On this last day of February, we are in a wet pattern that belies the drought that has a grip on our region.
Neither this storm system nor the drought precludes anglers from having a good day on the water. It is just a matter of choosing a good time and location.
The most pervasive fact currently on trout and steelhead waters is that it is spawning time for rainbows. This event is early this year due to the mild weather.
On the Lower Yuba, Tom Page reported seeing spawning activity beginning a couple of weeks ago. On the Feather in Oroville, Craig Bentley has seen post spawn steelhead that had not taken on the red hues associated with ocean run fish who have been in freshwater for an extended period. His supposition is that the big storm in early February brought a fresh run of fish who took care of business in a hasty fashion.
Craig is seeing strong feeding activity in the river which he associates with post spawn trout. In addition to the river insects, pond smelt imitations will get the attention of the steelhead.
At the higher elevations, rainbow trout are also in pre-spawn mode. This usually occurs when the weather warms in March or April and the snow begins to melt, swelling streams.
This enables the rainbows to swim up the streams. This year there is little stream flow but the trout are still staging near the tributaries.
Tom Maumoyneir, “Almanor Fly Fishing” has been doing well targeting rainbows in close proximity to the tributaries to Lake Almanor. When the wind is calm, the trout can be seen in water from knee to waist deep. In calm conditions. these fish are very spooky.
With a light breeze and a ripple on the surface, they can be caught either from shore or a boat.
One technique that has been effective is the jumping nymph. A nymph like a Sheep Creek is allowed to settle to the bottom.
If the trout have been spooked by the cast, once they come back, jump the nymph off the bottom. The movement will provoke a response. This type of presentation can be applied to non-fly tackle and on other waters. This week both Rollins and Englebright Lakes were planted with rainbows. I fished Englebright last Sunday with Dave from Nevada City. We were on the water well before 7 a.m. and fished the upper end of the lake. There was occasional surface activity up until 9. The first couple of trout hit trolling flies, but at the end of the day a silver Super Duper was the top producer.
The water temp was in the high 40s. By mid-morning, there were clouds of midges hovering over the water below the south fork.
There are two places to trout fish at Englebright — down at the marina cove and at the upper end. The mid-lake zone does not produce as well.
Pyramid Lake, Nev., continues to put out large cutthroat trout. The Crosby Lodge Trout Derby was won with a 21-pound fish.
The Crosby Lodge 10-pound photo gallery had 44 entries for the first three weeks of February.
The water is still chilly at 43 degrees. Look for the catching to improve in March as the water warms.
In the valley rivers, the striper run has been a disappointment. The low river flows have kept the striped bass mostly in the delta.
The anticipated striper fishing below Boyd’s Pump launch ramp has not materialized. The Department of Fish & Wildlife planted the juvenile steelhead but the low water has restricted angler pressure.
The best valley fishing has been for sturgeon in the Sacramento River. The big storm earlier this month brought good numbers up river. If the current storm series produces local run off, even more fish may arrive. A limiting factor for boat anglers has been boat launching. The ramp at Tisdale is the uppermost on the river for large boats.
Verona and Knight’s Landing are other possibilities. The launching at Colusa and Wards farther upriver has not been an option. Shore angling is another option.
Denis Peirce writes a fishing column for The Union’s Outdoors section and is host of “The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report,” which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via his website at www.fineflies.com.