Lee Colby and I spent a most enjoyable Wednesday the 13th at 'Eagle Canyon Trophy Trout Ponds', where we fished in hopes of catching 'Walter' along with 3 other guys from Livermore. Eagle Canyon is a Confluence Outfitters pay-to-play fishery that managed to live up to its advertised reputation for very large fish, and at $200/day, lots of large fish in a beautiful setting helps make the investment a worthwhile one.
Eagle Canyon, formerly Lassen Trout Farms, is located ~ 24 miles NE of Red Bluff off hwy 36E and Manton Rd. Eagle Canyon has a very functional guest 'shed' that's good shelter when needed, and with a picnic table, frig, microwave and all-important flush toilet. The Livermore guys showed up with a gas grill, burgers with all the trimmings, beers and a big full of cookies (they had obviously been to this movie before). The North Fork of Battle Creek is just North of the ranch, and the town of Manton is a few miles North.
There are 2 spring-fed ponds including the upper #1 pond that I would estimate at 10-15 acres, and the lower #2 pond at around 5-6 acres. The #2 pond is easily fished from the bank or shore wading.. The #1 pond is probably best fished from a float tube to reach the channel where the big boys hang out. Both ponds have lots of big fat rainbows. To put size in perspective, Eagle Canyon provides 2 very large nets (check pic), and they don't allow standard issue fly fisher nets. Fishing is limited to 8:30am - 8:30pm for up to 5 anglers daily with no more than 2 float tubes in the larger pond, and fishing is open for 3-4 days and then closed for 3-4 days to recover (and feed the beasts). Since Wednesday was the last day of the season until October, the fish are all being moved to other nearby races on Friday with the water being diverted for summer irrigation by the ranch owner
The day was a bit colder and wetter with more wind than expected, and at ~ 2,500 ft elevation, snow was clearly visible a few miles away to the East. The morning temps were low/mid forties with clouds, on/off again winds and rain, and with the water at 48 deg the morning bite was slow. The patterns recommended by Andrew Harris of Confluence and the guy who manages the ponds, Cliff, were small #16/18 nymphs under an indicator (Prince, PT's & CJ's), buggers/leeches with a small nymph dropper stripped slowly and lastly rubber leg stones under fished with a nymph dropper under an indicator. Since we encountered moss, the indicator suggestion probably made sense. Fishing is prohibited on anything small than a 5 wt with 6 wt probably a better choice due to the size of the fish to minimize long times on the hook tiring the fish. Several large fish, including 1 that measured 31" with a 19" girth, were caught on 5 wts with all having difficulties recovering.
In spite of the bite being slower than expected, our day at Eagle Canyon was a most enjoyable one that validated Eagle Canyon's extra large fish reputation. Lee (the Pilgrim in the attached pics) and myself fished the lower pond where Lee managed to net a nice large fish who's length matched the large net opening (he has a photo to prove it). I had 4 on the hook, including 1 large fish that I think was close to 30" that managed to throw the hook just before being netted, and then a 2nd jumbo "Walter" type that looked more like a salmon than a trout that jumped, stripped line at his convenience and fought very hard before finally breaking my 3X fluro tippet. Lee and I tried a number of patterns with our best results slow stripping bugger/leech patterns with a small 16/18 dropper. The fish seemed to go on and off the bite with my 2 large fish both hooked between 1pm and 1:30 fishing a floating line on a 5wt with a 9' 3x fluro leader/tippet and #10 Seal Bugger with a #16 Copper John dropper. Since both fish stripped line at will, I think I would have been better off with a 6 wt, and maybe 2x fluro.
Bottom line - the day was a very good one that I'll most definitely repeat next season, and maybe shoot for a Fall trip next time.