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Chip O'Brien

Chip O'Brien

Chip O'Brien is a regular contributor to California Fly Fisher and Northwest Fly Fishing magazines, and author of River Journal, Sacramento River and California's Best Fly Fishing: Premier Streams and Rivers from Northern California to the Eastern Sierra. He lived in Redding, California, for eighteen years, where he was a guide, teacher, and regional manager for CalTrout.
Outdoors

Explaining Northern California’s Legendary Hexagenia Hatch

If every ardent fisherperson in Northern California went fishing at the same time, think of how clear the freeways might…

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Outdoors

Poison Oak: A Guide to Avoiding ‘California’s Most Common Shrub’

Photo by James Whitney Often referred to as “the most common shrub in California,” if you’ve been at all active in…

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Stories

The Dumbest Things I’ve Done in NorCal: Swimming Across the Sacramento River

Photo by Tony Webster Don’t try it. Redding in the summertime is a study in contrasts, contrasts that can be…

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Stories

The Dumbest Things I’ve Done in NorCal: A Poison Oak Nightmare on Hatchet Creek

If you buy into the notion that we learn best from our mistakes, I must be one of the smartest…

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Outdoors

Searching for Fishing Solitude in Northern California

Reasons people have for needing to escape the rat race are endless, but the fact remains that we all do.…

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Outdoors

A Wild Life: Stories of Bear and Rattlesnake Encounters in the Wilderness

When you spend enough time in wild places, you’re bound to run into a few of the creatures that call…

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History

Ishi: The Last California ‘Wild Indian’ We Never Really Knew

Ishi making a wood harpoon in Deer Creek in 1914 Most California school kids have heard the story of Ishi,…

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Stories

How ‘Euro-Nymphing’ Originated in Northern California

Joe Kimsey was a fishing legend on the Upper Sacramanto River If you refer to that fly rod as a…

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Stories

Getting High on Mount Shasta with John Muir

“If I were you,” he said as he passed by, “I’d head back down the mountain. Storm’s brewing.” His words…

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History

Shame and Redemption: The History of Captain Jack’s Skull

Captain Jack The 1870s were turbulent, bloody times in Northern California. Tensions between Indigenous Peoples and the U.S. Army who…

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History

The Bizarre Story of the Horse that Summited Mount Shasta in 1903

Photo by Sébastien Goldberg Who isn’t fascinated with standing on top of NorCal’s premier active volcano, the formidable Mt. Shasta? Beyond…

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Shasta Cascade

Why Mt. Shasta Remains Mysterious – Dissecting 4 ‘Facts’ About the Mountain

Photo by Stephen Leonardi One day I was up in Oregon and pulled into the “Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint”…

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Stories

Getting High on Mount Shasta with John Muir – Part 3 Finale

Read Part 1 Read Part 2 Lightning, heavy winds, hail and deepening snow pummeled intrepid mountaineers John Muir and Jerome…

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Stories

Getting High on Mount Shasta with John Muir – Part 2

John Muir and Jerome Fay made it to the summit by 7:30am on that fateful day in 1875. That’s right…

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Stories

Getting High on Mt. Shasta with John Muir – Part 1

“If I were you,” he said as he passed by, “I’d head back down the mountain. Storm’s brewing.” His words…

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Stories

Potter Creek Cave: the Coolest Northern California Cave You Can’t Visit

It’s larger than Shasta Caverns. Extinct ground sloths were found there, the first ever in California. Sharp-faced bears, the most…

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Outdoors

The River Why? A Little-Known Movie That Any Angler Would Enjoy

The novel was published in 1983, and the movie came out in 2010. So why are we finally getting around…

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Stories

How Will Dam Removal Impact Fishing on the Klamath River?

Northern California is pretty famous for good fishing. In fact, I‘ve often wondered how much this may have to do…

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Stories

Rivers of a Lost Coast is a Must-Watch Documentary for NorCal Fishermen

When you think of what California is best known for, obvious answers might include Hollywood, surfing, giant redwoods, the Golden…

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Sports

Lesser-Known Great Places to Fish in Northern California

Northern California is well known as a fishing Mecca, and the Sacramento River is sometimes referred to as the best…

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Outdoors

Finding NorCal’s Best Secret Fishing Spots

In a crowded pub I had one of those “TV commercial” moments. My buddy and I were talking fishing when…

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Wildlife

Dealing with Bear Encounters in the Northern California Wilderness

A bear with a tasty treat along Shasta Lake When bears turn up on city streets or caught foraging in…

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Sports

A Fishing Experience on The Fly Shop’s Private Waters of Northern California

It wouldn’t be the first time I discovered I had a bad attitude about something without fully considering the facts.…

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Sports

Hexagenia Heaven: A Unique Fly Fishing Experience on Northern California’s Fall River

From the prow of our anchored pram I gazed across the Fall River Valley in the setting sun, and the…

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Outdoors

Resurrecting Hat Creek – A Wild Trout Legacy in Northern California

That magical, terrifying, intense time between the late 1960s and early 1970s saw change sweeping across America in steady waves.…

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History

This Man is the Namesake of Lassen Volcanic National Park. His Murder Remains a Mystery.

You’ve surely seen the name Lassen plastered throughout Northern California, but behind the name sits a wild west murder mystery.…

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History

The Story of the Donner Party: Deadly Mistakes Over the Snowy Sierra

Photo of James F. and Margaret Reed, who were members of the Donner Party I could have died so many…

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History

The Adventures of Mark Twain in California – Part 4: The Stand Up Comedian

While it might be a stretch to describe Mark Twain’s ascent to literary rock-stardom as luck, he truly did not expect…

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History

The Adventures of Mark Twain in California – Part 3: Jackass Hill and Jumping Frogs

Who knew that Mark Twain, beloved American author and humorist, creator of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, spent seven wild…

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Shasta Cascade

Before the Fall: Stories of Conflict and Discovery in Northern California History

Like stepping off a bar stool after swilling shots of whiskey, nudging my canoe into Fall River catches me off-guard.…

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Stories

The Chronicles of Mark Twain in California – Part 1: The Stories Behind the Pen Name

People dream of coming to California to become the next Meryl Streep or Tom Hanks, but hardly the “father of…

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Wildlife

Greased Bowling Balls and the Circle of Life on the Klamath River

Photo: Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington “WHOA,” my teenage son screamed. “Watch out! Those rocks are slippery. I…

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History

The Legend of Old Shavehead – The Lassen Native American Known for Murdering Samuel Burney

As written in the book California’s Best Fly Fishing Old Shavehead. Photo: California State University, Chico While geologists estimate that…

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Stories

To Dam or Un-Dam California? Now That’s a Complicated Question.

While some dams are old and nearly useless, major dams like Shasta provide flood control and water storage for millions…

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Wildlife

The Best Places to Go Bird Watching in Siskiyou County

Brought to you by Discover Siskiyou Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife In a world with…

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Shasta Cascade

Discover a Captivating Underground World at Lake Shasta Caverns

It was a foregone conclusion that I would love the Shasta Caverns tour. First, you find it off the O’Brien…

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Destinations

Exploring Redding’s Great Outdoors on the Sacramento River Trail

Brought to you by Visit Redding Photo: Visit Redding We’ve all felt like we were going in circles at some…

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History

The History of the McCloud River and its World-Famous Fish

Photo: California Trout It’s the strangest feeling. I can be standing for hours in a rushing trout stream totally absorbed…

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Destinations

Road Trippin’ Northern California’s Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway

Brought to you by Discover Siskiyou Mount Shasta overlooks much of the North State and provides a certain familiar presence.…

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Shasta Cascade

7 Exhilarating Summit Hikes Around Redding, California

Brought to you by Visit Redding Photo of Chip O’Brien on the Summit of Mt. Shasta “Doubly happy,” said John…

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Stories

Did the Real-Life Tarzan Dive Off Burney Falls?

BThe story was well known to me, but we at Active NorCal always check our sources. If you Google “Tarzan,…

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North Coast

Coming Home – Chronicles of a Trinity River Steelhead

She was late getting back to the Trinity this year, at least later than a lot of the others. They…

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History

The Lockhart Ferry Massacre: Northern California’s Bloody War of the 1850’s

Peering into the lives of the first non-Native people in Northern California, dreams, imaginings and real history clash in a…

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Destinations

A Harrowing Journey into the Haunted Caribou Wilderness

“AAAAAAUUUUAAAACK… AAAAAAUUUUAAAACK…” My eyes opened the size of softballs and the sleeping bag I’d been dozing in nearly lifted off…

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Stories

Almost Climbing Mount Shasta: A Story of Misery and Life Lessons at 14,000 Feet

At four thirty in the morning no one saw the light from my tiny headlamp inching uphill in pitch darkness…

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Outdoors

Fly Fishing on the Haunted Upper Sacramento River

Thankfully, no invisible or bony hand ever reached out to touch my shoulder on dark evenings while fishing the October…

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Stories

I Spent a Day Snorkeling Down Clear Creek in Redding. Am I Weird?

When you combine a pithy streak of spontaneity with a penchant for living life on the edge, bad things might…

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History

What’s in a Name? The Story Behind Hat Creek

Names almost always make for a good story, and Hat Creek is no exception. Of course, not everyone may agree that…

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