The older you are, the more prepared one has to be, and many of the serious creekin’ warriors will often train at the gym (now the home gym thanks to covid) just so they can enjoy the day. Fueling your body every few hours and staying hydrated is just as important as being in good physical shape. Training for fishing? Yeah, it’s needed if you really want to be at the next level of maximum performance. You won’t find prolific hatches on the creeks like the Middle Fork Feather River, but mostly caddis flies, a few stone flies, and the occasional mayfly like the chocolate dun. The wild trout that inhabit these waters have a very short feeding season, so they are very eager to most anything you offer them. Terrestrials will become very important in the next few months, namely ants, hoppers, and beetles. Reading water correctly and presentation is by far more effective than the latest and greatest fly. Your leader set up and rigging is fairly easy for creekin’, but the length is really important when it comes to shorter rods. I first take a factory 7.5 foot mono tapered leader to 5x and cut the last 36” or so off (where it starts the transition to a thicker diameter). I’ll then attach a 2mm tippet ring, and then reattach 24 to 36” of 5x tippet. That way you’re only replacing the last section of level 5x tippet throughout the season. I never go lighter than 5x either due to the fish being so eager and not leader shy, plus it takes the abuse of hitting rocks and streamside vegetation so much better than 6 or 7x. For rods less than 7.5 feet, chop off a foot of the butt section on the leader.
Here are a few tips that will keep you in the game and be more successful while plying the creeks:
1) Keep your fly as dry as possible when making surface presentations. This includes false casting more, blotting the water from your fly with an absorbent cloth, then using your shake and bake desiccant. Those trout like it high and dry! Also when walking from spot to spot, don’t drag your dry fly though the water. Take care of it like a newborn child. Lastly, treat your fly as if you’re managing a hockey team. When your player is tired (sinking frequently) put it on the bench (your fly patch), and put in a fresh player (tie a new fly on).
2) You got to be quick with the hook set. At the same time, once you hook into a little one, you must back off on the power and follow through or you will launch it to another universe. Be careful when you go back to fishing for larger tout, especially big brown trout as they ingest your dry fly so much slower. Quick hook sets will not work with them.
3) Often the bigger fish will be in a small pocket or a slot next to the side of the creek. They prefer their own private lie. I look for dark water with depth, not matter how small it is. Pin point accuracy is often needed for the nooks and crannies.
4) A wading staff is a must no matter your age. I always think I can get away without using one, but in the end you’ll be much safer if you use one. The third leg is the missing link…
5) Use good wading boots with ankle support that are thickly padded. I use my regular wading boots with neoprene socks, and for good reason. You’ll be wedging your feet in between cracks both below and above water on dry rocks. Those skimpy creek shoes that most companies make will not cut it in the watersheds of the Northern Sierra. You need something hardy and durable. You’ll also want studs and not the smooth kind, but studs that have a roughed up surface to adhere to dry granite and basalt rock.
Town has been busy with folks, like way too many. Campgrounds are full and the roads and highways are buzzing with traffic. Even so, on our last couple of creek trips we saw no other anglers, the further you hike away from the access points, the more solitude one finds, with better fishing.
See you in the land of canyon water…Continue reading
Jon Baiocchi Reports on 6.20.20
Well…It took nearly 4 weeks to finally see prime conditions for the damsel game and this year it’s going to be short lived. In the last week water temperatures have spiked upwards from 60 in the morning to 65, and in the afternoon I have recorded 70 degrees at 2pm – Just like that. Damsels will keep on hatching, and some fish will come into the skinny water to feed in the next few weeks but with the warmer water temps your catch and release will most likely not live. So you’ll be looking at a catch and keep scenario. Lake Davis is a “put and take“ fishery – you make the call on what is the right thing to do.
The lake levels are just about perfect with the slow drop of minimal releases from the Grizzly creek dam, where the shoreline has more character including flats, peninsulas, and natural fish traps. Currently Lake Davis is at 75% of capacity. Though the fluctuating weather and high and low pressure systems were challenging in the last month for consistent fishing, it sure has been fun being on the water in the last week. When you’re on a body of water nearly every day you can really clue in on the slight variances in fish behavior, including holding patterns, and food selection. Observations and understanding what each unique day brings is the key to your success.
Last Monday was the best day for tracking targets and presenting damsels to selective and wary feeders in 2 to 5 feet of water. It’s more than just trolling around in a float tube, or fishing from a boat while casting. From the bank, time slows down and you’re honed in on the hunting aspect of the damsel hatch. I’m stoked for my guests who have never experienced this and get to live it, it is indeed one of the greatest things you can do with a fly rod in your hand.
Now that the region of the Northern Sierra is in a typical pattern of high pressure, and hot weather, Lake Davis will see a lot of glass in the morning hours. When it’s flat calm those trout are on edge and super wary. As Jay Fair use to say “they’re scared…They really are!” You’ll get a slight East wind in the morning too and most often it’s perfect with just a ripple to give the trout some cover to feel more secure, and hours later the wind will shift to the South West or a Westerly flow.
Just a few reminders for the damsel game – Your patterns should be brown, dark olive, olive, and light olive in color. They should also be sparse and about an inch long. Commercial ties are way too long and bulky. 4X tippet at a minimum, and always check your knots for strength, and your leader for casting knots frequently. When you finally get the chance to make a hook up you’ll want your operating system the best it can be. The takes can be subtle (your line just stops), or on the aggressive side. You just never know if it is the bottom, a weed, or what not - so always strip set on anything you feel different.
The Aquatic hatching cycle is such at these times – in the early pre sunrise look for scum lines in deep open water where trout will resort to being dumpster divers eating the garbage from the previous night. Then the blood midge and other chironomids will begin hatching soon after. By 9am the damsel nymphs begin swimming to the shoreline or anywhere they can crawl out and hatch into an adult. The hatch may last to 1pm, but every day is different with the amount of nymphs hatching, and even the amount of active feeding fish to a particular flat or shoal. Callibaetis spinners will appear mid-day, look up into the sky and you’ll see dozens upon dozens aloft in the breeze. As the water temperatures peak out in the afternoon, the fish go down to 10 to 18 feet of water, or the first good ledge that has weeds and food where they can dine in their air conditioned restaurant.
The last hour of light and the Hexagenia mayfly appears. The population is all over the lake now, but I see more near the east side of the lake where there is more clay – This is nymph’s preferred habitat due to the simple fact that the tubes they create to live in will not collapse like soft mud will. With lower light levels you can use much heavier tippet, and in my opinion the best pattern while fishing the surface is using a cripple or a stillborn pattern. It’s been so cool just observing all the critters feasting on the Hex. The bass and the trout are really putting on the feed bags with this substantial food supply, and come fall we are going to see those fish with huge shoulders and girth.
I’m done guiding on Lake Davis for trout, but open for poking around in the early mornings and late evenings for bass while I’m in the area doing creek trips of the Lost Sierra. It’s been really awesome to see the largemouth bass eat the same patterns we use for the trout – they have adapted to the natural food source well from tiny midges to damsels. As of right now, these are my only available fall dates for the lake: 9/19, 20, 24-28. 10/4-6, 28-31. All other dates are booked up. If you want a spot, let me know ASAP! Thanks to Lake Davis for an incredible fly fishing experience over the past 3 decades, and also a big thank you to J&J’s Grizzly Store and Campground for supporting me. I leave you with this, and it happens all the time, and why I have been writing and sharing my experiences and knowledge on this blog for so long. I’m walking back from the Honker Cove boat ramp after a day on the water to fetch the truck and yank the LillyBob. I met an elderly man whom I’ve never met before and he stares at me and says “you’re the guy the blog right?” I say yes, that’s me, I’m Jon (LOL). He then says “Thanks for sharing, I really look forward to your reports!” We smile, wish each other well and go about our business. Here’s the cool thing…The man doesn’t’ even fly fish, he’s a troller.
Middle Fork Feather River
The water levels have come way down, and it is imperative to fish downstream of the Jamison creek confluence. I’m only allowed to guide in the Recreational zone per my 1997 issued Special Use Permit from the US Forest Service, which is between the A-23 bridge 4 miles east of Portola downstream to Nelson creek. During this time I like the confluence down to Sloat, colder water and some really cool runs, riffles, and pools. Water temperatures last Friday were 63 rising to 67 in the afternoon. It’s a morning to mid-day game, and of course the last couple hours of light for the evening hatch.
Most of the big fish are have left, but you’ll find a few if you can decipher the type of habitat they hold in – deeper slots, shady lies, undercut banks, the bottom of a big hole, and under the streamside native grasses of a high bank. We are still using two rods. The tight line rig, and a dry fly set up. With the tight line rig, many fish have come on the swing at the end of the drift. Those Middle Fork Feather rainbows do not have to be rising in order to take a dry fly. Many times just blind casting a dry will surprise you more than once, like a dozen of times!
Caddis are the most profuse aquatic insect out, and a heavy spinner fall of BWO’s in the morning when air temperatures are between 57 and 67 degrees. The cool find last week were a few Green Drake spinners. There is not a big population of them on the Middle Fork Feather, but enough to get a bigger fish looking up for them. As the water temps rise during the day there is less oxygen and the trout will move into faster water looking for the white water and bubbles, don’t be shy about casting a bushy elk hair caddis in that type of water – they’ll find it too.
I’m done guiding the Middle Fork Feather too with increasing water temps and rock snot. Unlike Lake Davis, the MFFR is not a put and take fishery and the resident wild trout are extremely special. These trout are some of the most pristine specimens I’ve ever laid eyes on, and too valuable to accidently kill while fishing for them. The available dates I listed above for Lake Davis are the same for the MFFR in the fall. Again, get a hold of me now to secure your date. It was such a rad spring season for the river, chunkier fish, good numbers, and profuse hatches. The Middle Fork Feather River is truly the “Jewell of the Lost Sierra.”
See you on the water…
The Middle Fork Feather River is still fishing quite well, and pretty much on cruise control with a few slight variances. There was a significant amount of rain that fell last week with extremely high snow levels. So being that Eureka Peak and other neighboring peaks like Mt. Washington are at 7,400 feet, there was rain on snow causing more of the snowpack to melt. Water levels came up a tad and the clarity remained about the same - clearish. Fishing is a little better in the upper river from Clio to Two Rivers mainly due to slightly warmer water temperatures (52-56), then downstream of where Jamison Creek comes in (48-53) on the lower part of the Recreational Zone of the MFFR. Fishing pressure is still light, but there were an influx of visitors to the Northern Sierra over the holiday weekend, with your typical spin anglers at the more popular bridges. Tight Line Nymphing has been the most effective for catching numbers of fish, but there are plenty of dry fly opportunities to be had. With the upper river dropping, there seems to be more fish on the move heading downstream, and many runs, pools, and large slots have many fish holding together. If you catch one, keep fishing, there’s more in there. A guest of mine last Saturday pulled out 5 rainbows in a spot that was 10 feet long by 7 feet wide. Yep, they’re stacked up in certain favorable spots that have a steady conveyor belt of food, protection from the heavy currents, and structure that offers security to predators. Overall I’ve been impressed with the size and girth of the trout, but we are starting to see much smaller trout in the system with water levels dropping and the bigger fish on the move. There are so many different types of water to fish right now that the fly angler must carefully dissect that piece of water they are fishing, namely depth, and the intensity of the current. Using heavier flies or adding more weight to the leader while TL Nymphing can make a huge difference.
The aquatic insects are going off in the upper river! 2 different PMDs, a size 12, and a 14. Pink Alberts (epeorus) in a size 16 that looks just like a PMD except it only has 2 tails, and is a little brighter in color. BWOs were out thick last Friday with the cooler drizzly weather. It’s all about those clouds when it comes to BWO hatches. The Black Dancer caddis is out, it is an early season caddis that is quite large (#12-14), has a metallic sheen to it and is most active during the day. Other bugs on the menu include a few different other caddis like the ginger caddis, creamy crane fly, a few Golden Stones, and still seeing a few Gray Drakes. Evidence of Salmon Fly shucks has been observed. Best dry flies to present are Adams Parachute, Quigley’s Cripple PMD, and Cutter’s E/C Caddis. Best Nymphs have been Flashback Pheasant Tails, Mercer’s Z-Wing, and Hogan’s S&M in olive. Smaller flies seem to have been more productive in the last week, with mayfly nymphs being the best.
Conditions will only get better with the incoming hot weather as the water temps will increase. Better get it now, once the water really heats up in the upper river, those trout will move downstream to find a more suitable habitat to summer over in. As we go into June and the latter half, be sure to carry a thermometer to check water temps and quit fishing when it gets to be 67 degrees and above. Brown trout do much better with warmer water temps than rainbows. If you will be visiting Plumas County and fishing the MFFR, here are some guidelines from the Plumas County Public Health Agency: “Wherever you are, it is important to use good personal protective measures. Avoid recreating in groups. Maintain social distancing of 6 feet at all times. Avoid crowded areas like trail heads and parking lots. Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer often. In short, enjoy the outdoors but do it in a safe, isolated, and individual manner. In regards to boating and fishing, follow all state regulations for safe and legal activities. Avoid crowded boat ramps or fishing areas. Find another place to recreate if you don’t have several yards between you and your neighbor”. Busy is the word with me and all at once. In the last 3 weeks I’ve never been so consumed with trip inquiries than my previous 24 years of guiding and booking trips. Being a totally independent guide is challenging, but I truly do love my work and sharing all things fly fishing. June is booked up, with 4 days open in July. 15 days available right now in August. I’ll be back up to the Northern Sierra in a few days and finally getting on Lake Davis, reports to follow. See you on the water where the wild things are…Continue reading
Captain Hogan Brown Reports on 2.27.20
Lower Sacramento River - Striper fishing has been tough as the flows are as low as they get - 5000cfs coming out of Keswick and 5891cfs at Chico - With low and clear water stripers get pretty darn spooky but those with the game can still get bit. Like most places we need some rain and water to mix things up and make fishing a bit easier. We should start to see the migratory push of fish show up soon over the next month which will also mix things up.
Lake Oroville and Lake Shasta - are turning on with this early spring! Good numbers of pre spawn spotted bass are being caught on both lakes and with consistent weather fishing should be good on most days. Rain would help these fisheries as well to - getting some of the creeks and inflows moving would help congregate fish and move the bait around.
Lower Yuba River is fishing well with stable flows around 1000 - 900cfs. Flows are gin clear and while nymphing has been good dry fly fishing requires purposeful good presentations. Spring hatches are getting going with the warm weather and should continue to be good throughout the spring. We most likely will see little flow fluctuation due to run off and actually have a good fishable spring on the Lower Yuba.
Feather River Spring Steelhead Season is right around the corner as prime time is March through early May and with the light winter and early spring we are having we should actually have a good spring season out on the Feather. My prefered method for fishing the spring on the feather is swinging flies but nymphing catches plenty of fish as well.
Brian Clemens Reports on Happy New Years Everyone,
Flows: 800 Low Flow, 1900 High Flow
Clarity: Perfect 8-10ft viz hint of green
Fishing: Good to Great
The section above hwy70 is now open
My Available Dates for Feather, Yuba, Lower Sac, American
My Trinity Lower Sac Dates
If you’re a fly angler, October is the best month of the year for good fishing in the Northern Sierra, as well as across Nor Cal. Fall colors, and the seasons changing guard are a stark reminder that another year has flown past. It’s been a great one while fishing/guiding on the water, and there are still plenty more good trips to be had. Nights have been cold, enough for me to make adjustments on where I’m camping out like up on a hill instead of down by the river or the lake. Cold air sinks to the bottom of any basin, so keep that in mind as well as if your camp will get early morning sunlight. The low air temps will increase a little bit in the upcoming days and during the daytime will be mild with near 70 degree autumn weather, with a noticeable shorter length of day light from sunrise to sunset. October is just plain special, I just wish it were stretched out over a three month period.
Fishing has been great, the best it’s been in a long time but still you got to put some work in and locate the fish. Water temps have dropped a tad to 52 degrees, and during the sunny days the shallows will be a little warmer so look for trout to be there as there is abundant food and comfortable conditions. Colder water can spread fish out and that’s exactly what we are finding at Lake Davis. A higher lake level will do that too. I find that the lake is still a little too full for my liking which is currently at 80% of capacity. 65 to 70% is best for fly anglers who like to fish off the shoreline and prowl the peninsulas, points, and shoals. Fishing pressure has increased, but far from being crowded though. More conventional gear guys and gals then fly anglers.
I’ve been guiding the lake more this year than in the past 5 years and it’s been a lot of fun. Because of such I’ve noticed some variables that really effect the fishing. Glassy conditions make for tougher fishing as the trout feel more vulnerable from threats above water – They’re scared, they really are. Once there is a ripple on the water the bite will turn on. On last Wednesday’s trip we had big wind with white caps and rollers and the catching was on fire. During such conditions there is plenty of cover for the fish just under the surface, with lots of food being dispersed in the drift. The lake turned over last week meaning that there is no thermocline of cold water on the bottom with warmer water in the top column. It’s all mixed together with an up welling of nutrients from the bottom giving the water a green color with visible bio matter. The more water you cover, the better your catch rate will be, and when you do find a few stay put and fish that area hard.
Stripping flies has been way more effective than the bobber whether it’s out in open water, or on the bank. Jay Fair stripping flies, wiggle tails, and wooley nymphs just keep producing in the typical fall colors we love. Burnt orange, rust, fiery brown, black, and especially red are serious money. Some days a faster strip is better than a slow one and it’s best to experiment until you find the speed and action preferred by the fish for that day. The rainbows are showing more girth and bigger shoulders in the past few weeks which are proof they are eating well and bulking up for winter. A day off for me today, then I’m back up the hill for more trips. It’s been cool meeting new people at the dock who have given me praise about my website, blog, and reports. I really do care about sharing all things fly fishing and making sure my fellow anglers and guests are having a good time at Lake Davis, and all over the region.
Middle Fork Feather River
Conditions have changed rapidly in the last month that has affected the bite and hatches, namely colder water and air temps. I’ve been doing a lot of trips here as well and my guests and I have only seen one other angler, and it turns out he was a friend of a friend. The Chico connection is and always will be a big part of my youth while growing up and fly fishing in the town of Paradise. Water temps in the morning are at 50 degrees and the fishing is slow. Sleep in, eat a good wholesome breakfast, and get on the water around 11am when the water has warmed up. There are good hatches occurring in the afternoon with rising fish. BWOs and Mahogany duns (and spinners too) are the most prolific, and the BWO spinner fall occurs much later now and it is not as significant as the weeks prior. Caddis are still out including the false October Caddis and a few small species, I didn’t see one true October Caddis though in the last few trips even though I’m finding fresh shucks on the rocks. Northern California Tight Line Nymphing is the way to go, and with lower water levels you can effectively cover all the pools, pockets, and runs. I’ve really perfected my teaching skills over the decades of guiding and I can teach anyone how to tight line and be effective in a very short time. The rainbows are healthy and very colorful right now, yet mostly small, and 100% wild. Two things stand out this time of year on the Middle Fork Feather River. Solitude and blazing fall colors. Leave the crowds behind, and take a hike down the tracks, it’ll make your day that much better. See you out there…Continue reading
This weekend a few friends and I made a trek out to the North Fork of the Feather River. This is an awesome fishery that honestly doesn't get fished enough. As you drive north along highway 70 you'll drop down into the canyon. Once in the canyon you'll find that most of the river is accessible. Since it follows highway 70 up to the gold lakes basin there are miles of fishable water. The water is warm this year but if you focus on indicator or highstick tactics through the warmer parts of the day in the faster water you'll find good trout hanging in pocket water and also through the more oxygenated sections of the river. Mornings and evenings were great for hopper dropper rigs and smaller dryflies as the fish started to show themselves once the sun was down. Avoid the stagnant water above the dams but any of the boulder water between should produce for you if you take your time!
Flies you shouldn't leave home without:
Chubby Chernobyl (sz.6), Mercers Missing Link (sz.16), Purple Haze (sz.14)
Hogans S&M (sz.18), Egan's Frenchie (sz.14), Dirty Bird (sz.16)
Middle Fork Feather River – Flows are perfect in the Graeagle area, and a tad high downstream of the Jamison Creek confluence. Water temps have been in the high 50’s to low 60’s. Downstream of snow melt feeder creeks the water temps will be bit colder for a ways, and vice versa, stretches of water downstream of long pools stringed together will have warmer temps due to solar radiation. There are lots of smaller rainbows which is great news for the future of the MFFR as long as they are not harvested. Active hatches include Golden Stones, midges (mostly in the early morning), caddis, crane flies, Yellow Sallies, little green stones, and any day now Sulpher mayflies in the evening. An angler will want to nymph in the early morning, and then switch to a dry dropper just before noon until evening, at which point the beautiful marriage of dry fly dreamin and the magic hour of last light end the day. Most of the larger trout are likely headed down to the canyon stretches but there may be a few around in the deeper pools, so don’t put away those streamers away quite yet. I have some upcoming trips in the next week so look for new intel on California’s first adopted Wild & Scenic river in the next report.
The flows are still a tad high on the Middle Fork Feather River, yet near perfect in the Graeagle area. Downstream of Jamison creek the volume of water is nearly double and very high, but still some areas of fishable water, especially the tail outs of major pools. Water temps will vary depending if you are downstream of a snow melt feeder creek like Gray Eagle, Jamison, or Frazier, or after long sections of frog water the solar radiation of the sun will heat up the water by a few degrees. I recorded the water temps to be at 57 to 60 degrees. Water is clear and looks great. The riparian habitat along the banks of the MFFR have grown so much over the last 5 years, and this spring is probably the most growth I have seen on the river in all my years. Like they say, just add water and sunshine, and it will grow.
Hatches are light, very few golden stone shucks on the rocks, a few caddis, little Yellow Sallies, Little Green stones, and the most prolific bug was the tiny Blue Wing Olives (Pseudocloeon). A few rising trout, but most of the small rainbows ate Carpenter ants with Hogan’s S&M nymph #18 as a dropper, 24 inches below. Fishing pressure was extremely light and not very many footprints in the more secluded areas. First or second week of July will be prime time for the upper Middle Fork Feather River, especially the evenings (think caddis), and downstream near the middle of July.
Some of the creeks in Eastern Plumas County are starting to draw down into shape and are fishable. Jamison and Little Jamison are ready to go right now, while Frazier and Gray Eagle creeks are still pumping with heavy flows. Typical small water tactics apply and are so good for beginner fly anglers to learn from and gain confidence. Speaking of which I still have some spots open for the August 7th Greagle Creekin Tour, inquire within if you are interested – 530.228.0487 / baiocchistroutfitters.com
See you on the water!Continue reading