Tuesday, December 31, 2019
It sure is nice to be guiding in temperatures that are a little more warmer than that of the Yampa River in Co. The Yampa report from Cat Toy (https://flyfishingwithcattoy.blogspot.com/) and yesterday’s session was brutal, low of -1, and a high of 15. It’s been chilly during the morning hours here in Nevada City, and unlike Colorado, the air is much moister which you tend to feel in your bones more. I’ll take it for now.
Fishing on the Lower Yuba has been good if you can find the areas that are holding heavier concentrations of fish, which in turn will result in higher catch rates – If the planets are aligned. I have an acquaintance that works for CA DFW, and in his early years working for the department, he snorkeled the Lower Yuba River studying macroinvertibrates and fish behavior. During these studies he told me that there would be sections of the river that were devoid of trout, while other areas were bountiful. Turns out it’s all about the most abundant food source for that given time, plus the resident trout on this river move around a lot depending on where those significant food sources are.
Flows have been stable at 1,360 cubes, a good flow that compliments both drifters, and walk and wade anglers. According to the YubaWater Agency’s website “With no significant storm activity in the current forecast, we expect to maintain 1,200 cfs until storm activity and snowpack dictate higher releases. From Jan. 1 to Jan. 15, the minimum flow at Smartsville will increase to 1,000 cfs, and will decrease to 700 cfs on Jan. 16. The minimum flow at the Marysville gage for January is 500 cfs. Currently, Englebright releases are being held at 1,200 cfs. Flows from Englebright are managed to ensure that they don't drop below the minimum required flow”. Fishing pressure is moderate overall. It’s that time of year when you can sleep in a bit more as the best fishing is from just before noon to late afternoon.
The Skwala stoners are out, a little early but not by much. I was surprised to see as many shucks as I did over the past two days.
They’ve been pre staging in the idle slack water downstream of riffles over the last month. Many of my clients are put back by how small the Skwala stonefly is compared to Goldens, and Pteranarcys. Your flies should be close to the same size for both the nymph and the adult.
You can see here a stillborn that started to emerge, than failed. I’m surprised the birds didn’t get this one. Oh, and speaking of the birds, my old friends are back on their favorite perches waiting to intercept passing aquatics in the breeze. Black Phoebes, Ruby Crowned Kinglets, Yellow Throated Warblers, and Townsend’s Solitaire in the mix. If you see birds starting to dart back and forth from their perch, you can anticipate that a hatch is about to go down, while putting yourself in a good run and waiting for the trout to respond. Mother Nature will provide the clues if you stop casting, and observe more.
Skwalas are most active during warmer air temps and are in the foam and bubble lines in the afternoon. The majority of the fish are not keyed in on them yet, but they will be. I’m hoping the river does not blow out like this year and continues for months. We had serious game last January on the surface until February came along, and you know the rest of the story – Whooosh!
Check out my article in the December 2014 issue of California Fly Fisher magazine for the complete details on the Skwala hatch. I really dug deep with the information shared on this one.
There have been decent hatches out, nothing profuse but that should change here in the next month. Many different mayflies including the big Brown Dun (Ameletus) #10, BWOs #18, PMDs #14, and Pinkies (Epeorus) #16. Yesterday after noticing the birds eating rapidly from their perches, we put ourselves on a good flat and sure enough we had BWOs coming off and multiple rising fish. Unfortunately, the show was over in 20 minutes. There is also a sprinkling of micro caddis out as well, but mayflies taste better to the wild rainbows.
The weather looks to be perfect in the next week with a mix of sun and clouds, plus a chance of light rain on Saturday. It’s all systems go for the Lower Yuba River, and the fishing will only get better once the fish figure out the Skwalas are in the drift during the afternoons – Looking forward to that! See you on the water…
Friday, December 27, 2019
Back to the summit of the US of A, and back to the roots of my youth. Pretty weird how knowledgeable of Colorado fisheries I am, yet so many waters I'm still learning out there. If you haven't figured out why my quest to return to "Colorful Colorado" is in the past mix, you soon will after this post. It's a special state to me, so many close friends that truly know me there, and support me, makes it SO pleasing to be immersed in. I'm proud and honored to be a native Northern Californian, and to have been fly fishing the northern state since 1972, but as I age, there are more important factors in life - Thus the future looms. Yep, back to CBC, the most ultimate base camp ever, and "Mission 1" was in the works - Recuperating from the long drive, making a big pot of Cat's Hearty Beef Base Camp soup, and tying flies. Tying is so special to me, I wish I had more time to do so. I'm not not a commercial tier, or a superior speed tier. I tie for myself, my friends, and my guests. Payed signature tier of patterns? Not likely, those special patterns of mine will only be available from a guide trip, or a personal fishing session. Jonny B. is not going sell himself out, or be cheesy - but I will always share the knowledge to the masses. Always.
The landscape of the Yampa River is nestled in a broad valley by Steamboat Springs, an area I'm all too familiar with in regards to my snowboarding days, and the legendary Quinn Sandvold, a fellow team rider on the factory Wave Rave Snowboarding Team that I filmed and rode with. The area is stunning... real cowboy country, FM Light & Sons, ranching, so genuine, so Colorado. Easy to appreciate being a Nor Cal Native and growing up in the tiny town of Paradise. The Stagecoach area is as rural as it gets.
Once we made our way down to the banks of the water, the rhythm set in, we could feel it, and embraced the grand scheme of it all. So beautiful... it takes my breath away just thinking of it. It's like the Little Truckee special regs section except for the rugged pocket water on the most extreme upstream part of the river, but has three times the number of trout. Colorado manages their fisheries so incredibly well. This place is ridiculous.
Fly selection is critical during the winter months, think small ball. I'll let Cat explain the details of such with her new blog on fly fishing, and an accurate an honest report for the Yampa River HERE: https://flyfishingwithcattoy.blogspot.com/2019/12/yampa-river-fly-fishing-report-12262019.html
Watching Cat work the water is so gratifying to me since she has only been at the game for a short time. Results do not lie. Cat is the upmost proficient student of fly fishing I have ever come across in my 23 years of guiding. I really can't think of another individual that has a better track record. It's the mojo, and more...
"Mission 3". It had been since the spring of 2018 that I rode some chairlifts with the board attached to my feet, and the listed sponsors of my past that continue to support my quest on the snow. I can't ride the park railings anymore, or hit the kickers, knees are shot, and if snowboards had suspension like my Honda 04 CFR 250F, I'd launch 100 footers all day long. Known fact right there. The 21st and the 22nd of December did not disappoint. As Craig Kelley once said "Snowboarding is just fun!". Check out the Smooth Groove: https://vimeo.com/124039127 Craig influenced me heavily, and I will always make one more turn for that man, the dude brought so much knowledge and technique to snowboarding. Game changer he was.
Cat is a Patroller at Loveland Ski Area, and fully certified. Just like fly fishing, she takes her volunteer work very seriously. It's impressive to watch her work and ski as she is extremely gifted at both mediums. Lucky for me I got to ride for free, but those lift tickets are not readily available, every day Cat works the mountain, the company awards her with a pass to give to her guests. First chair, groomers, and epic corduroy. The smooth groove lives on...Le Carve. Thank you Cat!
Yep, that's me... Director of Snowboarding at Boreal Ridge, 1987 to 1990. Probably the best job I've ever worked in regards to being employed by a company other than my own. 6 days a week, 10 hour days, at $16.50 an hour. I was killing it back then. Watching Cat work the mountain brought back intense memories for me, I've been there, a professional, making damn sure the public received the best bang for their buck, and had a great time on the hill. My experiences at Boreal transcended into my guide service, and helped me immensely. Life skills...
"Mission 4". Back to the Yampa to close out the 2019 season. It was much warmer than the previous week, but also increased crowds, and bad angling etiquette. I watched a guide place 5 clients around two other anglers in a very short run without getting approval from those fishing the run. Being a long time guide, I was appalled. I nearly got in his face, but the older wiser Jonny B. took a step back, and listened to his local Yampa River guide Wendell, who told me to "move along".
Wendell is the man. The most knowledgeable fly fishing guide on the Yampa River. Obi Wan... Jedi Master. Kind, caring, and legit. The kind of frog you want to hang out with all day long.
Even when we missed a take, Wendell was soft spoken and encouraged us with sportive advice, and direction towards large rythmatic feeders that were just under the surface...
Wendell also informed us that the water temps were right at 32 degrees. That's the coldest water I've ever fished. Thank goodness the river has a good push of gradient downstream just below the Stagecoach dam where we were fishing or we would have been dealing with floating ice.
Local Nor Cal fly guide patterns from Hogan, Adam, and Brian did well, it's really cool to see the actual evidence of an unknown fly being consumed by a large Colorado trout. They honestly have never seen the fly before, thus the take.
Wendall's fly selection was on point. #18 to #22, small tiny black shit...and light olive, purple, brown...all colors of Zebra Midges worked, and Cat proved them to be effective, hook up and after hook up.
I caught and released so many nice fish every day I fished the Yamp River, like this bully above. After 48 years of fly fishing I'm completely content with just embracing the day and all that it shares. The catching, is the bonus jib. I like to fish, but even more I like to watch fishing buddies just go off. Watching Cat is so much fun. She is so intense, and so focused that I can feel the energy emitted from the tip of the rod. Photography - bugs, landscape, lifestyle shots, and more - Just recording the special experiences. What a way to live...
I've never witnessed so many hook ups in such little time. The Yampa River is amazing! This trip was the best experience I've had in decades - Totally serious. So much fun I can't even begin to try and explain it to you. Great company, good food, warm lodging, the best base camp ever, carving groomed butter, ropin' donkeys, and living life to it's fullest. Complete bliss. I'll be back in the very near future Colorado.
Here's to a kick ass 2020 - Bring it! - J.
Wednesday, December 18, 2019
Another year in the books comes to a close, and I'm here at CBC (Cat's Base Camp) reflecting on all the highlights that went down over the course of a very busy and productive season of fishing, guiding, and glorious adventures. It's also that time of the year with Christmas music in background emitting the oldies, Bing, Burl, and Judy belting out the songs that are timeless. Gifts are wrapped, and some have already been opened because we need that new gear for some upcoming missions starting tomorrow. The Christmas spirit is a little louder than normal for me this year, when life is good and you're happy, it's that feel good spirit that pours over the rim of the cup into your everyday life. I'm grateful for my current place in the universe.
Let's start off with January on the Lower Yuba River where the fishing was so good I never put a nymphing rig on my guest's rods, it was all swinging and dry flies. A few storms came through without too much of a negative effect on the fishing, even with the river coming close to blowing out. Late December saw some very large steelhead caught, and it had been a while since any of us had seen such magnificent athletes in the system. That was really cool. Another ISE show went down as well, and I'm thankful for being chosen once again to speak there, and tie flies in the FFI booth. I'll be there again for 2020 with talks on Lost Sierra Creeks, the North Fork Yuba River, and also spinning some more bugs up.
The Skwala stoneflies started emerging the last week of January and it doesn't take long for the fish to notice a substantial food source floating down the currents and foam lines along the bank. It's the winter dry fly fishing, and the great hatches that enticed me to relocate from Eastern Plumas County down to Nevada City to be closer to the magic that the Lower Yuba River provides. Living in the Sierra foothills has been awesome despite how sensitive the Yuba river can be to blowing out with high water, as I can guide down there during the slower months. Close to home, and when we get those warm dry spells, it's the icing on the cake.
Just a reminder, if you're looking to really understand the Skwala hatch, check out the December 2014 issue of California Fly Fisher and the article I wrote on this most fascinating winter hatch. Better yet, book a day with me and I'll teach you all the intricate details of the willow fly. So good! I hope the new year brings a strong hatch and good fishable conditions.
February came in with a parade of storms that lasted well into spring. The Lower Yuba River was blown for months, and with nowhere to fish or guide, I had to reach into the tool box to generate some income to pay the bills - writing articles, speaker presentations, and trade shows. All of which I enjoy immensely due to the simple act of sharing my passion for fly fishing, and every little detail that pertains to it.
Again, I'm very grateful to have these opportunities to share with the fly fishing community. Education, and sharing the knowledge on the resource is a big part of my life, and I love every minute of it.
February was also the month that my buddies launched a new project. GuideBox took the idea of a fly box subscription to the next level. If you're new to fly fishing, and a DIY type of person, this is the answer. I'm so excited to be a part of the GuideBox team, and looking forward to the future projects we have planned for 2020. When you work with people who are as passionate about fly fishing as you are, it really enhances the total experience for all.
The parade of AR's (atmospheric rivers) continued, and the snow pack was really adding up in the higher elevations. Though it sucked not being able to fish and guide, I knew it was going to be a great summer and fall with plenty of water for our buddies with fins and spots.
There was a small window of opportunity at the beginning of April on the Lower Yuba River with swinging streamers, and indo rigs bouncing stones and worms off the bottom substrate of the cobblestones. The flows came up again with a large and robust snow pack starting to melt, and at the bottom of the big watersheds, the Yuba, Feather, and Sacramento were flowing heavily. It was time once again, as I always do during the month of April, to switch gears to the Northern Sierra and begin guiding in the upper elevations. High Water Workshops, streamer games, and getting down and dirty with big heavy nymphs while working the side water. During this time is when some of the biggest trout are caught, especially on the Truckee and the Middle Fork Feather.
I really enjoy the workshops and clinics that I offer, no matter the season, or the technique I'm teaching. They are so much fun, educational, and a real value for the fly angler looking to improve their skill set. I will be offering many more for 2020, including Tours for specific regions and watersheds as well. Check out my "News" page HERE for the complete 2020 schedule. I will be adding more as well, so keep checking the page.
Into June with a big boom! The busy season came on like a freight train, so fishy, with so many areas firing on all cylinders. The Little Truckee was good once the flows came down and settled in. The Middle Fork Feather River had a slow start though, but a few very large trout did appear some angler's nets. As I get older, I really appreciate the warmer months into fall among the mountains. Camping, fishing, hiking, and mountain biking. 2019 was also a stellar year for wildflowers due to all that precipitation that fell from the sky for so long. We witnessed a barrage of color spot well into the fall season.
The creeks of the Lost Sierra came into shape towards the end of June and provided some fantastic fishing all summer long. I also offered a few Tours of the creeks that flow into the Middle Fork Feather River in the Eastern portion of Plumas National Forest. They were a big hit, and everybody loved them. You can bet I'll be doing more for 2020.
July rocked! Though I despise the crowds of the 4th of July celebration, the 3rd was a magical day with my good friend Cat, Wow! She was on fire, and with only a year of fly fishing under her belt, I was simply blown away at her skill set. I really get off seeing some one new to fly fishing that has a radical progression rate. It truly is a thing of beauty.
By mid July the Middle Fork Feather River turned on and Northern California Tight Line Nymphing was hammering fish using some Euro style PMD nymphs. Dry / Dropper rigs were working really well too. This red hot action only lasted a few weeks, and as usual, the MFFR in the upper section became too warm. Sure, you can still catch fish, but is it worth it to the fishery when high water temps can be lethal to the wild trout. When this situation occurs, it's time to focus more intently on the creeks of the Lost Sierra, and head over the hill to the North Fork Yuba River.
I love guiding beginning fly anglers on the North Fork Yuba River, it's the perfect classroom. My guests love the NFFR too, as it is one of the most beautiful watersheds in the entire state. Crystal clear cold water all summer long, dry flies, and wet wading = Fun! Best of all, these great conditions continue all the way into the fall season. I surely can't wait until it's prime time again on this most amazing river.
There are two events that happen every summer that I look forward to, the Tahoe Truckee Fly Fisher's Cliff Frazier Memorial Youth Fly Fishing Camp, and their annual BBQ. So much fun seeing the kids learn about fly fishing, conservation, ecology, entomology, hook sets, and fish in the net. The BBQ? Great delicious food, raffles, and quality socializing with fellow club members. Good stuff!
September brought a long awaited vacation for me back to my Colorado roots. It had been decades since I fished there, and it did not disappoint! You can read all about my adventures on that special trip HERE
After the Colorado trip, it was back on the waters of the North Fork Yuba River to close out the season there. As the sun has a lower arc in the fall sky, it's important to fish during the warmest time of the day. The great action continued until the water temps dipped below 52 degrees, it was at that time to start focusing on the stillwaters of the Northern Sierra, especially Lake Davis.
It's amazing what happens when the Department of Fish & Wildlife puts out the effort to heavily plant a "put & take" fishery such as Lake Davis. The fall season at LD was super good, the best it had fished in the last 8 years! It was spiritually moving for me, and just like the good old days. The only fly we fished with for a month and a half was the Jay Fair Trolling Fly in fiery brown, rust, and burnt orange. No indo rigs, just stripping, and as you know, the tug is the drug when those big rainbows suck down your fly.
The best fishing of the year, and October was on fire! The MFFR was insane with BWO hatches. Northern California Tight Lining in the mornings, and dry flies in the afternoon. So special. For those fly anglers looking for solitude, and the experience of fishing the first designated Wild & Scenic river, the MFFR is a real gem. I've been fishing this river since the 70's and guiding it now for the last 23 years. If you're interested in fishing here, I've got the knowledge, and I'm willing to share it.
October blazed on with fall colors, and intense action on Lake Davis. The week of the 14th to the 20th was ridiculous! There were a few days we lost count on how many fish were brought to the net. With a higher lake level, we mostly fished from the boat with intermediate lines, while stripping Jay's flies. Way too much fun was had by all of my guests. Bent rods and smiles all around.
During my time guiding the Lost Sierra in fall, I also came down the hill for a few select trips on the Lower Yuba River. With the salmon in the system, eggs, S&M's, and legs crushed them. The native wild resident rainbows of the Yuba are like F-18's with the afterburners on when hooked. Many of my guests learned you have to let these fish run, or you'll break 'em off. Doh!!!
The last week of October was brutal at Lake Davis, arctic temps and howling wind. It reminded me of late season fishing at Eagle Lake. The action was way slower, and the big mega pod I had found a few weeks earlier had dispersed and spread out. By November 1st it was time to pull the plug and get ready for my So Cal Presentation Tour - Which went incredibly well!
I want to thank all of my guests, fly clubs, and fishing buddies who joined me on the water - What a season! I also want to thank all of my sponsors, without your support it would be much harder to efficiently operate my guide service and share my knowledge. Here's to a new year with fresh exciting adventures, see you on the water!