Hat Creek is another of the hallowed waters of Northern California fly angling history. This long spring creek system is re-known for harboring large and discriminating wild rainbow trout along with the occasional brown trout. The lower 3.5 miles (just above Lake Britton) was among the first waters in California to be designated into the Wild Trout Program, earning special regulations and notoriety among discerning fly anglers in the State.
Hat Creek is one of California’s longest spring creeks offering a variety of different types of water over its 30-mile journey eventually dumping into Lake Britton, and joining the Pit River system.
Hat Creek bubbles out of the ground through s series of springs off the flanks of Mt Lassen, a 10,457 ft tall volcano located on the far edge of eastern Shasta County. The creek flows north for over 30 miles as a small freestone spring creek through private property and ranch land as well as along a several public Forest Service operated campgrounds along Highway 89.
Upon reaching the small ranching community of Cassel, Hat Creek meets a confluence with the Rising River (another spring-fed system). The creek continues through more private ranches along its journey toward Baum Lake and the Crystal Lake fish hatchery. Hat Creek widens into a slow moving body of water known as Baum Lake and picks up additional cold-water flows from spring-fed Crystal Lake.
The section immediately below Baum Lake, beginning with the Powerhouse #2 Riffle, is the most popular section of Hat Creek among fly anglers. This 3.5 mile section offers all the classic fly fishing experiences: walk & stalk technical dry fly presentations on smooth flats, short-line nymphing the shallow riffles as well as swinging streamers or casting big dry flies behind logs and tall grass and other structure in the steep gradient lower reach.
Thanks largely to partnerships with organizations such as California Trout, the local Pit River tribe, US Fish & Wildlife among other agencies – the Powerhouse #2 reach has undergone major streamside habitat improvement projects in recent years. The work includes a new footbridge over the creek, 1.5 mi of access trail, and improving in-stream and bank structure and habitat. It is an exciting time for the fans of Hat Creek – restoring this stream to a healthy and robust population of 5,000 wild trout per mile is one of the goals.
Whether you are a novice fly angler interested in an introduction to spring creek techniques or an advanced angler looking for a technical challenge like sight casting to large trout – Hat Creek will often produce exciting and memorable opportunities to some of northern California’s finest wild trout.