The Umpqua valley, is, in my opinion, embarrassingly gorgeous.
No part of it is more beautiful than Diamond Lake and Lemolo Lake, a pair of gorgeous bodies of water just under two hours from our home here in Roseburg. Both lakes offer fishing, boating, camping, hiking, and gorgeous views of the Umpqua National Forest.
In the near decade that I have spent growing up here as I prepare to leave this scenery for a new adventure in college, Diamond Lake has had an incredibly special place in my heart. I have countless fond memories of great fishing in the summer and holiday fun taking trips to play in the snow and enjoy Christmas Day there every winter.
This trip — my final trip to the lake before I leave Roseburg for college — was especially special to me.
Planning a trip like my own solo camping and fishing excursion on these two Cascadian gems requires careful consideration. I camped at Poole Creek Campground, one of three US Forest Service campgrounds that surround Lemolo Lake. There is also the privately owned Lemolo Lake KOA, but I chose Poole Creek because of the three publicly owned campgrounds on the lake, it is the only one with a boat ramp. The campsite was a popular one: nearly all of the 60-plus campsites were occupied during the weekend. Despite the crowds, the lake and Umpqua National Forest lands surrounding the area spread people about nicely so it doesn’t feel crammed.
Diamond Lake is easily my favorite lake in Douglas County for a day trip or camping trip to go fishing for beautiful, well-fed and delicious rainbow trout. I made the trip up Highway 138 with my boat in tow at about 6 in the morning of the first day of the trip.
I love the drive to Diamond Lake. Some anglers bemoan the drive, and other tourists despise the seemingly unending curves, but I love it. Driving alongside the North Umpqua as the sun rises over the mountaintops and makes the river surface a beautiful glimmering gold and the trucks of summer steelhead hunting fly fishermen line the sides of the road in prime spots.
Diamond lake is a unique ecosystem that has quite the history. Its spring-fed waters stay clear and cool all year, and the fishing can be lights out at any given time, even in the heat of July and August. My dad joined me the first day on the lake so he could enjoy what has typically been a lake where we both enjoy success.
We launched my boat with minimal difficulty for it having a motor built sometime in the 1960s. In my own experience and by my father’s observation, “the fish at Diamond Lake don’t even wake up until 10 o’clock.” I hooked the first fish at just about 10 that morning before we landed three more on what turned out to be a slow day.
After a decent morning on Diamond Lake, we pulled the boat out, cleaned the fish, and headed down to Poole Creek campground. Upon our arrival, I quickly came to realize that the countless warnings I received about the clouds of predatory mosquitoes prowling the woods near Lemolo Lake were not unfounded. As soon as we opened the car doors we were ambushed by the ravenous bugs.
I was thankful I bought 98% deet bug repellant and a citronella candle to mitigate the attacks. The bugs seemed to not care so much about the deet as they did their bloodlust.
It was my first time ever staying at Lemolo Lake. The area is an excellent place to take a day trip to fish, water ski, hike, mountain bike, or just explore. Lemolo Lake KOA has a fleet of rental boats including patio boats and pedal boats for visitors who don’t have their own but want to get out on the water. The campgrounds on the national forest land are serviceable but do not have electric hookups for RVs.
The following morning, I headed out on the lake to troll for brown trout and rainbows. I had a few missed strikes, but no hookups. The lake, however, was beautiful. At full pool, Lemolo is a very large lake with excellent green, cool water that runs along the channel of the upper reaches of the North Umpqua. Speed-boaters flocked to the lake once the sun brought noontime heat and I decided my 14-foot skiff and I would be best served to surrender as opposed to taking violent wakes all day long.
The weather did make a perfect day for speed-boating though. It reached close to 90 degrees that afternoon and I wanted to speed-boat myself at times, but a bit of reading back at my campsite in the safety of my tent would suffice for a great time as well.
My final morning on my trip was another planned trip back up to Diamond Lake to hopefully catch a few more rainbows. I invited my longtime fishing buddy and close friend, Owen, to join me the night before, and we agreed to meet at the marina that morning. I broke camp early that day and doused my fire before I headed off.
The short drive to Diamond Lake brought me one of the greatest wildlife sightings of my life. I wasn’t really expecting anything of the short 8-mile morning drive, but on my way toward highway 138 I saw something amazing.
It was a black bear.
Bears are beautiful, timid creatures, and people very rarely see them in the wild unless they go looking for them. This was the closest I have ever been to one as it ran alongside the road before my car got too close and it quickly scrambled off into the forest.
It was a prelude to final morning at Diamond Lake, which was certainly one of my best in recent memory. Owen and I headed out to the west end of the lake prepared to dunk powerbait and night crawlers, the baits of choice for most rainbows, in 30 feet of water to find some fish.
We dropped anchor right in front of Mt. Bailey and began fishing. Within 5 minutes of casting out my bait, I nailed a nice 15-inch fish and brought it to the net before releasing it. We landed four fish in the first half hour and knew that the bite was clearly good that day. About two hours in, Owen got a very light nibble but set the hook, and his rod quickly doubled over under the weight of a fat fish. Once it revealed itself, we were astounded — it was only 16 inches long, but weighed nearly 3 pounds, packing its figure into something not unlike a football.
The fishing continued to be excellent all day as we landed about 20 fish in all before the typical Diamond Lake winds picked up around noon, luckily by then we had caught more than enough fish to be happy with our success and head back home.
Diamond Lake and Lemolo Lake provide excellent opportunities for summertime recreation in the Umpqua National forest, and make a great day trip to go fishing or boating, or to simply sit on the banks and have lunch while enjoying the beautiful natural setting. If a summertime outdoor experience is something you seek, these two beautiful lakes offer the perfect opportunity to enjoy the beauty of nature so close to home.
These lakes provide an escape from every day life and a doorway to relaxation, and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to take it.