|Photo by Peter Niebauer|
2016 was a pretty solid year for the waters I guided on including the Truckee River, the Lower Yuba River, Lake Davis, North Fork Yuba River, Frenchman's Reservoir, the Little Truckee River and the Middle Fork Feather River. I've also got to mention some of the smaller creeks that lie within the above mentioned waters. The region had a little bit more water this year than the previous three, but on some watersheds and still waters I noticed the impact of the drought from the quality of the fishing, and the numbers caught were way down.
I want to personally thank all of my guests that went out on trips, clinics, workshops, and tours with me. I had such a great time with all of you! What makes it special for me is that I know each and everyone of you learned a little bit more about the craft through my teaching, and truly appreciated a day on the water with me. So let's run through month by month and talk about the fishing highlights of 2016.
January started off being very cold in the foothills, and I focused all of my trips on my home water of the Lower Yuba River for the next three months. Swinging sculpins and salmon fry was very productive. The skwala stonefly was first seen on the banks of the river on the 15th. Heavy rains impacted the river at the end of the month, and on the 18th the first high water event occurred where Deer Creek and the flows from Englebright dam reached 10,188 cubes. On the 30th, the second big water event came down from the mountains and once again high snow levels melted the snow pack, and serious runoff occured. The river topped out at 15, 907 cfs, and slightly scoured the bottom, while moving some smaller cobblestones.
February brought some sunny warm days early on the river and because of such the Skwalas were out in good numbers on certain days. During this hatch an angler on the bank is much more in tune as they can see the subtle takes, and productive feeding lanes, while those in a drift boat that go whizzing by and are a little out of touch. The weather got even nicer and I took a fews days to fish the Truckee river and did quite well with beatis and worms high stiked in the deep water of the tail outs of major runs. Sunny skies and even warmer weather held out so I gave my guests the option of doing some Truckee trips, which proved to be totally worth it.
Back on the Lower Yuba dry fly fishing was productive with even more Skwalas, and lesser hatches of BWO's, Pinkies, and the occasional Gray Drake. The false spring was about to turn back to winter near the end of the month with a 10 day forecast of precipitation that would eventually lead to another ass kicking from Mother Nature.
We got another week of good weather that was productive for making some dry fly presentations with the skwala adult and some very nice fish were landed, then it hit...
March - On the morning of the 6th major flooding occurred on the Lower Yuba River and Deer creek with a combined flow of 22,912. I was down on the river river checking things out and the amount of water flowing down, along with the speed of the flow was an amazing sight. It took quite a while for the river to come back down and clear, and when it did there were major changes to bottom topography with new deeper areas, and many tail outs of runs that filled in substantially. The fishing was effected by the scouring flows, and since I have 2 different USFS permits and a third I work under, there was plenty of options. I quickly switched gears to the Truckee area. The Yuba needed to heal.
April saw very fishable conditions during pre runoff on the Truckee, and it was good action using indo rigs and high sticking the usual flies. The Middle Fork Feather River was a little too cold and high for the early opener, but it was good to see a high volume of water. This is one of the watersheds that took a hit as a result of drought and we're hoping this winter will bring more water and better populations of wild rainbows into the system.
May was awesome on the Truckee River and my guests and I continued to have great success while fishing the Glenshire stretch. Once the flows got big and the runoff started, I headed up north and started guiding at Lake Davis. The lake had favorable conditions using indo rigs in deeper water, but still fishing the upper water column. The lake level at that time was about 70%. The hatches really turned on in the middle of the month with blood midges, callibaetis mayflies and the beginning of the damsel hatch. Catch rates were still down due to DFW not planting as they normally do, thus providing a low population of rainbows, but the size of the fish were very big with 4 and 5 pound trout making the net.
June was great at Lake Davis, the weather early on was really nice and that brought out the damsels in full force. There was plenty of good sight fishing until mid month when we saw colder than normal weather and had snow squalls at the lake for a few days combined with a week's worth of big wind.
Once that cold weather blew through the hexes popped and the evening hatch was good, we caught more small fish in front of the campgrounds with the occasional toad. The damsels kept emerging but as always the trout wise up to artificials which can make for some very challenging fishing. We learned a few more tactics for such occasions.
One of my highlights is guiding at the Cliff Frazier Memorial Trout Camp for kids put on by Tahoe Truckee Fly Fishers. The San Francisco Fly Casting Club hosts the event and let's the club use the private water on the Truckee river with full access to their club house. It's a very special event that provides the opportunity for kids to experience fly fishing and the great outdoors.
I was quite pleased the way the Lake Davis fished during the month of June, and I've come to the conclusion it's my favorite time of year at the lake. Nice weather, and strong aquatic hatches with multiple games just can't be beat.
July 1st and the water temperatures at Lake Davis exceeded the 70 degree barrier and it was time to head over the hill and guide on the North Fork Yuba River. The river was in great shape with more water than we've seen in years past. The dry/dropper game was all time and this river is the perfect classroom for new fly anglers to heighten their skill set quickly. You can't find a more beautiful place to fly fish in the northern Sierra as it offers solitude combined with a wild and remote setting.
August and the dog days of summer usually means slow fishing, but on the upper reaches of the North Fork Yuba River where many cold springs pump in 44 degree water, it still fires on all cylinders. Switching to terrestrials like ant patterns and hoppers keeps the wild rainbows eager to take your fly. I did many trips and my guests and I did not see another fly angler on the water. It's possible to have solitude on this popular river if you drop into the remote gorges and areas with difficult terrain to navigate. I can't wait for next summer...
Also during the month of August, Ken Hanley, Jon Marcacci, and myself were able to finish our year long carp project titled "Gift of Gold." The pursuit of catching the golden ghost on the fly is so incredibly challenging, and so satisfying once you make a solid connection with a hook up.
September had me all over the northern Sierra and guiding at venues like The Middle Fork Feather River, Lake Davis with its cooling water, and nearing the end of the North Fork Yuba River season. The MFFR was decent, Lake Davis started out slow, yet came on strong by the middle of the month. The NFYR was fabulous with the daily mid morning spinner fall of tiny BWO's.
The callibaetis hatch was pretty strong at the lake providing some sight fishing conditions with dry flies. If the population of trout were bigger, we would have had more heads to hunt. Still, a few of these big toads was good enough for many of my guests.
October was a blustery month at Lake Davis and there were many days it blew up to 40 mph. This October was a little better than the previous two, but still nothing like it should be. I'm blaming low populations of fish, if they were there, we would be catching them.
There were a few days that gave me hope at Lake Davis with multiple risers in a couple feet of water on the mud flats. As we came upon the end of the month the fall colors erupted during the third week displaying a blaze of pastels and the best eye candy ever.
November started out well but at another still water, Frenchman's reservoir. With the boat back down off the hill and safely in the confines of my low elevation yard, it was all walk and wade trips until ice up. Business slows down for me during this time until mid January, and with as many trips, clinics, workshops, tours, and photo shoots I put in - It's nice to be able to take a break, and get my ducks in a row. I'm thankful for that.
December and I'm back on the Lower Yuba River until the first week of April. We had some pretty good action on the egg bite, but now that the salmon are nearly done, the rainbows are in transition switching back to aquatics. You can read my reports below from a few weeks ago before the deluge of big water hit. We had some pretty stellar days dry fly fishing with good mayfly hatches. I'm looking forward to getting back out on the water as soon as it comes back into shape after the big flows of December.
So we've come full circle and nearly a year later. I have a great feeling about the opportunities that await myself and my guests for 2017! Let's hope we have a solid winter, a good snowpack, reservoirs and lakes filled, healthy fish abound, and profuse hatches taht scatter the water's surface. Wishing you all the very best during the holidays. Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.