The “trophy trout” section is usually where fly fishers concentrate and it’s where I do all of my guiding and fishing. The trophy trout section encompasses several miles of water between the outflow of power house #2 (the famous PH2 riffle) down to the rough fish barrier at Lake Britton.
The seasons on Hat Creek are varied. Opening day through about late June sees prolific mayfly, caddis and stonefly hatches. A challenging game indeed. Summer doldrums in July through late September can see some massive mid-day Trico hatches which are fun and challenging. September through the end of the season gets very little notice except by locals. Late in the year, mayflies hatch in abundance again and it’s not unlikely to have miles of the Hat to yourself.
To be honest, I’ve never fished anywhere that the fish were so “hatch driven”. I’d knock ‘em out one day and feel like a rock star only to go back the next weekend with only a couple of small fish to hand. Find the right fly and you’re in business. You don’t and well…it’s still fun to watch the fish rise. You can’t have too many different types of dry flies for Hat Creek’s wild trout. A week after opening day, the fish have seen literally thousands of poor presentations and every fly sold in every fly shop in the state. If numbers of fish is your calling, maybe Hat Creek isn’t for you. If long leaders, light tippets, numerous fly changes and long…hold your mouth just right downstream drifts appeals to you. Then Hat Creek has lots to offer.
Possibly only rivaled in fish per mile by the Fall River, the trophy trout water of Hat Creek has 3 distinct sections between PH2 and Lake Britton.
PH2 Riffle – A high streambed gradient for the first several hundred yards of river below the PH2 make for swift, shallow, bubbly water perfect to hold trout and oh boy…they are there! It’s not uncommon to move fish out from under your feet as you walk out into the riffle. They are used to anglers feet shuffling about and will sometimes even take station below you as you break the current for them. I typically nymph with a small indicator and 5x tippet to my flies. Seems to work for me. Don’t think you always need a bunch of weight on your line here. The water is shallow and too much weight and you’ll hang up and break off too much. Ok…this is where I get on a ‘soapbox’…it’s my blog It’s un-ethical in my opinion to ‘fish’ within a rod length directly below your feet. In other parts of the country, it called the “San Juan Shuffle”. Not sure if it’s illegal in California, but it should be. Those trout are resting beneath you and feeding because of the disturbance you’ve made(or are making) to the streambed. Give ‘em a break, learn to fool a trout the real way…it’s much more gratifying.
PH2 Riffle to The Foundation Run – This is the “chalk stream” section. Slow current, oxbow bends, weed growth, flat current. If you’re going to Hat Creek for the challenge…this is where you’ll find it. This section of Hat isn’t a numbers game but it’s a chess game. Soft rod tips, long leaders and 7x tippet are what you should be armed with. You won’t usually have to hunt for the fish, you’ll see them rising. Take a bit of sage advice…don’t blind cast! Watch one fish carefully and fish to it only. Pick out a good riser, get yourself in position and cast to that one fish until you either hook him or put him down.
Foundation Run to the Barrier – In this section the gradient again steepens. Swifter currents and more defined riffles mark the last mile or so before Hat Creek empties into Lake Britton. With swifter current and riffle water, the trout are again less skittish as they are in the PH2 riffle. Less skittish yes…anywhere near stupid or less selective…certainly not! Nymphing the lower section can provide fine action as in the PH2 riffle and fishing dries near dark is as exciting as it gets.
Read more at The Fly Shop’s page on Hat Creek
Check out the Hat Creek photo Gallery! (there’s only a couple but more coming soon!)