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Bass in the grass

Article and photos by Bill Adelman
10/27/15 -- The above headline is catchy and it’s actually the case when fishing Steiner Lake in Redding. As the years passed it became more difficult to find solitude and successful angling opportunities. About 20+ years ago we met Duane at the Fly Shop in Redding. He was the guru of their private waters program and we enjoyed every outing booked through them. Five years ago they contracted a flyfishing largemouth bass opportunity, Steiner Lake.

Man balancing on boat bow untangling grass weed from fishing line, photo by Bill Adelman
Yes, there is a bass in there

The program allows day use only or a package including lodging and use of the lake. Prams with trolling motors are available, and are a must. The “lodge” is brand new this year and is a great facility. Go to their website,, click on private waters and check it out. The young gun in the program is Nick, very helpful and willing to please and make sure all goes well during your stay. They’re at 1-800-669-3474

Reservations are necessary. When we make a decision to fish each spring & fall, we book at once. Last year they added a neighboring water, Swartz Lake. You can book either one or both if you stay for two or more days, which we always do. The low water this and last year made the fishing a bit more difficult, however doable. This is strictly catch & release flyfishing and the necessary gear is a floating and sink tip line. There’s plenty of room in their 14-foot prams to accommodate four rods.

A good example of a pre-sunrise chunk taken and returned to Steiner Lake, photo by Bill Adelman
A good example of a pre-sunrise chunk taken and returned to Steiner Lake

We make sure to be on the water in the morning darkness, with headlamps. Ever try to toss a fly when you can’t see? The topwater bite is awesome in the dark, as well as fun. The suggested rod size is at least a 6 wt, however a 7 is better. The leader should be at least 14 pound, as there are some very nice “chunks” finning in these lakes. Our best ever was an 8+ with many in the 3-5 lb. range. A pleasant unexpected surprise is the crappie or bluegill bite.

An average Steiner Lake black crappie. photo by Bill Adelman
An average Steiner Lake black crappie

This year fishing was slower than usual, but still better than most public waters. No need to cast clear across the lake, however, precision is sometimes a must. Much of the lake’s peripheral is floating primrose and the fly must land so that the back of the hook kisses the leaves. The ever popular deer hair popper with a weed guard works well. This way you can toss into the primrose or the floating cheese and not hook up a trailing weed. This last trip we worked the primrose indentations in the late afternoon with but a fish or two.

Lots of bass in this range make for a very enjoyable outing via The Fly Shop in Redding, photo by Bill Adelman
Lots of bass in this range make for a very enjoyable outing via The Fly Shop in Redding

The next morning found us at exactly the same spots and from 7 to 8:30 the topwater grab was on. Then it quit. Bring out the sink tip with a minnow style bug and fish the same water. The bite was slower, but consistent. When the primrose bite isn’t working, settle in the open water and just free cast the sink tip while slowly drifting across the lake.

So, what about the weeds? Almost the entire lake bottom is covered with alodaia. The bass have learned to dive when hooked. Another reason perhaps for 14# leaders. As difficult as it is to do, when this occurs, give slack and watch your line. When it suddenly starts moving, tighten down and continue the battle. So, there you have it. Fish, rest, or eat at your leisure. There’s something very special about the grab on a flyrod. Go for it, and Tight Lines !!!

Bill Adelman is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of California. His work has appeared in the Fish Sniffer newspaper and MarketPlace magazine. He was a full time freshwater fishing guide for 20 years. Now retired he still likes to serve as a flyfishing instructor, rod builder, outdoor photographer and hunting mentor.

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