Good fishing is a bonus during a season of transition

Fishing is much more than fish. It is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers.

~ Herbert Hoover

Fall may be the most beautiful season of the year. The amazing fall colors highlight the many changes of the season.

The leaves actually turn color and ultimately drop from the tree as part of their winter survival strategy.

Trees absorb nutrients from the leaves before they fall. The chlorophyll that gives the leaves their green color is broken down and reabsorbed by the tree and the nutrients are stored in the tree roots. Without the green chlorophyll, the other colors in the leaves are on full display.

Eventually the leaves will drop to the forest floor to form an insulating mulch. They break down to provide nutrients to the soil that keeps the forest productive.

The trees and their leaves are a big part of the circle of life.

That circle of life is also playing out in our streams and lakes right now. The trout and salmon are busy fattening up before the cold winter weather hits. Some species are also busy creating the next generation that will keep their species thriving in our local lakes and streams.

Some will die after they spawn. Many of their eggs will be successfully fertilized, but not all of them. Those eggs, as well as the dead fish themselves, provide a bounty of nutritious feed for everything from tiny insects, to fish, birds and mammals, including raccoons and bears.

Many of the birds that arrived in the spring to build nests and raise their young have left Plumas County only to be replaced by migrating waterfowl and raptors.

Summers wildflower blooms have wilted into the soil where they will replenish the nutrients that helped them grow last spring.

Mushrooms are popping up on our lawns and in the forest. The mushroom we see is just the fruiting body of a large fibrous network of underground mycelium.

Some mushrooms recycle nutrients by breaking down dead plant material while other mushrooms form an amazing partnership with tree roots to help the trees absorb much needed nutrients from the soil.

Without mushrooms, we would not have healthy forests.

I know this is supposed to be about fishing, but one of the great things about fishing is getting out in our beautiful mountains and slowing down long enough to appreciate our beautiful and fascinating natural surroundings.

I love to get out and wander around this time of year. I enjoy the changes that are all around.

And while I am at it, I like catching some fish, too.

Lake Almanor

Big rainbows and browns are on the prowl at Almanor and pond smelt, some up to 4 inches in length, are on the menu.

The key to success is moving around until you find the fish. The trout are focused on large pods of pond smelt and those pods are not stationary. The spot that yields fish today may well come up empty tomorrow. Look for feeding birds and keep your eye on your sonar.

The lake, normally temperature stratified in the summer, has “turned over” so there is plenty of cool oxygenated water at all depths. Most of the activity seems to be in the top 20 feet of water, especially in the morning and evening.

Recent rains have brought up the lake levels some. Clarity is still good with the possible exception of Hamilton Branch.

According to local guide Doug Neal of Almanor Fishing Adventures trollers are working the east shore south from the Dorado Inn to Canyon Dam and around to Rocky Point.

The fish are on the move, but if you hit it right you will find rainbows averaging over 2 pounds and up to 5 pounds.

Neal likes fast action lures like #2 Needlefish in 3-dot frog, cop car, and clown bikini patterns. Speedy Shiners in copper/orange, red and gold, white with red dots, and silver/hammer finish patterns are all good choices.

Another option is trolling soft plastic pond smelt imitations. Add an action disk in front of the bait and troll it very slowly to imitate a crippled pond smelt.

Lake Davis

Lake Davis is well known for excellent fly-fishing for big rainbow trout. That fishing is often at its best in the fall. Big trout cruise the shallows of the many coves especially along the north and west shores of the lake.

The fishing lately has mirrored the weather; good weather means good fishing.

Bank fisher are picking up some fish with bait and hardware at Mallard Cove and Lightning Tree. Worms or Powerbait are generating the most action for bank anglers.

Fly-fishing is best along the north and west shores. Look for pods of feeding fish in the shallows. This can be some great sight fishing.

Try small midge patterns or wiggle nymphs in olive or cinnamon. I have always liked zug bugs at Davis too.

Trolling activity has been light.

Frenchman Lake

Wiggin’s Trading Post keeps relaying reports of nice catches at Frenchman. It sounds like most anglers are bait fishing from the bank.

Powerbait of all colors seems to be catching fish. Nightcrawlers are also working.

Anglers are picking up rainbows to a pound and a half including some limits. Turkey Point and the dam are the most productive areas.

Call Wiggin’s Trading Post at  993-4683 for the most up-to-date reports. And if you head up to Frenchman be sure to stop in. This old fashioned general store is well worth the stop. They are located on Highway 70 in Chilcoot.

Other Lakes

It is tough to get reports this time of year. That isn’t because the fishing is bad, it is because fewer people are fishing. There are a few lakes that I have not heard much about, but I suspect would be well worth the effort right now.

Gold Lake in the Lakes Basin may be a bit of a sleeper. It has not fished as well in the past few years as it used to. But there are a decent number of fish in Gold Lake and they are bigger than in any of the other lakes in Lakes Basin. Gold Lake is known to fish better in the fall, as long as the wind isn’t blowing.

I haven’t heard so much as a whisper about the fishing at Antelope lately. But the drive up though Genesee Valley this time of year is worth the price of admission.

As an added bonus, there should be some good fishing in Indian Creek just below the lake. Being right below a dam, this section of the creek will be much less affected by recent rains.

Butt Lake is another option worth considering. The brown trout are spawning and the powerhouse has been running.

There should be plenty of big browns and rainbows in the inlet. Just be sure to release the browns. It is not required by regulation, it is just good sense.

The state has cut way back on the brown trout program so plants of brows are down statewide. Butt Lake is known for its trophy brown trout. The only way to sustain that is to release them carefully, especially during the spawning season.


Local streams close to fishing on Nov. 15.

October saw unusually heavy, but very welcome, rains through out the north state. It has also been cooler than normal.

As a result, area streams are running higher than normal and insect activity is low. But it is worth giving the streams a try while there is still time.

Most streams are running clear even if a bit high. This is a good time of the season to swing weighted streamers or woolly buggers. Bouncing bait off the bottom is another good option.