California is famous for its huge offshore fish taken from fishing grounds several hours from the coast. I wanted big fish, but had neither the money nor the desire to undertake such an arduous adventure. Thankfully, I found Kirk Portocarrero (www.sacriverguide.com), whose amazing pictures of trophy salmon and trout made my decision to fish freshwater even easier. Kirk fishes all over northern California, and for a variety of species, but it was his monster king salmon pictures that led me to Corning, California.
Kirk is a very popular guide and I was put on a boat with four other people. I prefer to fish by myself, when possible, but I enjoyed the group I fished with and Kirk was still able to give one-on-one instruction and put us on fish. My first fish was a beautiful 34-inch, 25-pound king salmon, my personal best. My second fish was slightly smaller, but still put up an awesome fight. The bite was slow but I did not mind, as I had crossed California off the list with two incredible salmon.
After fishing with Kirk, and gorging myself at the shockingly-good Rolling Hills Casino buffet, I headed to Tahoe for some hiking and fishing. Tahoe is every bit as beautiful as people say it is, if not more so. The scenery is spectacular and, despite the implication from those ubiquitous "Keep Tahoe Blue" bumper stickers that Tahoe is a well-known tourist destination, it was not nearly as crowded as I feared it would be. In general, I was pleasantly surprised about how uncrowded northern California was. I fished with Kombiz Farokhpour (https://tahoefishingguides.com) for trophy trout. The trout were not biting, but the kokanee bite was excellent, so we changed species and caught several kokanee, including an 18-inch, 2-pound trophy, which was my biggest kokanee to date. I had a fun time fishing with Kombiz and the beautiful day and trophy fish made for a great experience.
Update October 2015: I returned to Lake Tahoe in search of trophy brown trout and chose Mike Nielsen (https://tahoetopliners.com), a guide who has caught the year’s largest brown trout on the lake ten times in the last 17 years and has caught the lake record brown trout four times in the last ten years. Unfortunately for the fishing (but very fortunately for the hiking), Tahoe was in the grips of record heat and the trout bite was unusually slow. After quickly catching three lake trout ranging from two to five pounds, we changed techniques and spots in search of a trophy rainbow or brown trout. While we did not have any luck getting a trophy fish, Mike did put me on a gorgeous, 21-inch rainbow, estimated to be 4.5 pounds. Mike is a fantastic guide whose vast knowledge of fishing and of the area made for an enjoyable and informative time on the water.