Denis Peirce: Summer season fishing is approaching
May 24, 2018
Memorial Day weekend will feature a lot of river fishing opportunities this year. It's typical for the shad run in the valley's rivers to be going strong in late May.
In the Northern Sierra the rivers are dropping into shape and the trout are beginning to look to the surface at the warmest time of the day. In the Central and Southern Sierra the snow melt has yet to get started in earnest.
The cool wet spring has yet to start the heavy runoff in rivers south of Lake Tahoe. If you have not already made plans to travel for the weekend you will be looking to local waters for day trips.
Tom Page, Reel Angler's Fly Shop, took his boat up the Yuba River this past week. He started from the Feather River and headed up the Yuba looking for shad. He described the river as "sketchy" for navigating with a power boat but he made it up to within a quarter mile of the DaGuerre Dam. He found a good school stacked up in a run and spent a few hours catching shad.
The Yuba gets good numbers of shad each year but the issue is access. These fish do not get above the DaGuerre Dam and are limited to the lowest stretches of the river, which is bordered by private property. These fish can be caught from shore at the Shanghai Bend rapids on the Feather River below Yuba City. Boat anglers can launch at Boyd's Pump and head up river to the rapids.
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Shad reports from the American River have been good. The Sacramento River has fish as high up as Los Molinas and Red Bluff.
If heading up the hill is of interest, both the North Yuba and the Middle Fork Feather Rivers have come into shape this past week. Despite the recent heavy showers the snow melt is about done and the river is becoming more fishable by the day.
For the North Yuba, recent flows have been in the 800 cubic feet per second range at Goodyear's Bar which about 50 percent of average for the last week in May. We had adequate moisture this year but it came as rain more than snow.
At 800 cubic feet per second the lower river is still a bit too high. At 400 to 500 cubic feet per second the lower river begins fishing well with more access. Better conditions can currently be found above Downieville and on the smaller tributary creeks.
Jim Johnson, Sierra Streamside Cabins, sent me an email that the insects were beginning to come alive. The water temp is 55 degrees. He has been catching a few trout on caddis pupa imitations.
"Not crazy good, but entertaining," he said.
Fingers crossed for better weather
Once we get out of this afternoon thunder shower pattern, I expect the water to resume warming and the bugs to become more active. As things dry out a bit, look for the carpenter ants to come back out in good numbers. Trout love to eat these and they would be my first choice for a fly to try.
If you are going as far as the upper North Yuba River, you might consider heading over the hill to the Middle Fork of the Feather River. The recent reports have been similar to the North Yuba.
Allen Bruzza, Sportsman's Den in Quincy, has been fishing the River below Graeagle. Ten days ago spinning gear was the most productive technique due to high water. This week the flows have receded enough for fly fishing to get better. He picked up a few fish with dry flies on the surface about 2 to 4 p.m.
The most productive way to fish was below the surface. Allen has observed that the number of fish in the Middle Fork Feather is way above what he has seen in recent years. He is expecting a good season on this river.
Both the North Yuba and Middle Feather Rivers are well above summer flows. I like to think of it in percentages.
If you can effectively fish 100 percent of the river in late July, about 25 percent to 33 percent of the river is currently available to fish. There is a trade off though.
In early season high water conditions, the trout are less wary and easier to catch. As the season progresses with falling flows and warmer water, we can fish the entire river. We can wet wade and cross the river many places. But the trout have been pressured and are not as receptive to a less than perfect presentation. Both situations have their advantages so go out and enjoy.
This is also a good time to try the west side streams in our local area. There are trout to be had in all of the streams that flow through Nevada City, Grass Valley and Penn Valley.
If you head up to the Bowman Lake Road there are streams flowing out of Grouse Ridge that are fun to fish. Just wear shoes that can get wet and bring mosquito repellent.
I recommend you start the summer season outdoors on a stream.
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.
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