Spring Edition

Spring Edition
Spring Edition

Monday, May 25, 2020

Middle Fork Feather River Fly Fishing Report ~ 5/25/2020

The Middle Fork Feather River is still fishing quite well, and pretty much on cruise control with a few slight variances. There was a significant amount of rain that fell last week with extremely high snow levels. So being that Eureka Peak and other neighboring peaks like Mt. Washington are at 7,400 feet, there was rain on snow causing more of the snowpack to melt. Water levels came up a tad and the clarity remained about the same - clearish. 

Fishing is a little better in the upper river from Clio to Two Rivers mainly due to slightly warmer water temperatures (52-56), then downstream of where Jamison Creek comes in (48-53) on the lower part of the Recreational Zone of the MFFR. Fishing pressure is still light, but there were an influx of visitors to the Northern Sierra over the holiday weekend, with your typical spin anglers at the more popular bridges.

Tight Line Nymphing has been the most effective for catching numbers of fish, but there are plenty of dry fly opportunities to be had. With the upper river dropping, there seems to be more fish on the move heading downstream, and many runs, pools, and large slots have many fish holding together. If you catch one, keep fishing, there’s more in there. A guest of mine last Saturday pulled out 5 rainbows in a spot that was 10 feet long by 7 feet wide. 

Yep, they’re stacked up in certain favorable spots that have a steady conveyor belt of food, protection from the heavy currents, and structure that offers security to predators. Overall I’ve been impressed with the size and girth of the trout, but we are starting to see much smaller trout in the system with water levels dropping and the bigger fish on the move. There are so many different types of water to fish right now that the fly angler must carefully dissect that piece of water they are fishing, namely depth, and the intensity of the current. Using heavier flies or adding more weight to the leader while TL Nymphing can make a huge difference.

The aquatic insects are going off in the upper river! 2 different PMDs, a size 12, and a 14. Pink Alberts (epeorus) in a size 16 that looks just like a PMD except it only has 2 tails, and is a little brighter in color. BWOs were out thick last Friday with the cooler drizzly weather. It’s all about those clouds when it comes to BWO hatches. The Black Dancer caddis is out, it is an early season caddis that is quite large (#12-14), has a metallic sheen to it and is most active during the day. 

Other bugs on the menu include a few different other caddis like the ginger caddis, creamy crane fly, a few Golden Stones, and still seeing a few Gray Drakes. Evidence of Salmon Fly shucks has been observed. Best dry flies to present are Adams Parachute, Quigley’s Cripple PMD, and Cutter’s E/C Caddis. Best Nymphs have been Flashback Pheasant Tails, Mercer’s Z-Wing, and Hogan’s S&M in olive. Smaller flies seem to have been more productive in the last week, with mayfly nymphs being the best.

Conditions will only get better with the incoming hot weather as the water temps will increase. Better get it now, once the water really heats up in the upper river, those trout will move downstream to find a more suitable habitat to summer over in. As we go into June and the latter half, be sure to carry a thermometer to check water temps and quit fishing when it gets to be 68 degrees and above. Brown trout do much better with warmer water temps than rainbows. 

Busy is the word with me and all at once. In the last 3 weeks I’ve never been so consumed with trip inquiries than my previous 24 years of guiding and booking trips. Being a totally independent guide is challenging, but I truly do love my work and sharing all things fly fishing. June is booked up, with 4 days open in July. 15 days available right now in August. I’ll be back up to the Northern Sierra in a few days and finally getting on Lake Davis, reports to follow. See you on the water where the wild things are…

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Middle Fork Feather River Fly Fishing Report ~ 5/16/2020

Conditions remain very similar to my last report with a few exceptions. First, the water temps have come up a few degrees. On a recent trip I was fishing a few miles below the last feeder creek in the Graeagle area, Smith creek, and the water temperatures of the MFFR were at 56 in the afternoon. You’ll find great variances in water temps and it all depends on location. Secondly, the flows in the main stem remain about the same as my last report, even on the feeder creeks as well. Overall fishing is great and the MFFR has really come back strong since the drought, in fact it’s the best I’ve seen it in a very long time.

Streamers have not been that effective since the water has cleared up, though I have not tried super low light conditions like first light, and the magic hour towards dark. That could be worth considering if you have a hunch where a big apex predatory trout lives. The next couple of days could be really good with these series of strong spring storms. Right now, Tight Line Nymphing is dominating throughout the day. Rubber leg stones, flashy caddis pupa and mayfly nymphs, worms, and attractor nymphs like psycho princes, and rainbow warriors. There are many different depths that are holding fish now, so dial in your added amount of weight, or the weight of your flies while also using the depth gauge from the bottom of your sighter to your bottom fly. Make your drifts from the mid water column and gradually go deeper until you are bouncing your flies off the bottom. 

Mid-day to late afternoon has been good for dry fly fishing, and dry dropper rigs. Some of the trout are being picky and it may take a little time to figure out the puzzle as each fish may be eating something different. Also each run will have different hatches going on so be sure to observe more and cast less. It makes a difference. Lately it seems generic patterns have had better results than specialized emerger/adult/spent patterns. There are SO many aquatics out right now! Little green stones, PMDs, BWOs, Gray Drakes (both duns and spinners), caddis (creamy #16), Golden Stones, and little yellow Sallies. Yesterday there were tiny black termites on the surface which the fish seemed to be keyed in on and eating for a short time. A drag free presentation, even in fast water is a must with fishing a dry fly. With so many varied currents and structures in the MFFR, high stick short line dry fly presentations have been extremely successful as it allows for a better natural drift and also keeping the leader of the water. Get stealthy and get as close to your quarry as possible while maintaining a lower profile. It helps.

A few days are still available for the end of May, and only 3 days for the month of June. Call, email, or text me if you want the best and most knowledgeable guide for the Middle Fork Feather River. If you plan to come up, make sure you are totally self sufficient with everything you will need including the basics: food, water, shelter, and fly fishing gear. Practice safe and responsible COVID procedures, please be prepared to practice social distancing as much as possible and bring your PPE: (Personal protective equipment, mask, sanitizer, wipes), whatever makes you feel comfortable and safe. See you on the water...

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Middle Fork Feather River Fly Fishing Report ~ 5/7/2020

I’ve been secretly scouting and fishing the Middle Fork Feather River since the early opener. It’s nice to be back on home water and actually very therapeutic during these difficult times. I’m doing better than expected and so thankful for the support and the understanding from my guests to most others in the fly fishing industry. Pre-paid trips, letting me keep deposits, rescheduling, donations, and custom tackle orders have helped immensely.  If you are going to visit rural communities to fish, or go on a guide trip with me, you must take special precautions. I would advise for the next month or longer to just come up for the day (or dry camp far away from folks) and be totally self-sufficient with everything from food to supplies for the entire intended stay. Those rural communities want you to distance yourself from them. They have signs up to let you know too. Plumas National Forest is open, just be safe out there and do the right thing.

Pinnacle Pool

So onto the fishing... The season started off with cold higher off colored water, which really is a blessing on the Middle Fork Feather River. During such conditions there are more and bigger fish in the system, but it’s not easy and you really have to know where the 10% of the habitat that holds 90% of the fish is at. Runoff peaked last week with warmer temperatures and all the feeder creeks to the MFFR were running at their highest for the season, cold and clear. Hint: fishing may be slower directly downstream of feeder creeks due to snow melt water temps. 

The Middle Fork Feather River water temperatures are varying depending on whether it is the upper river (52-55), mid river (48-51), or the lower river (47 to 53). The mid river water levels near the Graeagle section has dropped considerably, the feeder creeks are dropping too, but still icy cold. While there is not a huge snow pack to melt, prime fishing conditions will come quickly, and the best conditions will be gone by the end of June. That’s the thing with the Middle Fork Feather, it drops into shape quickly with all day good fishing, then it’s a morning and evening game, then it’s done until fall. I don’t fish or guide when the water warms up over 67 degrees. It’s hard on the wild rainbows (the browns do much better in warmer water temps) and it’s not worth it to do damage to such a beautiful and pristine fishery.

Castle Pool

All types of presentations are working right now. The most productive is tight line nymphing, though we are getting some bigger trout on the streamer – You just got to put in the time, kind of like steelheading. In the afternoons dry fly opportunities exist including dry/dropper rigs. The trout are moving around a lot right now which is also typical for the river during spring when water levels recede. The bigger trout will mostly move downstream to the deeper canyons for late spring and summer where they will find cooler and more water within the system, along with plentiful food items. A longtime friend of mine, who is a fisheries biologist, once told me that the larger trout will move 15 to 25 river miles within the Middle Fork Feather River, and most of the spawning occurs in the feeder creeks where they can find the needed suitable gravel to make a successful redd. As always, move until you find the concentrations of fish, or visibly see consistent rise forms. Don’t leave fish to find fish, if you’re not catching, figure out the puzzle by the process of elimination.

Little Green Stonefly

What makes this river so special is the amount of aquatic insect life that it has - Super rich and diverse. The upper and mid sections have some incredible hatches right now. The Little Green Stone, a special stonefly of the genus Isoperla from the Perlodidae family, and not to be confused with Yellow Sallies, or the Little Yellow Sally (alloperla). It’s a size 12, bright green underbody, and hatches mid-stream like a PMD mayfly. Yesterday they were pouring out from the surface of the water in pools and runs directly downstream of major riffles. The trout were not taking the adults as they were flying away too quickly, but the emerger rising to the surface. The Leisenring lift was the right technique to use, and it paid off for a few trout. These special stoners will be out for the next month, it’s utterly amazing watching the emergence.

Drunella Grandis ~ Green Drake Nymph 

Other adult bugs that are out are Golden Stones, Gray Drakes, PMDs (good numbers), BWOs (waning), the start of Caddis fly hatches (look for these to intensify), and the early season creamy crane fly. In the drift and the best subsurface flies to use are stones, worms, smaller mayfly and caddis patterns, and midge pupa. On our trip yesterday we were walking through a waist deep silted in gravel bar and noticed that we stirred up dozens upon dozens of immature PMD nymphs as they rose to the surface with their slow pulsating swimming movement. It was so cool! Terrestrials out too like pavement ants (red!), Carpenter ants, and even small early season hoppers.

In my opinion the Middle Fork Feather is fishing the best since the late 90’s. More and bigger fish are in the system and profuse hatches too thanks to the prior big water years of 2017 to 2019. Still, these fish are shy at times and you got to put in the work before you are rewarded. What made yesterday so much fun was fishing with fellow guide and good friend AdamEisenman of Woodgrains Guide Service. (FYI – If I’m booked, or if I must cancel, you will be going out with Adam. He’s got the skills, great with people, and the same mind set as I do when it comes to fly fishing and the natural world). I got to show him some new areas, and he in return showed me a few things with flies and techniques. We put in a lot of miles yesterday with 3 different sessions, and to be honest I can’t fish all day, especially tight line nymphing as it’s so demanding on my shoulders. My body definitely feels its past of a bumpy dirt road that included a professional snowboarding career, racing motocross, skating vert ramps, and climbing the vertical granite walls of Northern California. So, I happily watched Adam, checked out the bugs, and other fascinating experiences with the flora and fauna. Yesterday was magic!

Puttin the wood to 'em! ~ Adam Eisenman

If you can leave your home, be safe and responsible, and are symptom free, I see no reason why we can’t go fishing. I’m taking special precautions on my trips and a new protocol, pretty much the same types of things we’ve already been doing. Face masks, distancing 6 feet, using hand sanitizer, and thinking smart. Keep in mind I have a lot to share and teach with the Middle Fork Feather River and fly fishing. I’ve been fly fishing it since the early 70’s, and guiding it for the past 24 years, plus was a resident of Graeagle for 15 years. Experience counts. See you on the water…

Friday, May 1, 2020

Lower Yuba River Fly Fishing Report ~ 5/1/2020

It's that time of year when the call for water by the Ag community rings loud and the flows increase on the Lower Yuba River. I'm usually long gone by this time to the Northern Sierra, an annual pilgrimage to fish and guide. With our current COVID situation, I'm slowly making that transition again, at least scouting the waters of the Lost Sierra. This report is for those that are actively fishing, it is not my intention to force you to leave your "Shelter in Place" sanctions, or put you at risk of getting the virus, or being fined. I'm simply giving a fly fishing report, my last one until fall for the Lower Yuba River. It is up to you to do as you wish, me? I'm keeping on the low side and being safe, yet living life. 

As you can see in the last two weeks the river has gone up at a moderate pace with a few sharp jack ups in the flows. From a little over a thousand to currently 1,800 cubes. With a slower overall rise at the least the fish can adjust to new holding areas. 

With the increasing flows it does make it harder for the walk and wade angler to be proficient, but it can be done. During ag flow time, this is where drifting is much more beneficial, but we must keep six feet apart so getting into a drift boat with a guide is not really feasible. Pontoon boats is a great option which you can use as a taxi and get to places where walk and wade anglers cannot get to during the higher flows. I've created a great informative handout that is provided during my pontoon workshops, you can purchase it here for a $10 - http://www.baiocchistroutfitters.com/fly-fishing-shop/

Ever since our last big storm, the mayfly hatches have not been as consistent, I do see a ton of March Brown spinners in the morning with the spinner fall happening at the heads of riffles. There are sparse hatches of BWOs, PMDs, and a few Pinkies. You just never know with the Yuba, especially during a transition time like spring. It's not like the daily rhythms we are use to seeing during a light or dry winter. The caddis are the most prolific bug out there now, and during my last trip free living caddis patterns, and Mercer's Z-wing caddis crushed them. As the weather get warmer and warmer, it will be all about fishing hoppers in the afternoon, and caddis in the evening. The last hour of light is money, they don't call it the magic hour for nothing. As always, nymphing will be your best bet during the higher flows.

The gateway to "The Narrows" downstream of Deer Creek

For the next few weeks I'll be busy in the office, lots of rescheduling of trips, and workshops. Keep tabs on Lost Coast Outfitter's schedule of events, I'll be doing several of them from mid summer to the fall season. Still tying lots of bugs too, organizing gear, making repairs, and catching up on the little things. Once again, thanks for all your support, I'm in this to help, share, and educate all things fly fishing and carrying on my family's legacy of conservation and a greater awareness of our natural world. See you (someday) on the water.

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