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Denis Peirce: A rain-soaked day on the lake

The Union


Denis Peirce

In fishing, we often look for patterns as predictors of future success. Full moons are widely believed to be tough for daylight fishing. The north wind that follows a departing storm front can be a tough time to interest a fish in eating.

For trout fishing in lakes, winter is prime time in low elevation California. Under low light conditions the baitfish and the trout should be at the top of the water column. A bit of a breeze helps put texture on the surface, giving cover from airborne predators. Add water temperatures in the 50s and you have the recipe for a good day of trout fishing.

I have had a tentative date to fish Lake Shasta with guide Jeff Goodwin ( I have been waiting for good conditions. Prior to the holidays fishing had been good on the lake but it is a difficult time to get away. I started looking at the weather pattern and Monday, Jan. 8, looked promising.

Making the trip to Lake Shasta

From five days ahead, the forecast called for a cloudy day with rain and wind coming on an hour or two before dark. It sounded perfect with a falling barometer, low light conditions and a light breeze to ripple the surface. I called Jeff, my friend Wilfried Wietstock and set the date.

I loaded the car Sunday evening. Monday I was up at 4 a.m., out the door by 5 a.m., arriving at the lake by 8 a.m.

What was not according to plan was the rain that started at midnight with no expectation of a let-up.

We had our gear in the boat and headed out from Packer's Bay launch in 15 minutes. Shasta is a huge lake and trolling is the best way to cover a lot of water. We had four lines in the water with a variety of flies and spoons. Hopes were high.

The lower lake has a variety of canyons, coves, islands and big open water. We started working close to the bank and then following the points out to deeper water. As we went, we kept an eye on the fish finder.

These electronics look down below the boat and there was very little below us in the way of fish. This confirmed that the fish had to be at the top of the water column where our lures were. I started changing colors, sizes and lines trying to find a combination that worked.

Finally, a couple of hours in we had a good fish hit a blue and white spoon and start pulling. Jeff suspected it was a brown trout by the way it dug deep. It was on for half a minute and then nothing. Somehow it got loose. A second smaller fish hit and came off also.

A rainbow after a long day

Finally a nice rainbow graced us with his presence and Wilfried got him to the boat and into the net. That was our only trout for the day.

We were on the water for six hours, running four lines at 2.5 mph. That totals 60 lure miles for the day. We had on at least 10 different spoons and flies for the day. We ran planer boards to spread out our presentations 50 feet out each side of the boat. We fished from the shallows at the bank to out over the depths at the face of the dam.

Our intention was to land some big trout which Shasta has in abundance. As a desperation tactic at the end of the day we went to a cove where the Department of Fish & Wildlife plants trout and even there we did not get a hit.

The lesson in this is that you can get the season, the weather, the depth, temperature and seemingly every variable right and still have a tough bite.

We were with one of the best guides on Lake Shasta. That man spent the entire day out in the rain running the engine. He never gave up and always had a good attitude. There are days when I think I have it all figured out and this trip showed that when it comes to fishing, I don't.

Jeff, I will be back.

Denis Peirce writes a fishing column for The Union's Outdoors section and is host of "The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report," which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via his website at

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