View Full Version : Big Adventure to Mostly NorCal

Natural Lefty
06-22-2010, 03:46 PM
Here is the abridged (but still long) version of my recent trip northward. We didn't catch any big fish, but had lots of good fishing and good times. I decided it fit best in the NorCal section, even though we fished one day in Oregon, and also fished the Eastern Sierra some.

Starting on June 11, My wife Eunice and I spent our vacation driving our new Honda Fit northward on a fishing and sightseeing trip.

The first two days, we wound up (to my surprise) driving all the way to Portland, Oregon.

On June 13, we finally got to go fishing. We headed toward Mt. Hood on state highway 26, and when Mt. Hood was looming large in front of us, and we found a place called The Flyfishing Shop. I asked the employees where a good place to catch trout in the area was, without necessarily flyfishing, and they told me Trillium Lake, up the road about 15 miles, was good. I also asked about the trout limit, and they said you could keep 5 of them. They also told me that anyone could fish for free that day, even out-of-staters. We made it to Trillium Lake in good order, and there were numerous people fishing, but not catching much except for a few stocker Rainbow Trout. However, I saw some fish surfacing in the lake. As I walked along the dam, I noticed an outlet creek which poured out of the lake over the top of some metal tubes. There was a large pool on the outlet, so I went down there to take a look. Wow! The place was full of fish, albeit small ones, and they had a Cutthroat-like appearance. We started fishing in the lake first, and since fish were surfacing, I tried using a bobber and fly setup. I soon hooked a small fish, which had a reddish, Cutthroat Trout like appearance in the water, but somehow, it got the line stuck in the rocks near shore and broke off. After that, I headed down to the big pool on the creek. Since it was surrounded by trees, I decided to cast a tiny, 1/80 ounce red and white minijig there, on 2 pound line. As soon as I did so, it was attacked by hordes of small fish. Soon, I caught one, which was indeed a Cutthroat Trout. It had red slashes under its throat, red fins, and was heavily spotted on a bronzish background. My first Oregon fish ever was a native Cutthroat -- how cool! After that, I must have caught about 20 more of them, all Cutthroats. I did not take any pictures of these little beauties, but they appeared to be Coastal Cutthroats, even though this was in the mountains. They resemble the picture of coastal Cutthroats in my California fishing regulations booklet, as well as other photos of them, except that they are more reddish in appearance, probably due to their being landlocked. After a while, I invited Eunice to join the fun, and handed the pole to her. She caught her first Cutthroat Trout ever there, and we ended up keeping 4 of the larger ones, which were around 7 inches. (Most of the fish were about 5-6 inches.) Yesterday, I found out that many streams in Oregon have a 2 fish limit, with lures-only regulations. Fortunately, we adhered to those regulations by accident. However, if I broke any Oregon regulations, I apologize to the state of Oregon. It was not through lack of effort that I was not familiar with their regulations; I asked for them in 3 separate places with no luck.

After leaving Trillium Lake, we had a long, beautiful drive southward all the way to Klamath Falls. Eunice cooked the Cutthroats in the electric cooking pan that we brought with us, and they were even more delicious than expected, though on the small side.

The next day, I wanted to go to Copco Lake, which Eunice and I had fished for Yellow Perch back in the 1990s. Copco Lake and Iron Gate Reservoir, downstream from Copco Lake, are pretty much the only Yellow Perch fisheries in California, and I figured we could use up our old nightcrawlers there and catch lots of fish. It was a long drive to Copco, which involved travelling west on a nearly deserted highway virtually surrounded by wildflowers, but we finally found our way there. Copco Lake was beautiful, rocky and volcanic. There were numerous private houses by the lake, some with people present, but there was virtually no one fishing or exploring there aside from us. Eventually, I decided to stop near the bridge which crosses the lake near where the Klamath River enters the lake. I had read a couple of articles about fishing in that area in recent years which indicated that the size of the perch had increased, plus there were some large trout in the area which sometimes bit for people who were perch fishing. Before when we were there, the perch grew no larger than about 7 inches or so, but the internet stories I read talked about catching lots of 8-11 inch perch. The truth, at least for us, was somewhat in between. The Yellow Perch were still present in huge numbers, and hungry. We must have caught over 50 of them. Eunice actually caught more of them than I did. She definitely had her perch catching technique working. The larger ones seemed somewhat larger than last time, but not much larger. We caught 5 or 6 of them which were 8 inches long, with the rest smaller. We wound up keeping 11 perch, and released the rest. We fished until we ran out of worms. I found a few dead worms in one worm box, but put them on the hook anyway, and we even caught fish on those. No trout bit, though. After fishing, we drove to a Motel 6 in Red Bluff in the northern Sacramento Valley, which was adjacent to our next turnoff, arriving there around 9 p.m.

On Tuesday, we headed east from Red Bluff, with the idea of going to the Lassen area, and spending several days staying in Susanville and fishing around there. To make a long story short, we tried several places in that area on tuesday and wednesday, including Silver Lake and its outlet, and Eagle Lake, plus checking out the Susan River, Pine Creek and McCoy Flat Reservoir, without so much as a nibble.

Wednesday afternoon, we decided to really give up on the Susanville area and head south. My new plan was to head to the Gold Lakes Basin, which I had never been to before, then stay at a nearby motel. The place I really wanted to go to was Sardine Lakes, which we found our way to after brief stops at Gold Lake and Salmon Lake on the way. These lakes are actually at a relatively low elevation, actually only about 5,800 feet or so, I think, and are supposed to have good fishing for both Brook Trout and Rainbow Trout. When we got there, it turns out that the parking lot for Sardine Lakes said something like "Sand Pond Picnic Area," so I decided to try fishing in Sand Pond. Fishing there turned out great. While Eunice waited for me to check out the fishing, I caught a limit of 8-10 plus inch Brook Trout within about 1/2 hour from Sand Pond, on worms under a bobber. There were also lots of fish surfacing, so I tried a Black Knat fly, but only had one strike on it. After I had caught my limit, I went back to the car and told Eunice that it was her turn. With her, we tried Sand Pond briefly, but she was having trouble hooking the fish, so we headed for the main branch of Sardine Creek, where the Brook Trout also turned out to be cooperative on worms, and she "caught her limit" there with some help from me. All 10 Brook Trout were caught between about 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., and no Rainbow Trout were seen. We loved Sardine Lakes, and in my opinion, it was the find of the trip. In addition, Eunice told me she wants to stay at the resort which is next to where we parked, in the future.

As it turns out, Eunice had plans to head farther than I did that evening. She kept changing my route by telling me where to go, and we wound up at King's Beach at the north end of Lake Tahoe after 10 p.m. Unfortunately, most of the motel owners appeared to have already gone to sleep. We finally found one motel employee that was responsive to us, so we rented a room there. We had a dinner of delicious pink-meated Brook Trout, and a breakfast, and another dinner of them, from our trip to Sardine Lakes. The fish we caught there appeared to be wild fish. Although the lakes are stocked with fish, the ones we caught were from below the lakes, where no stocking probably takes place.

On Thursday, we wound up at the house of my brother, Bruce, who lives at South Lake Tahoe, after a biteless trip to the public fishing pier at Donner Lake. At least I got to see Donner Lake for the first time. We basically wound up hanging around that evening with my brother's family. Bruce and Rosalie's older daughter Branda was talking excitedly about going fishing, and showing us her Ugly Stick fishing pole which resembled ours closely. Friday, June 18, we had a plan to fish some of the places where Eunice and I had success trout fishing last year without the kids, but this time, bringing the kids to fish with us. After going to K-Mart to buy a Barbie Pole for Bruce and Rosalie's younger daughter, Beverly, the first stop was supposed to be Caples Creek (also called Woods Creek on some maps), below Woods Lake. However, after turning onto the Woods Lake road, we drove about 1/2 mile with piles of snow lining the road, until there was an SUV parked in the middle of the road in front of us. In front of the SUV was a large pile of snow covering the road, so cars could go no further. This was only about 8,000 feet above sea level -- simply amazing.

After that, we went to Plan B, which was the creek where I caught my personal best trout last year. As it turns out, that creek had been transformed into a raging torrent. Even with fairly large weights on our lines, the line was being pushed downstream and into snags. Despite this, one of my nieces apparently had a bite, and I think I saw one small fish, but that was it, fishwise. Then it was on to Plan C, which was Caples Lake by the auxilliary dam. Getting to the fishing spot involved walking through some snow banks. It was shady there, and the wind was blowing heavily in our faces, so it felt really cold there. Despite this, the fishing was not bad there. We saw several stocker-type Rainbows caught by other fisherpeople, and eventually, I caught a Brown Trout, and Eunice caught a Rainbow there, both on worms, but the girls weren't able to catch any. I so wanted Beverly to catch a fish on her Barbie Pole, too! Eventually, we got so cold that we all decided to leave. On the way back, Eunice and I decided to stop on the main dam at Caples Lake to fish the creek below the lake, where we had good fishing for Brown Trout last year. The stream was fuller this year, but it was still fishable. However, we weren't able to catch anything in the creek this time. Eunice did have 2 bites, however.

On June 19, we decided to take the girls someplace where we thought they definitely would be able to catch fish. We settled on Bluegill fishing at "Elliot's House" on the Tahoe Keys. Actually, Branda's friend Elliot and his family had already moved out of the house, but the house was unoccupied, and Bruce decided it would be okay to fish from the dock there. At first, I didn't see any fish there, but after a moment, several Bluegills showed up. They almost seemed to be looking at us as though they were expecting us to feed them. Once we obliged, more Bluegills appeared and started swarming the girls' baits. Branda kept saying something like "These Bluegills don't like my worm. They keep biting it but don't get on the hook" -- silly girl! Before long, they started catching Bluegills. Clearly, our efforts last year to rid the keys of these alien fish were unsuccessful. While I rationed the worms to the girls, I casted a small jig into the lake, which soon got clobbered by a better size fish which turned out to be a large Tui Chub. My brother was really happy to see that, since they are a native species, and my brother is involved in protecting native fish in the area. He said that was the largest Tui Chub he had ever seen. It was about 9-10 inches long, but they are usually much smaller. As it turned out, I caught 6 Tui Chubs, all on the jig, and Branda caught a really large one on a piece of nightcrawler, too. We didn't catch any Tui Chub last year at the same spot. We also caught about 12 Bluegills among us. Branda and Beverly caught several fish apiece. Beverly's Barbie Pole worked well there, as did Branda's Ugly Stick. They kept saying stuff like "fishing is fun" while we were there. The male Bluegills were about 7 inces long and in spawning colors, while the females were about 6 inches long and full of eggs. We ended up keeping 10 or 11 Bluegills, which we filleted and fried that afternoon. Eunice also convinced Bruce to let her keep one Tui Chub, which she wanted to try. Did I mention that Eunice is a wee bit eccentric? Anyway, she is Chinese, and the Chinese like eating Carp, so why not Tui Chub?

Sunday morning, Branda and Beverly kept asking us to take them fishing again, but we said we really needed to go home. On the way home, we did take one side trip to Virginia Lakes, since I had told Eunice about fishing there, but she had never been there. As it turns out, where the road turned to dirt for the last little bit to Big Virginia Lake, Eunice said that "good boy" (our little Honda Fit car) didn't want to go there, but that other, paved road was okay. That other road went to Little Virginia Lake, which is below the bigger lake. We wound up fishing near the boat launch area at Little Virginia Lake for a couple of hours, and fishing was reasonably good there. We lost lots of bites, I kept being preoccupied with snags, tying new lines, etc. but managed to catch two 8-10 inch Brown Trout, and Eunice, one small, 7 inch wild Rainbow, all on worms. I was surprised that we didn't catch any Brook Trout there, though, based on previous reports from there. Strangely, I had never fished Little Virginia Lake before, although I have fished in the Virginia Lakes drainage many times before. I think I will go there again. Anyway, considering how snowy it was at Little Virginia Lake, which is at 9,300 feet I think, the place I had wanted to go at 9,900 feet was probably still snowed in. It has definitely been a wet, snowy year in the western U.S. Bruce told me that it kept snowing in Tahoe until the end of May, which explains the cold, snowy condtions around there.

After leaving Little Virginia Lake, it basically was a long drive home. We even ate leftover food in the car. We finally arrived here at about 10:30 p.m. Sunday evening, where we were glad to see that all was well, including our 3 cats. (The youngest one is just a kitten, a little calico girl which we have only had few a few weeks.)

It was a super trip with my female fishing buddies, although no bragging size fish were caught. Interestingly, although I think I caught over 30 trout during the trip, not a single one was a Rainbow. I usually target other species, and prefer to catch non-stockers over stockers, but usually catch at least a few stockers, holdover or wild Rainbows. Species caught on the trip included: Cutthroat Trout (Coastal variety), Brook Trout, Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout (by my wife), Yellow Perch, Bluegills, Tui Chub, a little Largemouth Bass by my niece Beverly at Tahoe Keys, and a small unidentified chub-type fish with a horizontal black stripe which I caught at Sand Pond.

We also got lots of sightseeing and picture taking in. On the way home, Eunice said she had gotten tired of seeing pine trees, mountains and snow, but I never got tired of that. Anyway, we are back to the the hot, brown hillsides and civilization of summer in Moreno Valley now.

06-22-2010, 04:14 PM
Great read. Cool trip . Thanks for sharing

Natural Lefty
06-22-2010, 04:16 PM
I attached some pictures from our trip here.

The first one shows Trillium Lake and Mt. Hood.

The next 3 show Eunice at Sardine Creek and a couple of the Brook Trout we caught there.

The fifth photo shows my nieces with the Brown Trout Branda netted for me at Caples Lake.

The next one is out of order, but shows Eunice throwing a snowball at me at Little Virginia Lake.

Picture number 7 shows the snowy scene at Salmon Lake.

The next to last one is out of order, and was taken at a fishing themed restaurant in Eugene, Oregon. I think the restaurant is called the Oak Tree Inn.

The final picture shows the second Brown Trout I caught at Little Virginia Lake. This one was actually smaller than the first one, but we only got a picture of this one.

Natural Lefty
06-22-2010, 04:23 PM
You are a fast reader, Troutman! I just added some pictures from the trip, too.

06-22-2010, 05:45 PM
NL, You write very well and I enjoy reading . I liked the pictures . Any of the Tui Chub ?

06-22-2010, 05:48 PM
Nice report...and nice pics.
Caples is one of my favorite lakes in the Sierras. I caught a 22 pound Mackinaw there in 2006 in a horrendous thunderstorm.

06-22-2010, 08:32 PM
amazing write up,.,.thats a super report, thanks for sharing the trip..

Natural Lefty
06-23-2010, 10:00 AM
Thank you, Troutman, Sierra Peaks, and Fishbones. My original report was about twice as long, but it had a lot of stuff about my brothers, our changes of itinerary, our long scenic drives, Eunice's volcanic rock collecting, and our car's vicisitudes (for example, it started honking when my wife got out of the car at Sand Pond), unsucessful fishing attempts, etc. I thought that extra stuff would be unnecessarily burdensome for a fishing website, so I went through it and cut out the non-fishing related stuff, and shortened the unsuccessful fishing parts, just mentioning that we tried but couldn't catch any at certain spots. The original report is on my blog site, though. We also took a total of 55 pictures, but I focused mostly on fishing ones for this site.

Sierra Peaks, wow! I have never caught anything like your 22 pound Mackinaw. I suppose you were fishing from a boat. I did catch 2 "small" ones from shore at a lake in Colorado two years ago. They were 15 and 16 inches long, and caught on a Krocodile lure. An interesting aside is that a teenager caught a Mackinaw (Lake Trout) about 15 inches long on a worm while I was at Donner Lake, from the public fishing pier. It was his first one, and he was really stoked about it. That was one of the details that I cut out of the original report, though.

Regarding the Tui Chub, we did not get any pictures of those, but they are not very attractive. They are monotone, brassy colored Chubs, which are in the same family as Carp, I think. My brother knows his native fish from his job at the State Water Quality Control Board, so he identified them for me. Part of his job is to help native fishes such as the Tui Chub. Also, he told me that he has caught them before. They are also found in Eagle Lake and Nevada's Pyramid Lake, I think, as well as some other places, but their numbers have gone down in Tahoe because of the iintroduction of non-native species. My brother told me that the Bass, Bluegills, etc. have now gotten out of the keys and spread to every shallow water environment in Tahoe, the same places that used to be the domain of the Tui Chub and the Lahontan Redsides.

My wife ate the Chub for lunch today, and gave me a piece, which didn't have any bones in it, and tasted good, better than Carp, or even stocker trout, IMHO, but not as good as "pinky trout." Today is my birthday, and I got to eat 2 pinky trout for lunch, which were the 2 Brown Trout from Little Virginia Lake. The smaller one had light pink meat, but the larger one was solid pink, like an Atlantic Salmon (tasted like one, too). They were the pinkest meated trout I have had from the Virginia Lakes basin, interestingly. :Smile: