Peninsula Fly Fishers

October Fest
Northern California, October 19–29, 2002

by Tom Kilfoil

shoreline with fall foliage

October 2003

October produces great trout fishing at some lakes in Northern California. David Harris and I have wanted to try fishing some of them in this season. The main lakes to try would be Almanor, Eagle, and Davis, with side trips planned to little Crater Lake, Butt Lake, andundefinedat the suggestion of Jay Fair while fishing at Eagle Lakeundefinedthe sleeper of our trip, Frenchman Lake.

We had hired Milt Jensen to guide us at Almanor and Eagle for one day each and Jon Baiocchi for a day at Davis. We tried to get Jay Fair for Eagle, but he was booked solid through the first week of December.

We got to Chester early on the nineteenth and decided to try the afternoon bite at Crater Lake, a little lake about forty-five minutes north of Chester. We had a fair day there with a few smaller trout on dry flies. On the first cast, I broke the new Reddington nine-foot six-weight rod I had gotten at our PFF dinner. (Reddington later replaced it with no questions asked.) I had to switch to one of my back-up rods, which I always take with me. We stayed late and got some beautiful photos of the sunset and the moon over the lake with its great fall colors.

Lake Almanor Yields A Monster Rainbow

The next day we were up at 5 AM and fixed a small breakfast in our room. Milt Jensen met us at 7 AM, and we followed him to the Almanor Canyon Dam boat ramp. Milt took us out in his boat, supplied with all the gear including flies and lunch. We started fishing in "Geritol Cove" just around the corner to the right of the boat ramp. We spent most of the morning at the far, shallow end of the cove, getting into fish in the sixteen-inch range with a few twenty-inch ones thrown in for good measure. We were using Milt's Black Bird Nest Nymphs and some Olive Woolly Buggers. At mid-day we fished around the rock coves near Plumas Pines. We were hooking much bigger fish there. David landed a beautiful twenty-seven-inch rainbow weighing about seven pounds on Milt's Pond Smelt Fly. After a nice picture, he released the fish to fight another day. We had a good day with Milt and finished fishing around 2 PM.

27-inch Almanor trout

Sunday is not a good day to fish Geritol Cove because it gets pretty crowded, so we fished near Plumas Pines. Fishing was slow for us. We quit early for lunch and a nap. Late in the afternoon we went exploring around Butt Lake. None of the campgrounds were open and very few people were fishing the lake. We parked near the road and took our float tubes over near the river inlet below the powerhouse. We finned our way up to the end of the peninsula. We had to share the area with a spin fisherman who was casting out about a hundred feet of line with a Rapalla lure. His line was submerged most of the time, so our floating lines had some chances on the surface. I hooked and landed three fish on the Pond Smelt fly. The biggest was a nineteen-inch football rainbow. David had a mishap with one of his fins and also got pretty wet stepping into some deep water. We decided to quit, since it was getting dark.

Chernobyl Ant fly

Early Monday morning we got to the hardware store for a bolt, washers, and nut to repair David's fin. Then we were off to Geritol Cove, which was almost empty of fishermen. We had it mostly to ourselves for the first couple of hours. David fished the far end and got into a nice school of fish. He caught fifteen fish sixteen- to eighteen-inches long, making for a nice morning of fishing on any lake. I spent the morning working around the whole cove, especially on the surface with a large Chernobyl Ant. When fished to create a commotion on the surface, the Chernobyl Ant gets a lot of strikes from large fish. I landed a nice nineteen-inch brown trout and a few others. We finished about 2 PM for lunch and another nap. That evening, I planned to watch the football game and tie flies, which I usually did each evening. David went back to the Canyon boat ramp area and fished to the left of the ramp until the moon came up. He landed a few nice trout and a monster eighteen-inch smallmouth bass that gave him one heck of a fight. He was sorry he had left his hand scale in his van.

large smallmouth bass

Eagle and Davis Lakes Disappoint,
But Frenchman Lake Is A Dream-Come-True!

Tuesday, we were off to Eagle Lake with Milt Jensen. We fished with Milt until early afternoon. The lake was socked in with fog until late morning. Fishing was very slow because the wind was not blowing at all. By 2 PM we said goodbye to Milt and made our way to a motel in Spaulding on the north side of the lake. Fishing was slow at Eagle because the wind was down for the two days we fished there. We did get a few fish around the tules. Eagle Lake rainbows are very beautifulundefinedusually largeundefinedfish. We visited Jay Fair and his son Glenn, and they both suggested that we stop by Frenchman Lake on our way to Davis Lake. That turned out to be a great suggestion. We took off from Eagle a day early to try Frenchman.

We got to Frenchman in the late morning, meeting a gentleman from Reno who was just getting off the water. He had caught thirty trout and gave us one of the flies that was working well. He suggested that we talk to another fellow already on the lake, whose name was Mike Reid.

Woolly Bugger fly

Mike had already caught fifty fish that morning on the same fly. He called it "Steve's Woolly Bugger" (a pattern by Steve Churchfield, a Reno FF Club member). It had an olive marabou tail, small olive chenille body with very sparse orange dyed grizzly hackle (one side of feather with hackle stripped off), with gold wire ribbing over hackle to secure it. This fly was deadly. While tying this fly later at our hotel, I found that I didn't have any small olive chenille. I used spun peacock herl for the body, and it worked just as well. Fishing in two to five feet of water with a slow sink line, this fly really brought in the fish. Most of the trout at Frenchman are in the fourteen- to sixteen-inch range. David did catch a nice twenty-four-inch rainbow that first afternoon. Mike said it was the largest fish he had seen caught at Frenchman, and he fishes the lake about fifty times a year. It's a short trip for him from his home in Reno.

The next morning we were scheduled to meet Jon Baiocchi, our guide for Davis Lake. As we motored out to the area where he wanted to start fishing, we trolled a few flies. We landed four fish just getting to the fishing area. The wind was not blowing at all. It was "dead calm". It turns out this is the nemesis of most of the fly fishing on Davis and Eagle Lakes. With the water so clear and calm, it is easy to spook the fish. The only fish we caught that day were on trolled flies as we went from place to place around the lake. We had planned to fish Davis Lake for the next two days, but we decided to go back to Frenchman instead. We told Jon about the action at Frenchman the day before. He told us if the wind didn't come up on Davis, we might see him there the next day or two, as well.

Buggers and Beetles Score Big

The last two days of fishing at Frenchman Lake for us were what dreams are made of. I had tied about a dozen "Steve's Woolly Buggers" for us to use. We each caught about thirty fish each day on that fly. We kept a few fish to cook for supper at our motel. On our last day, David tried a Black Beetle in the very shallow part of the lake. The trout went nuts over it. I borrowed the Black Beetle after David had used it for a while. During the next hour-and-a-half I hooked and landed seventeen more trout on that Black Beetle. A little block of red or orange foam on its back allows one to see it on the water. Again, making a big commotion with the fly brings the big strikes. Jon did turn up at Frenchman to run his dog. He fished from shore, wading out and casting a brown snail pattern. He did very well.

black beetle fly

What a way to finish off our October fishing trip! It was our "Octoberfest" of trout fishing. David proved to me again that he is one of the best fly fishermen in our club. During these past two years his casting has really improved and, with it, his ability to catch fish. He is also a great buddy to fish with. [ed. note: since David fishes about 367 days a year, one would hope he'd get good at it!]

Wanna Go?

We already have plans and reservations to do our "Octoberfest" again this year (2003). We take off on the 8th of October and get back on the 20th. First leg, Oct 8th–11th, is to Portola to fish Frenchman and possibly Davis. Then on to Eagle, Oct. 12–15th. We have Jay Fair booked at Eagle for the 13th. We finish our trip at Almanor and Butt from Oct. 16th–19th and come home on the 20th. Anyone interested in joining us, just give me a call at 650-342-6434 or . Tight Lines!

brown trout
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