Be safe, have fun in the high country

By: George deVilbiss, Special to Gold Country Media
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When it was built, Interstate 80 over the Sierra was designated the “all year highway.” We’ve seen over the years that isn’t exactly true. That’s no big deal if you’re sitting in your home here, in the valley, all warm and comfortable. However, if you go to the high country for some of the winter snow fun, then you could be in trouble if you aren’t adequately prepared. Going on a spur-of-the-moment day trip can be a lot of fun for the family. Skiing. Sledding. Just playing in the snow, building snow sculptures. Even fishing. If the skies are blue, the roads clear, then it’s all good. If something unexpected blows in, a day of fun can turn into a disaster when a very large highway becomes a parking lot. This time of year, adverse weather on the forecast or not, having chains that actually fit your tires, are mandatory. Costs of chains up there can be quite extravagant as compared to costs locally. Unless you’re willing to shovel out a hefty sum, practice putting them on here a time or two until you know how to install them correctly. Plan your trip. Plan as if you might get delayed due to weather. A small folding shovel, for example, can help you if your vehicle winds up in deeper snows. It is no fun trying to push your vehicle out of a snowdrift. Have extra clothing and footwear available. Being wet and cold is a miserable feeling, and the heater in your vehicle can only do so much. You don’t have to pack a grocery store in your vehicle, but have some readily available foodstuffs, especially snacky-type foods, high energy-type foods that can help your body generate its inner warmth. Bottled waters are always a good idea, and a thermos or two of hot liquid – chocolate, coffee, soups – always go well. And especially if you have the younger ones with you, ones that get bored so easily with “are we there yet” attitude, there’s nothing worse than getting shut down on a highway and just sitting there. Have some simple games in the vehicle that can keep them entertained and occupied during the waiting period. With a little pre-planning, you can make your trip totally enjoyable. CURRENT FISHING American River: With the river now fully open to fishing, steelheaders are out in force plying the waters. The hatchery has removed the weir that allows fish into the hatchery so the basin itself has seen a surge of fish. Remember, too, if you catch a steelie that only a hatchery fish can be retained, and they can be readily identified as they have no adipose fin, the small fin usually found between the dorsal fin and the tail. With only drizzles and drips in rainfall so far, the river is running low and clear so if you go out with the heavy weight gear, you will not get bit regardless how good your offering looks. You need to go light. These are an extremely wary fish. Line weight no heavier than six-pound-test would be advisable which means if you hook a true lunker, you need to play it carefully, and the big ones are in there. Lake Oroville: There’s been enough rain in the foothills to cause the lake to come up three feet, but launching can still only be done at the Spillway with four-wheel drive. Those who do get out are finding great fishing, and there’s not a whole lot of boat traffic. Bass are hanging in waters 20-25 feet deep. The Middle Fork has been producing well on tubes. Because of the colder waters, need to work them slow, though. Drift a minnow under a bobber around the dam and chances are good of nailing coho’s. Use the minnow under a slip bobber so you can get down 15 feet. Camp Far West: Water level has come up and while launching is off the old dirt ramp, but bigger boats can now get on the water successfully. Additionally, the speed limit has been lifted so you can get to your favorite spot quicker. Some good bass fishing is being found with some hitting four pounds for those working jigs and worms. Any questions, comments or concerns, contact George directly at