Float N Fly with Hogan Brown on Oroville

Earlier this year, my friend Ken Oda extended an invitation to join him and his buddy Hogan Brown for a Spotted Bass fishing trip on Oroville Lake. Unfortunately, I had to cancel due to a second bout of Covid, but the unexpected silver lining was the rescheduled trip that took place last Saturday. It may very well have been the best weekend of the year for fishing on Oroville Lake. It had been quite some time since I last visited the lake, and conveniently, my cousin Wayne lives just a short distance away, so he graciously accommodated me for the night. I contemplated bringing my boat up and staying for a couple of days, as the sight of the full lake was truly spectacular. The Bidwell Bridge resembled a verdant miniature version of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, spanning the lush and rugged shoreline. Eagles and Osprey soared overhead, scanning the water for their next catch. I found myself captivated by the picturesque landscape, occasionally losing focus on my float and missing out on numerous fish. The current conditions would make renting a houseboat on the lake and fishing every day until my arm required rehab an incredible experience. Additionally, I was intrigued by the unique floating bathrooms on Oroville Lake, having never encountered anything like them before. I inspected one and was impressed by how clean and well-maintained it was. Perhaps a floating bar could be a valuable addition for houseboaters and anglers, although it remains open to debate.

The topwater bite during our fishing excursion was nothing short of astonishing. We effortlessly caught fish using small Breambug Poppers and Gurlgers, as the bass eagerly looked up for their next meal, even in sunlit areas. Most of the guides on the lake eagerly anticipate this time of year when the topwater action is at its peak, before transitioning to the Float N Fly method once it subsides. As a newcomer to Float N Fly, I immersed myself in instructional videos by Ryan Williams, the pioneer of this technique on Lake Oroville. Equipped with a 10-foot 6-weight Echo Stillwater rod, newly designed floats from Lost Coast Anglers, and a 1/16-ounce Black Leech with rubber legs, I delved into the nuances of this approach, distinct from fishing chironomids for trout. The substantial bobber, long leaders spanning 8 to 12 feet, weighted jigs, and the subtle movements of the bobber all contributed to the challenge. It took some practice, but as they say, “sets are free,” and striking at any sign of movement proved more productive than not. Playing and releasing Spotted Bass bore similarities to local Dink Stripers fishing, although the bass showcased their acrobatic skills by tail-walking and jumping when brought to the surface, adding an exhilarating element to the battle. They exhibited a surprising amount of strength comparable to similarly sized stripers.

Our guide, Hogan Brown, proved to be exceptional. Besides being a skilled and well-known guide on the lake and the Sacramento River, he is involved in social media marketing for prominent fly fishing companies such as Echo Flyfishing and Lost Coast Outfitters. We had engaging conversations regarding fly fishing videography, photography, and even collaborated on editing the Lost Coast Outfitters Surf Fishing Video, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Hogan also showcased his talent as a fly tyer, allowing me to fish with a small white Game Changer pattern that proved highly effective. The fly’s mesmerizing movement beneath the surface was deadly, outperforming a similar-sized clouser without a doubt. Unfortunately, I lost three of them during the outing. In addition to his fishing expertise, Hogan is a dedicated father to a couple of talented young lacrosse players, reminiscent of my own son’s involvement in the sport.  Plus I couldn’t help but notice that he nets fish like a star “Middie” in a Face-Off.

Float and Fly is definitely a fun and exciting local option especially with Oroville being full.  The Feather river and the Yuba look clear but the Sacramento river is still muddy .  I have heard there are shad in the Yuba  but Wayne hasn’t found them in the Sac this year.   There are so many other things around northern California that are peaking.  I almost feel like I’m cheating on San Luis.     Next week its off to Henderson Springs for the Hex Hatch (hopefully).


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