Fly Fishing for Trophy Brown and Rainbow Trout on Iron Canyon Reservoir

Iron Canyon Reservoir is a forebay that feeds the James B. Black powerhouse on the Pit River. It is fed by an 8 mile tunnel from the McCloud River Reservoir outside of McCloud, California. Both projects are owned and operated by Pacific Gas & Electric company.

James B. Black was the president of Pacific Gas & Electric for 20 years and was the father-in-law of Shirley Temple Black.

The reservoir and powerhouse were completed in 1965 and the reservoir planted with various species of rainbow trout by California Fish & Game. No one can tell me where the brown trout came from.

The McCloud River is fed by springs coming off of Mount Shasta and the water is very pure and cold. This is the water that feeds Iron Canyon Reservoir. Besides the main in-flow of McCloud River water, the reservoir has four creeks that empty into it and serve as spawning beds for naturally spawned trout.

One of the things that sets Iron Canyon Reservoir apart from other water bodies is that the carry over of planted trout is quite high. The planters survive longer than the average of three weeks, and in fact they survive to spawning age and are able to reproduce.

One can tell the difference between large planters and naturally spawned Rainbow trout in that the flesh of the naturally spawned trout is pink and firm, similar to Steelhead Trout. This quality makes the trout easier to fillet. The planted trout that survive and grow large enough have white meat and are harder to fillet.

Due to an abundance of food and a red worm that is indigenous to the soils along the edges, these fish grow very large….they remind me of footballs. One brown trout made the local newspaper, it was 32 inches long. As a judge for the Annual Fish Derby and Liars Contest, I have weighed in a brown trout that was 27 1/4″ long and 7 lbs. 6 ozs. in weight. The contestant also entered a 17″ rainbow trout.

The McCloud River tunnel sucks in fish from the McCloud reservoir and spits out fish food. Numerous brown trout hang out in front of the inlet and even have a spawning area close by. The local fishing guides use this inlet during times when the local rivers are blown out and call it “River X”, and have their clients use San Juan Worm Flies from the bank to catch browns. Trolling along the dam face with flashers and bait also works well for catching large brown trout.

I personally like fly fishing the mouths of McGill, Gap and Cedar Salt creeks. The banks are easy to walk, and a float tube is very handy and easy to launch. The brown trout are fall spawners and will stack up in the mouths of the creeks waiting for the winter rains. The rainbows are right below them, feeding on brown trout eggs. In the spring, the water levels are kept low for power generation purposes and the creek mouths have numerous rainbow trout feeding in them. I call it “old man” fishing, since all I have to do is put on some rubber boots, and cast into the water with a woolly bugger type fly.

In the summer when the water levels are kept high, the brown trout cruise the edges and the flats while a float tube will get you out over submerged stumps where the rainbows feed. Good Times.

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