Well friends, Crowley Lake opened with a little weather again this year with rain, snow, sleet, wind and it was very, very cold! Because I had guided trips to prepare for I was out in the middle of all of the weather systems with hundreds of other anglers and braved the elements.
I started my day at 7am and fished Stormy flats. I found a lot of fish on the fish finder in 13 to 24 feet of water but after an hour of trying to get them to eat I decided to go and look for more cooperating fish. I fished Big Hilton, Leighton Springs and McGee Bay and could still not find any cooperation from any fish on the lake. I decided to go in and have a meatball sandwich from the Crowley Lake General Store and an Ice Tea. If you ever have the chance, you will never find a better store for food and bakery than the Crowley Lake General Store. They are by far the best in the business and the finest people you can ever meet! After I warmed up with a beautiful meatball sandwich, I ventured back out into the elements, still blowing hard and ugly weather.
I went back to Stormy flats, where I found again a ton of fish on the fish finder but still no go. I worked my way into McGee, and back to Big Hilton and finally ended up at Leighton Springs, where I anchored up and fished for about 20 minutes with no success. At this time of day around noon I had only been working on 1 hour of sleep so even with the wind blowing and the weather nasty, I laid down in the boat and fell fast asleep! When I awoke 90 minutes later, the sun had poked its head out, the wind slowed down to about 15 miles per hour and I tried to fish again at Leighton with no success. I then went to Sandy Point. With the wind not blowing 25 mph any more, I could anchor up with some ease and fish the edge of the point that pertrudes out into the lake. Sandy Point in my opinion is the most difficult area on the entire lake to anchor up properly because you need the correct wind direction to feed your presentations into the drop off area, that is as steep as a roller coaster, and hold your fly in the proper depth. Once anchored, I checked my flies depth, I was anchored in 22 feet of water and feeding my presentation back into the drop off at around 19 feet. I call this fishing up hill, fishing from deep to shallow or fishing downhill fishing shallow to deeper water. Either way is perfect, however I would prefer to fish from shallow to deep if the opportunity presents itself! I casted my indicator out with a two fly rig, check my blog from a few weeks ago with the leader setups, and waited for the flies to get to depth. While I was waiting I was admiring the blue bird sky that was peeking its way out for the first time during this day and felt a pull on my rod. What? That could not have been a fish, this was my first take of the entire day and I missed it! I reset my depth, casted out again and was very excited in anticipation of finally being able to maybe get a fish to the boat, immediatley my indicator went down and I was on a fish! Super excited, I let out a little hoot and when I brought the fish to the boat it was a very fat perch! Wow, a perch, I was not upset because this time of year the perch and trout will mix up together in the same depths, I reset my depth and recasted. Once again immediatley my indicator went down and I was on to a very nice fish. This fish stayed down and faught for every inch so I immediately thought is was a nice brown and about 90 seconds later my thoughts were comfirmed, a very nice 19″ brown for my first fish of the year! I then proceeded to go on a nice two hour run of 16 fish to the net, 11 browns and 5 rainbows. None of these fish were over 19″, a really nice range of 16′ to 19″ inches, very healthy and super fat fish shaped like mini footballs. I called it a day around 5pm, I had to get back to the guide house and prepare for my next days adventure, guiding a new client and now friend, Brian Stiver from Lake Arrowhead, CA. It would turn out to be a very nice trip, especially being the first time guided on Lake Crowley for Brian and many more trips I am sure to follow. When I went to sleep around 11pm on Saturday, I felt a sense of relief and excitement at the same time, that I had found some fish and was very excited about the anticipation of the next days trip, the opportunity to show Brian what Crowley Lake is all about. In my Opinion, Crowley Lake is the best stillwater we have in California.
The next morning, up at 5pm, shower and shave and out the door, time to get the show on the road that we call Crowley Lake. We meet at the dock at the marina, where I was introduced to the rest of the anglers in our group, and started our trip around 7:30am. I was supposed to have two anglers on my guided trip but he had some problems with his arival so I was solo with Brian and the other two gentlemen, both doctors, were taken out by another guide. Our plan was simple, we were going to divide forces, divide and conquer, who ever found the fish first and had success would contact the other guide and we would anchor up and fish side by side with friends. I was fortunate to find fish immediately at Sandy Point, the same spot I was the afternoon before, and we had our first fish to the boat 5 minutes after we anchored up. After three fish to the boat and two missed takes, I called the other boat over to our area and we began our party, the fish were very ready to eat our midges and it was a great guided day of fishing. Brian ended with 25 fish to the net as a solo angler and probably 50 grabs for the day. Our sister boat did very well also bring many, many fish to net and all anglers at the end of the guided trip were very impressed with Crowley and the bounty of fish she posses.
Day three, my second guided trip I had been waiting for with great anticipation. I was going to be my good friend and client, Don Tyler Vickey and new friend and client, Delo Chun. The weather was excellent, the wind was in perfect form and we were able to take advantage of being able to anchor perfectly to the drop off and feed our midges into the perfect depths for the fish to find them. We were back again at Sandy Point, where else would we be after such a terrific day of guided fishing with Brian the day before. The bite started out slow for the first hour and then once the midges started hatching and moving to the surface, the fish kicked into high gear and started to feed on our tiny little midge offerings. We were fishing very basic patterns, copper tiger midges into 20 feet of water with the flies being anywhere from one foot to four feet off of the bottom. I would constantly change depths as soon as we would not have a take in over 15 minutes. We had a few periods of time where we would have to wait about 15 minutes for a takedown and then land one fish after another, many double hookups and one double that ended with a 23″ fish and a 20″ fish to the net! Delo Chun took big fish honors over and over with 3 fish over 23″ and two of them at the 23.5″ mark. We had all species to the net, Rainbows, Browns and Cutthroat, this is so unigue about Crowley, you can catch all three species in one day and have all over the 20″ range and that is exaclty what these anglers experienced on this guided trip. We ended the trip with 50 fish to the net, Delo with 27 and Don with 23 and what was another epic day of big fish at Crowley Lake!
Day four and five, what a treat, my good friend and client Patricia Balden from Reno. She is a fantatic angler and makes my job easy when I get her lined up on the fish! We ran into some unfortunate early wind, coming up at 10am on Tuesday and 11am on Wednesday. We fished the same area, Sandy Point. Patricia had 9 to the net before the 25mph winds blew us off the lake the first day and 11 to the net on the seond day! Quality fish are what we landed and the name of the game at Crowley, This is what we found out we have again at this years opener at Crowley.
My break down of what I have seen the first five days at Crowley: The water is up, in my opinion close to 90% capacity at the opener and looks great for the coming season. I was very surprised to find fish all the way into 13 feet of water. Usually the fish will always be in 20 plus feet of water on the opening weekend but I had success in 13 to 22 feet of water and had many solid, realiable sources tell me they had success in shallow water as well all around the lake. Sandy Point, McGee, Leighton Springs, North Landing and Green Banks all reporting good numbers of fish being found in shallow water, 13 to 17 feet. Midges in copper tiger, black/red, black/silver and all the grey combinations were working very well for me. Fish sizes 14 and 16’s for your midges, don’t foget to fish PT’s Copper Johns also in this size. If you know there are fish, by watching other anglers have success around you, keep changing colors and depths and find the right combination for success! The power of observation is the key to success on any given body of water.
My new Hardy Zephrus rods 10ft 5wt’s and Hardy CADD Ultralight reels performed magnificently in the 20 plus feet of water we fished at Crowley. I could’nt be more happier with my new rods and reels and look forward to a long lasting relationship with Hardy in the future. Thanks Hardy for the opportunity to be part of the best fly fishing company in the industry!
Get out there anglers, I hope you have great success this season and if you need a little help, give me a call for advice or a guided trip! I do love me some Stillwater fly fishing…….Ernie