Most years we get a run of dry weather in January. This year the pattern held except that the air mass over the north state was cold. At the turn of the year, heavy rains had our local waters in various shades of brown. The last three weeks have cleared this up, and fishing again is rewarding.
The best overall fishery has to be the foothill lakes of the Sierra and the coast range. Locally, Englebright and Scott’s Flat have been producing trout. Englebright produces best at the upper end or down by the marina. The lake was planted twice in December. These trout can still be found in good numbers in and around the houseboats. I have received good reports from the back end of the lake that include recently planted trout as well as larger holdover fish. The most consistent action is at the marina area. The back of the lake runs hot or cold. It fishes well one day, and you can’t buy a fish the next.
Last weekend, Dan Grass fished Scott’s Flat. The water temp was 46, and there were fish rising to the surface throughout the day. Under these conditions, the assumption would be long line trolling at the top of the water column. This did not work. Dan was only able to hook trout by using a down rigger to target the 10- to 20-foot depth. Most of his fish came between the dam and the Cascade Shore launch ramp. Other areas that normally produce were dead that day. He caught five fish on trolling flies, Needlefish and a spinner. The successful colors were pink and UV white.
A source drove to Rollins and reported two to three feet of visibility with the water stained in shades of olive. Water level is within five feet of the top, making launching good at Greenhorn. He did not fish.
Over in the coast range, Berryessa has been producing some fish. The bite is not red hot, but January is typically a slow month there. Steve Brown of Grass Valley went there last week and found trout by looking for working birds. He trolled brined shad for a number of his fish. Water temps were in the high 40s.
Lake Oroville coho anglers have been picking up fish in the 12- to 14-inch range, trolling three colors of leadcore. Good lures have been hootchies in chartreuse/orange. There have been huge schools of pond smelt spotted estimated at up to an acre in size. With some of the coho reaching 14 inches by mid-January, this may prove to be an excellent season. Water temp is currently 47 degrees.
Last weekend was the FLW Bass Tournament on Lake Oroville. Ryan Friend of Oroville won the three-day event with 15 fish totaling more than 37 pounds. He fished jigs targeting bass in the top 15 feet of water. A slow presentation was a key to his success. The big fish of the event weighed in at one ounce shy of five pounds. All anglers in the top nine pro spots weighed in more than 30 pounds of bass.
On the east side of the Sierra, Donner Lake is frozen over with dangerous ice conditions. Pyramid Lake in Nevada continues to fish well. The water temp remains a balmy 42 degrees. Most years the January temps are consistently in the upper 30s, not breaking into the 40s until mid-February. Air temps yesterday were a high of 36 and low of 29. The largest cutthroat checked in at Crosby’s this week tipped the scales more than 18 pounds.
River fishing on the Lower Yuba is good. I checked in with Tom Page (Reel Anglers Fly Shop in Grass Valley). He floated the river last Sunday and did well fishing his skwala stone fly pattern. These bugs are hatching, and the fish are keying in on them. Tom did best casting toward the bank from the boat in mid-river. The majority of the fish were in water as shallow as one foot with a choppy surface.
There were very few fish rising to the occasional “real thing” insect. But the fish were looking up for food. If a good pattern is well presented on the surface, the trout will rise to the fly. The skwala hatch is anticipated each year at this time and will continue through the month of February.
The Yuba was scheduled to drop from 2,000 cubic feet per second to 1,700 cfs yesterday morning. A drop in flows often puts the bite off for a couple of days. The lowered flows are due to the lack of precipitation in January.
The Feather River through Oroville continues to flow at 1,800 cfs. Craig Bentley (Golden State Guide Service) reports many of the steelhead are post-spawn “down streamers.” He did pick up one fresh steelhead this past week. The unusually high flows through town make wading a bit tricky through the “low-flow” section.
The Trinity River steelhead run is in the spawning mode. The fish are congregated at the top of the river and in the tributaries. Vince Holsun reports only dark “down streamers” in his catch through the middle sections of the river.
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.