The EcoAngler Report

Planning to fish Heenan Lake? Get scientific based angling intel in The EcoAngler Report - Heenan Lake.

The EcoAngler Report - Heenan Lake

Detailed information on Heenan's Lahontans along with detailed maps of where to fish and statistics to help time your trip can be purchased here.

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Heenan Lake

Look for my article on Heenan Lake in the September/October 2015 issue of Southwest Fly Fishing

Southwest September 2015 Fly Fishing Magazine Cover

If you are planning a trip to Heenan Lake, then take note of the following: the lake opens for fishing on the Friday of Labor Day weekend and closes on the last Saturday of October (unless it falls on October 31st, then it's the Saturday prior). During that period, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays are the only days anglers are permitted to fish.


Fly Fishing on Heenan Lake 2017

Lahontan cutthroat trout caught and released at Heenan Lake

End of September marked my first trip back to Heenan since the record setting winter of 2016. And I noticed the difference even in pre-dawn light - lots more water. The end of the "boat ramp" is about five feet further back up the hill. While the cache of new water is a boost to the life aquactic, it pinches the shoreline. Just a heads up: the boat launch area has shrunk down to about 15 to 20 feet of unobstructed shoreline. So if you launch or return for lunch, be considerate and don't leave your boat parked for long in the launch opening.

Fishing from a pontoon boat is best method to catch trout at Heenan.

After launching I hooked a couple of active eaters. I fished an intermediate sink, 7ft. 4X leader, size 12 Copper John, with a beadless (repeat beadless) Prince Nymph. Over the 4 hours in the morning I managed two short lived hook ups fishing the water off the egg-shack. Short lived - I broke off both times!!! Probably a strong, coffee-fueled, hook-set and/or the leader was suspect. Slowed down the hook set and changed out my leader, and things got better.

Worked up to an area where my friend Kurt was fishing. I stayed about 100 yards off shore and allowed the two nymphs to really sink down. Using short, slow, long paused strips... managed to hook 4 more fish over about 3 hours. One ran about 24 inches and other just over 20. Both of these Lahontans fought hard and given how healthy they looked, their fight shouldn't be surprising. The other 2 came off before getting to the net. The fly doing all the work - a size 14 bead-less Prince.

Lahontan cutthroat trout displays a spotted tail  at Heenan Lake

Hail to the Bead-less Prince

If you fish Heenan or have read about fishing Heenan, then Nymphing with an intermediate sink line and a small Prince Nymph is a go to technique for hooking Lahontans. It's definitely my go to! I'll fish that way over falling asleep waiting for an indicator with multiple midge or scuds to get moved.

And in 2017, turns out the cutthroat liked the bead-less Prince Nymph better. Over the years I've wetted a line in Heenan, I never pondered the power of this Prince. Twisted peacock herl body, short goose biot tails with a white biot over wings best represent a stonefly nymph. However, Heenan Lake is a stillwater and stoneflies aren't present. So, given the millions of nymph patterns available, why does the classic Prince Nymph produce consistently on Heenan?

Best Fly fishing for native Lahontan cutthroat in California is at Heenan Lake.

I'll guess here. I believe it has less to do with the finer details of the Prince Nymph. I would argue it's about (1) shape, (2) size, and (3) how you move it. Fishing the Prince along weedbeds can be deadly at Heenan. Weedbeds along stillwater lakes typically hold immense populations of scuds. My guess is Gammarus scuds (just another guess). Those scuds range in color from a pink-orange to a dark green. Size? I like a nymph size no bigger than a 12. Movement? Scuds can be fast movers but tend to move in a pulse (e.g., short strips with a fairly long pause).