Hat Creek Field Notes

May 02, 2019 3 min read

Last weekend I headed down south to fish Hat Creek for annual Trout Opener in California. It had been a couple years since I had fished the creek and was excited to dust off my trout rods and hit the water!

To me, Hat Creek represents the quintessential chess match of trout fishing. In the areas I like to fish, the water is often flat and crystal clear. This puts the angler at a disadvantage in regards to the fish; they see you long before you see them. But to me, that challenge is what keeps me coming back. 

I showed up to a river teaming with other anglers. Despite that, I was to find open water downstream from Powerhouse Riffle in the creek's calm meandering meadows. Arriving just before noon, the morning activity was largely over with, but there were some PMDs coming off. One important thing with technical dry fly fishing is that you want to position yourself upstream from the fish as much as you can. The main benefit of this approach is that your fly is presented before your tippet, leader and your bulky fly line. 

I landed this little brownie on the third cast of the trip on the Sprout PMD, one of my all time favorite dry fly patterns because it's a really low riding fly, where the post sits atop the water and the body hangs in the surface film. In flat water, technical trout fishing situations, low riding dry flies are key. Big bushy flies often get refused because they aren't sitting naturally on the surface. 

Later on, I left the calm meadow stretch for the more charactered water downstream of the HWY 299. This stretch of river fishes much differently and offers an array of water types to explore. For me, most of my success in this stretch has come in deeper slots and along fallen trees along the river banks. I began with a Size 12 Para Madam X and a Size 18 Pheasant Tail below. I planned mainly on trying to present the nymph to the fish. But after about ten casts, a nice 14" rainbow came off a log jam and ate the dry fly with an aggressive strike. 

Afterwords, in the afternoon, I decided to nymph a bit deeper in the water column and ran into some nice fish. The patterns I had the most success on were variations of the Jimmy Legs Stonefly and Morrish Super Pupa Nymph in Olive. This was also the way I was able to coax some of the nicer fish in the trip to the fly, including this larger sucker which actually put up a great fight. 

All in all, it was a fun trip south and it seemed like the fishing was really solid. Lastly, I got to fish my new Redington Classic Trout 8'6" 3wt and swung some of the new soft hackle patterns we've added in the shop. There was a caddis hatch in the evening on Saturday and for about an hour they were really eating flies on the swing which is one of my absolute favorite ways to trout fish. The rod's moderate action made for enjoyable casting, but more than that it helped in playing the fish and protecting the smaller tippets. 

As always, don't hesitate to reach out if you're looking to fish down in Northern California. We are always happy to relay information and help you find success on the water! 


-Marcus Mattioli

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