Eagle Lake bite can be hot and cold
December 2, 2008
When possible, I try to check with more than one source for fishing reports. This is especially true with professional guides and tackle shops on some of the state’s more popular waters.
Last weekend I received two very different reports from Eagle Lake. Both the reporters were professional guides who had been on the lake during the week.
The first report came from a very good guide/fisherman I have known for a couple years. His forte is trolling with flies, both long-lining and at depth with downriggers. He lives in Susanville and all his guiding is on Eagle Lake.
Throughout the 2008 season he consistently produced early limits of trout for his clients. His typical trip was to put the first fish per rod in the box at first light, then catch and release until late morning, returning to the dock with two fish limits by noon.
His report this past week said the bite was off. He had the toughest days of this year and was only able to produce the requisite limits for his clients by fishing hard into the early afternoon to scratch out two fish per rod.
The second report came from Brian Roccucci of Big Daddy’s Guide Service. Brian said he had his best day ever on Eagle Lake, where he has been guiding for many years. He guided three consecutive days for a party of four anglers. The highest fish count was the second day when the four fly anglers hooked up 80 trout and landed 67.
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The difference between the two reports came down to where they went fishing.
Brian’s clients were fly anglers who wanted to fish from the bank. They hired the guide primarily as a taxi service and fish spotter. The weather was calm with the lake surface like glass for the first day and a half. The plan was to move from point to point by boat and sight fish in the shallows.
The trout were in very shallow water. The most productive bottom terrain was the seam where the rocky bottom adjoined a sandy area, close to a shoreline point. The anglers would move along the bank until they spotted cruising trout and cast out to them. With the glassy surface conditions, the fish were out in water waist deep.
The truly phenomenal fishing occurred midday when they were casting and catching fish from a school of feeding trout. A breeze came up, putting a chop on the water and 6-inch waves breaking on the shore. The broken surface and wave action brought the fish right to the shore where they were biting anything that resembled food. It was during this feeding frenzy that the incredible numbers were racked up.
They switched from casting out from shore to casting parallel to the bank. The anglers used a variety of flies, all of which seemed to be effective. Most of the flies were variations on wooly buggers in the usual shades of brown, black or olive. The trout were recklessly feeding and the anglers were hooking up on almost every cast. It was one of those magic days when everything converges and your “skill” as an angler is confirmed.
The point of this story is that there were two different reports about the same lake on the same day. We all go fishing with basic assumptions and a limited tackle selection. The first guide was not aware of the location of the feeding fish. He spent his time fishing where the trout were not feeding. He was not equipped to fish close to the shore while trolling. His slow day of fishing was based on his assumptions and tackle.
The second guide had clients equipped to fish close to shore. The fish happened to be there at that time and they had one of those trips that will be described as the “Good Old Days” when Eagle Lake really fished well. Had the food source been 50 yards off shore, the results would have been reversed.
My two basic fishing assumptions are, A: We have these fish trapped in the lake and they have nowhere else to go, and, B: If they don’t eat they will starve.
From these starting assumptions I have developed three corollaries confirmed by this story: Spend more time fishing, try more places and get more tackle.
– Denis Peirce writes a weekly fishing column for The Union, the Sierra Sun’s sister paper in Grass Valley. He may be reached at email@example.com.