Denis Peirce: That’s why it’s called ‘fishing,’ not ‘catching’ |

Denis Peirce: That’s why it’s called ‘fishing,’ not ‘catching’

Denis Peirce
Fishing columnist

We are only a week away from the solstice and the start of summer. The changeover from spring to summer can seem subtle to us, but in the outdoor world it can be quite significant.

This is the time of year when we should be into great fishing.

I made a short window of time for a 24-hour trip into the mountains. The idea was to leave home in the middle of the day, fish until dark, sleep outside without an elaborate camp set-up, fish the morning hours and be back in the afternoon, a great plan. It puts you on the water for both of the prime times of the day, sunrise and sunset.

The night accommodations are not five star, but that is not the point. I would grab some shut eye in a sleeping bag in the back of a truck to be on the water at the right times.

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Trout do not live in ugly places. I just did not see one in my boat.

The best bet I could think of was Lake Davis. It is 2 1/2 hours away towing a boat, but it holds the promise of some good trout fishing at the close of spring.

Davis is one of those Sierra reservoirs that was formed by building a small dam in a canyon that flooded a huge meadow. It is the rich soil under the water that supports the food chain. In years past, Lake Davis built a reputation as having one of the best damsel fly hatches in the west. The hatch started in late May and peaked in late June. This looked to be a great time for a trip. I have not heard many reports from the lake, but the timing was right.

I talked an old friend Bill McCrea into joining me for the trip. Just bring your fishing gear and a sleeping bag. We will get some food on the road to put in the ice chest and go.


We were out before 3 p.m. and on the water by 6:30 with a stiff afternoon wind blowing across the lake from the west. The north end of the lake was our choice and we launched out of the Lightning Tree ramp. There were only two other boats we could see. In the rough conditions, trolling was the best bet. We worked close to shore, out over deep water and ended up close to the west shore, where the wind was not as strong.

We tried a number of different colors, depths and speeds but the trout were not cooperating. As the light began to fade, we headed back to pull the boat out and set up a rough camp for the evening. We stayed at Lightning Tree campground.

I can’t precisely remember the last time I slept without a roof between me and the night sky. There is usually a tent, camper shell or travel trailer over my head. Waking up to see the Milky Way in the middle of the night reminded me of backpacking trips of decades gone by. The night was shared with an occasional mosquito and the coyotes were singing a short distance away.

We were up early under an overcast sky with no wind. These were good omens for an extended morning on the water.


We quickly broke camp and pulled the boat to the Honker Cove ramp to fish the south end of the lake. Once launched and headed toward the island we watched as the occasional trout ate something off the surface. There were feeding fish but they were widely scattered. We trolled flies trying to cover a lot of water.

Then we drifted through areas where we had seen rising fish. Bill and I cast a variety of insect imitations on the top and down below the surface. A blood midge landed on Bill’s hat; that told us what the fish were looking for. Any direction you looked there was a fish disturbing the surface, but it seemed like it was only one fish per acre. A lot of water to cover casting a tiny fly.

We moved to the shallows around the island and still the trout refused to cooperate.

Then it was off to the west side to fish the weed beds. There was no surface activity but it has been good fishing on past trips. There were quite a few birds loafing on shore and around the flooded brush. A good sign that there was food, fish, in the area. We trolled to cover water and stopped to cast flies. Finally at midmorning Bill caught a bass on a streamer fly. The “skunk” was off the boat.

We worked down close to the dam and finally called it a day before noon as the overcast cleared and the sun began to shine.

Was it a failed trip? No!

Lake Davis is full, there is still a bit of snow on the surrounding hills. The smell in the air said “Summer in the mountains.” It is a beautiful time of the year to spend some time in the high country.

Trout do not live in ugly places. I just did not see one in my boat.

Denis Peirce writes a fishing column for The Union’s Outdoors section and is host of “The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report,” which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via his website at

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