Since the days when Izaak Walton wrote
The Complete Angler, men have emulated his example,
and gone forth with rod and reel to tempt the finny
tribe from dashing mountain brook or quiet river.
We, being his disciples, thought to
follow his example, and spend the day in the Berkeley
hills whipping the stream for the wary brook trout.
April first is the open season for
trout in California, but owing to the scarcity of
rain we feared the water in the brook would be too
low for good fishing. Providence favored us,
however, with a steady downpour on Wednesday, which
put new hope in our hearts, and water in the stream;
and we decided to try our luck on Saturday afternoon,
and take what came to our hooks as a “gift of
Accordingly, we met at the Ferry Building,
fully equipped, and took the boat across San Francisco
Bay, thence by cars to Claremont, and from there struck
into the hills. The wind blew cold from the bay,
having a clear sweep up through the Golden Gate, but
as soon as we began to make the ascent our coats became
It was a hard, tedious climb over
the first range of hills, but upon reaching the summit
and looking down into the valley we felt well repaid
for our trouble, as we gazed in awed delight upon the
magnificent view spread out below us like a panorama.
The valley stretches out in either
direction far below us, as if to offer an uninterrupted
flow for the mountain brook through which it passes.
We counted twelve peaks surrounding the valley, their
rounded domes glowing with the beautiful California
poppy, like a covering of a cloth of gold, while below
the peaks the sloping sides looked like green velvet.
Here and there pine groves dotted the landscape, while
madrones and manzanitas stood out vividly against
their dark-green background.
Orinda Creek, the object of our quest,
runs through this beautiful valley, shut in on each
side by the hills. Along the trail leading to
the stream blue and white lupines grow in profusion,
giving a delicate amethyst tinge to the landscape.
Wild honeysuckle, with its pinkish-red blossoms, is
on every side and the California azalea fringes both
banks of the stream, its rich foliage almost hidden
by magnificent clusters of white and yellow flowers,
which send out a delightful, spicy fragrance, that
can be detected far back from the stream.
The meadow larks called from the hillside
their quaint “Spring o’ the year,”
the song sparrows sang their tinkling melody from the
live oaks, catbirds mewed from the thicket, and occasionally
a linnet sang its rollicking solo as it performed
queer acrobatic feats while on the wing.
Ahead of us a blue jay kept close
watch over our movements, but at last decided that
we are harmless, and with a last shriek of defiance
flew away to pour out his vitupérations on other
Adjusting our rods, and baiting our
hooks with salmon roe, we crept down to where a little
fall sent the water swirling around a rock, making
a deep pool, and an ideal place for trout. Dropping
our lines into the rapids, we let the bait float down
close to the rock in the deep shadows. As soon
as it struck the riffle there was a flash of silver,
and the game was hooked. Away he went, the reel
humming a merry tune as he raced back and forth across
the pool, the rod bent like a coach whip, the strain
on the line sending a delightful tingle to our finger
tips. But he soon tired of the unequal contest,
and was brought safely to the landing net. He
was by no means a large fish, as game fish are reckoned,
but to my mind it is not always the largest fish that
gives the keenest sport.
From one pool to another we passed,
wetting a line in each with fair success, scrambling
over logs and lichen-covered rocks, wading from one
side of the stream to the other, until the lengthening
shadows warned us to wind in our lines and start for
home. Well satisfied we were with the thirty-two
trout reposing at the bottom of our basket.
Our long tramp and the salt sea air
had made us ravenously hungry, and the sandwiches
that provident wives had prepared for us were dug out
of capacious pockets and eaten with a relish that an
epicure might covet. I shall never forget the
trip back. Night overtook us before we were out
of the first valley, the ascent was very steep, and
we had to stop every few rods to get our wind.
At last we reached the summit of Grizzly
Peak, seventeen hundred and fifty-nine feet above
sea level, while to our right Bald Peak, nineteen
hundred and thirty feet high, loomed up against the
sky. The path on Grizzly was so narrow we had
to walk single file, and a false step would have sent
us rolling down hundreds of feet.
The view although seen
in vague outline was magnificent. Berkeley
and Oakland lay seventeen hundred feet below us, their
twinkling lights glowing through the darkness like
fireflies. Out on San Francisco Bay the lights
flashed from the mastheads of ships at anchor or from
brightly lighted ferryboats plying from mole to mole,
while far to the left, Lake Merritt lay like a gray
sheet amid the shadows. In the middle distance
off Yerba Buena Island two United States gunboats
were at anchor, one of them sending the rays of its
powerful searchlight here and there across the water,
and making a veritable path of silver far out across
Jack rabbits and cotton-tails scurried
across our path and dodged into thickets. An
owl flapped lazily over our heads and sailed away down
the valley, evidently on his nocturnal hunting.
But we had little time or inclination to give to these
mountain creatures, as we had to pay strict attention
to our footing.
The last descent proved to be the
hardest, for the grade was as steep as the roof of
a house, but we finally succeeded in scrambling down,
and at last reached the grove surrounding the Greek
Amphitheater; then home, footsore and weary, but happy
with our afternoon’s outing on the trout streams
in the Berkeley Hills.