The fall season offers great fishing opportunities

There will be days when the fishing is better than one’s most optimistic forecast, others when it is far worse. Either is a gain over just staying home.

~ Roderick Haig-Brown, Fisherman’s Spring, 1951

Fall is a great time of year for anglers. The summer crowds are gone. The jet skis have been stored until next summer. There is a nice crisp bite to the morning air and the fall colors are amazing. The birds are migrating and there is even a dusting of snow in the high country.

But what I like best is the way the trout revel in the cooler water. These are hungry trout. No more summer doldrums.

The fish seem to know that winter is not far off and now is the time to lay on the calories to carry them through the lean winter months.

If the need for food weren’t enough, its spawning time for browns and brookies. This adds another layer of hunger and territorial aggression to their behavior.

And it all adds up to great opportunity for anglers.

If I have one beef with fall, it is that it doesn’t last long enough. Get out and enjoy it while it is at its best.

Lake Almanor

Fall offers some of the best  fishing of the year at Almanor. The lake turned over a few weeks ago and that means there is cool water at the surface. Things are looking up for shore anglers and trollers can put away the lead core line and down-riggers.

The only thing that has kept the fishing from being really hot has been the winds. We have experienced plenty of north winds lately, fortunately without the fires that plagued much of the north state.

When the north winds were not blowing, we saw plenty of strong south west winds. The winds have kept anglers off the lake and churned up the water enough that water clarity has been a real factor.

This fall has been a little tougher than usual, but it is not over yet. Hopefully we will see some more settled conditions soon, but in the meantime, the challenge is figuring out how to adapt to these tough conditions.

First, there is the water clarity issue. For trollers, the best way to overcome poor clarity is to add some flash to your gear. A dodger (a single blade that wobbles side to side) or a flasher (multiple smaller blades that rotate) rigged  above your lure will make it much more visible.

Trout do not rely on sight alone to find food. Add some scent to your lure to improve your odds, Bank anglers can add some scent or uses baits like Powerbait that give off plenty of scent of their own,

The key to dealing with the wind is to fish the upwind side of the lake. The most frequent wind at Almanor blows out of the southwest, up the Feather River Canyon and over the dam. Fishing the trolling lanes or coves along the west shore will keep you in the calm water well out of the winds reach thanks to the hill and tall trees on along the west shore. If the wind blows from the north, try fishing the south side of the peninsula.

There is no reason for reduced water clarity or wind to keep you at home.

As the water temperature continues to drop, fish are moving into the coves. Bank anglers are scoring some nice fish with bait and spinners, but it is the fly anglers who can really connect with some nice fish under these conditions.

Fish in the main body of the lake are feeding heavily on pond smelt right now, but for some reason a small (size 16 or 18) dark colored midge seems to work well for hungry trout cruising the coves,

Trollers are working the top 20 feet along the west shore and either side of the peninsula depending on which way the wind is blowing. Fast action lures are the name of the game now. Needlefish and Speedy Shiners are the most popular.

I still like black and silver Rapalas. I add a small red yarn tag to the back end and dab a little scent on that— nothing scientific about that choice — I just think the Rapala has a realistic look and action, and the red yarn and scent dress it up in a way that fish find attractive.

I have always wondered if the red is reminiscent of blood and makes them think the fish is wounded and therefore easier prey. But then it is easy to over think things when you are sitting in a boat in the middle of a lake with lots of time on your hands.

Lake Davis

I have not heard many reports out of Davis. It has been a tough year there with a very noticeable decline in the trout population. I know the wind has been a real issue lately and with a relatively shallow lake, the winds can really cause problems with the water clarity.

According to the folks at J and J Grizzly, the trout are feeding in 10 feet of water or less and are in near the bank. Lightning Tree to Mosquito Slough has been productive. Folks that were fishing in deeper water and further out were not catching fish.

Frenchman Reservoir

Frenchman has provided some excellent fishing this year, probably better than usual. But wind has been a major factor on all area lakes for the past few weeks. Of all the lakes in Plumas County, Frenchman may be the most affected by strong winds.

Unlike most of our lakes that afford some protection when the wind is blowing just by moving to protected areas, Frenchman sits in a wide open basin. There are no steep, tree-covered hills. There is no protection. When the north winds blow on Frenchman, the best place to be is somewhere else.

When the wind settles down, there are very good reports coming from Frenchman. The best fishing appears to be in the north section of the lake. Rainbows are cruising the shallow coves and flats. This is a great opportunity for bank anglers and fly fishers.

Local guide Jon Baiocchi says the fishing has been pretty good when the weather cooperates. Jon has seen some stellar days with fish cruising the shallow flats sipping callibaetis mayflies. The most effective fly of late has been a simple unweighted pheasant tail presented on a floating line, no need for an intermediate line.

Eagle Lake

There have been some good reports from Eagle Lake when the wind stops blowing. Mornings are very cold on Eagle and the boat ramp can be icy.

The fish are scattered so you might have to cover some water to find them. Most fish are very shallow, less than 10 feet deep.

Cinnamon and brown trolling flies have been effective. Jay Fair Trolling Flies were developed specifically for Eagle Lake and they are very popular.

If trolling flies isn’t your thing, stick with Needlefish or Rapala in brown or red shades to imitate Tui chub.

There have been some good reports from the south side of Miners Point and Shrimp Island. The Youth Camp and the tip of Pelican Pt. have also been productive areas.

Fly anglers are doing well fishing the edges of the tules on the west side of the lake.

The winds on Eagle Lake deserve plenty of respect. On most of our local lakes, the wind this time of year can be uncomfortable and inconvenient. On Eagle Lake it can be deadly. The wind comes up quickly and it can turn calm water into a flurry of big waves with little warning.

Pay attention to the weather forecast and make sure to allow yourself plenty of time to get back to the dock before the winds come up. I know I have had a couple of white knuckle rides back into shore. It’s not pleasant.