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Fishing good on Hat Creek

Alex Colvin author photo, myoutdoorbuddy.com

At 9 a.m. on Saturday July 25th, my wife Linda and I set up our vendor booth at Rim Rock Ranch for the annual Old Station Volunteer Fire Department Barbecue. It was still early and the barbecue didn't start until noon, so I decided to mosey around and check out the fishing on Hat Creek.

Stopping in at the Rim Rock Ranch Store to buy a candy bar and get change for a twenty, I asked the clerk how the fishing was. She told me it was good. I asked if people were saying that any spots were particularly good.

"No," she said. "Just fish away from other people. Find your own place and fish by yourself and you'll do well."

I headed up the road toward Lassen Park to explore the picnic areas and camp grounds that had access to Hat Creek. A little ways up the road I entered Old Station Picnic Area. No one was there, so I decided just to sit for a while, reflect, and commune with the natural beauty.

Hat Creek at Old Station Picnic Area
Hat Creek at Old Station Picnic Area

Shortly, I heard a flutter and saw an osprey flying down the creek. It landed a short ways downstream on the branch of a ponderosa pine. I got my camera out and approached it shooting pictures from various locations as I went.

Eventually I was standing right across the creek from it with a clear view, hoping to get a good shot when it took off.

Osprey watching for a fish, photo by Alex Colvin
Osprey watching for a fish

Unfortunately, after about 45 minutes of waiting, I became impatient and zoomed in to get a closer shot of the head. Just as I did, I saw that the osprey was preparing to launch.

Osprey just before diving, photo by alex Colvin
Osprey just before diving

I fumbled with my camera as the bird rose into the air and dove straight down into the creek below. Wings flapping and talons extended, he snatched a fish and flew downstream. I hastily shot a picture, but all I could get was a blurred picture of him flying off with the fish in clutch.

It was an awesome sight, and I only regretted that I had not waited a minute more and gotten a clear shot of the catch.

Osprey with fish , photo by Alex Colvin
Osprey with fish

I got back in my Jeep, left the picnic area, and drove a little farther down to Hat Creek Campground. After parking, I headed down a trail to the creek. Here the creek was deep and narrow with parts of the channel as deep as five feet, I thought it looked like a great place to swim.

Hat Creek at Hat Creek Campground, photo by Alex Colvin
Hat Creek at Hat Creek Campground

As I neared the bank, I heard a voice from behind a tree.

"Hello!"

It was a young fisherman who had caught a nice rainbow trout using salmon eggs. His name was Devin Gaumont. He lives in Campbell in Santa Clara County and had come north to share a fishing trip with his father.

Devin Gaumont from Campbell, photo by Alex Colvin
Devin Gaumont from Campbell

I introduced myself, and he cheerfully consented to let me take some pictures of him fishing.

Devin Gaumont fishing Hat Creek, photo by Alex Colvin
Devin Gaumont fishing Hat Creek

Wishing Gaumont continued success, I headed back to the Rim Rock Ranch to see how Linda was doing at the barbecue. I showed my pictures of the raptor to several people. I actually had thought it was some kind of hawk. One woman told me that it was a young bald eagle. However, several agents of the US Forest Service at their booth informed me that it was an osprey because of the brown band across its head and the short dark beak. The eagle's beak is longer and yellow and hawks have a brown head.

3 Forest Service personell standing in the woods, photo by Alex Colvin
Forest Service personnel advising me on raptors

That mystery solved, I enjoyed a humongous and delicious barbecued chicken lunch. Then I gave some Pacific Trail Hikers a ride to the Old Station Post Office two miles up the road. I spent some time at the booth with Linda, talking with visitors. I met locals from Burney, folks from Sacramento and the Bay Area who owned vacation homes in the area, quite a few day trippers from Redding, and even some Filipino Texans and tourists from as far away as Germany.

Linda Colvin in her booth, waving, photo by Alex Colvin
Linda Colvin in her booth, waving

As the afternoon wore on however, I grew restless again and decided to drive down Hwy 89 to Bridge Park. Bridge Park is lovely. There's a nice little cascade under the bridge, a little sandy spot where you can wade into the creek, and a pleasant trail that goes about a quarter mile down creek to a small falls. Fortunately, the park has been spared the forest fires that have ravaged Hat Creek Valley in recent years. Due to timber falls and varying temperatures, the stream and landscape are different each season of every year.

Hat Creek at Bridge park, photo by Alex Colvin
Hat Creek at Bridge park

The afternoon had warmed up and I was beginning to feel a bit bushed. I took off my shoes and socks and waded into the creek, getting my pant legs wet. The water was shockingly cold and my submerged feet and ankles began to sting.

I walked back up the bank and sat down on one of the picnic benches. Cooling off my hot feet had refreshed my entire body. Downstream I saw a couple sitting silently by the stream in canvas chairs just looking over the water.

"That's the way to do it," I thought, "Just sit by the stream and enjoy the wonder."

The man rose and reached behind a tree, from which he pulled a fishing pole. As he approached me, I greeted him and said, "Ah! you've been fishing. How was it?"

"Good!" he replied, "I got three nice trout."

Harry from Sacramento with catch of 3, standing on boulder over looking Hat Creek, photo by Alex Colvin
Harry from Sacramento with catch of three trout

The fortunate fisherman's name was Harry. He and his wife live in Sacramento. Bridge Park is one of his wife's favorite places, and he loves to come up here and fish. On this occasion, he had caught his three rainbows using a Rooster Tail lure.

I had a nice chat with Harry and his wife and headed back to Old Station. The barbecue was winding up. Linda made a few closing sales. We packed up, said our farewells to new friends, and drove back to Burney. When we got home, I immediately took off my clothes and dove in my deliciously refreshing unheated swimming pool. After cooling off, I sat down at the patio table. My little furry golden cat jumped on the chair next to me demanding to be petted.

Just another day in paradise.

For additional information about this area, visit our Intermountain-Hat Creek page.

Alex Colvin is co-owner of The Lace Gallery in Burney, California. He previously wrote for non-profit corporations in the Washington-Baltimore Metropolitan Area. Since returning to Burney, where he has deep family roots, Alex and his wife Linda have dedicated themselves to exploring and photographing the natural beauty of Northern California.


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