Independence Lake provides heat relief, good fishing |

Independence Lake provides heat relief, good fishing

The recent heat wave has me looking for recreation at high elevations. A consistent weather correlation exists between triple digit air temps in the valley and thundershowers in the Sierra.

I had been watching the thunderheads build every afternoon and promised myself that I would drive up on Sunday and get underneath one of those clouds to cool off.

My son has been lobbying for a fishing trip, so I chose to go up to Independence Lake north of Truckee. We were joined by Rick Aeschliman from Nevada City.

Independence is at 7,000 feet elevation surrounded by ridges above 8,000 feet. In addition to being a good candidate for summer thundershowers, Independence is also a good fishery. The primary sport fish is Lahontan Cutthroat trout.

But the lake also is home to brook trout, brown trout and Kokanee salmon. The cutthroats are protected, so the California Department of Fish and Game requires no bait and releasing all cutthroat trout.

My plan was to arrive midday at the lake so that we would be fishing under cloud cover with a breeze in the afternoon. I thought that this would have the fish feeding near the surface where we could get at them with flies.

The reason Independence has so little fishing pressure is that it is at the end of a five-mile rough dirt road. Shore fishing is tough due to the trees right on the water’s edge.

A boat is the ticket for accessing good fishing. A small car top or trailer boat is much more practical than some of the larger boats you see on the larger reservoirs. If you do not cover your boat, it will be dusted with a fine powder during the trip in.

But once you get there, it is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Sierra. It is the size and shape of Donner Lake but 1,000 feet higher.

My expectation of poor fishing during the sunny hours followed by excellent fishing during the extended evening conditions did not play out. Our best fishing came while the sun was on the water.

We trolled the zone where the shallows drop off into deep water. We used a variety of trolling flies and my son was casting a spoon toward shore. We did well on cutthroats with both techniques, with most fish in the 16- to 18-inch range.

The catch-and-release rules have succeeded in producing a quality fishery of this lake. Last season, our best fish was 25 inches long. We did well with Arctic Fox Trolling Flies that were imitations of tui chub and redside minnow. A hot-orange fly also produced. We took a brook trout and a Kokanee, but these were small specimens compared to the cutthroats. These are the same fish that are in Pyramid Lake.

We took a lunch break at the creek that feeds into the lake. The U.S. Geological Survey had a fish survey team tagging spawning cutthroat. They are seeing signs of a good spawn due to the high creek levels. High water levels keep the ospreys from taking as many fish as they do in low-water years.

Denis Peirce writes a weekly fishing column for The Union, the Sierra Sun’s sister paper in Grass Valley. Reach him at

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