This has been a most interesting, if not frustrating, year for fishing so far.
|“If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there'd be a shortage of fishing poles.” Doug Larson, American columnist|
The most successful anglers are those who have had the opportunity to get to know the water they fish. Every lake and stream changes through the year so getting to "know the water" means understanding the feeding and migration patterns the fish are likely to engage in at any particular time.
It takes time to learn that. That is why I prefer fishing our local waters rather than traveling far from home to waters I don't know well. (For those who do travel, even experienced anglers, a guide can be instrumental to learning where the fish are as well as when and what they are feeding on. )
But this year has been different. Plumas County has experienced record snowfall. Lakes are full, streams are high, and recent hot weather is filling our streams and lakes with the remaining snow melt.
Wherever you go, the water is higher and colder than we have seen in many years this far into the season. The usual patters we have come to expect are not the same this year.
Local guide Jon Baiocchi (www.baiocchistroutfitters.com) reports that the damsels hatch is finally in high gear. Because of the high water the damsels can hatch anywhere in the lake.
Jon found the best activity on a large bed of floating weeds and debris.
The biology of the damselfly, which looks much like their larger relative, the dragonfly, is very interesting. After damsels mate, the female crawls down a plant stalk and lays her eggs under water.
This is accomplished by drilling a hole in the stalk with a specially designed auger on her tail end. Then she deposits her eggs inside the plant.
This is an exhausting process while holding your breath.
When the female crawls back up the plant stalk and reaches the surface, the male damsel flies down and picks her from the surface of the water and deposits her where she can dry and regain her strength.
During this whole process these insects are extremely vulnerable to cruising trout or bass.
I usually fish a fly that imitates an emerging or crippled damsel but fishing adult patterns during the egg laying phase can be very productive. I have actually seen cruising trout follow a low flying damsel for some distance and jump out of the water to catch it.
I talk about damselflies most often in relation to Davis Lake. Davis has the bet combination of a healthy trout population and many damsels, but virtually all of our local lakes have some damselflies.
Look for shallow weedy water. Ideal water temperature is in the mid to high 60 degree range.
It is hard to know how long this hatch will last so the best time to fish it is now.
Water temperature at the surface is warming into the mid sixty-degree range. There is still plenty of cooler water just 15 feet down and that is where the fish are holding according to local guide Doug Neal. (www.almanorfishingadventures.com)
Doug says the lake is in transition and is starting to stratify. The thermocline appears to be below 15 ft. and above 38 ft.
That is a huge band of water for trollers to target. Doug has been finding the fish up shallow early in the day and deeper in the afternoon.
Some of the usual places are not producing fish. Big Springs, the Snag, and Skinny Dip Beach have all been slower than normal for this time of year. With all the cool water we have this season, the fish have not been forced into any deep holes yet. They appear to be scattered to all four corners of lake. This has resulted in a rather random bite with no one area that is really on fire.
The hex hatch is normally the big draw for fly anglers. It usually lasts four or five weeks with the peak around the 4th of July. It hasn’t happened in a big way yet this year although there are reports of a few of these giant mayflies starting to hatch along the west shore of the lake.
Pond smelt fry have been seen hugging the shoreline and under docks. Fish will begin moving in a little tighter to shore to feed, especially with most of the spring bug hatches in decline. Coupled with the Hex hatch delay, expect fish to focus their attention to the smelt until the hex hatch heats up.
Small silver Needlefish could be deadly for evening trolling tight to the bank and near structure like stumps or docks.
Finding the bite has been more work lately and the catch numbers are down, but the anglers that stick it out will get fish, just pack an extra sandwich.
Butt Valley Reservoir
This may be the place to be for the frustrated hex angler. The power house is running, the creek side is high but fishable.
According to Tom Maumoynier of the Lake Almanor Fly Fishing Company (www.almanorflyfishing.com) the hex are hatching in good numbers with fish being caught by the first campground and spreading through the lake.
Most local streams are running high and still slight off color. There are some insects hatching; pale morning dun mayflies, caddis flies, and a few stoneflies (yellow sallies and goldens).
The key is to fish deep. For fly anglers, try high sticking weighted nymphs. Late afternoon and evenings may see some dry fly action.
The swarms of flying ants may be over, but an ant pattern fished along the bank, especially on a breezy afternoon can produce good results.
Use caution when wading. The fast cold water still presents a hazard, even in the middle of summer.
Middle Fork of the Feather River
The Middle Fork of the Feather River is well known. It offers everything from a gentle road-side angling experience to a treacherous canyon accessible only by an arduous hike.
It was one of California’s first designated wild trout waters. And its not always easy to fish.
If you want to learn more about the Middle Fork of the Feather, the Feather River Chapter of Trout Unlimited is hosting a presentation by local guide Jon Baiocchi. Jon will explain the different reaches of the river, and the best techniques for each. He will also show the various flies that will help make your next outing a success.
The presentation will be held at the Mohawk Valley Resource Center at the corner of Highways 89 and 70 on July 21 at 5:30 p.m. There is no charge.