The Fourth of July is close at hand as well as our second heat wave of the summer. There are a couple of options for escaping the worst of the heat — head up into the high country or over to the coast.
The coast will probably have more modest temps and bigger fish. Salmon fishing from Monterey to the Oregon border has been good recently, as long as the seas are not too rough. The Sierra is a shorter drive and a better option for a day trip.
A group of anglers from the Gold Country Fly Fishers spent a few days at Lake Davis last week. Overall the trout fishing was good. Lake Davis as a trout fishery has struggled since the pike eradication. I think that it has taken a few years for the balance to be restored between the fishery and the food chain. This season seems to mark the return of Lake Davis as a quality trout fishery.
The first report I received on the trip came from Rick Aeschliman of Nevada City. He did well fishing from his float tube catching rainbows on a variety of flies from Wooly Buggers and Sheep Creek Specials to Red Copper Johns. The most encouraging comment he made was the number of fish that “broke him off.” In years past, the rainbows at Lake Davis were known for hitting flies so hard that as you set the hook they would break leaders in the 5-pound class. This is apparently the case again. The size of the trout has increased to the point that fish over 20 inches are not uncommon.
Another feature of Lake Davis has been the damsel fly hatches. This lake had a reputation as having one of the best damsel hatches in the west.
Rick noted that he did not see many damsels, but when he cleaned some trout there were light olive damsels in their stomachs.
Jon Baiocchi, (baiocchis troutfitters.com) recently announced that he has found hexagenia mayflies hatching at Lake Davis. “Hexs” are the largest mayfly and hatch around the solstice, but only in a few waters in the north state. This is the first siting of these bugs at Davis and they were present in numbers sufficient to attract birds and trout to their evening emergence. How these insects arrived here is a mystery but it is a welcome addition the food chain.
The hex hatch at Lake Almanor is a possible source for the bugs at Davis. Almanor is known for the best hex hatch in the state. On schedule, it started in the week before the solstice. It is currently continuing and will last for a few more weeks. Typically the boat traffic over the holiday weekend will slow it down, but it will resume.
Reports from Jackson Meadows continue to be good. The flasher and night crawler rig continues to produce fish top lining while the surface temps are mild. In the heat wave a few weeks back, the water temps had risen into the 70 degree range. The subsequent rain and cooler weather dropped them back to the low 60s. This week’s rains probably dropped them a little more. I am expecting the hot weather predicted for this weekend will rapidly raise the surface temperature and drive the fish down deeper.
Brett Brady (fishbarebones.com) was up on Spaulding Lake a week ago. He reported good fishing for king salmon in the lake. He arrived on the water at dawn and said the best fishing was early in the day before the sun was high in the sky. At first light there were fish occasionally rising to feed at the surface. He attributed this to the only insect on the water which was a black beetle with a bit of red under its wings. He had most success fishing with pond smelt imitations. By the time the sun was on the water, the salmon were at depths of 35 to 50 feet and points seemed to be the structure where most of them were to be found.
Up in the Truckee area, Ed Fisk (fishtalesguideservice.net) has been guiding Donner Lake. The kokanee at Donner are a bit larger than Stampede which is unusual. You need to be on the water early. If you want rainbows rather than kokanee concentrate on the perimeter of the lake. The kokanee are suspended over deep water and the rainbows are feeding in the shallows in low light conditions.
Lake Valley Reservoir near the junction of Highways 20 and 80 was planted earlier this month. Both it and Fuller will be good bets for the upcoming holiday.
For river fishermen the North Yuba is a perennial Fourth of July option. During this past week’s rain the river rose from less than 200 cubic feet per second to well more than 600 cfs from Monday morning through Wednesday. I expect the river level to be stabilized by this weekend. With almost 40 miles of river running parallel to the highway, I can always find a spot to fish by myself.
Once the heat takes hold I prefer to go up river to the higher elevations to find cooler water. There can be as much as 10 degrees difference between the lower and upper river. A variety of flies have been working recently. Buzz Hackles and Stimulators are good patterns to start with.
Another river that I would recommend is the Carson which is south of Lake Tahoe. It has recently dropped to summer flows and the surface feeding has begun. Up until recently, the trout were focused on feeding below the surface. There are caddis hatching in the evening and terrestrials such as ants and grasshoppers are now being noticed by the trout. The Carson is a bit far for a day trip but it is worth the effort.
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.