?

  MK: About 30 years. I first started teaching in the Fenwick schools. For a while the Fenwick Rod Company was one of the first companies ever to set up fly fishing schools throughout the country and Fenwick actually appointed different people to run the schools. I did the schools on the West Coast, Gary Borger did them in the Midwest, and another man did them on the East Coast. I did all these weekend schools while I worked at other things. And got more and more involved in teaching, started writing a bit and then Fenwick lost their power in the marketplace. At one time Fenwick ruled the fly fishing market. I mean if you didn’t have a Fenwick rod  . . . I mean people laughed at you. If you had a Winston bamboo you were the odd one in a crowd. And then what happened is that Winston started making a good glass rods as well. In those days Fenwick did a really wonderful thing . . . I mean we had schools almost in every state of the union and they were full, but nobody was really promoting fly-fishing schools. So we got into it. 

FFJ: What did you do before fly-fishing? 

MK: Well, I was a sales manager for a refrigeration company, mainly involved in sales. Then I opened up a small business, a travel agency, and we opened up a visa service.

FFJ: What kind of service?

MK: A visa service, we got visa’s for people traveling outside the United States because San Francisco is a center for the consular corps. So that earned me enough income so I had a little more time to start doing more teaching, more fishing. I started traveling and taking groups with me. I discovered that I was pretty a good analyst and I started reading on fly-casting and what not. 

I discovered that the tournament casters were much more sophisticated than all the fishing writers were in terms of fly casting, and much of the fly casting information was the kind of stuff that was passed on from generation to generation. It wasn’t really up to snuff with modem fly casting, so with that in mind I started writing a little bit and exploring. The best information I got on fly-casting at that time was from a tournament caster in England, who wrote a pretty good book on casting. He was heavily involved in tournament casting.

FFJ: How long ago was that? 

MK: That was about 25 years ago, I mean after I had been into it for 4 or 5 years. I read all the books on fly casting, weren’t that many. I learned that it wasn’t a very sophisticated thing and nobody had written down the real mechanics of fly-casting. That’s when I started writing and I got a little recognition.  Fenwick dropped out of the picture, they stopped the schools. Gary Borger and I continued to do our schools . So we did our own schools, and I kind of adapted them to myself and they became reasonably popular and that’s the story of my fly fishing life. With my travel agency I started traveling and taking groups fly-fishing in various places in the world. Now in my travels I do clinics in Japan, Argentina, and I am going to do some clinics in France, England, and I have done a whole bunch of them in Italy, everywhere. 

FFJ: When did you meet Fanny (Mel’s wife)?

MK: I met Fanny in Houston, TX some 42 or 44 years ago. And we married 41 years ago. While I was picking up on fly-fishing Fanny was not very involved at that time. We have two kids, and while they were growing up Fanny and the kids came with me to a casting school in Squaw Valley or Southern California, or what have you, and they would go swimming in the motel swimming pool and sometimes they would piddle with the casting, really not involved at all. When the kids left home, they went off to college, Fanny didn’t want to be left at home since she loves traveling. . .  so she started casting. And although she is really not an outdoors kind of person, she is not athletic, in the sense of being a tennis player or golfer, she came out here (Golden Gate Fly Fishing Club) while I was gone for a long trip. And she really worked hard at it for about a month and became reasonably confident as a caster and now I must tell you if we go up north and I go fishing, Fanny spends more time on the water than I do, she loves it and really, really enjoys fishing! 

FFJ: Are you competitive when you fish? 

MK: No!

FFJ: Do you still fish in California a lot? 

MK: Yes, I have a little place up in Northern California on a small stream and I got an old trailer and we made a kind of a cabin out of it and that’s kind of my little church. I go up there and do some writing.  I do a little fiddling with my casting and a little fishing. When we go up there Fanny fishes, while I almost take a break from fishing.

FFJ: What’s your favorite river in California if there is such a thing? 

MK: That’s a hard question it’s probably that little private stream that I located.

FFJ: How do you think fishing compares to fishing 20-30 years ago? 

MK: I am not really a good judge of that. I actually took up fly fishing 35 years ago and at that time I didn’t really have very much experience. From what I can gather a love of fishing has gone down a little bit, more industrialization, more people on the river, more utility of the water, etc. But I also know that in recent years some of the rivers have come back stronger than they were before . . . like the upper Sacramento and some rivers in Montana. I think that right now there’s lots more fishing than there was 20-30 years ago with the advent of salt water fishing. It has been a real good jump on fly-fishing. And in some areas because of the validity of a commercial enterprise it is more advantageous to keep clean water and have good fishing that it is to siphon the water off for raising alfalfa. That’s obvious in Canada, in Canada and in Iceland they stopped a great deal of the commercial fishing because their fish is worth infinitely more as a sport fish than can be caught 5 or 6 or 8 times compared to being caught once and killed and sold as meat. So some of those countries are beginning to recognize the economic value of sport fishing. Of course the bad side of that is, that some of the best fishing is very expensive. So it is all for the people with money but there are some wonderfully good fishing areas that are developing . . . and I see more.  I don’t really have a bad outlook on the potential for water. I think we’ve got a good chance for it. If we can curb the population growth a little better I think fly-fishing has a lot of room to grow. 

FFJ: In the time you have been fly fishing, what in your opinion has changed the sport the most?

MK: Catch and release. I think that it was brought on as a conservation measure and its proven valid . . . it has really helped some rivers . . .  it doesn’t help all the rivers. 

But that’s not the real impact. The real impact in our sport is the philosophical, the idea that we “go out” and release fish. Suddenly instead of a blood sport where you count the numbers, instead of playing golf where you have to have numbers, instead of tennis where you have to have a competition across the net, suddenly we have a sport with no reward. You don’t tell people how many fish you caught. You don’t need to catch any fish; we’re strictly relying on the experience. I mean even a mountain climber has got a summit. We don’t have anything. And its an unbelievable concept. As a result women are jumping into our sport in unbelievable numbers. If women get involved in it we have got a family oriented thing we’ve got kids getting involved in it. I see fly fishing as being one of those sleeping giants that are beneath the soil and I think one day its going to explode. If catch and release has done a tremendous amount in that area, even in areas where catch and release doesn’t make any sense, because they have got too many fish in the rivers and biologists even encourage people to keep fish, even there fly fisherman release fish. 

Some of us fly fisherman can’t conceive of killing a fish, you know its changed the sport dramatically. The only place it hasn’t changed is England, which it sitting on its laurels of 500 years ago. But even there it’s starting to happen. Iceland is one of the great salmon fisheries in the world and they have catch and release in many of their rivers. You pay $8000 a week to fish there and you can’t keep the fish on some of these rivers. You will have fly fisherman who won’t go to rivers where fish are maimed and killed. It is a revolutionary concept.

FFJ:  If fly fishing is becoming so popular we are going to have many people on the rivers. Do you think that there is a danger that we are going to love our sport to death?

MK: There is a little danger of that, I think, but I think we are a long way removed from that. Salt-water fly fishing has really taken off for example. Bonefish which is a great sport fish, is the rat of the ocean, its everywhere, and we probably exploit a 20th of all the bone fish that’s available in the South Pacific. We probably exploit a 10th of all that’s in the Caribbean. We haven’t begun to explore all the other species that are untouched. Black Bass, that never really quite hit home and it’s one of my favorite things to do of all. So I think there is that danger, but I think we are a long way removed from that . . . I really do. 

FFJ: Do you have any hobbies? 

MK: Yes, through the years I have had a lot of hobbies. I have been involved in a lot of games. I’ve been a tennis player, and a handball player, and I’ve done it all. I have taken up golf in the last couple of years. I took up golf for two reasons, first because it’s kind of fun to learn a new sport and second because of my interest in understanding communication and teaching. I figure that golf is a much more sophisticated sport than fly-fishing, in that there are many more people, it’s a much more studied game. There are the huge prizes and people are really analyzing it to death and I thought that maybe I could learn some communication skills or instructional skills. And I think they’re interesting. Right now I’ve probably gone through a dozen books, I have had lessons from three professionals, I subscribe to magazines, and I am really trying to learn the game. So far I have found that it’s every bit as convoluted as our instruction and it’s confusing, I have an advantage in that I understand some of the mechanical aspects of the game. So it has been very intriguing for me. 

FFJ: I am not going to ask you about your favorite fish, that doesn’t seem to make sense now-a-days anyway . . . 

MK:  . . . you can ask me about my favorite fish, I mean I really do fish for bass and steelhead and salmon, Pacific salmon, Atlantic salmon, fishing in Argentina, trout fishing everywhere. I really do have a hugely varied fly fishing background. I have caught various salt-water fish, all of them have an excitement and intrigue. I fish for Bonefish . . .  stepping out of the boat and fly fishing in water that is knee deep, crystal clear, and its warm. You don’t have to wear the rubber boots you know, you wade around in the shallow water, like walking around in the shallow aquarium, it’s a wonderful, neat thing hunting those fish. But if I had to pick one fish . . . fortunately I don’t  . . ., but if l did have to pick one fish, there is no question that to me the trout would be on the top of the list. The trout is everything from a macho pulling a big streamer through the water, to the chess game of matching the hatch. Trout fishing to me has got to be the most intriguing, even though they are not the strongest fish. 

FFJ: One last question, a hypothetical one . . .  we are going on a trout stream and I only let you take four flies, 2 dries and 2 wets . . . 

MK: . . . . are you thinking of in terms of efficiency?

FFJ:  . . . efficiency, like how they do it in golf. When I used to play we sometimes only took 3 clubs to play nine holes. So I would pick a 7 iron, a putter and sand wedge for example. 

MK: I would probably choose a humpie, the original the homer. . .  invented by Jan Homer. I would probably pick a homer, and probably an Adams . . .  if I had to choose. And then for the nymphs . . . I’d probably pick a Sawyers pheasant tail;  and there used to be a zugbug, but now I would probably choose a prince . . .  it would be the most effective all purpose fly that I can imagine. 

FFJ: Thank you very much it was a true pleasure


Mel passed away at his home in San Francisco, on October 7, 2008, at the age of 80, he is truly missed. 

Mel Krieger teaching a class

]]> (Marcel Siegle Fly Fishing & Fine Art) fishing fly instructor interviews krieger mel Mon, 11 Sep 2017 05:53:50 GMT
Hat Creek Ranch

hat creek

View of Hat Creek

Spring break was rapidly approaching and my wife and I were desperately trying to find something fun to do with the kids. We hadn’t had a vacation for close to two years, being freelance photographers, with two kids, it is always hard for us to coordinate anything long term especially in the summer months. It also happened that the kids spring break fell right around my birthday week (yes we celebrate birthdays for a week in our little family), so it became clear we needed to find a place that was kid friendly and had some fly fishing in the off season. I called my friends at The Fly Shop in Redding to see if they had any suggestions and they just had the perfect place for us, Hat Creek Ranch near Burney, CA. While Hat Creek was still closed for fishing for the season, the Ranch itself had three private trout ponds that were open all year.  Needless to say it didn’t take much arm twisting to convince us to jump on it.

What makes Hat Creek Ranch so perfect for families is its location.  Burney Falls and Lassen Volcanic National Park are near by and are a must visit, but there are many other scenic places you can discover.  And there is of course some great fly fishing in the area, including the lower blue ribbon section of Hat Creek, the Fall River and the Pit River. Even in the off season there is still some great fly fishing to be had, the Pit River and Baum Lake are open all year.


View of the valley

The Ranch is about an hours drive east of Redding, past Burney, and wasn’t hard to find. When we got there we were immediately enchanted. I always try to keep expectations low, just in case, but as soon as we entered the property all of us lit up. It got even better when we saw the interior of the cabin. The cabin was just perfect, a loft with four beds and a separate master bedroom gave us plenty of space. There was a fully functional kitchen and a great breakfast nook with view of Hat Creek. The living room was cozy and the whole place was decorated with a lot of love. We soon ran into the owners Becky and Craig, who were sharing a large hammock, enjoying the afternoon sun. Craig gave us a quick run through and let us know that the John Deer Gator parked in

front of the cabin was ours to use.  Knowing that we had a storm system moving in within a couple of days, we decided not to waste any time and immediately took the John Deer for a spin to check out our surroundings. The ranch is about 300 Acres and is situated in a volcanic valley. You can still see the remains of it’s once violent volcanic past, with lava flows and dormant volcanoes surrounding the ranch.  In addition to having three ponds, the ranch also has half a mile of Hat Creek flowing through it, which offers some challenging rainbow and brown trout fishing in the summer time.

fly fishing with kids

My son fighting a nice trout

Craig had told us that the larger pond, called Reservoir was fishing well. The pond was stocked with large, willing rainbows who hadn’t seen much action. After touring the property we took our truck with all the fishing gear up to Reservoir.  We fished mainly dry flies with a small midge droppers. Knowing that the fish weren’t very selective yet, I opted for a buggy caddis dry fly that floated well and was very visible. To our enjoyment the trout were more attracted to the dry, rather than the midge dropper, which made for some great raises. I must say the trout were quite beautiful and healthy . . . oh and big!

Hat Creek Trout

One of the many trout caught at Reservoir

The trout would cruise the edges of the pond and a well placed fly would immediately get their attention, nothing like sight fishing for willing trout Needless to say that after catching countless fish we called it a day and went back to the cabin. When fishing with kids I always think it is best not to overdo it and concentrate on the kids.  My kids enjoy fishing, but they are not “junkies” like me!

While the kids were having a snack at the cabin I checked out the “New Pond” which is located just a two minute walk from the cabin. The New Pond is actually connected to Hat Creek and was a lot more challenging than Reservoir. This was the “grown up” pond for sure, and while most of the fish I saw were smaller, they seemed to be a lot smarter.

New pond

New Pond

I soon realized that the 4X setup I used at Reservoir was not going to cut it. These fish were wild, and they weren’t going to go for some “out of place caddis” with a bead head midge attached to it. New Pond was a challenge, and while I didn’t fish it super hard, I must say that it got the better of me. Switching to 6X and some very small midge patterns (dry and wet) I was able to hook several nice fish, but I never brought any to hand.


Big rise at New Pond, someone get that guy for me

On the second day we decided to stay on the Ranch and take the John Deer up some of the trails and go for a little hike. We enjoyed the view of the valley and imagined how the area must have looked when the Volcanos were still active.

After our hike I wanted to make sure we still got a little fishing in. In the summer time Shasta County enjoys overall good weather, during the off season on the other hand, the weather can change drastically. We knew in advance that we had a storm system coming in and had planned accordingly. Winds were picking up and I was glad that we had taken my son’s spinning rod along. One thing fly fishermen often forget is how hard fly fishing actually is for novices, and how much harder it is for kids, especially during windy conditions. It is easy to set up a spinning rod with a “split-shot wooly bugger rig”, which makes it easier and less dangerous to cast a fly during windy conditions.  Using the rig Aiden actually out-fished his old man, I swear he seemed a couple of inches taller that day. While Aiden and I were fishing,  my daughter and my wife went with Becky to groom the two horses on the property.

Horse and Girl

Making friends

Becky made an exception and let my daughter ride Penny, since she rides English saddle and is almost as crazy about horses as I am about fly fishing. I think the day couldn’t have been any more perfect. We ended the day with a great BBQ and invited Becky and Craig to join us. Some awesome pinot noire and a lot of s”mores ended the day on a high note.

The next day the storm we had been expecting hit, the winds were gusting at 45 mph and it started raining. Pond fishing became almost impossible. The kids and my wife were content in the cozy cabin, which allowed me  to sneak out to fish the Pit for a few hours. Being in the canyon of the Pit, I actually got out of the wind and had some decent fishing. The Pit is a free stone river with big boulders and fast moving water. A wading staff and some strong legs are highly recommended. I actually don’t use a wading staff and took a good tumble, to my surprise, I didn’t hurt myself and kept dry, how, is still a mystery to me. There were caddis flies everywhere, nevertheless the fish were hitting Copper Johns and PTs. The fishing was actually fairly good and just a few hours on the river gave me my desperately needed off-season wild trout fix. The family took advantage of our cozy “home away from home” cabin, played board games and watched old westerns.

The next day it was time to leave. We woke up to some light snow fall, unfortunately the snow didn’t stick, but it was a pretty sight nevertheless. Craig and Becky sent us on our way with a bag of some homemade popcorn.



The wonderful memories from this trip will stay with us for a long time and we hope to be back soon.





Here are some tips when visiting Hat Creek Ranch.

For information on Hat Creek Ranch visit:

Hat Creek Ranch is the perfect place to take your family and spend some quality time with them while enjoying some fly fishing. But even for the hardcore fly fishing junkie the ranch offers some challenging water. In addition the Lassen/Shasta region also offers some great additional waters to get your fix.

When fishing the creek, try to stay out of the water as much as you can to protect the habitat. Hat Creek is a sensitive spring creek, the upper reaches of the creek are not that wide, so wading isn’t really necessary.  There are some willows, knowing how to make a good roll cast will increase your success.

There are three lakes on the property. We only fished two of them. They offer different levels of sophistication. Trout will get more wary as the year progresses, a subtle presentation and fine tippet will help your success rate.

Bring a net, I forgot mine, which put unnecessary stress on the fish. Revive the fish if you take pictures.

When fishing with kids always make them where glasses and make sure the hooks are totally debarbed.

There is some great wild life viewing to be had so bring binoculars. There are some Bald and Golden Eagles on the property. We also saw Otters and at night you might run into some Beavers. There are also coyote, fox and bears in the area.

If you go with the family and don’t know the area plan for some half day trips. Lassen National Park is only 40 minutes away, but there are a lot of great places to visit.

If you want to check out some other water while staying at the ranch there are many great rivers and lakes close by. Rivers to fish are the Pit, Hat Creek and the Fall (requires a boat). But there are also smaller creeks in the area that offer some great fly fishing, such as Lost Creek and Burney Creek. Great lakes to fish is Manzanita Lake in Lassen National Park, about a 40 minute drive and Baum Lake which is only 10 minutes away.

If you come in the off season Baum Lake and the Pit offer great fishing and are open all year. Always check with The Fly Shop for the latest fishing reports and conditions.

Hat Creek Ranch has all the amenities, stove, refrigerator, coffee machine, small dish washer, BBQ and washing machine are all provided. Only thing you need to bring is the food and drinks. Bedding is provided, but you will be required to wash the sheets when you leave, so if you like to spend more time on the water I highly recommend bringing sleeping bags.  Burney has a couple of supermarkets, but if you want to have more choice I recommend stocking up in Redding.

Wet flies: Damsel flies, Midge patterns, Pheasant Tales, Black Wooly Bugger, Copper Johns

Dry Flies: Parachute Adam, #14-20,Callibaetis Spinner, #16 ,Callibaetis Cripple, #14-16, PMDs
Tricos, Elk Hair Caddis, #14-18, Midge patterns, some Cripple pattern

You can find out more about equipment and fly fish selections here:

Disclosure: Marcel occasionally photographs for The Fly Shop. But he was not paid for this review.
Photos © 2010  Meher and Marcel Siegle

]]> (Marcel Siegle Fly Fishing & Fine Art) recent trip tips & tricks Sat, 10 Apr 2010 11:33:24 GMT
The Mysterious Bottle Nose Trout So the other day I took my nephew Max, who was visiting from out of town, on a one-day fishing excursion to Putah Creek. March is not the best time to hit the creek, but we didn’t have many options available to us. Fortunately Max took a long his new camera, which kept this young and aspiring photographer busy, while I re-rigged and retrieved flies out of trees.  In case you’ve never fished Putah creek, it is a very “technical” body of water to fish, with lots of brush, finicky trout and fast water. After exploring different sections of the river in search of a good spot, we did finally find a run that looked promising and hooked up.

I must say that I have caught a lot of strange trout over the years, but this one was a first. My first impression was that this was a new species, or some kind of abomination. The nose of the trout was elongated and rectangular, it looked somewhat like the nose of a porpoise. Did I in fact catch a freak of nature or maybe even a new mutation of trout? After Max took a few pictures, I released the fish in awe, contemplating new names for this species,  “The Cyrano de Bergerac trout, Bottle Nose trout, Porpoise Head ” 



Bottle nos Trout 1

But I knew there had to be an explanation, so I posted the picture on Bono’s Putah Creek Web Forum. Apparently I had caught a “spawned-out male”.  We all know that before they spawn, trout will go through a transformation. Besides changing color, the dominant males form a hooked jaw (aka kype).  But what happens after the spawn? Well the jaw mutates back, and during that process the fish might go through some funny stages.  So in the end I didn’t discover a new species, but I did learn something

]]> (Marcel Siegle Fly Fishing & Fine Art) i didn't know Thu, 26 Mar 2009 10:04:10 GMT