Read Trout Fishing in the Berkeley Hills of Byways Around San Francisco Bay, free online book, by William E. Hutchinson, on

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 the gods.”

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 a burden.

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 hapless wanderers.

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 the bay.

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.