Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Big Chico Creek June Opener; Horseshoe Lake Fishkill

BCC Alligator Hole

I've explored and fished a bit of the upper, middle, and lower watershed of Big Chico Creek, but my favorite section to fish is the lower section. The lower watershed from the mouth to Bear Hole is unique in that it opens in the middle of June and closes the same day trout season ends in November. This section hosts mostly warm-water fish but salmonoids can be found in the deep holes in Bear Hole waiting to spawn in the fall. During the dog days of summer when I don't feel like driving all the way up to the Sierras to fish, I wet my line at Big Chico Creek.

The lower BCC (Big Chico Creek) watershed from the mouth up to Chico is a small slough that is turbid and weedy. I've seen some decent largemouth taken out of this area but have yet to fish it. There is a BCC recreation unit on River road that has a small boat launch by the bridge. The creek is very narrow here making a kayak or tube a more suitable watercraft.

BCC from the city of Chico upstream to Bearhole is the area I have the most experience fishing. The creek runs through Bidwell Park making it very easy to access around Upper Park, Five Mile, and Lower Bidwell. From what I've observed over the years, the species of fish I've found in this section during the summer are smallmouth, pike minnow, sacramento suckers, and bluegill. The smallmouth are by far the most abundant fish in this section and they are an absolute thrill to catch. Smallmouth fishing on BBC is a game of sight, stealth, and focus. If fishing above the fish you need to be low or else they will not take, especially the bigger fish. When the fish take the fly 90% of the time they suck it up rather than strike it. If you can't see the fish eat, you need to pay close attention to your line because as soon as it becomes tight you need to set the hook.  The smallmouth out there average about 8-10'' but I've caught a few mama 14''ers that put a real bend in my rod. 

Arming myself with my 2wt, I like to throw small poppers and frogs for all day topwater action. If fishing subsurface, the pattern I've had the most success with is a size 6-8 tan krystal bugger. During evenings in Late July - August there is a good caddis hatch that get the smallmouth feeding like trout so if your looking for technical dry fly action during the summer then this is a good place to hit. From my experience, smallmouth are harder to convince to eat a dry fly during a hatch than trout.

Big Chico Creek Opener
The opener this June 16th was great. Luckily there weren't a whole lot of people out on the creek leaving me one of my favorite holes all myself. When fishing the afternoon like I was, the smallmouth can get finicky when the sun is on the water. They will often hide in the shade to get away from the heat and be reluctant to bite a fly in open water. A little bit of everything was working however poppers and buggers were the favorite.

BCC Bronzeback

When fighting smallmouth I find that they like to pull rather than run. The smallmouth in BCC will jump at least once during the fight and its freakin awesome. Pure, simple, fun.

Horseshoe Lake
After the is lake is stocked full of catfish for the annual "Hooked On Fishing" event, it experiences a huge amount of fishing pressure. The extreme fishing pressure turns the lake into a garbage dump littered with trash. Fishing line, bait containers, plastic bags, and food wrappers can be found all over the lake. But perhaps, the saddest and worst thing that happens to the lake after the stocking is that it experiences a huge fish kill. After about a week after the stocking you will begin to find several dead catfish and carp near the bank. The chemical imbalance of the lake mixed in with the heat of the summer creates the perfect death trap choking and killing fish.

My trips to the lake dwindle down at this point because the catfish and bass stop biting. Due to the weird weather we had during the spring, the carp have become active later this year. I've been seeing them wallowing around in the tall grass near the bank but I haven't been able to get a fish to take. Whether they were feeding, cruising, or dropping eggs I don't know. All I know is they weren't looking to eat my fly.

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