California Fly Fishing 3 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing Lake Davis in California

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

April 18, 2020

Lake Davis in northern California

Many years ago, Lake Davis was overrun by northern pike, which harmed the trout, steelhead, and salmon population.

The California Department of Fish and Game treated the Lake with rotenone in 2007 to remove all fish, and then re-established the rainbow trout population.

Anglers are now treated to a fishery teeming with large rainbow trout. The Lake is surrounded by beautiful wildlife, so you will have an unforgettable view of towering pines while you are fishing Lake Davis’ pristine waters.

Today, Lake Davis is one of the best trophy trout lakes in Northern California, and should earn a spot on every angler’s bucket list. 

About Lake Davis

Fly Fishing Lake Davis

Lake Davis is an artificial lake in Plumas County, California. Named after Lester T. Davis, the Lake’s waters are impounded by Grizzly Valley Dam. The Lake discharges into Big Grizzly Creek, which is a tributary of the Middle Fork Feather River. The Lake is a popular destination for boating, swimming, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and hunting. 

The Lake’s rich aquatic beds ensure the rainbow trout are well fed and happy. You’ll see plenty of mayflies, damselflies, crayfish, and snails. You’ll have to match the hatch closely when fishing this Lake, as the trout here can afford to be picky.

The Lake is located in Plumas National Forest, and is surrounded by towering pines and a riot of colorful wildflowers. The rainbows you catch from the lake will likely average three to six pounds. 

Thankfully, the days of trying to eradicate the northern pike population from Lake Davis by any means necessary (including explosives, poison, nets, and shocking) are over. It is now a premiere fishery that anglers from every skill level can enjoy.

Lake Davis Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of fishing access spots on Lake Davis in California

Get Directions to the Fishing Access Points shown above with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Places to Fish Lake Davis

Lake Davis is easily accessible from the Lake Davis Recreation Area. This area also provides access to other outdoor activities, including swimming and hiking. Strong winds can make it dangerous to be in a small craft, so be sure to check out the conditions before setting out on your trip.

Best Time to Fish Lake Davis

The best times to fly fish Lake Davis are spring, the early summer, and fall. The fish are at their hungriest in autumn, as they prepare for winter. During the fall, you will see many blood midges and callibaetis mayflies. 

In the spring, the most important hatch is the damselfly hatch.

Fly Box – What You’ll Need

Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for Lake Davis:

  • Small Midges (#12-20)
  • Blood Midges (#10-14)
  • Callibaetis Mayflies (#12-16)
  • Caddis (Longhorn) (#14-16)
  • October Caddis (#10-12)
  • Damsel Nymphs (#10-14)
  • Damsel Adults (#12-14)
  • Flying Ants (#12-14)
  • Snails (#10-14)
  • Scuds (#14-18)
  • Dragons, leeches, small fry (#8-14)

Gear Recommendations

A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on Lake Davis. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

Lake Davis Fishing Report

Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a Lake Davis fly fishing report are listed below:

Fishing Regulations

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.

Trip Planning Tips

The nearest airports to Lake Davis in California are the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, located in Nevada, and the Sacramento International Airport. Keep in mind that you can travel to any major or municipal airport in central California and arrive at your destination after a few hours of scenic driving you will never forget. Sitting at 5,885 feet, Lake Davis makes the journey to reach its waters undeniably memorable. 

Lake Davis Resort offers a serene escape from the chaos of everyday life. With no internet or cell service and limited television stations, you’ll be able to completely unplug from modern distractions and anxieties. This is the perfect place to reconnect with loved ones or get some much needed alone time. Grizzly Campground is another family friendly lodging option in the area. The campground is pet friendly and has coin-operated showers.

Since the northern pike population has been driven out, Lake Davis has become one of the best trout fisheries in California. Show your gratitude to the California Department of Fish and Game by enjoying the benefits of their hard work.

Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to Fly Fishing California