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A weekend like the other fishermen
Nate Smith, Eric Simoni and JJ Ramirez work a section of the Pit River. - photo by Photo by JEFF LUND

For as much time as I’ve spent around lodges, I had never been to one as a guest until this past weekend at the Clearwater Lodge on the Pit River east of Redding.

As the sky turned orange on its way to purple then black, we pulled up to the white building. We were hungry since we stopped for flies rather than food and when the office was locked and our keys left with a note, I wasn’t completely confident we’d be fed. Fortunately the cook was still there. Our dinners —salmon, rice, Brissels sprouts and cheese cake with strawberry topping — were waiting.

Perfect. We devoured.

After a quick conversation with the owner who materialized shortly after we were finished, we retired to the six-room annex that was uninhabited by anyone but us, to rig up the rods for the next morning.

The annex smelled like old wood and history, not mold and layers of paint.

Nate and I took our time, tying leader in creaky chairs around a poker table, then standing in the dim room to string the rods. There wasn’t a TV in the annex, nor the main room, nor the pool room. There was nothing to do but fish, or talk about fishing while playing pool, poker or horseshoes.

It was the type of place that fosters what we always talk about doing but get distracted by the frenetic happenings of everyday life. No one says, “Man, I can’t wait to sit around and watch TV shows the entire evening.” People are more passionate about life than that.

The Clearwater Lodge knows this and offers the perfect weekend alternative.

Saturday morning Nate and I were up before breakfast, and without coffee hit the section of the river just down from the lodge next to pumphouse No. 1.

It was cold and we both lost a few nymphing rigs, but I managed a couple squawfish and a foot-long rainbow. Just before breakfast one of the guides suggested the colder, squawfish-free sections of Pit 3, 4 or 5.

We didn’t book a guide because Nate has a wedding coming up and I spent all my money in Alaska then $1,800 on the trout-mobile, plus J.J. and Eric also desired an economical weekend.

So Nate and I gorged ourselves on biscuits, gravy and coffee then headed to Pit 3.

Pit 3 is a bouldery mess with tufts of grass spiking like Mohawks from mostly submerged rocks. The grass grows so well in spots it provides the illusion of an island. In reality the grass hides foot-wide channels that are 3-feet deep. Nate and I had just begun to figure the wading out when JJ and Eric arrived just in time to eat the lunch provided by the lodge.

After sandwiches, cookies, chips and soda, we returned to the river and discovered creative ways to negotiate, and fall, on the slick rocks in the quick current.

There were trout too, some big, some small.

I know it’s easy for me to say because I caught fish, but it was one of those days when that didn’t necessarily matter how many end up netted. It was fun to look up or down the river and see friends, struggling for footing, falling but not drowning and casting to trout we knew were there. There was no whining, and when the day was done, we sat on the porch Saturday night, digesting pork, potatoes, salad and cake.

For two days at least, life seemed less tilted toward work and the lingering need to save money to go again will remain until I actually do.

To contact Jeff Lund, email