I based my top spots on these factors; great fishing, great views and the ease of getting there.
So here goes;
Spring Fishing (before April), on the Owyhee River, in Southern Oregon is fantastic. This 10-mile stretch of river below the Owyhee Dam is just 30 miles from my home in Ontario, Oregon, or about 80 miles out of Boise. So here’s a little local knowledge.
You may be saying, “This is a famous Fly Fishing spot”? Yes it is a favorite “Trophy Brown Trout” haunt for Fly Fishermen, but here’s a little known secret, it is also open to “Bait Fishermen” and a skilled fisherman with bait can land more of these big Browns than the fly fishermen.
This river has a rustic beauty all it’s own, especially in early spring when the sparkling white snow still clinging to the valleys and hillsides. The river is low and slow this time of year and you can easily see the monster Browns rising for the bugs floating on the surface. There are hundreds of these Browns in every hole. You can easily catch a huge Brown Trout here, ranging from 2 lbs to 20 lbs and Rainbows 20 inches up.
Be advised you must immediately return the huge Browns to the river, but you can keep and eat any Rainbow Trout or Bass you catch. This is why there are so many monster Browns in these holes, they never leave the river; they just get bigger and smarter.
Legal “Bait Fishing” is allowed here, but you must have a thick skin, as you will get looks from the purest (Fly Guys) as they pass. This river is very clean and free of the Lead Poisons prevalent throughout the Western Rivers, so you can safely eat the red meated Rainbows and the occasional Bass.
You can easily drive in and camp, right beside the river, free of charge. Be sure to pack out all you bring in and keep it clean. Just set up your chairs and do some relaxing “Bait Fishing” or you can put on your waders and chase the Browns up and down the river. Wading is simple along this shallow easily accessible river.
Bring your four-wheeler or canoe and easily traverse the long winding riverbanks. Make sure you pack a lunch and have plenty of bait, as the nearest store is 10 to 15 miles away.
Tip; try a Night Crawler and Split Shot, drifted in the current.
In late spring try Horsethief Reservoir, just 10 miles above Cascade, Idaho.
This little lake is my favorite spot, spring, summer or fall. In the springtime, (Late April) right after “Ice-Off”, the trout fishing is amazing. You can limit out in a hour with catch-able Rainbows from 8 to 14 inches, with the occasional 20 incher.
But that’s not all, let me tell you a true story; In the early summer my friend, Scotty, and I, went to Horsethief for a day trip, traveling out of Cascade, where I was living. We set up right beside the Dam, our usual spot.
While lounging on a grassy bank, beside the pristine clear blue water lake, I was looking out at the tree lined far shoreline. Suddenly, a rush of waves and a dark blur in the water at my feet startled me. It took me a few minutes for me to realize that it was an Otter, rushing in to steal my stringer of fish. Sure enough the Otter had swiftly rushed in and stole my metal stringer and the five Rainbows caught that morning.
After calming down, I looked out across the lake and to my amazement, not 50 yards out, was an entire family of Otters frolicking and happily munching on our mornings catch. I’ve always wondered, “Was it legal to catch another five fish”?
A little later on, my friend Scotty was busy chasing a wild ring necked duck away from his tackle box, the duck kept trying to steal his bait. The ringed necked duck just wouldn’t go away, he hung around all day, might have been because I tossed him tidbits every once in awhile.
We settled back down and caught a few more “Bows”. I had replaced my stringer, making sure to tie it tight. I then laid back and was gazing up at a pair of Osprey’s floating above us in the blue cloudless sky.
I was just slipping off for a nap when the water ten feet in front of us exploded, spraying both Scotty and me with water. An Osprey had dived into the lake, right in front of us, arose and flew away with a nice trout grasped tightly in its talons.
It was a special “wildlife day” that morning, and the experience was really unforgettable. Nature’s at it’s best is usually there every time I visit this wonderful lake. I’ve seen Deer, Elk, Moose and even a white Wolf at this high mountain retreat. This great fishing hole is easy to get to and sports many lakeside campgrounds. It has majestic scenery and the fishing is peaceful, quite and fruitful.
Tip; use Rainbow Power Bait, a small slip weight and a No.14 gold treble.
June Lake “Opening Day”
You’ll find it in the High Sierras 50 Miles north of Bishop, CA.
“Opening Day” is the last Saturday in April. When I lived in Southern California, we never missed an opening day in the Sierras. We loved the excitement of the moment as thousands of California fishermen rushed to stake out their favorite holes.
June Lake is one of these opening day hotspots. It’s another gorgeous high mountain lake with crystal clear water and forested banks. On “Opening Day” June Lake’s Rainbows are huge, ranging from 12 to 30 inches. I’ve caught 6 to 8lb lunkers from shore on opening day.
One opening weekend a group of us went up a day early to stake out our favorite spot, the park at the south end of the lake. In order to beat the crowds to this spot we slept out on the park grass next to our set up chairs. This was working out well except for the cold, April in the High Sierras brings below freezing weather at night. We were hiding down deep in our bags when the park sprinklers came on, washing us out and back to our camper to dry off and warm up. All except my son Joshua, he was sleeping in a waterproof down army mummy-bag. He slept through the entire watering and when we went back out we saw a solid sheet of ice over his entire bag, but he said he was warm inside.
That morning when the flare went off, we had our spot and began to fish. We caught several lunkers of 5 to 8 pounds. We entered them into the lakes fishing derby, but the contest winner for the day was over 10 pounds.
Tip; Try a slow retrieve with a white marshmallow on a No.12 treble with split shot.
Blue Mesa Reservoir
Blue Mesa Reservoir
Near Gunnison, Colorado; at the South end under the highway bridge, in May.
May is absolutely a great time to fish this lake; if you’re a shore fisherman you’ll love the spot under the bridge at the Gunnison end near the rivers inlet. I’ve caught my limit of large Rainbows every time I’ve fished it in May. Occasionally a shore fisherman ties into one of the huge Lake Trout inhabiting this lake, they can go up to 50 pounds.
My son Jeremy at 7 years old, caught a 4lb Rainbow under this bridge with a child’s fishing pole, he brought it in all by himself.
In May and late summer, you can drive right up to the bridge along an access road cutting off the highway, but don’t try it in June. In June the rains make the road a bog, I know, it cost me $100 to get towed out. You still can get there in June, just park off the highway and climb down the rocky side of the bridge.
Toss out green or rainbow Power-Bait next to the bridge pylons and wait. Watch your poll they hit hard.
You’ll find this canyon 70 miles west of Colorado Springs on the Upper Platte River.
This stretch of canyon is breathtaking; the river winds eleven miles up through the canyon until it ends at the Dam at Eleven Mile Reservoir. This stretch of river is so beautiful that my wife and I have decided to have our ashes placed in these waters when we go to that fishing hole in the sky.
There is plenty of “drive in camp spots” along the river. The fish are usually smaller pan-sized Trout, but are plentiful and then there is that occasional lunker. You can also catch monster 40” pike that roam these waters.
What I like most about fishing these waters is that on a warm spring day you can hop over to one of the mammoth rocks in the river and drift a “Colorado Orange Indicator” and meal worm along the current and watch it drift for a 100 yards or until you get a strike.
When my youngest son, Jeremy, was a tot, I would tie a rope to his life vest and then around my waist. Off we would go rock hopping and fishing all day long.
All the waters in this general area are great in the spring, but if you’ve never visited the Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon you’re missing something special.
So forget about this recession, go fishing.