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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Lake Davis, Little Truckee River, Lower Yuba River, North Fork Yuba, And Small Creeks ~ The Year In Review

Every year a few weeks before Christmas I reminisce about what transpired through the year of my adventures, trips, and general shenanigans. I’ll lean back in my office chair and just zone out, daydreaming and reliving the highs and the lows. I’ll think about the fish that were caught, the ones that got away, and most importantly, the interactions of good times with my guests. To be honest, it’s pretty awesome to be able to stop time and think back. I’m lucky to have found a schedule that involves many watersheds and still waters as my season rotates around me. My year is different than most guides, I have the availability and permits to work three different National Forests, plus no man’s land; the valley rivers. My year starts on the banks of the Lower Yuba River until the end of March. Then it’s off to the Little Truckee, the Middle Fork Feather River, and Lake Davis whenever ice out happens. This continues until the end of May, and after that it’s all Lake Davis until water temps become too warm. I jump over the hill and concentrate on the North Fork Yuba River which provides cold water and the perfect classroom for my beginning students. As September rolls around I’m back at Lake Davis, but also squeezing in a few more trips on the North Fork Yuba. Once Lake Davis starts to ice up I’m back down the hill and ready for a break (ha ha, yeah right), and I’m right back where I began this; The year in review.

The skwala hatch on the Lower Yuba River this year was pretty damn good despite low water levels and gin clear water. The odds were against us but we managed some great days. I always learn a little bit more about this hatch, and the other great hatches by being on the water and seeing first hand the clues that are offered. I had a great float with Tom Page of Reel Anglers on a day off, it's always enlightening to spend a day with a guide who knows the river so well. The Lower Yuba Tours headed by Lance Gray and myself was well received again by all those that attended. To really get to know the Yuba and gain the confidence needed to be successful on your own; look no further. Besides the skwalas, I think the next best hatch was the Pinkies, followed by the March Browns. The Lower Yuba River is moody, unpredictable, and challenging - And that's the addiction for my guests and I. 

Though my time on the Little Truckee is short, it's still a great experience to be out there and sharing the knowledge. As we all know, it can be a tough game in the catching department, but that just makes one a better angler. The highlight for me this year was not just the fishing, but how many warblers and songbirds were migrating through. I could close my eyes while leaning back on a big tuft of native grass and be content with the sweet melodies of the birds pouring down the valley. We did not see that much surface action while I was there, but enough of a 2 hour window at times to get my guests stoked and hooked up. I learned even more about this special place from my good buddy Chris Maher, and Da Dean of Guides Frank Pisciotta. Good times for sure.

One of my favorite weekends this year was the Small Streams Clinic, another Lost Coast Outfitters joint effort to teach students how to best approach a small body of water and do some creekn’. I was joined with guide Tayler Wells for this two day escape into the wild. Though we were rained on, and found some creeks void of water, we had a blast! The biggest surprise was when one of our guests hooked the biggest rainbow I’ve ever seen in the canyon section of Jamison creek, 13”! I’m looking forward to next year and spreading the knowledge with another clinic.

Normally I put many days on the Middle Fork Feather River, but on the third year of a serious drought I’ve never seen the river so filled with silt and very little holding water. I did one trip this year and it was a workshop in conjunction with Lost Coast Outfitters. My students learned many things and a feel for where to go and what to use once the river returns to normal. Still though, if the fishing is not the best, the Middle Fork Feather does offer solitude and beauty. With a decent snowpack already, I hope this river gets flushed, and is ready to give up some offerings next season.

The damselfly hatch at Lake Davis was awesome this year, especially during the first part of the hatch. As time went on, the resident rainbows wised up and had a PhD in deciphering a natural from an artificial. We learned even more this year with the low water, and where they prefer to go during such conditions. The Lake Davis Still Water Outings were once again a big hit, special thanks to Rob Anderson for doing most of the work, and giving our guests the best time possible. It’s a must experience. The Hex hatch was very different this year and the bugs were hatching in some very unusual places. It’s all about the last half hour of light. My last day was July 7th on Lake Davis as water temperatures became too warm, and I knew it was time to head to cooler water.

July and August on the North Fork Yuba River is absolutely the best, The sun is out, it's warm, wet wading in the cool water, and small wild rainbows on the dry fly. I got a lot of feedback from other anglers and guides that the river was too low to fish. That's nonsense. Yeah, the river was low, but it only concentrates the fish into the deeper pools, and pockets. No need to worry about warm water temps either since there are so many springs in the upper watershed. As a guide, the river saved me this year with 38 trips completed, while other waters were too low and warm to guide on. The experience that the North Fork Yuba provides is unmatched. Canyon water, insane views, double digit catch numbers, and solitude. I'm really looking forward to next year and rock hopping my way upstream through the plunge pools.

In late Summer Ken Hanley of Pacific Extremes, myself, and our good friend John had another video project in the works while chasing the elusive "Golden Ghost". Water temps were cooling down quickly on the Middle Fork Feather River, and we were running out of time. All of us do not like to rush out productions if the content is not right. We opted to finish the project in the summer of 2016. I'll let you know when it's a wrap.

September was excellent at Lake Davis with dry flies when the Blood Midges and Callibaetis Mayflies were hatching. But the famous month of October failed again for the second year in a row. Low water levels left many productive flats high and dry, so the fish went deep on the east side and consumed Daphnia (zooplankton) as their meal. I also think the population of rainbows in the lake is very low. I keep logs of catch rates, and every season for the past three years they have been lower and lower. The best case scenario is they plant the lake with big numbers, and the water levels come up. Only time will tell.

It's back to the Lower Yuba as we wait for the skwala stones to appear. I can hardly contain myself thinking of a good drift and the aggressive take from a hot rainbow with line peeling out at Mach 3. I want to take this time to thank all my guests who joined me in the quest of adventure and true fun. I also want to thank all the guides and others from the fly fishing industry who support me, including the fly shops I network with that have been so generous. 2015 was a good year despite the drought. 2016 will be even better. I'm going to turn it up a few notches and continue to provide the best service available, and teaching the ways of the fly and rod. Happy holidays!

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