“My goal today was to get out and do some fishing.
I did that, so my day was a success.”
—John Gierach, author, commenting on a fish-less outing
I met my own goal of getting out to fish the Hexagenia hatch at Lake Almanor a couple nights ago. It wasn’t a fish-less outing, but it was darn close. The hatch was rather sparse. It doesn’t seem to have caught the attention of the fish yet. In normal years the hatching insects are more numerous and attract large numbers of hungry fish. That has not happened yet this year.
The Hexagenia has an interesting life history. The eggs are laid on the water surface and sink to the bottom. The nymphs hatch and burrow into the muddy lake or river bottom. As with all insects, they grow by shedding their exoskeleton or “skin” in a process called molting. Hexagenia nymphs undergo as many as 20 to 30 molts.
When the nymph is ready for its final molt, it leaves the burrow at dusk or soon after and rapidly swims to the lake surface, where its exoskeleton splits lengthwise down
its back. From the raft-like exoskeleton emerges a fully winged dun, which after only a few minutes takes flight. The winged Hexagenia is the only stage in the insect’s life cycle that most people see.
Although the dun may appear at first to be an adult mayfly, it is not fully developed sexually, and its color is usually more opaque than the adult. During the night or the following day, male and female duns molt a final time. They are now sexually mature adult mayflies. The adults do not eat, because their mouthparts are not completely developed. At dusk or at night, female spinners fly into a large swarm of male spinners. The males and females mate in flight during darkness. Within minutes of mating, the female spinner settles down to the lake surface, extrudes her eggs and dies.
Right now the fish appear to be focused on the nymphs as they rise from the bottom. Let your fly sink to the bottom, and then use a moderately fast retrieve to bring it toward the surface.
I fished north of Prattville. I have been told the hatch is a bit more active closer to the dam.
The Hexagenia isn’t the only game in town. Local guide Doug Neal of Almanor Fishing Adventures 258-6732 has been catching limits trolling.
Doug reports that feed is very abundant right now. Insect hatches are prolific (well, maybe not the Hexagenia) and pond smelt are everywhere. This is great for the fish but tough for the anglers because the cool water and abundant feed have fish widely scattered. I was trolling the morning after fishing the Hex hatch. I saw lots of fish suspended anywhere from 18 to 45 feet deep.
Doug suggests using dodgers and flashers to get the attention of the fish. Doug has been using a dodger with a threaded crawler 18 inches back. He also uses a good blast of Bang aerosol anise spray. This is the one scent that sticks on those slippery crawlers.
Alan Bruzza of the Sportsmen’s Den in Quincy, 283-2733, reports that Bucks Lake is fishing well. Fish are seeking out the colder water at the creek inlets. The mouths of Mill Creek and Bucks Creek are both producing plenty of fish.
What I enjoy about Bucks Lake aside from the beautiful setting is the variety of fish. It’s not unheard of to catch rainbows, brown trout, brook trout, lake trout (also known as Mackinaw) and kokanee all in one outing. One angler caught a mixed bag of trout that included a 14-pound Mackinaw last week.
Surface water temperatures at Lake Davis are in the low to mid 70-degree range. Warmer water contains less oxygen. Trout tend to prefer cooler water for that reason. With surface temperatures in the mid 70s trout will head for deeper cooler water.
The damselfly hatch has slowed a bit and never seemed to hit the abundance seen most years. Still, persistent anglers are doing well.
Jeanne at J&J Grizzly Store and Camping Resort, 832-0270, reports a pair of anglers from San Jose recently landed 44 fish up to 19 inches long in a day and a half of fishing last week. They fished in the Cow Creek area using small blood midge nymphs in size 14 and 16.
Fly anglers are doing well at Catfish Cove, Camp 5, Jenkins, Cow Creek and Freeman Creek areas. Bank anglers are finding some success at Catfish Cove, Eagle Point, Coot Bay and Fairview.
Trollers are finding some aggressive fish on the east side of the lake while fishing 20 to 30 feet deep in 40 to 50 feet of water.
Middle Fork of the Feather River
The Middle Fork is still running high. Fishing is tough but fish are being caught, especially in the upper reaches above Two Rivers. The key is to fish deep no matter if you are bait fishing or fly fishing.
If you want to learn more about the Middle Fork, consider attending the presentation on the Middle Fork of the Feather River sponsored by the Feather River Chapter of Trout Unlimited. Local guide Jon Baiocchi will explain the different reaches of the river, and the best techniques for fishing them. He will also show some of his favorite flies to use on the Middle Fork.
The presentation will be held at the Mohawk Valley Resource Center at the intersection of highways 70 and 89 on July 21 at 5:30 p.m.