April 27-28, 2020
Hat is a tale of two times; mid-morning hatch and late evening Caddis hatches.
Day 1 AM: typical with clear water, a touch below average depth at Powerhouse #2, and 54 degree water temp. Four guys at the riffles, all spread out top to bottom. Everyone, except me (the dry fly purist and Euro guy), was fishing indicators. Note that PG&E has closed the gates for the back access road to Carbon Bridge and the downstream section below highway 299.
I started swinging a #14 wet fly (mayfly) downstream before the hatch and had my first fish (6”) on the 3rd cast. I then moved to an indicator rig with dual nymphs including a PMD bead for the point and a pheasant tail up 9’ above anticipating the bug movement to the surface. Bingo! Another two fish in the 12” range.
At a precise and a historically consistent 9:30 AM it began… and so did the most fun I’ve had on dry flies in a while. I moved on down to the bottom of the riffles in the flats with lots of visible risers, tied on a #16 hackled PMD onto 14’ of 6X, and lost two quick fish by setting too quickly (are you excited, or what??). “God save the Queen” before you set, dummy! Changed to a #18 PMD /Comparadun and landed that cute little rainbow you see in the photo (about 16”, but probably lost some weight and size from all the jumping…J)). The hatch lasted until 11:00, and then just as quickly it was over.
Just before it died, I hooked into another nice fish on the #18 PMD again, and that was it for the morning. So back to check in at the hotel, and maybe a snooze after leaving that morning at 4:15 AM to make the hatch.
Day 1, PM: Hat is known for its epic late day Caddis hatch and I thought I was ready. But as they say, “the best laid plans”… On the stream by 6:00 PM but the hatch didn’t start until 7:30 PM.
Had the entire stream to myself that night, so I was practicing maximum social distancing for extra points I guess. The hatch was awesome and very prolific in 14’s and 16’s. Couldn’t ask for anything more as I dove into my Caddis dry box to give it a workout.
Normal Caddis for Hat Creek is the Henryville Downwing Special. Nope, not in 14, 16 or 18’s. Adjust with 40-45’ of casting with parachute, pile, wiggle casts, downstream presentations, and aerial mends to do everything to minimize drag. Nope.
How about my favorite Emerger/Cripple Caddis? Nope. Tan Elk Hair? Nope. Black Elk Hair? Nope. Small Stimulator? Nope. And very few surface risers; go figure. So I finally picked up a nice fish (15”) by going down with an orange Caddis Poopah 6X dropper under my small Stimmy and catching it on a Leisenring lift at the bottom of the drift. Talk about having to work for it. And then it was dark and a challenging walk back across the riffles.
Round 1: 5 caught, 9 lost, at least 15-20 rises with tough downstream presentations and hookups.
Day 2 dawns bright and sunny. And, I am ready after a good nights sleep. Spent the previous evening rigging up both my Euro and dry rod with the #18 Comparadun PMD and 14’ of 6X that worked on Day 1.
Showed up at 7:30 and had my pick of which claim to squat on. Got two 10-12” fish during the initial 2 hours on the Euro rod in the mid riffles (PT’s and Perdigons). Picked up my dry rod stashed on shore and was in the ready position for the 9:30 fire drill.
And oh yea, here they come…not the fish; 6 other people right at 9 for the hatch! But I’m defending the best downstream riffle section with 50’ sloppy dry casts in all directions and my best hearty scowl at anyone even thinking about encroaching to protect my social distancing requirements (sure…).
And so it begins at 9:30 with quite a few takes all up and down my “turf”. But I and can’t keep the #18 PMD in their mouths and lose a good number of fish to tough downstream fly first presentations, including two big slabs as they turn down and dislodge the small fly even with downstream hooksets. I get maybe another 15-20 rises, so plenty of fun activity casting to fish and chasing them up and down about 40 yards of water without the previous day’s success. But now I’m frustrated and humbled, so I change tactics and tie on a #18 PMD vertical hanging CDC emerger on as a 6X dropper, and voila (!) a nice 15” fish comes home to Papa. And then, it’s over, again…
I grab my Euro rod on the way back across the riffles and hook into something big on my first cast right on the bottom, except strangely it doesn’t fight. I bring it up and it’s a 20” rainbow foul hooked in the Adipose fin, AND… it’s dead. Probably 2-3 days as it still had color but was stiff. What skill with the Euro rod; I can even catch dead fish? So I call the high court of Prince, McCann, and Spruiell and ask for a ruling; does it count? Only if I claimed it as bringing it to hand, but not as a caught fish was the ruling by a unanimous and sanctimonious 3:0 court decision…
Round 2: 3 caught, lost 5, with numerous rises, and one more 20” rainbow brought “to hand”.
And rather than wait around for another late Caddis humiliation, and an even longer 4.5 hour drive home, I decided to pack it in and get an early start. What a great mental health break trip after the SIP of the last six weeks. Feeding rainbows are calling…but do be careful out there, make your own decision as to SIP requirements, and take every precaution that you think is necessary to stay safe if you do go out.