Backcountry Brookies: Fly Fishing Seven Lakes Basin

Category:
Fly Fishing
Fall Fly Fishing
Backcountry
Fishing Report
Added Date:
Sunday, 15 Oct, 2006
Summary
Saturday's hike into the backcountry forced me to ask myself why I don't do this more often. In truth, it's been a far better year than most in terms of backcountry fishing, and I've gotten my feet wet in a couple small streams and a bunch of alpine lakes.
 
Content
Saturday's hike into the backcountry forced me to ask myself why I don't do this more often. In truth, it's been a far better year than most in terms of backcountry fishing, and I've gotten my feet wet in a couple small streams and a bunch of alpine lakes.

Fly fishing alpine lakes brook trout
Meet the backcountry brookie - the Official Char of the Trout Underground.

Still, Saturday's hike came at the expense of a trip or two on the Upper Sac, where the fish are apparently happily eating bugs, and for most, the calculus used to choose between 9" brook trout and big Upper Sac rainbows leans towards the river - especially if there isn't a lot of grunting and sweating involved getting there.

Regardless, Saturday morning found me loading my pack with a deflated float tube and enough gear to add 32 pounds to my already considerable tonnage. I was clearly looking at some work.


The hike in along the Pacific Crest Trail was payback enough; stunning views from both sides of the ridgeline, fall colors, and few signs of humanity (this last is hardly surprising - there are far easier places to catch brookies around here).

The Seven Lakes basin is small and heartbreakingly pretty, and making it even more attractive were the brook trout who ate my small wet flies within minutes of my arrival.

Brook trout and reflection (underwater)
A brookie underwater. Note the mirror image. Will the innovations at the Underground never end?

Later, when the midges came off in numbers and the rises grew frequent, I ran through the usual midge suspects before settling on a Palamino Midge, which worked to the point where it was shredded by better than a dozen brook trout and a Surprise Monster Bonus Fish - a 15" rainbow who put together a pair of sizzling runs.

Upper Seven Lake
Bonus trout! A 15" rainbow ate the midge. I have no idea where he came from.

Of course, if it was only about the fish, then I probably wouldn't be there. The backcountry is always beautiful, and the sense of that is only heightened by the isolation.

I heard one ATV, but saw no people and encountered no boom boxes, pushy fishermen, or those loud domestic disputes that seem part and parcel of campground life these days.

backcountry color
Fall in the backcountry. Oh, the suffering...

I even fished a rod with an unusual history - an 8' light-action 5wt fiberglass Steffen that was rolled in New Mexico, finished (poorly) in New York, bought online, broken the first time it was fished on the Upper Sac (last year this time), sent back to New Mexico for a new midsection, and then beautifully refinished by Rich Margiotta in Tennessee.

With all the traveling it had already experienced, it only seemed right to move it a little further up a mountain, along a trail, and down a ridge into a lake-filled basin.


After float tubing the lake for a couple hours, my lower body was cold and getting colder, and the last thing I needed was to freeze up my legs before the hike out.

So I got out and decided to warm up by hiking a hundred yards down to another smaller lake, and caught a pair of brookies there.

Right round that time (4:30), the temperature started dropping and some grey clouds rolled in, so I deflated the tube, re-packed my gear, and started the grunt up the ridge to the trail home.

backcountry fly fishing Upper Seven lake
Good-bye until next year? Maybe. This lake will be frozen all winter and a chunk of spring.


The colder weather only emphasized the warm, perfect weather I'd been enjoying, but with fall well underway, the window for any other backcountry fishing is starting to close.

There's still time, but a cold snap at altitude can really turn off the fish, and with the river calling, it's possible I've seen my last backcountry brookie of the year. See you somewhere, Tom Chandler.

Backcountry beautiful

hiking, PCT, brookie, brook trout
 
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Destinations
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Nestled in the north end of the Sacramento Valley, Shasta County and its three Cities - Redding, Anderson, and Shasta Lake - are 545 miles north of Los Angeles; 162 miles north of ... moreSacramento; 433 miles south of Portland, Oregon; and 592 miles south of Seattle, Washington.

In 2004, as an effort to increase tourism in the area, the Sundial Bridge, designed by world-renowned architectural designer Santiago Calatrava, was completed. The Sundial Bridge casts its gnomon shadow upon a dial to the north of the bridge accurately once a year during the Summer Solstice. With the objective of providing pedestrian access to the north and south of Turtle Bay Exploration Park, the Sundial Bridge has not only lived up to its purpose but has also become an icon for the City of Redding in the present day.

Redding is one of the best places to launch for Trophy Rainbow Trout & Trophy Steelhead Fishing in Northern California. A number of great rivers are within an easy drive and local guides can on any given day help you figure out where the fishing is great.

The Klamath river, Sacaramento river, Trinity River and the Feather river are all being frequented by local guides and fly fisher.
Fishing Waters
The American River watershed offers fishermen (and fisherwomen) a wide range of experiences, from fly-fishing in the clear streams of the Sierra Nevada to casting for steelhead in ... morethe lower American as it flows through Sacramento. The American River contains two main sections. The North Fork and the Lower American River

The North Fork of the American River is designated as a while trout water. Most of the North Fork flows through a deep canyon carved through metamorphic rock. It has a very rugged character with very steep slopes and a narrow bottom. Deep pools framed by sheer cliffs, waterfalls cascading from 40 to 70 feet, and benches, densely wooded with alder and willow are typical of the beauty found in the North Fork Canyon. The fishery is dominated by Rainbow trout, with an occasional Brown trout (the brown trout are usually lunkers!).

Fishing enthusiasts can choose from a number of trails to access the river canyon, most of them dropping steeply from the canyon rim down to the water. While visitation peaks in the summer, primarily driven by hikers/swimmers, late spring into mid-summer is typically the height of the boating season. The highest boatable reach is known as Generation Gap (12 miles), run by only the most experienced Class V boaters, which can only be accessed by a three-mile long walk. The next lower reach, known as Giant Gap (14 miles), is also Class V and is accessed by a two-mile hike down the Euchre Bar Trail. Although overnight camping permits are not required, if visitors want a campfire, they will need to obtain a fire permit.

The Lower American River is a short stretch of river, flowing through the city of Sacramento, is the most heavily used recreation river in California. It provides an urban greenway for trail and boating activities and is also known for its runs of steelhead trout and salmon.
Fishing Access Sites:
The Sacramento River is the principal river of Northern California in the United States, and is the largest river in California. Rising in the Klamath Mountains, near Mount Shasta ... more(in Siskiyou county), the river flows south for 445 miles, through the northern section (Sacramento Valley) of the Central Valley, before reaching the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta and San Francisco Bay. It forms a common delta with the San Joaquin River before entering Suisun Bay, the northern arm of San Francisco Bay. The river drains about 27,500 square miles, with an average annual runoff of 22 million acre-feet, in 19 California counties, mostly within a region bounded by the Coast Ranges and Sierra Nevada known as the Sacramento Valley, but also extending as far as the volcanic plateaus of Northeastern California.
The Truckee River is a stream in the U.S. states of California and Nevada. The river flows northeasterly and is 121 miles long. The Truckee is the sole outlet of Lake Tahoe and drains ... morepart of the high Sierra Nevada, emptying into Pyramid Lake in the Great Basin. Its waters are an important source of irrigation along its valley and adjacent valleys.

The Truckee River's source is the outlet of Lake Tahoe, at the dam on the northwest side of the lake near Tahoe City, California. It flows generally northeast through the mountains to Truckee, California, then turns sharply to the east and flows into Nevada, through Reno and Sparks and along the northern end of the Carson Range. At Fernley it turns north, flowing along the east side of the Pah Rah Range. It empties into the southern end of Pyramid Lake, a remnant of prehistoric Lake Lahontan, in northern Washoe County in the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation.

The Truckee River's endorheic drainage basin is about 3,060 square miles (7,900 km2), of which about 2,300 square miles (6,000 km2) are in Nevada. The Middle Watershed is regarded as the 15 miles (24 km) of river and its tributaries from Tahoe City in Placer County, through the Town of Truckee in Nevada County, to the state line between Sierra and Washoe counties. The major tributaries to the Truckee River in California from the Lake Tahoe outlet and heading downstream include: Bear Creek, Squaw Creek, Cabin Creek, Pole Creek, Donner Creek, Trout Creek, Martis Creek, Prosser Creek, the Little Truckee River, Gray Creek, and Bronco Creek. Major lakes and reservoirs in the California part of the watershed include Lake Tahoe, Donner Lake, Independence Lake, Webber Lake, Boca Reservoir, Stampede Reservoir, Prosser Creek Reservoir, and Martis Creek Reservoir. In the Lower Watershed, Steamboat Creek, which drains Washoe Lake, is the major tributary to the Truckee River.
Trips
$
300
-
$
400
/ Angler
Capacity:
1 - 2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
4 hours - 1 day
Enjoy a day fishing the Truckee River near Sierraville, California. With our extensive experience fishing the Truckee River, we have the vast knowledge needed to help you catch fish ... moreand have fun doing it. We specialize in guided trips for fishermen of all types from first-time anglers, to experts.
$
450
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
1 day
We fish the Lower Sac year-round for trout. We fish the river from drift boats, typically floating from 6 to 15 miles in a day. Although the nymph grab is good all year, the best times ... morefor consistent mid-day dry fly fishing are March-May and September-November. We also do a lot of swinging flies with lightweight spey rods. This is a great way to fish the shallow riffles.
$
325
-
$
450
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
4 hours - 8 hours
Fly Fishing the American River in Northern Califronia will leave even the most advanced fly fisherman wanting more. That is why a knowledgable American River Fly Fishing Guide will ... morenot only educate you on the river sytem and its species, but show you the ins and outs, when, where, why, how and with what. Whether you are swinging for steelhead on the Lower American River or dry fly fishing the South Fork American River, you will be pleasantly pleased with the results.

The American River system is where you can start out fishing the Lower American River for shad, striper or steelhead while wet wading on a summer morning, then go eat lunch, get back on the road shoot up hwy 50 and within 45 minutes, have 30 fish on the South Fork American River fishing drys. Fishing the American River is one that can satisfy any fly fishing crave. The Lower American River is known for its shad, striper, steelhead and salmon runs. Shad start to enter the river in late spring, with some entering as early as April, the fishing starts to pick up in late May and early June, with July being the best. Even though the migration has ended the fishing can be great on those late July summer nights. If you have never fought a shad on a fly rod, I highly suggest it, they don’t call it the poor man’s tarpon for nothing. There are two methods used when shad fishing, one is swinging flys specifically tied for shad, the other is drifting flies under an indicator. Either technique is productive when used properly.

As far as stripers go, there are some resident fish in the river system year round, but can be extremely hard to catch due to the lack of numbers. When the weather warms so does the water as well as the Striper migration. The stripers start entering the river in early April and they are in the river system through September. Your best numbers in the lower part of the river is between April and May. June is a little slower due to the amount of shad that are in the river system and the stripers actively feeding on them, but once the shad are gone the fishing really heats up from late July through August, September and sometimes even October depending on the weather and water conditions. The best technique used for stripers is by stripping or swinging clousers with sink tips, full sinks and shoot head lines.

Now for the Steelhead, half pounders can be year round, but are mostly caught from late summer to spring. They can be caught using many techniques, from swinging to nymphing and even throwing drys. The best months to be on the water for half pounders are August through October along with March April and May. Don’t be discouraged by the word half pounder, this was the original run before the Eel and Mad river strain (winter run steelhead) was introduced in the 70's. These guys can put up a real fight for their size and most half pounders are wild fish ranging from 16-22" some even pushing 5 pounds and they are always full of spunk. The winter run doesn’t start showing up until the beginning of October, this is also peak time for the salmon run. The winter run steelhead that are on the American came from the Eel and Mad River systems, that was introduce by DFG to protect the steelhead population after the dams where e rected. These fish can be caught throughout the length of river from mid October all the way through March, sometimes even April. These fish range anywhere from 5 to 15 pounds. As far as fishing techniques goes, these big boys can be caught with the same techniques used on their half brothers, just scaled up a bit. If you want to get into steelhead and don't want to travel severals hours and possibly get a big goose egg, the American River is where its at. Not only is it our back yard, but we have 30+ years fishing this river system and we know where these fish hold throughout the year. Come enjoy some backyard fishing on a great river like the American river.

-Brian-
Outfitters
Steel Bridge Guides is located near Douglas City on the Trinity River in northern California. We specialize in fly fishing with spey rods and single-hand rods for steelhead. Our primary ... morevenue is the Trinity River. Our other destinations include the Klamath River, coastal steelhead rivers, the Lower Sac, and Lewiston Lake. We offer year-round trout fishing and steelhead fishing from August through March. Come up to the beautiful Trinity River Region and enjoy some quality steelheading on the fly!
Guides:
12 comments
@Mike: Thanks. The waterproof digital should deliver some fun underwater pictures, but it's totally a point-and-pray exercise. I shoot a lot, and see what comes out...
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Been a follower of this blog from way up in Ontario, Canada for awhile. That pic of the brookie brought me out of lurk mode....it is one of the greatest release photos I have ever seen. (And I surf alot of the stuff while "working"!) Great job, and keep it up. Mike
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It was even prettier than during the Blogger Hoedown hike. Sadly, I don't know if I'll make it back before the trail closes. They're predicting snow at 5500 feet tonight...
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Glad to know that the fishing at Seven Lake was as good as you suspected it would be the day you and Lamp;T and Wally the Wonder Dog and the rest of us outdoor bloggers lunched along its shoreline. Those brookies are beautiful.
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Glad you liked the post. I realized there are lots of details that got left behind - like how the fish rising in the shallow edges would eat pretty much anything, but those working in the deeper water were much pickier. Maybe I need to put together a "Fly Fishing the Backcountry" tip sheet. Maybe do that in my spare time... :)
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... but it was the mad fishicist blog that got me all sentimental. ;-)
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I loved this post.
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@C4C: Correct. Guys bite hard in the dispute department. @TMF: Most of California's rivers and streams close November 15. But bring a rod anyway. The Upper and Lower Sacramento Rivers are open year round, and are only an hour or less (in good weather) from Burney. Baum Lake - essentially a big spring creek - is also open in winter, and is minutes from Burney. That'll be largely a baetis/midge game. ... more There are a lot of other opportunities in the area, including a handful of nearby lakes. If you don't bring a rod, you'll be sorry. Nice blog.
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Near as I can tell, you live very near where I'm going for Christmas this year. Ever fished near or around Burney (Hat Creek, Falls Creek...)? What about in December? You can imagine Alaska offers very little open water this time of year. Should I bring my rod? Thanks TMF
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Is it just me or are guys generally the lesser of species when it comes to disputes? My girlfriend told me that Echo Lake was privately owned, and I decided to look it up but could find nothing that confirmed it - just a bunch of helpful articles on how to get there and how nice a place it is. Figures.
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Echo is in the same basin, but my understanding is it's privately owned and the owner is pretty cranky about trespassers. Hiking to Seven Lakes might be possible by Thanksgiving; the first big snow storm closes everything up there, but absent any big storms, I think the PCT could still be hiked. The fishing would likely be slow, but the hiking would be warming...
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Outstanding post, and no I have no critical comments for this one. Seems like my hopes of hiking back there when I come home for Thanksgiving may not work out so well?! Good to hear that someone got up there to enjoy it though. By the way, do you know if Echo Lake is part of the Seven Lakes Basin?
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