Find cold water and you will find fish
There is no greater fan of fly fishing than the worm.
~ Patrick F. McManus
“Never Sniff a Gift Fish,” 1979
I don’t know about you, but I spent much of the last month looking for relief from the heat. July was a hot one. It’s not much different for fish like our beloved trout and salmon.
In addition to warm weather, the spring runoff has wound down so there is far less cold water running into our lakes. Our lakes have warmed quickly; faster than I expected.
The key to finding trout and salmon now and into the next several weeks is a simple one; find the cold water and you will find the fish.
On a side note, reports of rattlesnake sightings are way up this year. Rattlesnakes are shy and non-aggressive animals. Their shyness combined with some pretty effective natural camouflage leads to lots of surprise encounters every year. Those do not always end well.
Rattlesnakes will strike when they feel threatened. Sometimes with warning, but sometimes without.
Rattlesnakes may be more common at lower elevations, but they are found all the way from the valley floor up to the alpine zone.
So be careful. Be alert and watch your step.
Lake Almanor is in great shape. The water is clear and the lake is nearly full. Feed is abundant and the trout are fat and sassy. There are balls of bait (pond smelt) scattered throughout the lake.
The key characteristic of the lake affecting the fishing right now is the temperature. Surface temperatures are reaching the mid-70s and beyond by mid-day. You will not find trout in that warm water.
The water temperature is stratified vertically; colder water on the bottom and warmer water on the top. There are also springs tributaries adding cold water. These areas of colder water are the key to catching fish and will become more important as the summer progresses.
Fishing pressure continues to be fairly light with the possible exception of the mouth of Hamilton Branch. Personally, I do not care to fish “the branch.” It gets too crowded for my taste. When the fish get stacked up in there it is because there is a serious lack of cold water in other parts of the lake. I wish that the mouth of Hamilton Branch could be designated as some sort of off-limits sanctuary for temperature-stressed fish.
Trollers are scattered throughout the lake. Last week I suggested slow trolling crawlers. I like that tactic as the water warms.
As the trout shift from feeding primarily on insects and focus more on pond smelt, I would also considered faster action rigs like Speedy Shiners and Needlefish. Look for bait balls and work the edges.
Fishing on anchor is also a good tactic right now especially if you can anchor over cold water.
Bank fishing is tough when the water is this warm. The key is casting out far enough to reach the cooler, deeper water. Early morning or late evenings will work better.
The power house has been running intermittently and the lake level has been fluctuating. The warming water and fluctuating lake level are making for some tough fishing in the main lake.
The fish have moved up into the power house channel to take advantage of the pond smelt washing down from Almanor. Fishing lures or flies that imitate crippled pond smelt are a good bet.
In addition to anglers, there are eagles, osprey and otters that will visit this channel in search of a meal. That makes for some very wary fish. A little bit of stealth can go a long way. Fishing in low light conditions can also be very helpful.
As the water being released from Almanor into Butt continues to warm, the cooler water on the Butt Creek side of the inlet will become more attractive and the fish will move into the creek channel. That channel is even skinnier and the fish will become even more wary.
Lake Davis is just not the fishery it once was. It has been a tough year there. The fish are big, but there are not as many as there once were.
Now the water is warm. Trollers fishing deep and fly anglers fishing in low light may find a fish or two. But my suggestion is that if you are looking for trout, look elsewhere.
There are some warm water species in Davis: bass, bluegill and catfish. These can be caught any time of day.
Frenchman has been a bright spot this year. The water is warming and the fishing has slowed, but trollers working around 20 feet deep are still picking up some healthy rainbows. Fly fishing and bank fishing have gotten tougher, but if you can reach the deeper water from shore, your chances of finding fish are good.
Leach patterns and wooly buggers are good for fly anglers. Inflated nightcrawlers or Powerbait suspended off the bottom are good bets for fly and bait anglers.
The main boat ramp is damaged. Lunker Cove is the better choice for launching boats.
Silver, Caribou and Crater lakes
These three higher elevation lakes are actually all in Lassen County, but they are not that far from the Almanor basin and very worth the drive. These lakes offer some excellent scenery and a little relief from the warmer temperatures of the lower elevations. These lakes contain primarily stocked fish so do not expect trophy sized fish. All of them have been stocked a couple of times in recent weeks so there are plenty of feisty pan-sized trout.
These are not picky fish so your favorite fly, lure or bait is likely to work just fine.
Gold Lakes Basin
Gold Lake has slowed down. Early morning is the best time to fish. Mid-day is not worth the effort.
There are still nice catches coming from Lower Sardine and Salmon Lake. Packer Lake has also been stocked. These are nice pan-sized fish in a beautiful sub-alpine setting. Plan to do your fishing before all the swimmers hit the lake.
Warming water has slowed the action at Eagle a bit, but there are still some good trout to be found. They seem to be mostly between 20 to 40 feet deep. Red, rusty red and brown are the best colors. Wooly bugger and Jay Fair Trolling flies are very effective. Needlefish and Thomas Boyant lures are also favorites.
Fly hatches have been pretty sparse so far this season. This is possibly a result of lots of insect larva getting washed downstream during the unusually high flows we experienced this winter and spring.
Depending on which stream, there has been a mix of mayflies, caddis flies and stoneflies; just not in great numbers. Given the lack of big hatches, it makes sense to fish deep whether with a nymph, a worm or spinners like Panther Martins or Rooster Tails.
The Middle Fork of the Feather is getting warm in the Graeagle area. The better fishing is below Two Rivers where Jamison Creek dumps in a good load of colder water.
Deer Creek and the North Fork of the Feather have both received plants in recent weeks and are good choices for stream anglers. Indian Creek below Antelope Lake is anther good option although it warms quickly once it hits the floor of Genesee Valley.
In the larger streams like the Middle Fork of the Feather, look for the fish to begin congregating near tributary mouths and eventually moving into the tributaries in search of colder water.