Trout stream season opens April 30, Kayaking likely better than fishing
The official opening of the trout stream fishing season has always been one of my favorite spring rituals. That may have more to do with the promise of things to come in the coming weeks than it has to do with the actual fishing that weekend.
Let’s face it, the season opener usually means high flows and off-color water. With so much rain and snow this year, it is likely to be worse than normal.
But that is not going to stop me from trying. It is fun just to get out and be on the stream. And besides, I have lots of experience at not catching fish. That has never kept me from enjoying my fishing nor stopped me from trying.
The question then is where to go. The answer is tailwater. “Tailwater” is the term used to describe water immediately below a dam.
Dams are a mixed blessing for fisheries. They can and have ruined fish runs. On the positive side, by regulating stream flows, excellent fisheries can be established below dams. The warm and low flow periods of late summer can be moderated in tailwaters. And the high muddy flows of spring can be tamed.
This opening weekend, clear and moderately flowing water will offer the best chance for successful fishing. Those stream conditions will be in short supply. The best place to find those conditions will be immediately below a dam. Not every dam in the area will provide these conditions but many will. The farther away you get from the dam, the more the river will be influenced by tributaries that add flow and reduce clarity of the water flowing from the dam.
There are some exceptions. Deer Creek Meadows in the vicinity of the junction of Highways 32 and 36 tends to moderate the flows. The creek flows clear as it leaves the meadow. Farther downstream tributaries will increase flows and water clarity will decline but not severely. Just a few miles away, Mill Creek is a different story. Flows will be high and it will carry lots of sediment as it leaves Lassen Park.
I tend to find my way into the Feather River Canyon on opening weekend. The series of dams there can provide some productive tailwater fishing opportunities. But the runoff is very high this year and that will limit the amount of fishable water. One exception is the North Fork of the Feather River above Caribou. Even when the flows are high, this stretch of river flows very clear. It should provide some good fishing this weekend.
The Middle Fork of the Feather River is flowing high and looks excellent for kayaking right now. Unfortunately, good kayaking means lousy fishing.
Caribou Crossroads special event
Caribou Crossroads, located where the North Fork of the Feather crosses Highway 70, is once again sponsoring their Trout Season Opener Big Fish Contest on opening day, April 30.
This is a terrific family event. Along with the fishing there is a barbecue lunch and dinner. Kids compete for big fish prizes in a special Kids Division.
The entry fee is only $5 and 100 percent of the fees are returned as prize money. Entry fees must be paid prior to the beginning of the contest at 7 a.m. Saturday, April 30.
If you can’t make the Big Fish Contest, stop in next time you are in the canyon and try their famous milkshakes. They are the best!
New fly tying material
I recently attended the North State Sportsman Expo in Chico. The highlight of the show for me was spending some time with Jay and Glenn Fair.
Jay and Glenn are a father and son team famous for their still water fishing expertise. They have been fishing and guiding local lakes for decades have over 100 years of fishing experience between them. They are widely known as the foremost experts on Davis and Eagle lakes.
In addition to their vast knowledge, they have developed some extremely effective fly patterns (the Jay Fair Wiggle Tail Nymph is my go-to fly pattern for lakes). They have also developed and marketed some great fly tying materials. They have been dying their materials for decades and their knowledge and attention to detail has led to some truly excellent fly tying materials.
What caught my eye this time was a new material they call Jay Fair Swimming Hackle. Glenn saw me checking it out so he tied a couple flies for me: a damsel fly (think Lake Davis) and a hex nymph (think Lake Almanor). He used a very basic pattern and when completed the flies looked pretty much like any of a number of good nymph fly patterns.
Then Glenn stuck a toothpick through the eye of the fly and swam the fly around in a bowl of water with a slight pulsating motion. The fly really came to life. The individual hackle fibers had a very impressive swimming motion.
The fly also had just enough sparkle to it to mimic the sparkle caused by the tiny gas bubbles usually trapped by the bodies of these sub-surface nymphs. The gas bubbles help provide buoyancy as the nymphs travel to the surface of the water.
If you want some easy-to-tie and very realistic flies, give Jay Fair Swimming Hackle a try. Jay Fair fly tying materials are available at most local fishing tackle shops.
I don’t want to sound like a pitch man. I am not selling anything. This is just good stuff that any fly tier will appreciate.