Close to Heaven

by Susan Herrgesell—President, Becoming an Outdoors-Woman, California

(Becoming an Outdoors-Woman ("BOW") Program offers workshop-style instruction providing opportunities for women to learn skills that enhance and encourage participation in hunting, angling, and other outdoor activities. The California Department of Fish and Game has sponsored BOW since 1994.)

When Rick Copeland, the President of Wilderness Unlimited, called me and asked me if I would be interested in offering a fly fishing course at their fly fishing school on Bidwell Ranch near Burney, my heart skipped a beat. That area is so beautiful and I knew the class would fill quickly and a partnership with Wilderness Unlimited would be beneficial for both organizations. Rick and I met, along with the Director of the Fly Fishing School, Jim Harris. We hammered out the details; the dates, the program, the cost, and assigned responsibilities (who does what). I could hardly wait.

The press release went out and the workshop was filled the first day. It was scheduled for September 22-24. The cost was $70 per person, a fraction of what it would normally cost. The instructors, Jim Harris, Chuck Echer, Gerry Martin and Terry Eggleston, all world class, agreed to share their expertise with a group of beginners. This comprehensive workshop covered all of the basics of fly fishing, and then some;

Casting, reading the water, entomology, conservation, knots, fly tying, landing and releasing, and plenty of hands-on practice. With four instructors, the 25 participants had individual attention.

When I arrived and saw the area, I was speechless (and this very seldom happens). Located in the Hat Creek Valley of Shasta County, this beautiful ranch has five ponds and approximately 1-1/2 miles of Lost Creek. Open, permanent pastures and hay fields flanked by the famous Hat Creek Rim on the east and scattered juniper and brushy lava flows around the rest of the property add to the scenic setting. I couldn't wait to get my line wet...

But first, the instruction...which was superb. The information was given to us in small enough pieces that we could continue to consume and not be overfilled. Even after classes ended, the participants swarmed the instructors, asking for more. The evening campfire discussion lasted far into the night. One morning while we were casting on the grass, one of the instructors called out to us to come to the water. As we crawled up the embankment, we witnessed a hatch like I'd never seen before. Spinners were thick in the air and the water was boiling with huge trout entertaining us with their acrobatics as they jumped for their breakfast.

The entire weekend was filled with great instruction, beautiful scenery, the camaraderie of like-minded women, and good food. But the high point for me was standing in one of the native trout-filled ponds with crystal clear water to just above my waist, the sun on my shoulders, Mount Lassen to my right, Mt. Shasta to my left and a 24-inch trout on my line. I figured this is as about as close to heaven as I'll get in this life.

We're planning to hold another workshop next year and I'll be there with my waders and a dry fly. For more information about Becoming an Outdoors-Woman workshops, please call Susan Herrgesell, BOW Coordinator at (916) 657-4333 or visit us on the web at To learn more about Wilderness Unlimited, their magnificent properties, and many outdoor opportunities, contact Rick Copeland at (510) 785-4868 or