Let it flow: Fishing Fordyce Creek
Special to The Union
GOOD TO KNOW:
There are three common accesses to the creek. The first is from Fordyce Lake (north from the Cisco Grove exit). The fishing here is poor due to all of the sand and gravel having been washed downstream over the decades. The food sources are negligible. his is the kayakers put in.
The second is from the Eagle Lakes road exit. This is the trail head for a rough jeep road that goes back to a crossing of the creek upstream from Eagle Lakes. There is a fork in the road to get you to a foot bridge over the creek downstream from Eagle Lakes. This is the trail to Beyers Lake in the Grouse Ridge area. I talked a friend into driving back in his jeep a number of years ago and he said he would never drive his vehicle back there again. This road has a lot in common with the Rubicon Trail. I have walked in (hour +) and bicycled in. I ended up walking the bike much of the time.
The third access is by boat from Spaulding Lake. This is the easiest way.
Watch it flow
These are some links that will provide access to flow info and to kayaker videos which show the heaviest white water section of the creek. The videos will give you a good idea of what to expect in the steepest stretches.
As we head into mid-July in a dry year, many of our Sierra Rivers are abnormally low.
As an example, the most recent data I have for the North Yuba at Goodyear’s Bar is a flow of 154 cubic feet per second, with an historical average of close to 300 cfs. In these types of conditions, the best water courses to fish are those between reservoirs.
The water coming from the bottom of the lake is colder and the flows are regulated. A prime example of this is the Little Truckee River between Stampede and Boca.
Closer to home on the west slope is Fordyce Creek, which runs from Fordyce Lake 12 miles down to Spaulding Lake. It has dependable flows based on the reservoir above. The way the flows are managed, this creek runs high during the heat of the summer, which has made it a fishing destination for me through the years.
The trout are similar to the fish you will find on the North Yuba River, not big but plentiful and willing to hit a dry fly even if it is not perfectly presented.
I fished Fordyce a couple of weeks ago during the peak of the recent heat wave. I left 100-degree heat in Penn Valley for 80 degrees on Spaulding. The lake was 71 degrees and the creek was 62 as it entered the lake. During May, the flows were about 100 cfs; when I was there in late June the flows were 150 cfs, and this week they were doubled to 305 cfs.
This is double the flows of the North Yuba. These flows are expected to remain well into September. The exception will be the second week of August when the flows will be cut back to accommodate a Jeep event that needs to cross the creek on their trek from Eagle Lake Road to Meadow Creek.
Fordyce is considered a Class V white water run. The reason is the 100- to 200-feet per mile elevation drop — compare this to 50 feet per mile on the North Yuba below Goodyear’s Bar. For the angler, much of this creek is not fishable due to heavy white water in some stretches. It is the pools and slower water edges which are where I have put my efforts.
In these spots, you will find native rainbows much as you might have found them on the west slope more than 100 years ago, beautifully colored and full of spunk.
Do not expect to do much wading in Fordyce. Boulder hopping and pushing through brush are what is required to reach the prime trout water. The other caveat regarding Fordyce is rattlesnakes.
In all of my trips there ,I have never come across one. But it has a reputation as having a good population of these critters. I mentioned my trip to Ed Fisk and he related his only trip there as a young man. He saw three rattlers in the first hour and left.
The reason that this creek does not get much attention from anglers is its remote nature. You can’t just drive up to it and start fishing with a short walk. Access is difficult, which precludes the casual angler.
There is much more information on this waterway available from the white water kayak community. There have been times during drought years when there has been more water flowing in Fordyce than in the Truckee River.
As I have often said, ”If you add water, you will find fish.”
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 http://www.fineflies.com.
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