It has always been my private conviction that any man who pits his intelligence against a fish and loses has it coming.
~ John Steinbeck
Hot weather and smoky skies; it must be summer in the Sierra. At least the fish don’t have to worry about the smoke. However, the temperature affects both the fish and us.
Do you get the slows in hot weather? Is your appetite a little less than normal? Do you seek out locations with cooler temperatures? Well, so do the fish.
The water in Lake Almanor is high and clear which always bodes well for fishing. The downside is that the water is warming which doesn’t make for such great fishing. Nevertheless, if you know what to do about that warming water, you can improve your chances of hooking up with some nice rainbows and maybe a chunky brown or feisty king salmon.
The fish have changed their focus from insect hatches to pond smelt. This year’s crop of smelt is abundant and they are less than an inch long now.
Pond smelt are schooling fish and they like colder water, but they do get chased around a lot so you can find them just about anywhere. Look for diving birds and you will likely locate the smelt. They do like to hang out along the rocky shorelines where they can find cover from predators.
So where do you find cooler water and rocky shorelines? The answer is the east basin of the lake. The one place worth fishing in the west basin is the west shore of the peninsula, which has lots of rocky shoreline and also plenty of springs to help cool the water. The rest of the west basin tends to be shallow, less rocky, and warmer. If you know of a favorite spring, give it a try; otherwise head to the peninsula or east basin.
Big Springs and Hamilton Branch are the two largest sources of cool water in the east basin although there are a good number of springs that also supply cooler water. Rec 1 to the A Frame is always a favorite trolling lane. The Dorado Inn is another good area.
Fly anglers should use full sink lines. I like Jansen’s pond smelt flies. Hal Jansen is a professional angler and fishing author who has fished Almanor for many years and developed this fly specifically to imitate Almanor’s pond smelt. These flies — along with all of the latest local fly-fishing information — are available at the Lake Almanor Fly Fishing Company on Highway 36 in Old Town Chester.
Trollers are hooking up with the old standards; Speedy Shiners and Needlefish or threaded nightcrawlers behind a dodger. Fish deep until you find bait balls and then let your sonar be your guide.
Contrary to popular legend, the Super Scooper fire fighting aircraft did not scoop a significant number of fish out of Bucks Lake and there has not been a significant drop in the water level due to the recent fire fighting activity.
Kokanee are still the main draw with 10 fish limits a real possibility. Sonar and a downrigger are essential to locate and reach these feisty land-locked salmon. What they may lack in size, they make up for in attitude.
There are a variety of gear combinations that will work on Bucks Lake kokanee. Spoons, spinners and hoochies are all effective. The key is small size and bright color. They are most effective with a little bit of scent applied and trolled behind a small dodger. Sepps and Paulina Tackle both offer a great selection of kokanee gear.
Big Mackinaw are still a possibility this time of year. Use large plugs and work the deepest water. The deep part of Mill Creek channel is your best bet.
Unless you are looking for bass or catfish, come back in the fall. The water is too warm for trout fishing.
Maybe the best thing about stream fishing right now is wet wading. Leave those waders at home and enjoy the sensation of cold running water on your bare skin.
The best stream fishing right now is in the mornings to early afternoon and then again in the late evening. Fishing pressure in most area streams is very light.
The Middle Fork of the Feather downstream from Two Rivers is a good option as is the North Fork of the Feather above Lake Almanor. Both have recently been planted California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Clear Creek between Lake Almanor and Westwood, and the East Branch of the North Fork of the Feather near Twain have also been planted.
Flies that should work right now include hopper patterns, elk hair caddis, yellow or orange stimulators, and generic nymphs like zug bugs and smaller wooly buggers and caddis nymphs.
I grew up fishing small streams in the coastal mountains where we would drift a Pautzke salmon egg with just enough split shot weight to bounce off the bottom as the current carried the egg down stream.
I am really more of a fly angler, but I do enjoy drifting an egg through a stream. Its effective but maybe what I enjoy most is the old memories it brings back.