Stumpy Meadows Reservoir

Lesser Known California Finds #1
by Louis Bignami

While big reservoirs near population centers such as Folsom Lake or big lakes like Tahoe get most of the ink and fishing pressure, smaller, lesser known reservoirs can offer wonderful fly fishing with little pressure except on holiday weekends. Pick lower elevation spots early and late in the year and save the high elevation locations until summer and you can extend the season when fish hit lures and bait fairly close to the surface. Add backup fishing in case lakes turn off -- they all do some- time! -- and decent campsites and you have a worthwhile weekend destination like Stumpy Meadows that took its name from the stumpy meadow -- what else! -- the Georgetown Water District flooded years back.

Stumpy Meadows Reservoir hides some pretty good brown and rainbow trout fishing and, best of all, a 5MPH aquatic speed limit and 10 HP motor limit keep it's 315 acres of clear water calm and peaceful. Since it is convenient to the Gold Country attractions in Auburn, Placerville and Georgetown and its individual and group campsites shelter under pines at 4,260 feet it's a wonder that it's not more crowded by family campers. Especially since you can use it as a backup for nearby Union Valley Reservoir. About the drawback is the summer heat that makes Stumpy Meadows a best bet for spring and fall for those who enjoy good fishing, small boats and smaller trailers. It’s a dandy place for mixed groups that might want to do some fly fishing while less experienced or more sedentary anglers use lures or bait.

Fly fishing here gets better as summer waters warm with dusk fishing off the bank takes two or three trout on good nights. By August you need to get out when it’s barely light enough to tie on your fly as the action stops when the light hits the water.

You really need a float tube, skiff or canoe to get across the lake to the better fishing on the south side. Usual Sierra patterns work. An #14 Adams, #10 Joe's Hopper, #18 Black Ant and a #14 Grey Hackle, Yellow Body all take fish. After July these flies, fished behind bubbles produce more trout on average in the evening than lures. Wet fly patterns such as #12 Zug Bugs, #10 Black Wooly Worms or #14 Rio Grande Kings take more trout except during evening hatches. Larger browns hit #8 or even #6 Little Brown Trout and other streamers spring and fall.

If you’re patient, and want a very, very large brown, consider huge streamers 1/0 or so in Rainbow Trout and other minnow patterns. Fish these during the day in the shade of the stumps and other cover. You won’t take many fish, but those you take can be exceptional


In April and May many troll with small plugs or flashers and worms between 10 and 15 feet deep for larger browns. Needlefish or Kastmasters produce more, if smaller, rainbow trout. As the water warms the submerged stream channel and deeper spots near the dam hold fish. Since the reservoir is so small, boaters can zero in on the action if they watch other boats.

Bank fishermen can dunk air-injected worms or Shasta sandwiches -- salmon egg and mini marshmallow combination -- near the dam, off the bank by the campground or at the inlet creek. Fishing is good until surface temperatures top 70 degrees when deeper trolling or bait fishing from boats improves results.

Lures also work. Countdown fan casting with a 1/4-ounce gold Kastmaster or Hopkins spoon is productive. Alternately cast along the bank, then out into the lake to cover a wide area. After the first fan with immediate retrieves, start your second fan a bit further from shore and countdown five seconds before you close the bail so the lure drops and cover the fan once more. Repeat this with ten, fifteen, twenty second drops until you locate fish or hit bottom.


While many locals drive up from Georgetown after work or on weekends to enjoy the fine fishing, there are several decent campgrounds in the area run by a concessionaire that open in the middle of April. Since all are on the north bank, they warm fast during spring. Wise visitors site tents or RVs for afternoon shade during the warmer months!

Stumpy Meadows Family Campground is about half-way down the lake on the North Shore. It offers 39 family sites and one two family site with piped in water, trailer spaces and vault toilets at $7.00 a night.

Some RV owners park near their boats in the parking lot at the Stumpy Meadows Boat Ramp. That's limited to 3 days and runs $5.00 a night for convenient, if rather barren "camping."

Groups can reserve four different sites in Black Oak a mile or so past the family campground about 2 miles from the boat ramp. One self-contained unit serves 75 and two others hold 50 each; all of these cost $50 a night and seem popular with fishing and RV clubs. A smaller 25 person site costs $25 a night. Reservations at are required.

A number of other reservoirs -- Hell Hole, Union Valley, French Meadows, etc. -- are located within an hour or so's drive on rather poor roads from the campgrounds at Stumpy Meadows. For example, the 25 mile run to Union Valley Reservoir bounces you over 8 miles of very poor road that suit jeep jaunts better than auto excursions.


Survivors, or those smart enough to drive to Union Valley Reservoir in from Highway 50 past Ice House resort enjoy a dandy lake of 2,850 surface acres at just under 4,900 foot elevation. Several hundred campgrounds, a couple of ramps and a scenic setting make this a popular lake. Unfortunately, it's very, very windy at times and often dotted with sailboats. We prefer to troll or bank fish at first light in the summer. The usual fly tackle and techniques work.


Streams, some narrow enough to jump where they cross roads, lace this area. Forks of American River and the Rubicon River add more choices. Most produce eight to 12 inch rainbows and a few larger browns. Text coverage would, if a few readers got greedy, rapidly fish out favorites. So you need to find these on your own. It's easy!

Buy an El Dorado National Forest Map. Look for unpaved side roads that cross, rather than run along streams, for roads along streams ease access and collect crowds. Check stream temperatures for the optimum 60 to 70 degree range. Realize that streams that drain open slopes that face south, tend to warm up faster than streams that drain heavily wooded areas, deep canyons or slopes that face north. Higher altitude streams warm more slowly than lower elevation streams too. Consider these points as you search and prime water should be easy to find.

Plan on walking 15 to 30 minutes away from the road before you fish. Then use ultralight gear with mini spinners or bait or fly rod tackle to fish upstream so you can see fish before they see you. The best water is, as you might expect, a steep, if sometimes short, hike away from road access. Then, when you find prime water, don't tell anyone!


INFORMATION: Georgetown Ranger District, Georgetown, CA 95634 916- 333-4312
1-800-280-2267 for reservations at about $10


From Auburn on Interstate 80 follow Highway 49 south and turn East 15 miles on Highway 193 to Georgetown, the nearest supply center. From Placerville on Highway 50 follow Highway 193 north 17 miles to Georgetown. Stumpy Meadows Reservoir campgrounds are about 22 miles east on Wentworth Springs Road.


Ultralite spinning tackle, small spinners and spoons for lure casting. Plugs or flashers and Needlefish for trollers. Unusual worms, salmon eggs and cheese suits baitfishermen. Bring a thermometer to find water temperatures in the most productive 60 to 70 degree range.


Usual lure, fly or bait systems. Stay put on the lake and let the fish come to you; hike well away from roads when you fish streams.


High: Call first to see if the ramp is still "wet" after mid-June.


40 family RV and Tent sites and four group sites (up to 200 total) with a 22 foot trailer limit at Stumpy Meadows; over 250 at Union Valley.