Let’s be honest, it’s hard to fool the trout of Hat Creek.
You see, because of the Creek’s calm and clear water, the trout can easily spot a poor imitation. In fact, they are far more likely to spot you than you are to spot them.
Additionally, the water boasts a rich aquatic insect population, so the trout are very picky about what they eat. But if you are a talented angler, you’ll love the challenge that Hat Creek provides.
One thing is for sure, you’ll need to be on your toes to outsmart the trout of Hat Creek. Check out the rest of our guide to gain the advantage you will need to defeat the wild and wily denizens of the stream.
Hat Creek is a 48.7 mile long tributary of Pit River located in Shasta County. The Creek was so named after a surveyor lost his hat in the waters. The stream rises in Lassen Volcanic National Park, flowing north through Lassen National Forest before entering Lake Britton near Burney, California.
The lower three and a half miles of the Creek are designated by the California Department of Fish and Game as a Wild Trout Waterway, which restricts on the number of trout you are permitted to catch. At Hat Creek, you will most likely find wild rainbow and brown trout, which can be up to 20 inches in length.
The water of Hat Creek remains cold throughout the year, so you can visit the stream during any season. The water is clear and has dense weed growth at the bottom that supports a diverse aquatic insect hatch.
The beautiful scenery, combined with the difficulty level, will make any visit to Hat Creek an unforgettable experience. As long as you match the hatch closely, and avoid spooking the trout, you’ll have success tackling this stream.
Click map icons to get directions to fishing spots, boat ramps and USGS stream flow data
You can choose which area to tackle the stream depending on your skill level and how difficult you want your angling experience to be. You can either choose to fish the upper reaches, which is where casual anglers might want to go, or the section below Powerhouse 2, if you are looking for more of a challenge.
The upper freestone stream has a two fish limit, at an 18 inch minimum and you can only use barbless flies and lures. This area of the stream is stocked. Hat Creek is easily accessible to wade fishermen.
The area below Powerhouse 2 is fast moving and riddled with riffles. This is the easiest area to fish, but the water quickly settles back to its calm nature. The clear and calm water makes it very tough to sneak up on the trout. Try a longer than normal cast, and be sure to use light leaders and tippets.
You can access Hat Creek from Redding by taking Hwy 299 East. Take the exit off of Interstate 5 to get to Burney. Once you pass through Burney, you will reach the intersection of Highway 299E and Highway 89. You then need to turn left at Hat Creek Park.
Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish Hat Creek. The USGS stream gauge near Hat Creek California provides a good indication of current conditions.
The graph below shows the stream flow (discharge) for the past 7-days. If flows are considerably above or below historical norms (yellow triangles on the chart) then fishing conditions ma not be ideal.
You can take on Hat Creek during any time of the year. Fall is an excellent time to take on the stream, as it is less crowded during this time. The springtime is also a good season to visit, due to the prolific aquatic insect hatches.
Blue-winged Olives kick off the action in April and are joined by Pale Morning Duns in May and June. Summer brings a variety of caddisflies, Salmonflies, Little Yellow Stoneflies and Golden Stones. Don’t forget to bring some terrestrial patterns which are effective all summer.
During the fall, you will see Blue Winged Olives (again), which thrive even in snow and bad weather. Midges are on the menu year-round.
Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for Hat Creek:
A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on Hat Creek. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.
Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide Hat Creek fly fishing report are listed below:
The state of California requires that all people who are 16 years of age and older have a valid fishing license. There are resident and non-resident sport fishing licenses available. You can purchase a one-year, 10-day, two-day, or one-day license. Some areas also require a permit. You can purchase the license and learn about the most current regulations through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The nearest airport to Hat Creek in California is Redding Municipal Airport. The nearest international airport to the Creek is Reno-Tahoe International Airport. You will arrive at your destination after a few hours of scenic driving.
If you are looking for accommodations in the area, check out Shasta Pines Motel and Suites. They offer modern rooms and beautiful views of the thriving wildlife in the area. If you would rather enjoy nature at a closer range, you can visit Dusty Campground. They offer a beautiful location shaded by many towering oak trees.
Hat Creek in California offers the perfect opportunity to test your angling skills. If you are well-prepared, you are guaranteed to enjoy your time at Hat Creek.
Feature image by Lassen NPS
Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to Fly Fishing California
Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and find new places to fish. He created DIY Fly Fishing to help you do the same.
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