I have been, and still am, hopeful that Butt Lake will turn out to be our local sleeper fishery. In its heyday, before the lake was drained for dam repairs several years ago, Butt Lake was well known for producing very large trout.
If my memory serves me correctly (that is an increasingly important qualifier these days) the record rainbow from Butt Lake weighed in at 25 pounds! Double-digit weights were not uncommon.
Butt Lake, or more correctly Butt Valley Reservoir, is a very shallow lake. That enables sunlight to penetrate much of the lake to the bottom.
The sunlight penetration allows a wide variety of aquatic vegetation to grow providing great habitat and abundant food sources for both trout and small-mouth bass.
My concern is that the fish that has rebounded the most since the repairs just may be the fish formally known as squaw fish.
That name was recognized as an ethnic slur so it was recently changed to Sacramento pike minnow. It is neither a pike nor a minnow, but somehow the name seems to fit.
My wife and I visited Butt Lake a couple days ago. It was the middle of the day. We were mainly there to paddle around in our kayaks and have a relaxing picnic.
I have always felt it is bad karma to go anywhere near water without fishing gear so I had some with me.
When we arrived at the cove where we were going to launch the kayaks, there were fish rising everywhere.
I tried my best to remain calm while I unloaded the kayaks and got my fishing rod prepared. All I could hear was splashing water as the fish gorged themselves.
I was having some difficulty keeping my adrenaline below the boiling point.
I launched my kayak and immediately noticed a mass of flying ants. Hundreds of them had inadvertently become swimming ants, providing a ready meal for the fish.
But they were very close to shore and most of the feeding was happening a bit further from shore.
A little further out there were many small green midges hatching. The emerging and newly hatched insects covered the water and the fish were feeding actively.
I was puzzled by what fly fishers like to call the “rise form.” Midges are very small insects and when they hatch they do so in great numbers. In this situation, trout normally feed by cruising and sipping, expending minimal energy for a small meal. The rise is fairly subtle.
That was not what was happening here. These were aggressive splashy rises; the kind that are characteristic of pike minnows. And they were everywhere. The big trout I had been anticipating were nowhere to be found. The pike minnows were everywhere.
I know the big trout are there and I will keep looking.
The powerhouse is running and that section of the lake opened to fishing Memorial Day weekend. The channel below the powerhouse is where many of the biggest fish have been caught at Butt Lake.
Try fishing a pond smelt imitation. Small silver spinners and lures will also work.
Fly anglers should keep their eyes open for the Hex hatch. It usually starts at Butt Lake before Almanor due to the warmer water in Butt Lake.
If you don’t know much about the Hex hatch, read on.
Spring and fall undoubtedly offer the best fishing at Almanor.
By the looks of things this year spring fishing should extend into July.
Just when the spring fishing is about to fade into the dog days of summer, something wonderful happens at Almanor: the Hex hatch.
“Hex” refers to Hexagenia limbata, a mayfly. But the Hex is not just any mayfly. It is a very, very large mayfly.
To put it in trout terms, a midge is like a half of a peanut butter sandwich. Most mayflies are equivalent to hamburgers. The Hex is more like a medium rare prime rib with a glass of excellent cabernet. No self-respecting trout can resist the Hex.
Hexagenia are fairly common in the Midwest, even to the point of being a nuisance. (Imagine hundreds of oversized bug splats on your car’s windshield.)
Here in California there are only a handful of waters where the Hexagenia are found. Lake Almanor is one of the best.
If you want to learn about the Hexagenia, how to fish for them and how to tie some Hex flies, the Almanor Fly Fishing Company annual Hex-O-Rama on Saturday June 25th is worth a visit.
Tom Maumoynier, owner of Almanor Fly Fishing Company, is a very experienced fly fisher and ties some beautiful Hex flies.
As if that weren’t enough, he is bringing in one of the big guns in the Hex game, Lincoln Gray. Lincoln is a professional fly-fishing guide who has been fishing the Hex hatch for many years. He offers an annual school dedicated to everything Hex. Lincoln will be sharing his knowledge of the Hexagenia as well as demonstrating how to tie some very effective Hex imitations, some of his own design.
The Hex-O-Rama will be held at the Lake Almanor Fly Fishing Company, 181 Main St. in Chester. Snacks and sodas will be offered. There is no charge for the event and advanced sign-up is not needed.
The Hex-O-Rama will begin at 9 a.m.on the 25th and run until 2 p.m. (Not coincidentally, 2 p.m. happens to be the start time for the annual Few Brews & A Banjo celebration being held down the street at the Chester Park.)
If you have never fished or seen the Hex hatch its worth checking out. It is a late evening affair, peaking just before dark. This is a unique opportunity to see many large fish cruising the lake surface sipping on mayflies that look like small yellow sailboats.
These mayflies are beautiful in their own right: delicate, graceful and very large. It is an event worth seeing, or better yet fishing.
Water temperature has risen to 60 degrees and this is triggering more insect activity.
Mayfly hatches have been reported mid-morning and again in the afternoon. Damselflies have been seen in the water column but few if any are hatching yet.
According to Jeannie at J&J Grizzly Store and Camping Resort, fly anglers are doing well using Jay Fair Wiggle Tail Nymphs in burnt orange or olive. Bead Head Flashback Pheasant Tail nymphs, blood midge pupae, and Callibaetis imitations are effective flies for these conditions.
Wooly Buggers and its many variations are always a good bet.
Bank anglers are using inflated night crawlers or PowerBait in orange, rainbow or chartreuse.
Trolling anglers are doing well with Sockeye Slammers in hot pink and fire tiger pattern; Rainbow Runners in red; Wee Dick Nite Copper Red Heads; and Needlefish in a variety of patterns.
For the most up-to-date information call ahead to J&J Grizzly Store and Camping Resort at 832-0270.
The weather and the fishing have both been very good. (It is nice to be able to finally say that!)
Rainbows between 1 and 2 pounds and up to 18 inches are being caught in good numbers.
Shore fishing is good at Crystal and Turkey points. Most anglers are using night crawlers, with marshmallows or inflating them with good results.
Trollers are doing very well using Tasmanian Devils in gold or yellow. Other productive lures are silver Dick Nites and yellow or green Rooster Tails.
Fly anglers are finding fish with Copper Johns and Prince Nymphs. I suspect that any of the flies that are working well at Lake Davis would also work at Frenchman.
Call Wiggin’s Trading Post in Chilcoot for the most current information: 993-4683.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record I have to say that the streams are still high and cold, but should be improving soon. The water clarity is improving on many streams but the fishing is tough.
The folks at the Sports Nut on Main Street in Chester (258-3327) report some very nice fish being caught in the North Fork of the Feather River above Chester.
This section of the river has received some fish plants recently, but the pictures I saw were nice large fish. These were not planters unless Fish and Game has started planting much larger fish.
Fish the slower water and back eddies and keep your bait deep.
While the Almanor Fly Fishing Company offers everything for the fly angler, the Sports Nut offers gear for every type of angling. They also have a good selection of camping gear and can give you the latest fishing report. Both shops are on Main Street in beautiful downtown Chester.