Let’s go fishin’: Fall colors of California
by Mike Baxter
Oct 18, 2012 | 1284 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Trout, like this one caught by Mike Baxter on a river in Lassen County, are biting fast this fall. Courtesy photo
Trout, like this one caught by Mike Baxter on a river in Lassen County, are biting fast this fall. Courtesy photo
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During a fishing trip on a river in Lassen County, Mike Baxter landed this trout. Courtesy photo
During a fishing trip on a river in Lassen County, Mike Baxter landed this trout. Courtesy photo
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Grasshoppers make for fantastic bait when fishing for trout. Courtesy photo
Grasshoppers make for fantastic bait when fishing for trout. Courtesy photo
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As I fished a small stream in Lassen County for trout, I found it challenging to determine which was more beautiful — the fall colors of the aspen tree-lined stream or the trout that lie in its waters.

I awoke to crisp mountain air that froze the morning dew. Heavy lofts of steam rose from my morning coffee and the hot stack of pancakes I prepared for breakfast. I thought to myself, This is why camping and trout fishing in the fall is so great.

My recent trip took me to Lassen County with friends to enjoy camping and fishing for trout.

We traveled past Red Bluff, where I dropped off some homemade stew to a fishing guide friend who was deep into his salmon season; I knew a homemade dinner would serve him well. He exclaimed that the salmon season on the Sacramento River had been banner and he needed rest.

The trip continued north where Highway 5 intersects with 299 west and 299 east. This crossroad was tough, as I knew the westerly route would take me to the Trinity and Klamath Rivers. These are some of my favorite fall fishing rivers, and I knew they were teeming with salmon.

But I stuck to my plan and my target species — camping and trout fishing — as I turned east on 299.

The small stream of choice had heavy insect hatches and plump rainbow trout. Some were wild and some fish had been stocked but absorbed their native stream colors. I mostly fished with flies.

Bead-headed nymphs fished under a strike indicator served well with feisty strikes from a likely spot. The fish were in the flats and tailouts of each hole in the early morning. When the sun hit the water, I found hungry strikes in the riffles and along cut banks, as well as under larger boulders.

The style of “fly fishing” was not extremely traditional, but produced fun action on trout from 8 to 18 inches.

I did use bait one day, as the grasshoppers were abundant. I watched one grasshopper take flight, and the wind blew it to the stream. Seconds later, a large trout slurped up the large ’hopper like a teenager on a cheeseburger. It didn’t take long for me to fill my pocket with fresh grasshoppers after swatting them. I also fished with a strike indicator and a small, barbless hook. The fresh grasshoppers drew feverish strikes from every hole.

All the trout caught were released unharmed; I am sure I may have encountered the same fish more than once during this memorable weekend.

The trip brought close encounters with friends and animals. The most amazing sight of the trip was a large coyote I witnessed chasing an antelope across an open meadow.

The coyote’s speed and endurance proved inferior to the stamina of the antelope. The chase took place under the midday sun, and dust billowed in a trail behind them as I watched in amazement. It was a great escape — and hard to believe I saw all that I did while still in the golden state of California.

- Mike Baxter has fished in the Monterey Bay Area since he was a boy and has been a licensed charter boat captain for more than 20 years. Contact him at captmikebaxter@yahoo.com.

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