National Parks 7 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing in Lassen Volcanic National Park

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

July 24, 2020

Lassen Volcanic National Park in California

Located in Northeast California, Lassen Volcanic National Park has had a storied past. As far back as 1907, the area was designated under federal protection from President Theodore Roosevelt. At that time, the region was classified as two separate parks: Cinder Cone and Lassen Peak National Monuments.

After some volcanic activity in the area, Lassen Peak and Cinder Cone were merged into a single national park in 1916. Even today, the area is well-known for being a hotbed of geological disruptions. In fact, Lassen Park is unique in that all four kinds of volcanoes can be found within its borders.

Although the park is home to a lot of mud beds, fumaroles, and hot springs, it’s also a great place for fly fishing. Lassen spans over 106,000 acres, meaning that there is more wilderness to explore than you could ever hope to cover in a lifetime.

Interestingly enough, with such expansive borders, there are only five vehicle entrances to get into the park. 

About Lassen Volcanic National Park

When talking about fishing in Lassen Volcanic National Park, one thing comes to mind: trout. Before the area was designated by the government, local fishermen would stock the various waterways with rainbow, brown, and brook trout. That practice stopped after 1916, but those are still some of the most common species you can find. 

There are a few notable lakes in the park, with the largest and most popular being Manzanita. That being said, if you want to avoid the crowds and tourists, you can check out Butte, Snag, or Horseshoe lakes instead. However, if it’s fly fishing for wild trout you’re after, Manzanita is designated as as a Wild Trout Waters fishery by the State of California.

So, with that in mind, let’s go over the best way to experience Lassen Park on your next fishing journey. 

Lassen Volcanic National Park Fishing Map

map of fishing spots in Lassen Volcanic National Pak

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

Best Places to Fish in Lassen Volcanic National Park

There are many rivers, streams, and lakes where you can try your luck in and around Lassen Volcanic National Park. Here are the top recommended fishing locations to visit:

Manzanita Lake

The best way to get here is to take the Lassen Peak Highway 89. Although it’s not open for part of the year due to snow (more on that later), it takes you right to the lake, making it a convenient option for most anglers.

One of the best things about Manzanita is that it has an extensive campground next to it, meaning that you can stay for a few days while you practice your fishing. Fishing here is catch-and-release, so you don’t get to keep anything you catch, but that doesn’t mean that the experience is less enjoyable overall.

The downside of this lake is that it’s by far the most popular. The area can get crowded with families and fishermen of all ages and skill levels, so you will have some competition to find the best spots.

You can either fish from the shore, or you can take a float-tube on the water which will enable you to get away from the crowds. However, depending on the time of the year, expect to see a lot of kids out on the water as well, so keep that in mind.

Usually, you will have to have a fishing license to cast in the park, but Lassen does have free fishing days on occasion.

Horseshoe Lake

Of the three top fishing spots in Lassen, this one is the most remote. It’s in the middle of the park, and you can’t drive there. The closest road is Chester Juniper Lake road, which splits from Highway 36 on the Southern side of the park. The road ends at Juniper Lake, meaning that you have to hike the rest of the way. 

There are no campgrounds at Horseshoe, so you’ll have to stay at the ones at Juniper Lake. It’s about a mile and a half each way, so plan to get some exercise to warm you up. 

If you’re up to the challenge, you can find some decent rainbow and brown trout in the lake. Also, because of the hike, you won’t have any problems with crowds or tourists getting in your way. 

Butte Lake

If you prefer to do your fishing where you can keep your catch, and you’re off the beaten path, then Butte is an excellent choice for you. This lake has a campground, but it’s much less popular and isn’t off of the main road. 

To get there, you have to take Highway 44 from the 89, and then turn off at Butte Lake Road. It’s about four miles until you reach the campground. Because it’s not as easy to get to, we highly recommend camping overnight to make the most of your trip. 

Since the lake is relatively small, you may want to do more hiking and exploring while you spend your time in the park. 

Check the Lassen Volcanic National Park website for more information on how to get to these lesser known fisheries.

Best Time to Fish in Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. However, that doesn’t mean that you can access all of the fishing grounds anytime you want. Usually, Highway 96 to Manzanita is closed over the winter, so you have to settle for other spots around the area. 

One of the frustrating things about Lassen is that the closures can be so temperamental. This is all because the park experiences a lot more precipitation than most others, so snow can accumulate for most of the year. 

According to the Park Rangers, the roads can be closed off as early as October or as late as December. To make it worse, they may not open until mid-summer (sometimes as late as July). So, if you’re going to visit any time that’s not between July and October, you may miss out on fishing altogether. 

As we mentioned, the park does offer free fishing days so that you can cast without a license. They change every year, but are typically in July and September to give you an idea of when they happen. 

Another thing to consider is that with such a short open season, you have to be quick to get in ahead of the crowds, especially at Manzanita. If you plan on staying at the campgrounds, we recommend reserving your spot (you can do this up to six months in advance). The fee is either $25 or $17, depending on the season. 

Lassen Volcanic National Park Fishing Tips

Most of the best fly fishing in Lassen NP is in lakes. Usually, when casting at a lake, you will need a rod that’s about nine to 10.5-feet long. A 6-wt rod is a good choice for casting into the wind and handling the heavy trout you will encounter.

Float-tube fly fishing is popular at Manzanita and is a good way to put some distance between yourself and the next fisherman.

As far as flies are concerned, the trout are not too picky, meaning that you can probably get away with some simple attractor patterns or your favorite streamer pattern.

Another thing to mention is that you should plan on bringing comfortable hiking shoes and plenty of supplies, especially if you plan on staying for a few days. If you go to Horseshoe or Butte Lakes, you will need extra water or water filter, as those campsites may be dry when you stay there.

Best Flies for Lassen Volcanic National Park

Here are some recommended flies that have proven effective for fishing in the Lassen Volcanic National Park region:

  • Callibaetis (#16-18)
  • Damsel Nymph (#14)
  • Parachute Adams (#14-20)
  • Traditional Adams (#16-20)
  • Callibaetis Cripple (#14-16)
  • Carpenter Ant (#14-16)
  • Bouface, brown (#10)
  • Monroe leech, olive (#10)

Lassen Volcanic National Park Fishing Reports

There are a number of area fly shops and guide services that can provide an update on current fishing conditions in and around Lassen Volcanic National Park. A few to check out are listed below.

Lassen Volcanic National Park Fishing Regulations

California or Lassen Volcanic National Park regulations apply throughout Lassen Volcanic National Park. A license is required to fish anywhere in the state, whether it is a one-day or one year pass.

Special regulations that apply to fishing in and near Lassen Volcanic National Park include:

Anywhere but Manzanita, you are beholden to California state regulations for fishing. Anyone ages 16 and up have to have a license (except on free fishing days). 

At Manzanita, the lake has a strict catch-and-release policy. Not only does this ensure that you will probably catch a monster trout, but it also means that you can’t use anything but artificial lures or single, barbless hooks. Thus, worms, salmon eggs, or power bait is forbidden at the lake. 

Elsewhere, there aren’t any such restrictions that we know of, although state regulations do outline specific notices regarding the number and kinds of gear you can use, so we suggest familiarizing yourself with them before heading out. 

Trip Planning Tips

Overall, the best way to get into the park is through Redding. This is where you can catch Highway 89 and get to Manzanita the fastest.

Alternatively, you can follow the I-5 further south to Red Bluff and get onto the 36 if you’re planning on going to Horseshoe Lake. If you plan on doing more hiking than fishing, this can be a great place to start.

As we mentioned, most of the park is closed from snow for the majority of the year. Even during the hotter months, you have to stay below 7,500 feet to avoid most of the snowpack.

Since Lassen Peak is the crown jewel of the park, we suggest visiting it while you’re there. You can see it from Manzanita, or you can follow the 89 further south and get closer to it. There are tons of hiking trails in the area, so feel free to explore.

Camping in Lassen is affordable, so we recommend staying overnight if possible. Depending on where you’re coming from, you may want to take advantage of the fact that admission covers up to seven days.

Happy fishing!

Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in America. You may also be interested in our DIY Guides to Fly Fishing in Yosemite, Kings Canyon or Sequoia National Park.

Feature image by Urdangaray