My first trip to Eagle Lake would be with my good friend Russ Smith, a fine fisherman and great fishing companion. We have taken in many fishing adventures together before and have been talking about this trip for over a year now. With hearts full of anticipation, we decided to take the challenge and promise of some of the best rainbow fishing Northern California. After a 13 hour drive with boat in tow, we made it to Eagle Lake RV Park at 3am in the morning, and a 5am wakeup call with our guide for the day. We thought since we didn’t know much about the lake we would use a guide, this was not a good idea and will tell you more about that later.

I have heard and been told for many years that I should take a trip to Eagle Lake in Northern California. The stories of monster rainbow trout that never give up fighting even after you’re able to put them into the net seemed to be more myth than legend in my mind until I was able to sample these fish for myself. The days of fish up to 10 pounds might be long gone and in the past, however I am here to tell you that these fish fight harder than any fresh water fish I have ever seen and they do not give up at all. They are the hottest and strongest fish and I can’t wait to go back to Eagle Lake for another shot at these beautiful fish. These fish average at 18” or better and many fish in the 25” range. 4X tippet the norm.
Day one we were greeted by winds over 20mph and waves up to 3 feet high in the middle of the lake. Our guided trip that lasted until 3pm was certainly not what we expected. He moved the boat a total of two times in nine hours of our fishing time and this was not in any way stretch or form in my mind working very hard for your clients. It was the first and the last time I will ever hire a guide and we will leave it at that. We boated a total of 15 fish between the two of use, many over the 18” mark. My friend Russ said that I looked like I needed to be placed on suicide watch because I was very disappointed. Russ ended up with 10 fish to net, I ended up with 5. He taught me a lesson the first day but you can’t keep a good many down for very long. We went to bed at 7pm and looked forward to the next day of fishing.

Day two we launched our own boat at 6am and made our way out onto the lake. This is the second largest natural lake in the state of California. It is 18 miles long and up to 4 miles across. This lake is not to be taken lightly. When the wind at one side of the lake is blowing over 20mph, you can get waves up to 5 feet high in the middle of the lake so you must be very careful. The wind was only blowing around 12mph and we had a great day of weather. We decided to go way down into the southern end of the lake and fish an area called Shrimp Island. This proved to be very rewarding. The lake is very low, rocky piles and rocky points are everywhere to be found. We target the points coming out into the lake and in the early morning, fished in 10 feet of water. After the sun would come up, around 10am or so we would move out into deeper water, 14 feet or more and still fish in front of the back side of the outcropping rocky points and the fish seemed to always be around this structure. We would move from point to point and always picked up fish immediately after anchoring. We indicator fished with a size 18 Pheasant tail nymph and this seemed to be the ticket, one to two feet off of the bottom. We also made a run to the end of the lake and found two guide boats catching fish. We joined the party and caught a lot of fish in this area. We ended day two with 45 fish between the two of us, a much more pleasant day than the day before and a lot less expensive to say the least! Russ again whacked me with his 23 fish to the net and my 22. One more day for a comeback of epic proportions!

Day three, we decided to get out a little early but still managed to leave the marina at 6am. Weather was perfect again all day, very light winds in the 10 to 12mph and perfect for indicator fishing. We went back to the same area, shrimp island and had good success in the early morning off the same set of rocky points. We had one stop where Russ and I ended up with four double hookups and then lost the spot because the wind came up and blew us off the point and we could never get back to the same spot we needed to be. With this in mind it is almost a must to always have GPS so you can lock in your best spots and come back to the very same area time after time. Well worth the money for one of these fantastic units and also to safely navigate around the lake. Again the lake is very low, it is at a low that hasn’t been seen since the 1930’s and there are many spots where you can run aground and put a whole in the bottom of your boat even if you are a quarter of a mile away from the shore line. If you make the trip, please be very careful and take your time and follow other boats to make sure you’re using a safe route back to the boat dock. It became very slow after around 11am so we made a long journey to the end of the lake where we had boated a lot of fish the day before and found two guide boats the day before catching fish. We joined the party again and did very well with fish up to 5 pounds that fought like mini skip jack out of the ocean. We again were fishing in 14 feet of water and the PT nymphs were doing a great job catching fish. We left this section of the lake around 5pm and then went back to the points at Shrimp Island and found the fish to be very eager to take our PT’s again. We caught about 15 fish between the two of us, one more fish about 5lbs, a beautiful female that took me way over ten minutes to land. We boated between the two of us a whopping 66 fish for the day! Not bad for a pair of anglers that have only fished the lake two days prior. Russ ended 27 fish and I ended with 38. The comeback was complete! Russ and I are ferocious competitors and enjoy giving each other the needle whenever possible. Hey, what are angling buddies for?

The sun was setting and our trip was coming to an end. My heart was heavy and sorry we had to start our journey back the next morning but the memories of our adventure will last a life time. This is still a great fishery and well worth the travel to enjoy some of the most beautiful and hardest fighting fish I have ever encountered. Until we meet again Eagle Lake, until we meet again.

Ernie Gulley