Last week, it was cold. Really cold for a week at Lake Almanor in June. I took the opportunity to load up my kids and shuffle them over from Reno to Lake Almanor. After a two hour drive, and barely 4 hours of sleep that night, I woke up at 5AM to relatively unfamiliar fishing conditions. The cold snap put a little pause on the hex fly hatch, so we were nervous that the bugs wouldn’t be there. As I stepped onto the dock, I realized that the air felt much cooler than 35 degrees due to the wind and damp air. There was snow on the surrounding mountains that stopped collecting just 200 feet above the water level. We then proceeded to drive right into a lake-level cloud, further increasing the discomfort.
We drove through that quiet cloud with no one else on the lake at 5mph. We know where “The Island” is, but we practice what we preach and are huge proponents of boating safety. Slowly but surely we made it to a little hole on the West shore. No hex flies popping up, the fish were shivering on the finder, and my freezing hands were already aching. I was afraid this would be a long hard road to Skunksville. Then I saw it. One single, solitary, beautiful, dijon mustard-colored hex fly rise to the surface and stretch its wings. This was energizing of course.
If few bugs are present near the end of the hatch in July, fishing can be tough. The fish are already transitioning to other food at that point. If too many bugs are present in the heat of it, you are playing a numbers game with little influence. But, one or two bugs surfacing each hour early in hatch season means there is going to be stiff competition on the bottom. The most aggressive brown trout are ready to eat first.
Some huge browns stretched the heck out of my line that week. Rods were bent. It was an overall success and excellent experience. I’m grateful for the chance to fish here for these monsters.
We release about 90% of the fish we catch, but during this time of year the aggressive brown sometimes swallow bait. Using natural baits, we emulated the hex hatch and landed a few fish ready for the smoker. We had had one 4 pound brown, one 5.5 pound brown, and one 7 pound brown. Fishing in the clouds was an absolute blast.
Fully satisfied with my trout experience for the week, I took my wife and daughters down to the dock to see if I could generate a little evening excitement via topwater. I threw on the only Whopper Plopper lure I have (a perch pattern, non-existent in Almanor).
As I made my way along the dock casting out to the log barrier, a guy in a Ranger boat was creeping closer and closer to my favorite spot under the power of his trolling motor. I know that the feeding smallmouth bass like to hang in the corner of the logs and pick off their meals at this time. I wanted it to be as close to sundown as possible when I hit that spot. Only I knew I was racing this guy in the Ranger, he was blissfully flipping whatever he had but was unsuccessful so far as I could tell. I approached the spot, now within casting range as I neared the end of the end of the dock finger. The Ranger Stranger noticed my presence and gave me a nod. He went along on his side of the log and I went on mine. We were both casting towards the corner now. I felt pretty confident that the Ranger Stranger wasn’t going to hook my fish though.
The bass in Lake Almanor are many things; prolific, aggressive, healthy, tasty etc. but they are also a little particular. This was made very clear during the Apex Cup Bass Tournament a couple months ago. The bass won’t usually chase bait towards the North side of these logs into open water. One thing I have noticed is the hyper-localized patterns the bass in the lake have. Every area has something new to figure out.
That’s when the water exploded. My daughter screamed, and my wife laughed as the fiesty bass blew up the Whopper Plopper. I instantly yanked the thing away from the logs, I know exactly where the chains are and so does this fishy. After about a minute-long battle steering this thing away from losing my $20 Plopper, he was in. I shot a pic and released the beast. I waved to the Ranger Stranger (who hadn’t moved or made a single cast). He only lifted his hand as if to say “Good game TRB, good game”. At least that’s how I like to tell it.
I ended up running into more cold windy weather and decided to finesse a ned rig on some deep man-made structure we are aware of. This ended up with a first-cast 3lb smallmouth bass and a good end to my trip. I fished a total of 6 hours or so on this short trip, but it was well worth it. Have a great day and enjoy your stay at Lake Almanor. Be sure to check back here for the latest Lake Almanor fishing reports, guides and tips.