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
It seems the fishing at Lake Davis is getting back to near what it once was in the past. It’s been at least 5 years or more since fly anglers have had catch rates this good. It all comes down to the California Department of Fish & Wildlife planting more fish of catchable size. There were 3 plants of trout in late May and June including Eagle Lake Rainbows, and Brown trout, both sterile and fertile. Last Monday another plant of 4,000 trout, one pound per fish, Louisiana strain rainbows entered the lake. More fish in the lake makes a big difference not just for the fishing, but for the local economy and businesses that rely on such. Current water temperatures are at 58 degrees and holding, we will see another good drop on the thermometer as a cold snap will take hold over the weekend with a chance for snow. Fishing pressure is extremely light and Lake Davis is pretty much a ghost town. 10 years ago, the Honker Cove boat ramp parking lot would be full, this past week there were only 2 to 6 vehicles with trailers parked there. The willows, cottonwoods, and aspens are showing signs of fall colors to come, look for the peak about the 3rd week of October. It’s so gorgeous at the lake when the autumn glow is going off!
I finally got up to Lake Davis to host the Gold Country Fly Fishers for their 3 day fish out last week, and just as I suspected the usual culprits of a high and cold water year were not favorable for good fishing. The lake is 97% of capacity. The fuller Lake Davis is, the less coves, peninsulas, and fertile shallows there are. Weed beds are also extremely deep as the water levels rose during late winter into spring. Surface water temps are already at 67 degrees rising to 70 during the heat of the day. Not very many hatches with good numbers at all. Just a few blood midges and Callibaetis, but there were many smaller midges in the morning and evening. On our second day I started to notice freshly hatched damsel adults on the top branches of submerged willows that are lining the shoreline. I did not see any damsels swimming, and I’m thinking they were emerging undetected in the willows crawling up the branches underwater. A few Hexes emerged in the evening near Honker Cove on the east side of lake but the rainbows, birds, and bats were nowhere to be seen. I have seen this type of scenario before both at Lake Davis and Lake Almanor in the last 3 decades. Late hatches of Damsels or the Hex, yet the surface temps are so warm that the trout prefer to stay in their deeper air conditioned restaurants down below off the first major ledge and feed on the nymphs. All of the fish that were being caught were down 20 to 25 feet. Full sinking express lines and slip bobbers were the tools to get the grabs. Sheep Creek Specials, Zebra Midges, and Albino Winos were the effective flies.
Ca DFW has made 3 plants of 18,000 pounds of Eagle Lake Rainbows since May, both catchable and sub catchable. This fall should fish well once the water cools down, and by that time the shallows will be full of aquatic insect life and much more fertile. If DFW keeps up on the planting schedule we could see Lake Davis near her former glory like in years past. I’m looking forward to seeing the most beautiful lake in Northern California rebound and provide my fellow fly anglers some positive stillwater experiences. See you out there in the future and the autumn sunshine.Continue reading
The phone has been ringing of the hook the last couple of weeks and folks are itching to get out and fish, unfortunately, prime time is still a ways off for great trout fishing. I will can tell you this, we will experience really good fishing from July until late fall, and the dog days of summer might not even happen. For people who do not live in or near the Northern Sierra it is difficult for them to understand just how much snow is still up high and that it all still has to melt. Water agencies, law enforcement, and counties have been issuing warnings on recreation in or near rivers, and even closing some off totally to the public. Here is the scoop on waters I have been scouting, fishing, and guiding on:
North Fork Yuba River - Flows are ripping especially near the top of the watershed where the river channel is narrower. Water temps are in the high 40’s. I won’t even begin to get serious about fishing/guiding here until the 2nd week of July. The upside is we will have a great mid summer and fall season here.
Middle Fork Feather River – out of all the rivers, the Middle Feather is the lowest, and with more fishable water. Graeagle area has been best, just remember the flows increase as you move downstream of Jamison creek. Fishing has been good with both indicator rigs, and limited dry fly sessions. Gray Drakes, BWOs, and caddis are active. Now is the time to fish the MFFR, once flows drop in the upper watershed, the bigger fish move downstream into the canyon.
Lake Davis – The lake is at full pool which I dislike, there are minimal peninsulas and coves, and lots of willows in the water (great habitat for the bass though, if you’re into that sort of thing). Established weed beds are deep, and the shallows will take a while to become fertile with bug populations and weeds. Damsels are not out yet, but there are Calibaetis and blood midges out. Water temps are right around 63 degrees. I will know more next week as I’m hosting a 3 day fish out for Gold Country Fly Fishers.
Frenchman Lake – I do like Frenchman at a fuller pool unlike Lake Davis. Conditions were good a month ago, but now are poor. I would focus on the north end of the lake early in the morning, then mid-day switch to a break away indicator 20 to 25 feet down with blood midge pupa or (hint) Zebra Midge. Frenchman’s biggest bug populations are chironomids and Calibaetis mayflies. Look for much better conditions this coming fall on both stillwaters as more trout will be planted and lower lake levels.
Truckee Area – The flows have come down on the Big Truckee a little bit, but still big. It will continue to be a yo yo effect with flow levels due to so many contributing factors like air temps that effect the melt, releases from dams, and inflows from tributaries. Yeah, there are some hatches out, but those fish are not looking up. One tactic you can implement is to fish accurate size and profiles of those nymphs active under the water’s surface. Bob Quigley’s Green Drake nymph would be a prime example.
Your best bet right now is fishing Prosser, Stampede, and Boca reservoirs. Fish where the inflows coming in and beyond the last riffle by about 200 yards. There are dry fly opportunities as well. Indicators rigs, slow stripping intermediate lines, and dry/droppers rigs are all productive. Be patient, conditions will change for the better in a month or so. See you out there!
The Foothill lakes continue to produce some awesome days for bass on the fly. Temps have changed and some waters are warming and clearing and fish are beginning to show up on streamers and the strip.
Good to great numbers and every now and again a sizable fish as well as by-catches of rainbow trout. If you haven’t experienced bass fishing in the foothills,...Continue reading
Currently, Lake Davis is at 83% of capacity, and Frenchman Lake is at 84% of capacity. I don’t like when Lake Davis is really full, there are fewer coves and the fish are scattered and harder to find. Also, the weed beds from the season before are much deeper. I do like Frenchman when it is high as the north end of the lake is more...Continue reading
As our Cal Delta stays high and our Central Valley Rivers continue to gush with the heavy storms that have passed or are passing through, there are still some prime opportunities to find a place to tame our addiction to fly fishing. Foothill bass fishing offers great opportunities in the high water months when many other fisheries are too high, blown out or difficult...Continue reading
Been spending most of my time this last week on the Great Inland Lake aka Lake Oroville with my boys and then exploring on my own figuring everything out for my winter-spring foothill spotted bass season.
Water temps are a bit warmer around 54-52 then I usually fish the lake at but the spotted bass and land locked chinook have been pretty grabby.
Most of the...Continue reading
Blazing fall colors and wild trout fattening up for winter, it just doesn’t get any better. The weather has been fantastic in the high country with warm days and cold nights.
The feeding schedule for trout has changed and an angler will want to fish during the warmest time of the day, or when water temperatures rise where both bugs and trout become more active....Continue reading