ďUrbanĒ trout season arrives in Southern California right when the season is ending in our beloved Eastern Sierra, and while no Sierra trout head will ever say that the urban trout scene comes anywhere close to what the mountains offer, it certainly helps ease the pain of a long offseason.
While the end of the Sierra season definitely sends me into a state of depression, I do look forward to fishing trout in the local lakes around So Cal for a variety of reasons.
Sharpening skills in throwing plastics Ė While I am getting more into fly fishing for Sierra trout with each trip, I will never ditch the spinning gear because throwing lures ó especially plastics ó is just too fun. When you are fishing with jigs or trout worms, techniques that you would use in any trout lake would work in the Sierras, so the urban scene gives you the opportunity to experiment with different techniques. Stocked trout all do the same thing once dumped into a lake. They hang out for a while when they first get in the water, then they school up and wolf pack along the shore. Itís a good idea to always have a jig at the ready, even if you are fishing with something else on a different rod, because when one of these schools comes by, tossing jigs or trout worms at it is usually the best way for quick hookups. This year in particular, I am looking forward to trying out jigs from a new, Eastern Sierra-based company called Sierra Slammers. I already have a bunch of them and they look hot.
Nebraska Tailwalkers Ė These arenít stocked in all trout lakes in California, but the list is growing. These are a type of rainbow trout that begin as eggs harvested in the Pacific Northwest, then hatched and raised in a natural environment in Nebraska. They make the trip to California in specially-designed trucks and are stocked when they are 1-to-4 pounds on average. They look awesome, and put up a much better fight than your typical stocked rainbow. If you are a Sierra guy, think of these fish as the Alpers trout of the flatland. They are showing up in more and more lakes in California every year, so keep an eye on publications like Western Outdoor News to see where they can be caught this season.
Experimenting Ė When you are fishing a lake close to home that you can hit whenever you want for months during trout season, you have plenty of time to mess around. For example, this year I am going to try breaking out the fly rod and chucking a beadhead San Juan Worm at schooling trout at the gin clear Dixon Lake in North San Diego County. I mean, if they eat plastic worms, why wouldnít they eat a San Juan worm? Iím convinced it will work, and Iíll let you know.
Pretending Iím in the Sierras Ė There are some lakes that are stocked at this time that are at a high enough elevation to give you a Sierra feel. My go-to impoundment that fills this role is Lake Cuyamaca in the mountains east of San Diego. Surrounded my conifers, deer, mountain lions, you might even get snowed on, and if the trout donít bite, itís an underrated bass fishery, and you canít keep (small) crappie off your jigs if you try.
The non-mountain trout scene will never completely replace your Sierra trips, but to me, it sure beats grinding all day for largemouth (man Iím a terrible bass fisherman) or worse, not fishing at all.