Hat Creek Fly Fishing Report: 11/18/2015

Hat Creek is closed for the 2015 season. Opening day is Saturday April 30th 2016.

Hot Flies: Mercer’s Glass Bead Micro Mayfly, Zack’s Pseudo May #16-18, #18-20 WD-40, #12-20 Adams, Zack’s Swimming Leech, Norman’s Loop Wings, Mercer’s Missing Link, Mercer’s Gidget, Black Zebra Midge #18-20, Mercer’s Skating October Caddis.

…No other river in N. California is as well suited to the angler chasing rainbows with a fly rod than Hat Creek…To book a guided date on Hat with Chris, call 800-669-3474, or send him an e-mail.

All the flies mentioned above can be found here: The Fly Shop


One of if not the most famous California Fly fishing Rivers! Hat Creek in Northern California is a fly fishing river. Located near Fall River and Burney, California. I know of no other river that begs to be perused by a fly rod than Hat Creek. Nearby camping and motel accommodations, make Hat Creek the perfect base camp for fishing all the waters within an hour to 2-hour drive. Want to learn something about Hat Creek? Interested in fishing it? Read on and I will tell you about Hat Creek in Northern California.

Hat Creek is called Hat Creek because an old prospector lost his hat there back in 1850 when a dust devil blew it off his head. The story goes, he jumped in the creek to chase after it, but did not know how to swim. As he sank to the bottom of the river, he just barely grabbed his hat with his left hand and waved it as if saying goodbye. His wife spotted the waving hat and was able to rescue her poor husband from the rivers wrath, but she eventually succumbed to the rivers grasp and was swept all the way to the Pit river where she perished. When a search party went to find her body, all they found was the old mans Hat.

Well, it’s sort of believable. I made up most of the “Hat” story because, that’s what I do best, make “stuff” up. But, some of it is in fact true! However this creek got its name, I do know that Hat is one of the nations most famous spring creeks.

There are two sections to Hat Creek. PG&E divided up the river for hydro-electric purposes and what we have left is some very good trout water. Most fly fisher-people congregate on the 3.2 miles of river below the Power House #2 riffle. Not to be confused with the upper stretch that runs through the towns of Cassel and Station CA. The stretch of Hat Creek I’m writing about is the “Wild Trout” stretch that runs under HWY 299 as you drive over to Fall River or back to the town of Burney CA., to your hotel, after you just finished fishing the Hex hatch on Fall River. This is the famous Hat Creek that holds the “Wild Trout” designation per California’s Department of Fish and Game. Above Power House #2 is Baum Lake, but that’s another story kids.

What you need to know is Hat Creek is peppered with 100% wild rainbow trout, but my favorite fish to find is the wily brown trout that haunt it’s banks. The Hat Creek brown trout is the pit viper of trout. ¬†Mr. Brown is crafty and elusive. Mr. Brown prefers to hide rather than show himself to unsuspecting anglers tossing mayflies, caddis and any assortment of tiny black, green, brown #20’s. Mr. Brown eats fish, voles, mice, salmon flies, stone flies, leeches and sometimes, baby ducks. Big food in a small river. Now, nothing wrong by any stretch with the simple minded, insect eating rainbow trout of Hat Creek, nothing wrong at all, until you try and catch one after watching it rise to and refuse your fly!

Insect hatches on Hat Creek consist of Salmon flies, Stone Flies, Caddis Flies, Green Drakes, Pale Morning Duns, Blue Wing Duns, Flavor Flavs, Baetis, Midges. Knowing when and what to fish is key to success on Hat Creek. Unlike the McCloud, Pit, and upper Sacramento, Hat Creek has to be finessed. Fishing Hat isn’t as simple as finding a riffle, run or pool and finding a fish on the end of your fly rod. Anglers access the river via Powerhouse #2 turn off along HWY 299, or via carbon flat, which is the first gate on your right, just east of the the Highway 299 bridge over Hat Creek. Hat Creek Park, along Highway 299 offers another excellent spot to start your day of fishing from. Anglers can walk upstream or downstream from any of the access points I describes and find solitude and rising fish.

Presentation skills really matter on Hat Creek because the fish tend to hide in the shade under branches, next to half sunk logs, on the edges of aquatic weeds and your back cast could put your fly in the trees, or the river’s bank. Your presentation cast could easily turn over into the tree branch just above where you saw that fish gulp down a salmon fly. The fish on Hat require a crafty ability to know where they are at, how and when they are likely to fall for a perfectly presented fly. My best advice is start fishing in the morning, just after sunrise and quit around 1:00 PM. Come back near sunset and fish for no more than an hour past sunset. Mid day opportunities exist! Especially on a cloudy overcast day in late May! For every angler that is successful on Hat Creek, there are numbers that walk away and never fish there again. Instant gratification isn’t instant here, Hat Creek is not easy.

Planning a fishing trip to Hat Creek is easy though. Drive time from Redding, CA is 1 hour. From San Francisco its about 4.5 hours. Nearby streams like the Pit River, McCloud River, Fall River and even the Upper Sacramento offer second chances, even third time is the charm kind of fishing. And all those streams are within easy driving distance of Burney, CA. As a fishing guide, I prefer the later, but no other stream in N. California tests an anglers metal like Hat Creek does. A successful day on Hat Creek is very rewarding. Upon arrival most anglers stay at a motel in the town of Burney, CA. Shasta Pines Motel is popular with my guests. I never hear any complaints. Dining in Burney, CA. is not exquisite, however, a positively memorable experience can be had. For dinner I recommend Angelina’s at the REX club, Art’s Outpost is another good restaurant. Breakfast is difficult to screw up, the Blackberry restaurant is good. The local bowling alley offers some fun side show entertainment or check out the local movie theater. Good camping can be found at McArther/Burney Falls Memorial State Park, Lassen Pines RV Resort, Dusty Campground, Rim Campground, Psea Camp Shasta, Cassel Campground.

Hat Creek is very beautiful in the spring and wonderful in the Fall. It’s one of the easiest rivers to stroll and wade anywhere. My fishing equipment list looks like this:

  • 4 or 5 wt rod
  • Floating line
  • Type II full sink line
  • 7.5′ tapered leaders to 4x
  • 5x,6x tippet
  • small dime sized indicators or giant stimulators, dry flies to suspend nymphs
  • #14-20 PT nymphs
  • #16-20 Elkhair caddis
  • Black or green leeches
  • Hoppers in late summer
  • Stimulators large and small all season
  • Salmon fly dries late May through mid June.

Booking a fly fishing trip with Chris Parsons is easy, just call The Fly Shop at 800-669-3474, ask for Duane, Michael or the outfitters department. They will help you find a date that works. Contact me for a custom fishing report.