Spring Edition

Spring Edition
Spring Edition

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Lost Sierra Creeks Fly Fishing Report ~ 6/30/2020

As a guide and a fly angler in Eastern Plumas National Forest, it’s all about keeping close tabs on the surrounding waters and when to switch gears. Now that Lake Davis Surface temperatures are at 73, and the Middle Fork Feather River is in the upper 60’s with growing rock snot, it’s time to go to where the cold water is – The creeks of the Lost Sierra and the upper watershed of the North Fork Yuba River. 

I actually look forward to this time of year, as do my guests, the diehard small water junkies. In the last four years I have noticed many more fly anglers are drawn to the simplicity of the creek trips with me. Less pressure, unbound beauty, dry flies, 0 to 3 weight rods, wild critters, and raw adventure. If you really enjoy fly fishing, you’ll have a great time boulder hopping your way upstream among the pocket water while stalking shy and elusive trout.

The creeks around the Graeagle area are in prime shape right now and the fishing is very good. Water levels are right about where they should be for this time of year. Water temperatures are 57 in the morning, rising to 61 in the afternoon. Most of my guests do not realize how gnarly navigating some of the creeks are in the Lost Sierra and the watersheds with a steep descending gradient is hard work while making your way upstream. 

The older you are, the more prepared one has to be, and many of the serious creekin’ warriors will often train at the gym (now the home gym thanks to covid) just so they can enjoy the day. Fueling your body every few hours and staying hydrated is just as important as being in good physical shape. Training for fishing? Yeah, it’s needed if you really want to be at the next level of maximum performance.

You won’t find prolific hatches on the creeks like the Middle Fork Feather River, but mostly caddis flies, a few stone flies, and the occasional mayfly like the chocolate dun. The wild trout that inhabit these waters have a very short feeding season, so they are very eager to most anything you offer them. Terrestrials will become very important in the next few months, namely ants, hoppers, and beetles. Reading water correctly and presentation is by far more effective than the latest and greatest fly.

Your leader set up and rigging is fairly easy for creekin’, but the length is really important when it comes to shorter rods. I first take a factory 7.5 foot mono tapered leader to 5x and cut the last 36” or so off (where it starts the transition to a thicker diameter). I’ll then attach a 2mm tippet ring, and then reattach 24 to 36” of 5x tippet. That way you’re only replacing the last section of level 5x tippet throughout the season. I never go lighter than 5x either due to the fish being so eager and not leader shy, plus it takes the abuse of hitting rocks and streamside vegetation so much better than 6 or 7x. For rods less than 7.5 feet, chop off a foot of the butt section on the leader. 

Here are a few tips that will keep you in the game and be more successful while plying the creeks:

1) Keep your fly as dry as possible when making surface presentations. This includes false casting more, blotting the water from your fly with an absorbent cloth, then using your shake and bake desiccant. Those trout like it high and dry! Also when walking from spot to spot, don’t drag your dry fly though the water. Take care of it like a newborn child. Lastly, treat your fly as if you’re managing a hockey team. When your player is tired (sinking frequently) put it on the bench (your fly patch), and put in a fresh player (tie a new fly on).

2) You got to be quick with the hook set. At the same time, once you hook into a little one, you must back off on the power and follow through or you will launch it to another universe. Be careful when you go back to fishing for larger tout, especially big brown trout as they ingest your dry fly so much slower. Quick hook sets will not work with them. 

3) Often the bigger fish will be in a small pocket or a slot next to the side of the creek. They prefer their own private lie. I look for dark water with depth, not matter how small it is. Pin point accuracy is often needed for the nooks and crannies.

4) A wading staff is a must no matter your age. I always think I can get away without using one, but in the end you’ll be much safer if you use one. The third leg is the missing link…

5) Use good wading boots with ankle support that are thickly padded. I use my regular wading boots with neoprene socks, and for good reason. You’ll be wedging your feet in between cracks both below and above water on dry rocks. Those skimpy creek shoes that most companies make will not cut it in the watersheds of the Northern Sierra. You need something hardy and durable. You’ll also want studs and not the smooth kind, but studs that have a roughed up surface to adhere to dry granite and basalt rock.

Town has been busy with folks, like way too many. Campgrounds are full and the roads and highways are buzzing with traffic. Even so, on our last couple of creek trips we saw no other anglers, the further you hike away from the access points, the more solitude one finds, with better fishing.

See you in the land of canyon water…

Seep Spring Monkey Flower ~ Erythranthe guttata
Find the flowers, and you'll find the cold water

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Wildstream Rocky Mountain 10 ft. 7wt. Review & A Special Announcement!

I first learned about Wildstream fly rods at the Tahoe Truckee Fly Fisher’s annual summer BBQ  a few years ago. Fellow TTFF club member James Kissinger had a few rods to demo and I gave them a few casts. Knowing they were made overseas like many of the top brands in the industry, I was not surprised how enjoyable they were to cast. James is also the US representative for Wildstream which includes other duties like design, distribution, marketing, and many other details. He’s been a long time loyal follower of mine so a few weeks ago I invited him to go fishing with me at Lake Davis, and he also brought the Rocky Mountain 10 foot 7wt.for me to test. I actually ended up fishing the Wildstream 9 foot 5wt. Horizon model that day (an excellent rod in its own right) but promised James I would test the Rocky Mountain on my own time when I could dedicate my attention to an honest evaluation.

While up at the lake on a catch up day between guide trips, I busted out the 10 foot 7wt. and spent about 2 hours testing it with different exercises and drills. As most of you know from my years of providing fishing reports, I tell it like it is – good or bad. Fabricated fishing reports to generate revenue are not my method of operation. At first while the rod was in my hand, I flexed it and to be honest it felt heavy and sluggish. At that point I thought ok, let’s not be biased here and really give it a thorough work out with an open mind.

I used a Redington Behemoth 7/8 reel, which I’ve used for a while now for large trout in stillwaters, steelhead, and stripers. It’s a large arbor design with an incredible drag for superior stopping power on those big finned athletes. I though the reel would be too heavy and not balance out the rod, but fully lined up it did indeed balance out the entire package. The flex pattern of the Rocky Mountain is a medium action with almost a glass type of feel to it. That’s what threw me off when I first handled it due to fishing so many newer fast action rods lately. Luckily I grew up with slow to medium rods and knew just how to get the most out of it. A rod like this is in its happy zone when loaded and not over powered, especially on the forward cast. Once I made a series of false casts I began to understand its slower tempo, and the cannon was unleashed.

Yep, this rod is a serious cannon – Boom! A 70 foot cast with minimal effort is not a problem with the Rocky Mountain, and if I had greater skills I’m sure I could cast it even farther. I tested the rod at Camp 5 on the west shore of Lake Davis during the heat of the day. Knowing that I would not be catching any trout due to the warm water temperatures, there was a hope that some bass might be interested in my olive bead head Jay Fair Wiggle Tail. Sure enough I hooked into six medium sized bass that gave the Wild Stream Rocky Mountain a good workout. I had on 4x and the softer tip helped to protect the 6 pound test tippet and not one fish broke off, even while I was trying to be aggressive, quickly playing them in. One of the bigger bass ran for cover into some thick weeds after being hooked but amazingly the rod had really good lifting power to bring the bass in, including about 3 pounds of weeds attached to it. (LOL!) The rod also made long roll casts effortlessly and I could mend large amounts of line efficiently too, which the 10 foot length ultimately excels at. Snake guides, alignment dots, nice wraps, a full Wells cork grip, and most importantly a comfy fighting butt that provides the needed leverage for fighting large fish complimented the outfit.

Overall, I’m happy with its performance and really looking forward to using it this coming fall at Lake Davis, and on my annual steelhead trip to the Trinity River this coming November. I’ve always used 7wt. rods on big stillwaters for two reasons – When you hook a slab, you’re in total control of the fight all the way to the net, and if there are gale force winds, there are no worries as the weight of the rod has the power and the backbone to punch through it, providing for a successful presentation.

Wildstream Fly Rods are priced to be affordable for all anglers to enjoy. The Rocky Mountain 10 foot 7wt. retails for $160 including an extra tip section, rod case, and protective sleeve. You can order many different models of Wildstream fly rods from their website here at wildstreamfishing.com, or I’ll have demo rods available for you to fish with while on a guided trip with me in the future.

Special Announcement: I’m honored to be an official Guide Ambassador for Wildstream and a Technical Advisor! I look forward to helping out the Wildstream design team with testing, research, and development to make a better fly rod at an affordable price. Look for more reviews, articles, tips, and techniques in the future with Wildstream and many other companies I represent on my blog JonBaiocchi Fly Fishing News.

See you out there where the wild things are!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Lake Davis & Middle Fork Feather River Fly Fishing Report ~ 6/24/2020

Well…It took nearly 4 weeks to finally see prime conditions for the damsel game and this year it’s going to be short lived. In the last week water temperatures have spiked upwards from 60 in the morning to 65, and in the afternoon I have recorded 70 degrees at 2pm – Just like that. Damsels will keep on hatching, and some fish will come into the skinny water to feed in the next few weeks but with the warmer water temps your catch and release will most likely not live. So you’ll be looking at a catch and keep scenario. Lake Davis is a “put and take“ fishery – you make the call on what is the right thing to do.

The lake levels are just about perfect with the slow drop of minimal releases from the Grizzly creek dam, where the shoreline has more character including flats, peninsulas, and natural fish traps.  Currently Lake Davis is at 75% of capacity. 

Though the fluctuating weather and high and low pressure systems were challenging in the last month for consistent fishing, it sure has been fun being on the water in the last week. When you’re on a body of water nearly every day you can really clue in on the slight variances in fish behavior, including holding patterns, and food selection. Observations and understanding what each unique day brings is the key to your success.

Last Monday was the best day for tracking targets and presenting damsels to selective and wary feeders in 2 to 5 feet of water. It’s more than just trolling around in a float tube, or fishing from a boat while casting. From the bank, time slows down and you’re honed in on the hunting aspect of the damsel hatch. I’m stoked for my guests who have never experienced this and get to live it, it is indeed one of the greatest things you can do with a fly rod in your hand. 

Now that the region of the Northern Sierra is in a typical pattern of high pressure, and hot weather, Lake Davis will see a lot of glass in the morning hours. When it’s flat calm those trout are on edge and super wary. As Jay Fair use to say “they’re scared…They really are!” You’ll get a slight East wind in the morning too and most often it’s perfect with just a ripple to give the trout some cover to feel more secure, and hours later the wind will shift to the South West or a Westerly flow.

Just a few reminders for the damsel game – Your patterns should be brown, dark olive, olive, and light olive in color. They should also be sparse and about an inch long. Commercial ties are way too long and bulky. 4X tippet at a minimum, and always check your knots for strength, and your leader for casting knots frequently. When you finally get the chance to make a hook up you’ll want your operating system the best it can be. The takes can be subtle (your line just stops), or on the aggressive side. You just never know if it is the bottom, a weed, or what not - so always strip set on anything you feel different.

The Aquatic hatching cycle is such at these times – in the early pre sunrise look for scum lines in deep open water where trout will resort to being dumpster divers eating the garbage from the previous night. Then the blood midge and other chironomids will begin hatching soon after. By 9am the damsel nymphs begin swimming to the shoreline or anywhere they can crawl out and hatch into an adult. The hatch may last to 1pm, but every day is different with the amount of nymphs hatching, and even the amount of active feeding fish to a particular flat or shoal. Callibaetis spinners will appear mid-day, look up into the sky and you’ll see dozens upon dozens aloft in the breeze. As the water temperatures peak out in the afternoon, the fish go down to 10 to 18 feet of water, or the first good ledge that has weeds and food where they can dine in their air conditioned restaurant.

The last hour of light and the Hexagenia mayfly appears. The population is all over the lake now, but I see more near the east side of the lake where there is more clay – This is nymph’s preferred habitat due to the simple fact that the tubes they create to live in will not collapse like soft mud will. With lower light levels you can use much heavier tippet, and in my opinion the best pattern while fishing the surface is using a cripple or a stillborn pattern. It’s been so cool just observing all the critters feasting on the Hex. The bass and the trout are really putting on the feed bags with this substantial food supply, and come fall we are going to see those fish with huge shoulders and girth.

I’m done guiding on Lake Davis for trout, but open for poking around in the early mornings and late evenings for bass while I’m in the area doing creek trips of the Lost Sierra. It’s been really awesome to see the large mouth bass eat the same patterns we use for the trout – they have adapted to the natural food source well from tiny midges to damsels. As of right now, these are my only available fall dates for the lake: 9/19, 20, 24-28. 10/4-6, 28-31. All other dates are booked up. If you want a spot, let me know ASAP! Thanks to Lake Davis for an incredible fly fishing experience over the past 3 decades, and also a big thank you to J&J’s Grizzly Store and Campground for supporting me. I leave you with this, and it happens all the time, and why I have been writing and sharing my experiences and knowledge on this blog for so long. I’m walking back from the Honker Cove boat ramp after a day on the water to fetch the truck and yank the LillyBob. I met an elderly man whom I’ve never met before and he stares at me and says “you’re the guy the blog right?” I say yes, that’s me, I’m Jon (LOL). He then says “Thanks for sharing, I really look forward to your reports!” We smile, wish each other well and go about our business. Here’s the cool thing…The man doesn’t even fly fish, he’s a troller.

Tiger Lily ~ Lilium tigrinum  

Middle Fork Feather River

The water levels have come way down, and it is imperative to fish downstream of the Jamison creek confluence. I’m only allowed to guide in the Recreational zone per my 1997 issued Special Use Permit from the US Forest Service, which is between  the A-23 bridge 4 miles east of Portola downstream to Nelson creek. During this time I like the confluence down to Sloat, colder water and some really cool runs, riffles, and pools. Water temperatures last Friday were 63 rising to 67 in the afternoon. It’s a morning to mid-day game, and of course the last couple hours of light for the evening hatch.

Most of the big fish have left, but you’ll find a few if you can decipher the type of habitat they hold in – deeper slots, shady lies, undercut banks, the bottom of a big hole, and under the stream side native grasses of a high bank. We are still using two rods. The tight line rig, and a dry fly set up. With the tight line rig, many fish have come on the swing at the end of the drift. Those Middle Fork Feather rainbows do not have to be rising in order to take a dry fly. Many times just blind casting a dry will surprise you more than once, like a dozen of times! 

Caddis are the most profuse aquatic insect out, and a heavy spinner fall of BWO’s in the morning when air temperatures are between 57 and 67 degrees. The cool find last week were a few Green Drake spinners. There is not a big population of them on the Middle Fork Feather, but enough to get a bigger fish looking up for them. As the water temps rise  during the day there is less oxygen and the trout will move into faster water looking for the white water and bubbles, don’t be shy about casting a bushy elk hair caddis in that type of water – they’ll find it too.

I’m done guiding the Middle Fork Feather too with increasing water temps and rock snot. Unlike Lake Davis, the MFFR is not a put and take fishery and the resident wild trout are extremely special. These trout are some of the most pristine specimens I’ve ever laid eyes on, and too valuable to accidently kill while fishing for them. The available dates I listed above for Lake Davis are the same for the MFFR in the fall. Again, get a hold of me now to secure your date. It was such a rad spring season for the river, chunkier fish, good numbers, and profuse hatches. The Middle Fork Feather River is truly the “Jewell of the Lost Sierra.”

See you on the water…

Purple Milkweed ~ A Monarch Butterfly's favorite

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Lake Davis Fly Fishing Report ~ 6/16/2020

Conditions for the Lake of the Lost Sierra have been as widespread as the weather in the last week. With so many high and low pressure systems moving through combined with big wind events, and fluctuating air temperatures from hot to very cold has really effected the behavior of the resident trout. Simply put, we are not seeing the typical June rhythms of the lake where every day is nearly like clockwork. For example last Saturday I hosted a small group from Santa Lucia Fly Fishers and it was very cold combined with winds from 20 to 35 mph, needless to say we did not do that much fishing but concentrated more on learning about the specifics on Lake Davis. It was brutal. We were all shivering, and longing for a place to escape the wind after we were done with the workshop. Fishing is on the tough side for Lake Davis though some nice quality fish are being caught and released. 2020 just keeps making rogue waves including the new Juneuary in the Northern Sierra with wind advisories and small craft warnings. We’ve seen it before, and we’ll see it again.

In regards to the fish behavior, it’s so weird to see these trout are not in a dependable schedule as it normally is in June. You’ll find them in large pods feeding and an hour later they scatter to the wind and are gone. The other thing I’m not seeing a whole lot of is my favorite game of stalking trout in 1 to 3 feet of water eating damsels. There needs to be more damsels in the skinny water to lure those big rainbows in.

I have seen a few days that is close to be being normal, and that’s comforting as is the warmer weather that is on the way. This is what you can expect once we get back into a long term high pressure pattern:

- Day Break: Rising fish over deeper water eating left over aquatics and terrestrials from the night before (hex spinners, white winged sulphurs, and spent caddis) and emerging blood midges mixed in with smaller various chironomids. This will last until 9am or so.
- Late Morning: Damsels on the move, with heavy long horn caddis in the air. Forget about the caddis and concentrate on the Damsels and putting yourself near a good weed line and structure for the damsels to hatch out on.
- Mid Day: Damsels mixed in with sporadic Callibaetis from sparse to profuse depending on the day.
- Afternoon to Late Afternoon: Fish will be in deeper water surrounded by weed beds grazing lightly, deep water indo rigs with chironomids is the best approach.
- Late Evening – Hex hatch mixed with profuse caddis and blood midge hatches. Dry fly opportunities abound.

Despite the weather my guests and I are still having fun out there and I’ve finally made friends with the largemouth bass. They aren’t going anywhere so we might as well enjoy them. It’s really cool to see how these particular bass have adapted to Lake Davis in regards to habitat, and food items. 

Heavy weed beds mixed in with submerged willows seems to be their preferred areas to ambush prey, or suck down a red San Juan worm under an indicator. Leech patterns and even Jay Fair wiggle tails and stripping flies are receiving some love from them. They fight really well and most give one good jump or a tail walk on the surface before going down and dirty to the bottom.

Stripping flies like the ones I just mentioned along with damsels, pheasant tail flashbacks, sheep creek specials, and hare’s ear nymphs are all good choices. Productive colors have been fiery brown, olive, black, red (bass are really on this color right now), and burnt orange. For indo rigs, albino winos, zebra midges, and large black beauties with red wire have done well. I’m still seeing most fish in 5 to 8 feet of water, or in deeper water but still in the upper water column. 

Water temps are at 63 degrees in the morning. If you’re lucky enough to find a pod of active feeding fish, stay put – do not leave. You’ll want to fish the west shore from Camp 5 all the way up to Fairview point in the North end of the lake. Some days the fish are on the points, and some days they are tucked way back in the gut of certain coves. Keep searching until you find them.

As I mentioned earlier, Last Saturday morning was like an early November storm, there were Hex shucks and duns everywhere on the east shore frozen in time from the frigid wind chill effect. The Hex hatch is seeing a lot of duns emerge in evening (some in the morning too) and it’s a good year for them. Not seeing a whole lot of trout or bass keyed in on them yet, but the birds are way ahead of the game. 

I’m up at day break preparing for a day on the lake, rigging the boat, the rods, and all the other essentials. I then guide for all day for 8 to 10 hours, clean and organize the boat for the next day, and attend to fish business (email and phone inquiries, marketing, planning, etc) until I go to bed at around 9pm – Rinse, repeat. I really have no desire to fish the Hex hatch after a long day, I’ve done that plenty, especially when I guided Almanor in the late 90’s. So now I get off just watching how the ecosystem revolves around each other during the hatch, and that is watching the birds and the bats feast upon North America’s largest mayfly.

Of all the critters that take advantage of the Hex Hatch my favorite is the common Night Hawk. It’s like watching an air show at Beale Air Force Base. I’m not talking about watching just a few of them, but like dozens upon dozens! Their flight patterns are so bad ass and the G forces they pull through their maneuvers would make a human black out and unconscious if they were trying to pilot this craft. What an amazing bird!

Today was just a pit stop at home here in Nevada City to blog and catch up on normal life things. I’ll be back up tonight at Lake Davis, the Middle Fork Feather, and the creeks for the next week. I’ve had SO many inquiries in the last month like “we’d like to book a trip next weekend”. That’s not going to work. It’s best to book two months with me at the latest, and if you’re serious 6 months before the intended date for the prime times of June, July, September, and October. You could say I’m in demand I guess…

When you visit Lake Davis be sure to stop by the J&J Grizzly Store and Campground and share your fishing experience good or bad, sharing your fishing reports really helps everybody out. They are open for business and their campground is usually full. I’m so thankful for their friendship and letting me store the LillyBob at their place – Thank you!

See you out there in the great outdoors...

Penstemon colorspot on the shores of Lake Davis

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Middle Fork Feather River Fly Fishing Report ~ 6/11/2020

Fishing still remains great on the Wild & Scenic Middle Fork Feather River, but there have been some major changes with diminishing runoff from feeder creeks that have influenced the flows. The upper watershed has dropped considerably from the Graeagle area down to where Jamison Creek enters at Two Rivers. Most of the bigger fish have moved downstream to find better conditions such as colder water temps, bigger flows, and shady lies that exist in the deeper canyons. 

You’ll still find plenty of juvenile trout in the upper section of the recreational zone, and the evening can be very productive and fun with dry flies using 0 to 3 weight rods. Water temps are ranging from 59-65 degrees.

Downstream of Two Rivers the water has dropped as well, and it’s amazing how much it has dropped from last week. You’ll find colder water here, especially just downstream of Jamison Creek. Water temps are 56 degrees in the morning rising to 61 in the late afternoon. By the end of June it is important to carry a thermometer to see if the water is too warm to fish. I won’t fish or guide on the MFFR once the water temps get above 68 degrees as to not harm the wild trout that reside there. 

I’m starting to see more anglers, mostly spinny types, but all it takes is a hike downstream or upstream of the many access points along the river to escape and find solitude. The last 3 trips my guests and I have been on the river for 6 hours a session, and have not seen another soul. That’s the Lost Sierra for you.

I’m still blown away at the size and girth of the native bows this season. Like my dad used to say, “Just add water, and you’ll have more and bigger trout in the system”. Those big water years we had from 2017 to 2019 are showing their worth right now. We’ve also been lucky this year that there has been many cooler weather fronts push through with the added clouds for better BWO hatches. Just last Sunday the low was 27 degrees at Lake Davis with 2 inches of snow.

The MFFR is still a fickle river, one day can be decent and the next on fire. It really revolves around the hatches for that day you’re on the water. We are still carrying two rods, a dry fly rod, and a tight line rod. With the lower water levels there are much more fishable areas with the dry fly rig. Your standard Elk Hair Caddis and the E/C caddis have been the best, and some of the best action has been in the middle of the day in both the tailouts of major runs, and at the head of them in the faster water – Just find the soft areas with some depth no matter how big or small. For American Tight Line Nymphing, PMD Pheasant Tail jig flies and tiny Pheasant Tail Flashbacks have been killing it along with smaller Mercer’s Z-Wing Caddis.

Available aquatics on the menu for the trout include Sulphur, PMD, BWO, and now a sparse hatch of Green Drake mayflies. The big black caddis is still out, and so many other species of caddis, especially in the evening. Little Green Stones, and Yellow Sallies are still abundant as well, though I’m still not seeing a whole lot of Golden stones and salmon flies out which worries me as they are the canary in the coal mine for water quality. More terrestrials are also available like hoppers, ants, beetles, and inchworms. There is so much trout food in the system right now!

If you want the goods on the Middle Fork Feather River, you better get it now, or you’ll have to wait for fall and the “Second Season”. Look for water temps to increase and the lime green goo known as “Rock Snot” to engulf the river by the end of the month. 

See you in the canyons…

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