Names almost always make for a good story, and Hat Creek is no exception. Of course, not everyone may agree that a chosen name is appropriate. According to an 1878 article in the Redding Independent, “This is said to be the most beautiful stream on the continent and is certainly deserving of a more appropriate name.” With a name like Hat, you know there has to be a story, and there is.
It was in the early 1850s when John Fallansbee, Drury Harrill, John Dreilbiss and others struck out on horseback searching for the best route to plot a road to the Lassen Peak area. While fording an unnamed stream one of the horses tripped on a rock causing Drury Harrill’s brand-new Peruvian hat to fly off his head and get washed away in the swollen currents.
“After failing to recover it,” reads the 1888 account from the Shasta Courier, Harrill “made the air blue with his sulfurous remarks.” At this point and apparently unable to resist the temptation, John Fallansbee stood up in the stirrups of his horse and proclaimed to the world, “Let this stream which has just been so thoroughly damned be known hereafter as Hat Creek.” And so it was.
-Reprinted from “California’s Best Fly Fishing” by 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.