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Wild Trout 101, Taken to School at Crane Creek

by Alan Luecke
(Kansas City, MO)

Big fish on when I still thought there was hope

Big fish on when I still thought there was hope

In 1881 a train carrying McCloud Rainbows to be stocked back east broke down in Crane, Missouri. Rather than lose all the fish they dumped them in the local spring creek. They are still there, a successful breeding population of what may be the purist strain of Rainbows left in the world. So the story goes. It's probably more complicated than that, but the trout are there and they are wild.

It's tough tight fishing for very spooky fish. My friend Chris H. and I spent last Friday on Crane Creek and caught four fish and two of those were babies. There had been heavy rains earlier in the week and the water was high and cloudy but not blown out. We hoped this might work in our favor by making us less visible to the trout. I had never been there but had heard all the stories and was excited but also a little intimidated. My goal was to catch a fish.

Late morning I caught my fish. A big logjam blocked off a bend in the creek and created a big swirling hole below a riffle. I put a pheasant tail nymph with a large bead head on the Tenkarabum 36 and went for the bottom. On the second or third cast I felt a tap and hooked a nice 10 inch fish which came in with out a problem. Got the picture, a McCloud on the books.

The next cast got another hit. This was great. I pulled it towards the surface-- it came up about a foot. It felt like a big catfish only faster. I was able to turn the fish but not really control it. At one point it was close enough to the surface that a I got a look when it turned. It was at least mid teens in length. I may have hooked bigger trout but never a stronger one. At one point I had it close enough to almost grab the line but by then it had had enough of me and headed for the logs. I gave a big pull on the rod not realizing that the fish already had a half hitch around a log,(line as well as tippet). The fifth section popped like a firecracker.

I want to be clear, the fish did not break the rod. I broke the rod. When the fight started I made a point of keeping the rod low and in front of me, letting the rod do the work. Were was Rob Worthington when I needed him? As time went by the adrenalin built until I'd achieved the clinical condition known officially as " all jacked up". The odds of me landing this fish were probably pretty small to start with, logs or now logs.

Except for the small issue of me destroying the rod the Tenkarabum 36 did a great job casting everything from an overhand worm to that big Czech style pheasant tail. Folks stay off of Crane in the winter for the spawn but I'll be back in the Spring.

Comments for Wild Trout 101, Taken to School at Crane Creek

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Nov 26, 2015
Great report!
by: Stephen

Thanks for the great trip report!

Nov 26, 2015
McCloud & Sacramento River rainbow trout
by: David Rossi

Having grown up in this beautiful area of Northern California I can attest to the fact that these trout are the hardest fighting trout you'll ever hook into. They are more like Steelhead than a regular trout. You have to do everything perfect to land the larger trout. The McCloud & Sacramento Rivers have been my stomping grounds for forty plus years. I am truly blessed to have been born and bred in this beautiful area! Oh by the way, the historic trout are called Red Band Rainbow Trout. Many of the historic creeks, streams,and tributaries of the McCloud River drainage once again have Red Band Trout thanks to the efforts of the DFG restocking programs. I am new to Tenkara, but my Daiwa Kiyose is a good match for the way I fish. NYMPHS! Landed many nice fish and am having so much fun with Tenkara and Kiyose rods. Still love my conventional fly rods too. Learn to fish all systems to be a complete well rounded fisherman. Thanks Chris

Nov 26, 2015
by: Terry Farmer

A great Thanksgiving morning read. Happy Fishing!

Nov 26, 2015
by: Vern. Berry

Alan this answers my question about the rod, I'm sorry but I'm sure a replacement section will be coming! Hoping for rain to stop in Texas.

Nov 26, 2015
Crane Creek
by: Martin Weaver

I have fished Crane Creek twice. Once in the fall when the water was real low. Fish were really spooky. Caught one small rainbow. Next time was last spring after the heavy rains. Creek was blown out. Did you fish in town or above the railroad bridge?

Nov 26, 2015
Lower creek
by: Alan Luecke

Crane Creek conservation area has two sections: from the city park north past the railroad bridge and a separate area about a mile south. Tom Davis's video is taken in the north section. The big fish was hooked in the lower area which usually has more and deeper water.

Nov 27, 2015
Stocking trout
by: Jrffry Gottfrief

McCloud River Red-sides are spectacular fish in theirbnative waters of the McCloud watershed. However, stocking them all over the US and throughout the world has created ecological disasters and contributed to the destruction of native fish populations.

Mar 06, 2016
I'm in the club
by: Rob Ruff

I've been here since yesterday 3/5/16 and have been catching the McClouds. Very skittish and beautiful fish. Having a great time. I too lost a decent sized McCloud when it darted under a log. They are strong fighters.

Mar 01, 2018
McCloud Rainbows
by: Jmich80

Loved the article. Thanks for sharing. There is a population of McClouds in the northwest (Lake Michigan) side of Michigan's lower peninsula. These wild fish have been cut off from Lake Michigan and competing steelhead since the early 1900s when they were planted and remain unhybridized to this day. A truly beautiful fish.

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