The first time, I was talking to Gena. I was half paying attention to her, half paying attention to my rig…LOL! When the strike came, I set, but a beat late. I felt the hook grab for an instant and then the fish was gone.
The second strike came a while after I’d decided the first strike was the only one I was likely to get.
I felt the grab distinctly, but since I was just going through the motions, I set the hook woefully late. Fish 2, Cal 0…
Two dozen casts later and the fish were really jumping out in front of me and a light breeze had swirled onto the scene rumpling the surface just a bit. Hmmmm this looks good!
Now I was focused, casting the fly and bubble rig far off shore. When it touched down I’d slow crank the rig back my way with little pulses of the reel handle to give the No. 10 black woolly bugger just a bit of dip and dart movement. The rod tip was positioned to strike and my eye never left the bobber, tracing its progress for every foot of the retrieve looking for early indication of a strike. And then it happened…
I saw a faint flash in the water and then the nearly submerged bubble twitched sharply to one side. Instinctively the rod came back in a big sidearm arch and I cranked the reel handle briskly.
A few rapid headshakes signaled the hook up and when the fish surged away on a mini-run I knew I had him. He wasn’t big, perhaps 10 inches in length. Yet catching that feisty little rainbow was satisfying. He’s started out as a fresh planter little more than a month ago and he’d already made the transition to feeding on natural forage in the form of hatching insects. The woolly bugger was just a buggy looking target of opportunity…
We stayed another half hour or so after I released the rainbow, but nothing else came knocking so we headed back to town for dinner and an evening in front of the wood burning stove. I’m confident that I were fishing seriously, fishing for blood as I like to say, that I could have gone home with a limit of frying size ‘bows that day.
With the Thanksgiving food fest barely 48 hours behind us and rain in the forecast, Gena and I wanted to get outside.
“I don’t want to go too far, but I wouldn’t mind going on a little drive,” Gena told me the day before.
“I don’t want to go to French Meadows, it’s too far, but I don’t want to go down to Folsom either because I’d rather be up in the mountains,” she continued.
Well living in Foresthill, the only water that sounded as if it might fill the bill was Sugar Pine Reservoir and that put me on the path to the energetic trout I just described catching.
Sugar Pine was a was a perfect choice. We only wanted to fish for a couple hours. Its close proximity allowed for a late start and we didn’t hit the road for the lake until around noon.
What we found was a beautiful reservoir, framed by a pine forest. There was plenty of water in the lake and the trout were enthusiastic. I love Sugar Pine! It’s always been a reliable producer for me!
Right now, there are a ton of lakes both large and small dotting central and northern California that are offering up solid trout fishing for both bank anglers and trollers. The action will continue until water temperatures get really frigid or until big rain muddies the water.
Here’s the bottom line…If you want to catch some trout over the next month or so, you’ve got a lot of dandy options to choose from. I’ll toss out some of the best destinations as fodder for your imagination.
For a lot of folks living in the valley and foothills, Collins Lake and Lake Amador are top destinations. Both lakes are teaming with big hard fighting rainbows. Plus both lakes boast great facilities and easy access.
At Collins, trollers will want to pull Rapalas and Kastmasters, while bankies should soak PowerBait, Zeke’s Sierra Gold and inflated worms.
Amador trollers will prosper pulling flies and Berkeley Power Grubs. The bank fishing set will want to soak Power Eggs or Power Bait. Woolly buggers and other flies teamed with clear plastic water bobbers can pay off handsomely too.
Moving south, New Melones continues to be a real powerhouse for rainbows up to and beyond 6 pounds. Boaters are hooking up and will continue hooking up while pulling shad imitating hardware in the form of spoons, minnow plugs and small crankbaits.
Melones bank anglers can take a passive approach and soak dough baits and worms for limits and near limits of trout.
For the more adventurous, hiking and plugging is the way to go. Rig one spinning rod with a shad imitating spoon like a hefty Kastmaster, large Hum Dinger or Krocodile and a second rod with a water bobber and fly. Olive colored flies traditionally work well at Melones.
Up north, if you are willing to fork out some cash for a guided trip, the wild rainbow fishing on the Sacramento between Redding and Red Bluff is absolutely fantastic right now. There are some big hard charging steelhead in the mix too.
Just above Redding, Lake Shasta is offering fair to good trout fishing for trollers pulling shad imitating spoons and the spotted bass fishing is excellent.
During the late fall and winter, drifting live minnows beneath a slip bobber provides great sport at Shasta because you simply don’t know what you’re going to catch. When that bobber goes down it could be a rainbow knocking, a spotted bass, a big crappie or even a channel cat!
East of the North Valley, the fishing at Almanor was slow as of press time, but master guide Bryan Roccucci of Big Daddy’s Guide Service expects things to improve in short order.
“It can be cold at Almanor at this time of the year, but this is when we score well power trolling just under the surface with minnow plugs and various spoons. The nice thing about Almanor during the late fall is that you know most of the fish that you’re going to hook are going to be in the 3 to 4 pound class and larger. I think we’ll see the bite at Almanor come back on track within a week or so,” said Roccucci.
For folks in and around the wine country, the rainbow bite has been off the hook at Lake Berryessa. Big ‘bows to 5 pounds are chomping on shad. As a result, trollers pulling spoons have been routinely rounding up trout to 4 plus pounds and from what I hear the fish are fighting like demons!
Wrapping up, we can’t overlook the urban and semi-urban trout fishing that you find in an around the San Francisco Bay area. Top destinations for dough soakers and spoon tossers include Lake Del Valle, Lake Chabot, Shadow Cliffs Reservoir and Los Vaqueros Reservoir out toward the Delta.
The fact of the matter is, that no matter where your live, there are rainbow trout waiting to wiggle your rod within close proximity. Get out there and get after them!