Fly Fishing California Stillwaters: the Best Trout Lakes

By Bill Sunderland

Much-needed guide on where to find some of the biggest trout in Ca. Not only details where to go, how to get there & what to use, but is an excellent primer on stillwater fishing. How to fish a lake, equip to use, bugs & their imitations. Includes 113 lakes & detailed maps on how to get there. 108 full-color photos, 16 maps; 11x8 inches, 130 pgs.


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ISBN: 0-9708576-3-2

EAN: 978-0-9708576-3-7

Binding: Softcover

Publish Date: 15/07/2001

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Introduction Page 8
Chapter 1: Wild Trout Page 10
Chapter 2: How to Fish a Lake Page 12
Chapter 3: On the Water Page 16
Chapter 4: Bugs and Their Imitations Page 23
Northern California
Chapter 5: The Alturas Area Page 28
Chapter 6: Stone Lagoon and Big Lagoon Page 38
Chapter 7: Lewiston Lake and Grass Valley Creek Reservoir Page 44
Chapter 8: The Redding Area Page 50
Chapter 9: Big Lake, Eastman Lake, and Baum Lake Page 58
Chapter 10: Eagle Lake Page 64
The Northern Sierra Nevada
Chapter 11: The Lake Almanor Area Page 72
Chapter 12: Lake Davis and Frenchman Lake Page 82
Chapter 13: The Lakes Basin Page 88
Chapter 14: The Truckee Area Page 92
The Eastern Slope of the Sierra Nevada
Chapter 15: The Markleeville Area Page 98
Chapter 16: The Bridgeport Area Page 108
Chapter 17: The Mammoth Lakes Area Page 114
One for the Road
Chapter 18: Indian Valley Reservoir Page 122
Index: Page 126

EXCERPTS: Book Introduction Chapter

The inclination of most fly-line anglers in California is to fish moving water. That’s a shame, because there are bigger trout in this state’s lakes and reservoirs.

It’s all very logical. Trout in stillwaters don’t have to work as hard fighting currents as those in streams and rivers. Many lakes are extremely rich in insect life, not to mention minnows, so there is plenty of food for trout. The result: In the best of the California lakes, trout just cruise around slurping up food and getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

So why are you still fishing for small trout in small streams? Don’t answer that! I do it, too, and thoroughly enjoy small-stream fishing. But there comes a time in the life of a serious angler, fly-line aficionado or not, when catching big fish becomes important. My intention in this book is to give you the basics of how to do it and to tell you where the best public stillwater fly fishing for trout in California can be found.

Picking the best fishing depends on much more than just the angling. There’s the scenery, the atmosphere of the area, all the things that go together to make up the experience. Then there are my own biases, which, despite efforts to be nonjudgmental, certainly creep into what I write. It’s hard to forget a great day on a specific body of water, even when that water is not usually so generous to anglers.

And there is the question of how to determine the best of anything. It is only fair that you should know the general guidelines that we—photographer Rick E. Martin and I—used to pick what lakes to write about and photograph.

First, it is hard for me to get excited about put-and-take lakes that offer nothing more than stocked hatchery trout. However, in many cases, stocked trout are the base for what becomes a fine fishery. Davis, Eagle, and Crowley Lakes are examples. Some of these planted trout are able to survive for years, growing steadily larger, so although they may have started life in a concrete pen, they flourish in the wild to become wily monsters that are tough to catch.

In other lakes, trout, stocked or wild, may have access to feeder streams that allow spawning. Often there isn’t enough breeding habitat to keep a healthy trout population by itself, but it does guarantee a good mixture of hatchery and wild trout for the angler.

Another criterion is access. There are some fine lakes for hiking anglers, but this book sticks to stillwaters that for the most part can be reached by road. There are exceptions, such as Kirman Lake, that require some hiking, but even these bodies of water don’t demand a strenuous, multiday, or even multihour journey to and fro. However, when reporting on specific areas, in some cases we do mention the best of the hike-in lakes in the vicinity. It’s up to you whether you want to try them.

Then there is the question of size and depth. Realistically, big, deep lakes generally aren’t the best bet for fly-line anglers. Sure, there are lots of trout in Lake Shasta and Lake Tahoe, and under certain circumstances and at certain times of year, they can be caught on a fly. But why spend time dredging difficult water when within an hour’s drive of either lake there is first-rate stillwater fishing?

The same holds true for the many reservoirs that grace the foothills of the Central Valley. They have trout, but except for the spring or fall, when the fish usually are in the shallows, the trout hold deep because of the hot temperatures that warm the surface water. Now if you want to fish for bass.but that’s another book.
Geography also plays a role. There isn’t much in the way of trout fishing in Southern California. Nor is the west slope of the Sierra Nevada as productive as the nutrient-rich east slope. The logical result: The best trout lakes for the most part are in Northern California and on the east slope of the Sierra.

Last of all, I blushingly admit that I don’t know everything about every trout lake in California. Numerous first-rate fly fishers, some of them guides, some of them just folks who love to fish, have been invaluable in providing information for this book. Even when dealing with lakes that I know well and have fished for years, I quizzed other anglers who fish them regularly. In some cases, these anglers are quoted by name, particularly when their name is synonymous with a body of water, like Jay Fair and Eagle Lake. Not only is it proper to give them credit, but it also gives you, the reader, a chance to hear what they say about the lake in their own words. Interested? Then come join the hunt for big fish in California Stillwaters.

Bill Sunderland has been a fly-fisherman since he learned the sport from his father in Idaho a half-century ago. He's been a journalist/writer almost that long, serving as a foreign correspondent, political writer, editor and newspaper owner/publisher before concentrating his writing on fishing.

He is author of three books on fly fishing, including (with Dale Lackey)
California Blue Ribbon Trout Streams, Fly Fishing the Sierra Nevada and the just-published Fly Fishing California Stillwaters. Sunderland retired as outdoor columnist for the San Jose Mercury News in 1995 and now is a regular contributor to California Fly Fisher and other magazines. He also is a guide for Fishabout, a fly-fishing travel agency in Los Gatos, leading tours to the Amazon, Argentina and Costa Rica, among other places.

Sunderland lives in Shelter Cove on California's Lost Cost, where when not traveling he spends as much time as weather allows fishing in the ocean.

Additional information

Weight0.7875 lbs
Dimensions8.5 × 0.4 × 11 in


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