100 Best: Hat Creek

Location: Hat Creek

Type of stream: Freestone then tailwater spring creek

Angling methods Fly, Spinning

Species: Rainbows and browns

Access Easy

Season: Late April—mid Nov. Supporting

Services: Cassel

Short take: Wild trophy trout waters are both highly technical and suited for novice. Upper reaches offer good put and take fishing.

Handicapped access: Yes

Closest TU Chapter: North Bay (San Francisco)

After you’ve floated Fall River for its massive ‘bows, head south out of Fall River on State Route 299. At the top of Lake Britton, take the road to the right and you’ll find yourself on the lower end of Hat Creek, one of the most popular runs of the California state designated wild and trophy trout water. The lower half of the 3.2 miles between the lake and Hat Powerhouse #2, is a long riffle. When baetis, pale morning duns, and tricos aren’t hatching, double nymph rigs beneath strike indicators work extremely well. Above the bridge, the Hat resembles a spring creek for about a mile and a half which drops only about 10 feet from the base of Powerhouse #2 riffle to the bridge. Along with mayflies, this section sees an excellent spring salmon fly hatch as well as little yellow stoneflies and caddis.

The two powerhouses on Hat Creek draw water from two very small impoundments, Baum Lake and Cassel Pond. They capture the massive outflow from the network of spring ponds that charge Rising River and the 30 miles of Hat Creek from its headwaters in Lassen National Forest. Lack of storage capacity in the two forebays means that discharges from powerhouse #2 are essentially run of river.

A bustling little freestone stream, Hat Creek’s headwaters rise high in the national forest, hustles down the mountain, and breaks into the valley floor below Old Station. There it slows and begins to meander through meadows where livestock—fenced from the creek—graze. Upper Hat Creek is a put and take stream and heavily stocked. There is, however, some natural reproduction. Mileage in Lassen National Park and the abutting national forest is open to public angling. But once bounded by private land, access becomes limited to guests in lodges along its course.


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