Upper Deer Creek and Mill Creek Canyon

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Deer Creek

Suggested Flies for Deer and Mill Creek:
Sierra Tahoe Hatch Selection

Elk Hair Caddis #10-16
Fox's Poopah, Olive and Tan
Sparkle Pupa
Z-Wing Caddis
Peeking Caddis

Attractor Nymphs:
Lightening Bug
Prince Nymph
BH Bird Nest

Attractor Drys:
Parachute Adams
Grey Wulff
Rio Grande Trude
Parachute Madam X
Yellow Humpy
Lime Trude
Yellow Stimulator

Dave's Hopper
Parachute Hopper
Cutter's Perfect Ant

Directions: You can reach this area of Upper Deer Creek and Upper Mill Creek by taking Hwy 32 out of Chico or Hwy 36 out of Red Bluff. The two highways intersect at Deer Creek Meadows. To reach the trailhead of Upper Mill Creek, take Hwy 172 off Hwy 36 (about 8 miles west of the intersection of Hwy 36/32) and go just past the community of Mill Creek to a turnoff (FS Road 28N06). Follow this road for 6.1 miles to the Upper Mill Creek Trailhead. From the trailhead you can hike along the creek to Black Rock Campground, a 13 mile distance. You can fish Upper Deer Creek from the many areas along Hwy 32 from the intersection to the Deer Creek Trailhead at the Red Bridge.

Deer Creek and Mill Creek are one of the few Sierra streams not dammed and remain natural flowing streams. Nearby, Butte Creek and Chico Creek are also within this category. Both, Deer Creek and Mill Creek, flow for 61 miles where it meets it's first Diversion dam about 7 miles from the Sacramento River confluence. The creeks have a Spring-run and Fall-run Chinook Salmon spawning migration. The Spring-run salmon will reach as far in elevation as the Upper Deer Creek Falls on Deer Creek. Mill Creek allows Spring-run salmon to reach the highest elevation of any stream within the Sierra. The Fall-run Salmon generally do not get up either creek further than 6 miles from the Sacramento confluences.Winter Steelhead will also make the journey on each creek. The Spring-run salmon counts were about 2800 annually during the 1980s within Deer Creek but have declined to just a few hundred in recent years. Similarly, Mill Creek had runs of about 1200 up to the 1980's and they have dropped to about 400 in recent years.

The water within Mill Creek tends to remain milky in appearance through the Spring and early Summer months due to the snow melt off the ashy slopes of Mount Lassen. Deer Creek is much clearer from the artesian springs within it's headwaters.The season is the last Saturday of April to November 15th. DFG stocks Deer Creek above Upper Deer Creek Falls with hatchery trout and general regulations apply. A Special regulation section is from Upper Deer Creek Falls downstream for 31 miles to the mouth of Deer Creek Canyon using only artificial lures and barbless hooks, Catch & Release only. All of Mill Creek down to it's canyon mouth is also under Special Regulation. These are Wild Trout waters. Deer Creek contains 8-16" Rainbows with an occasional Brown Trout. Some larger fish will be found in the deeper pools. Most fish Deer Creek with a small caddis pupa pattern and a Beadhead nymph dropper. Concentrate on the larger pools. Some find that small attractor dries such as Humpys and Olive Elk Hair Caddis are very effective but mainly with the smaller fish throughout the day. Starting in the early season, try to fish during the warmest times of the day. Use small mayfly nymphs and beadhead nymphs with a tight line technique. Also use extra split shot to get the nymphs deep in the pools. In early Spring, most will fish with nymphs but there may be some sparse hatches of caddis and stoneflies. The Baetis (BWO) hatch will commence in May around midday and continue through June. In June, Golden Stone nymphs and Yellow Sallies are effective as well as caddis during the hatches in the late afternoon and early evening. In July, Terrestrials are effective in areas of overhanging trees and brush. The caddis hatch continues through the evening hours when a small caddis adult patterns with a small mayfly dropper can be effective in the riffles and runs of the creek. Little Yellow Stones will also hatch during the evening hours. During August and September, the trout action is best during the morning and late evening hours. Shortline nymphing with caddis pupa and a small mayfly nymph are generally used. Also try using terrestrial dries with a beadhead dropper. Terrestrial patterns are your best bet during this time as the hatches are sporadic and short. When the waters warms in midsummer, fishing will slow down and you must use longer leaders and tippets down to 6x. In October, try nymphing with an October Caddis Pupa and a small mayfly nymph dropper. The fish will be under cover. Generally, the best fishing during this month is mid-afternoons.



© 2018 Steve Schalla
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