Fly Fishing NorCal’s Dependable Gem
by Mike Parker
Finally, the torrential rains of the past three days have ended (I know that this may only be wishful thinking as you read this post). As you plan for the weekend, a fishing getaway so desperately needed, you realize that most, if not all of California’s streams and rivers are unfishable. A quick call to TFS (The Fly Shop) and the intel reveals the fact that Baum Lake, a spring creek-like impoundment located just over one hour’s drive east of Redding, is almost never affected by the excessive rains. Great news! You think for a moment and say to yourself, “But I don’t like fishing stillwaters!” I for one can only say, “Try it, you just might like it!”
Baum, a 77-acre, year-round fishery is the perfect destination for the paddling angler. Although fishing from the bank is certainly possible, prams, canoes, kayaks, and pontoon boats are the preferred methods of attack (you can leave your gas-powered engines at home as they are prohibited; however, electric motors are welcome). You’ll find that the “lake” is really nothing more than a slowly meandering spring creek barely 100 yards wide at its widest point. It’s this fact that makes all of Baum’s points, islands, and weedlines easily reached in very short order. The lake receives a generous stocking of both rainbows and browns (the lake record is a 23 lb. 5 oz. brown) with a vast majority of holdover fish that can and do provide all the challenges one can endure.
After launching at the very decent boat ramp, I personally like to fish my way to the extreme north end of Baum. Usually if the lake is experiencing any fishing pressure at all, you’ll be able to view the 99% of anglers who never venture much beyond 100 yards in any direction from the parking lot. Be very mindful of wind direction and velocity because getting stuck on the wrong end of Baum, if and when the wind picks up, can make for quite the challenging return to your vehicle.
Favorite fishing techniques include slow stripping Wooly Buggers with a P.T. trailer along the very obvious weedlines and main channel, dry/dropper rigs using any type Zebra Midge, P.T.’s, Mercer’s Micro Mays, Ruby Reds (#16-20), suspending a ZT Balance Swimming Leech under a small indicator, and certainly last but not least dry flies such as the ever popular Adams (#18-20), Mercer’s Missing Link (#16-20), and Griffith’s Gnat to help fool any of the numerous midge eaters.
Non-anglers will be equally rewarded with a trip to Baum, as the area is a birder’s paradise. Ducks and geese of every description, great blue heron, red-wing blackbirds, pelicans (fish eatin’ machines), bald eagles, and the very competent angler, the osprey (there is a five fish limit on trout but I don’t think that these birds ever comply with the rules). I can honestly say that some of my trips to Baum were saved by watching the “locals,” by which I mean the local pelicans and osprey. They definitely have the inside track as to where the highest concentrations of trout are on any particular day. The area is also home to numerous muskrat, mink, otter, beaver, deer, and coyote, which are all very easily viewed and photographed.
A couple of additional fishing options include fishing the world-renowned Hat Creek and the equally famous Pit River (#bringstuddedbootsandwadingstaff). Trips to the area should also include a side trip to McArthur-Burney Memorial State Park to visit the 129-foot Burney Falls, a bucket list trip to many, and perhaps fishing Burney Creek within season.
Burney, a town of approximately 3,900, lies about 50 miles east of Redding, California, along CA Route 299 in Shasta County. The town can be your headquarters with its numerous lodging, dining, and grocery shopping options. Another popular option would be camping at the Cassel Campgrounds. I’ll provide a contact list at the end of this blog.
Directions: follow CA 299 east from Redding to Cassel Rd. (61 miles), which is past the town of Burney. Turn right and travel 3.4 miles to Baum Lake Rd. on your left, and proceed to the Baum Lake parking area approximately one mile on your left.