Warmer waters make trout fishing a challenge
The fishing was good; it was the catching that was bad.
~ A.K. Best
Many of the seasonal patterns that fish respond to have been a few weeks late this year. Insect hatches have been about two weeks behind schedule. Stream flows are about a month out of synch.
The one pattern that caught me off guard is the warming of the water temperature. It seems to be just about on schedule compared to a normal year; assuming there is still such a thing as a normal year.
I figured with all of that cold water flowing into the lakes, the summer slow down that usually hits in mid-July would be delayed a bit and the fish would continue to feed actively in the shallows until sometime in August.
I was wrong. All of that cold water sinks to the bottom and the warm weather warms the surface temperature just like it does in any other year. And we have had plenty of warm weather.
Chalk it up to another good learning opportunity. The key is understanding that the trout are now moving into deeper water and starting to congregate around cold water sources like springs and creek mouths; anywhere they can find colder and better oxygenated water.
Understanding this key change and adapting your tactics accordingly will help you find fish.
This is the time of year I like to shift my focus from the west basin of the lake to the east basin. The west basin is characterized by shallower water and lots of muddy substrate that provides good habitat for aquatic insects. In the early season, trout are looking for warmer water and insects are the primary focus of their diet.
By mid-summer, the trout begin seeking out the colder water. They also shift their focus from insects to pond smelt to satisfy their hunger. The east basin has deeper and colder water. It also has plenty of springs and better pond smelt habitat.
I also believe that the wind has something to do with it. Fish get their oxygen from the water and warm water holds less of it. There is a fairly predictable afternoon wind that blows up the Feather River Canyon and over the dam every afternoon. This puts a pretty good chop on the water in the east basin. That helps to cool and oxygenate the water. The west basin is somewhat protected from this afternoon wind and so it gets less of the cooling and oxygen.
The fish are starting to congregate around cold water sources, but they are still a bit scattered.
Trolling pressure has been very light this past week or two so reports are a bit scarce.
I would try slow trolling a night crawler. I like that better than the popular Needlefish or Speedy Shiners because I believe the trout are more inclined to take a slow trolled bait rather than expend the energy needed to catch faster moving prey.
Another key to successful fishing is not being shy about switching tactics if what you are doing is not producing results.
I think any of the shoreline from the Dorado Inn up to Hamilton Branch and around past Big Springs and on down the east shore of the Peninsula to the A-Frame could be productive. If you see lots of pond smelt with feeding fish working, just make multiple passes through that.
The Almanor Fishing Association’s 25th annual Family Picnic will be held July 29th at the Lake Almanor Country Club Rec HYPERLINK “https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/1picnic?source=feed_text&story_id=878855658935421”1 picnic area.
Steak and/or hot dog dinners will be served between 4 and 9 p.m., with a drawing following dinner. Steak dinners are $25 at the door and $20 if purchased in advance, hot dogs are $10.
All proceeds go directly toward the AFA Fish Pen Project. Each year AFA raises up to 50,000 rainbow for release into the lake. The proceeds from this event are used to help maintain the pens and buy feed for the fish.
This has been a tough year at Davis. Despite abundant feed, catch rates have been low due to the declining trout population.
Now the water temperature at Davis is in the mid-70 degree range. That is outside the comfort range for trout. They are feeding in the mornings with some coming into shallow water. By late morning, they are hunkering down in the deeper water and just conserving their energy. Trout fishing is very slow.
The warm water contains less oxygen and that puts lots of stress on the fish. Do not expect to be able to safely release your fish after catching it. Most guides head elsewhere when the water at Davis is this warm.
There are some warm water species in Davis including bass, blue gill, pumpkin seeds and catfish. These species thrive in the warmer water and can be caught all day long.
Gold Lake Basin
Gold, Lower Sardine, Upper Salmon and Packer lakes have all been planted with trout and are all producing good catches of rainbows to 14 inches with a few larger fish being caught at Gold Lake.
Stream flows and temperatures are in good shape, but many are still flowing unseasonably high and fast making them challenging to fish. On these streams look for the slower, deeper pools.
Some of the slower flowing streams, like the Middle Fork of the Feather River, are already starting to warm up. When the water temperature exceeds 68 degrees, fish will head for tributary mouths or springs in search of cooler water. A thermometer is a handy item for the angler to find that cooler water.
On the Middle Fork, the best trout fishing is downstream of Two Rivers. The river from Camp Layman to Sloat is fishing reasonably well. Fly hatches are a little sparse on the Middle Fork and elsewhere. This is likely due to the high flows scouring the stream bottoms and washing nymphs down stream.
The Camp Layman area has been fishing well for small rainbows. Large panther martins and rooster tails are good bets; black, brown and yellow colors work best.
Deer Creek, Indian Creek and the North Fork of the Feather are all good bets right now. Deer Creek and the North Fork continue to get plants of catchable rainbows on a fairly regular basis.
Try small mayfly nymphs and bead-head nymphs with a tight line technique. If necessary, use split shot to get the nymphs deep in the pools. Golden Stone nymphs and Yellow Sallies are effective as well as caddis in the late afternoon and early evening. Look for terrestrials like grasshoppers especially on windy afternoons.
Bouncing crawlers in eddies and at the tail end of pools will connect with some catchable size rainbows.
Both the Middle Fork and North Fork of the Feather are scheduled for trout plants this week.