Denis Peirce: It’s time to hit the water!
June 21, 2018
Spring has officially ended with the longest day of the year and we are into summer. I associate this season with damsel fly and hexagenia hatches as the lakes begin to stratify and prime time for river and stream fishing as the rivers approach summer flows.
I was up at Lake Almanor last weekend intending to stream fish but rain and hail chilled things off and the catching was a bit slow.
Bugs on the lake & changing temperatures
On the lake the hexagenia mayfly hatch is on. The hex is the largest of mayflies at up to 2 inches in length. It hatches just at dark and it gets the attention of both fish and anglers. Almanor has the most prolific hex hatch but some of our local waters feature this bug such as Scott's Flat, Englebright and the Thermolito Afterbay.
Another insect that comes on strong in the Sierra at the Summer Solstice is the damsel fly. It is that bright blue miniature dragon fly. Above the 4,000 foot level this is the time for this bug to migrate to shore and climb out onto reeds or rocks, dry out its wings and fly off.
Another phenomenon at this season is the lakes stratifying into temperature layers. A good indication of this is the kokanee bite at Stampede Reservoir. In May and early June the lake surface is cool. The spring winds and rain keep the water mixed. The kokanee can be right below the surface throughout the day especially if there is a wind chop on the surface.
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As the sun gets higher, the snow melt declines and the water warms the kokanee go deeper. Two weeks ago the best depths were 35 feet early in the day and 45 feet at midday with the sun high in the sky. Last weekend the depth range started at 45 feet and dropped to 55 feet later in the day. This is a sure sign of a thickening layer of warm water. The surface temp is in the mid 60s.
Stampede has been the "go to" lake for kokanee anglers this year. The average size of fish has been close to 15 inches with the best ones breaking the 16 inch mark and plump. The lake is full which boosts the food chain. During the worst of the drought everything about this fishery from lake access to fish size and quantity suffered. With two years of good water this fishery is back.
Mixed in among the kokanee are cutthroat trout that the Department of Fish & Wildlife has introduced. The cutthroat are 10 to 11 inches this season. Speculation among anglers is that next year they will have grown another four to six inches and provide some good sport.
The fishing on the Truckee River has been good. The flows are in good shape and the bugs are hatching. The most notable insect on the trout's diet is ants. Fly anglers fishing carpenter ant imitations have been doing well. Anywhere with dead trees lying in or over the water is a source for ants and fishing an ant imitation there is a high percentage bet.
River flows throughout the Sierra are prime right now. Local anglers have been making the trek to the North Yuba and doing well. There are a variety of bugs on the water such as golden stones, some caddis, ants and lady bugs. In addition to the main river the tributary streams are in perfect shape.
I was fishing the North Fork of the Feather River last weekend. I ended up being diverted onto a tributary, Warner Creek flowing out of Lassen Park. I could tell by the stream side gravel and grass that the flow had recently been much higher. But now the creek was at its normal flow and access was good. Between thunder showers and hail I did not get much time on the water. This weekend the forecast is for warm sunny conditions, perfect for a day of stream fishing.
Wednesday evening Colin and I went bass fishing on a local Penn Valley pond. We had our best top water bite of the year so far. The swallows were eating insects off the surface.
During the day the dragon flies were also active above the pond. There was moss on the surface in spots but getting a good cast on to open water definitely got the attention of the bass which were looking up for food.
There is suspense to fishing top water lures for bass. Once the lure lands on the water with a splash, it is hard to just leave it there, still. Your inclination is to start popping it back to you. But, if you have patience you will be more successful.
The bass come close to the floating bait and seem to stare at it. The tension builds over time and then at the slightest movement they bite. It is great fun but young people sometimes don't have the patience to do nothing.
We did the best over water that was 4 to 6 feet deep. Over the deepest parts of the pond we did not do well. Fishing below the surface is a problem with weed growth. You spend more time cleaning stuff off your lures than actually fishing.
Summer is a great time to spend evenings on the water whether a river, stream lake or pond. Put down your smart phone and get out on the water!
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.trollingflies.com.