Thursday, July 29, 2010
For the last few weeks of my life I have been deep in the North Yuba watershed exploring new areas to camp and fish. Haypress Creek (above) is a little gem and it flows through the Wild Plum Campground, which is a very nice campground - But make a reservation during peak times. We witnessed the biggest Golden Stone hatch I've ever seen! At a glance down the creek there was anywhere from 1 to 2 dozen adults flying at any given time! We started seeing fliers around 7:30pm and things just went crazy, and the fish responded by leaping high out of the water after them.
Butterflies of all types are flying through right now like these Pale Swallow Tails, which can be found by the dozens next to the water on a wet gravel bar keeping hydrated.
I love finding pocket water like this piece above while working my way upstream. This one has depth, several inflows, and plenty of cover for the native rainbows here.
Getting as close as I can without being detected by trout is a real challenge and a great game. High sticking dry flies all day long and keeping cool in that gin clear water is beyond fun - It's the best. As you can see I choose camo clothing, keep low, and no flashy items on the vest. Take your watch off as well.
I stuck with a few patterns and had great fishing, these trout are very eager and will hit just about anything. For me I choose the hopper in a variety of colors and sizes. You can't argue with a fly that does not need floatant and rides high, fish after fish. The hot fly was Gary LaFontaines Airhead in red and yellow, size#14.
The North Yuba is a fascinating river with a surprise around every corner. I really love this place, it reminds me of learning to fly fish on the West Branch Feather and the North Fork Feather when I was a boy. It's a rough and tumble kind of a river with a fast pace, and the roar of the white water echos off the canyon walls. Where Robins stuff their bellies full of Stoneflies, and take retreat on a low branch of a pine next to the river. They eat their meal, gaze about, and take in the sights and sounds of this most impressive watershed.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
The Madison River in South Western Montana is my favorite trout river, and home of Pteronarcys Californica - The Salmonfly. The Madison is basically a 50 mile riffle and ideal habitat for this big bug, I have taken some of my biggest trout in my life using the nymph here. But the love of the hatch, as almost always, is fishing the big dry. To see a 24" brown lazily nose over to your fly and suck it down with so much authority, that you know in your heart that these fish want this bug for the large size and its nutritional value! In fact the Native Americans that once roamed the shores of Hat Creek in California hunted these bugs to eat. They would wait on the banks near a willow and when they saw a Salmon fly hatch at the right time, they gulped it down! It was best this way as the bug was still soft and buttery, right out of the shuck.
Rivers in spring are filled with melting snow that has accumulated on peaks during the winter, as these flows recede Salmonflies stage up underneath rocks that are close to shore, the bigger the rock the better. This can occur from May through July depending on the snow pack. The hatch is often a hit or miss for mega stone hatches that happen on rivers like the Madison, the hatch starts at the lower river and works its way upstream - Sometimes the pace is often very fast and the bugs can cover miles in a day. One thing I have learned is that I let the crowds of anglers chase that dream, and when they are gone I set up camp, and fish the Salmonfly exclusively. The fish remember that bug for weeks after it has flown through, and you can bet on that!
Illustration by Christine Elder
Nymphs occupy the faster oxygenated riffles and pocket water and live 2- 4 years before emerging as adults. Nymphs are terrible swimmers and are subject to being washed away into the currents and finding its new home in a trout's belly. Feeding on stream debris, and leaf matter the Salmonfly measures 1.75-2.50 inches. The emergence usually occurs after Sunset into the night or early morning when it is still dark out. They crawl out of their exoskeleton and dry their wings before taking flight and finding a secluded area to adapt to their new world, many times mating between male and females occurs right away. I have seen freshly hatched males wait for a female to shed her shuck and start mating!
Adult Salmonflies live 1-2 weeks, and just like their swimming, they are clumsy fliers at best. The female lays her eggs by dabbing the water with her abdomen, dozens of times. She is most vulnerable at this point as her wings can get sucked down into the water where she is a helpless, struggling, prime rib dinner for Mr. Rainbow Trout. There are many fly patterns out there one can choose for this hatch. For the nymph I like a pattern that has rubber legs, tail and antennae, a big juicy and succulent body, and not too heavy so it can seek out the natural feeding lanes when high sticked. For the adult I like a foam bodied Stimulator in a size 6 (females are bigger) with a burnt orange body, a dark hackle in front, and moose for the wing. I have always caught my biggest fish on the dry right at dark. You see the take, and set the hook, the large trout turns and puts on the after burners downstream! Your hands tremble, and your short of breath! You dig deep and keep your cool and there it is at your feet after a long battle.....A two foot long trout at 5 pounds, and a great way to end the day on the Madison River.........
Friday, July 9, 2010
Creekin......Is a state of mind, an adventure of solitude and ravenous wild rainbow trout. I live for this time of year. When all other waters warm up, crowds of float tubes dot my lakes, and hoards of the general public litter my middle fork - A small creek can make all the difference, and keeps my sanity. The only down side at this point in my life is my fishing partner Madison (my blue heeler) is getting too old to jump from rock to rock and fish were the wild things are. But he knows where I have been by the smell of my wading shoes and the fish slime on my quick dry shorts. He wags his tail, gives me a smile, and I promise to take him to the lake in the boat. Satisfied he heads for his corner on the deck and takes up his post as sentry at Fort Baiocchi - And all is good with him.
So yesterday before the T-storms hit I fished Frazier creek. After I demolished my right side running board on my truck over a big boulder (they are both removed now, no more worries.) I rigged up my 4wt. 6 foot rod and walked downstream. No people around, not even a foot print. I stepped in the water and the coolness soaked deep into my legs and feet. The type of water a trout craves. The kind were oxygen rich plunge pools and aquatic insects become their salvation. I could not believe the bugs, so profuse it would make an entomologist cross eyed and dumb founded. There were the little black caddis, the larger gray speckled wing caddis, yellow sallies, the little green stone, golden stones, salmonflies, PMD's, green drakes and 3 different sizes of craneflies - All adults! Fish came so readily that there was no need to count. The game for me was to find that 9" trophy, and a few were found in the deepest pools. I used a gray x-caddis #12 and targeted the holding water, leaping from rock to rock, and staying low. I felt like the prince of pocket water.
I had had enough, and was quite embarrassed at the onslaught of my actions, how dare I harass these beautiful creatures who seek refuge under the pines, cottonwoods, and willows. I searched for bugs and realized that I have never seen so many on this creek before. With that I headed back to the truck and smiled. There is gonna be 4 more months of this pure bliss!