Denis Peirce: Fall is in the air
This week we saw our first notable rain, the September full moon and the fall equinox. From our indoor perspective these might seem minor events but they are all meaningful in the natural world. The shortening days cool down our overnight air temps and the waters as well. The full moon brings on schools of salmon into the rivers. The national forests have reopened with some minor restrictions on camping locations and target practice, thanks in part to the rain.
The high country lakes have falling temps and the fish bite is picking up. We still have the problems of low water levels and many of the launch ramps are closed but a bit of creativity can present some opportunities.
At Eagle Lake near Susanville the Merrill Campground has reopened. The store at the marina is open for a few hours midday. The launch ramp is serviceable but some caution is advised. The water temp is now in the low 60s and falling due to overnight lows dipping into the 20s some mornings.
Val Aubrey (http://eaglelakefishing.net/) has been on the water trolling orange flies near the surface and doing well early in the day. By late morning she is fishing as much as three colors of lead-core to get down to the 12 to 14 foot depths where the trout hold midday. She has found concentrations of trout in the shallows early but they are widely scattered over water 20 to 30 feet deep during the bright hours of the day.
There was a very heavy ash fall during the peak of the fires. This caused the water clarity to decline. Val thinks that the ash may have added fertility to the water that in turn increased the algae. She mentioned going over a rock pile four feet below the surface that was visible only on her electronics.
Val recommends small spoons in gold/red or fire tiger colors. Flies in various shades of orange are a regular producer in the fall.
Bryan Roccucci (Big Daddy Guide Service ) is back on Lake Almanor. Launching is a problem with both public ramps still closed. Bryan has his boat in a slip at Plumas Pines Resort. He has been posting photos of large brown trout on facebook. Last week he landed a seven and a half and a nine pound brown both in the early afternoon. The town of Chester is open including food, lodging and fuel. Expect delays on most roads leading to Lake Almanor.
The pond smelt in the lake, which had been confined to the coolest water, have now scattered throughout the lake. This has been a good year for quantities of these bait fish. Bryan noted that not all schools of smelt have predator fish feeding on them. The most reliable indicator is seagulls diving on the lake. The seagulls are eating crippled minnows at the surface. There are also diving waterfowl, grebes, on the lake but they have not been a good indicator of feeding trout. The water temps are in the middle 60s and falling.
This is also the beginning of the fall fishing at Lake Davis. The Dixie Fire came close to the upper end of the lake. Currently the launch ramp at Honker is closed due to the gate being locked. Hopefully this will change. The lake is open for shore fishing. The water level is down.
Donner Lake has been dropped to its winter level. Shawn Rainsbarger has been fishing there for kokanee and mackinaw. The kokanee at Donner spawn later than other Sierra lakes and are still in decent shape. Limits are easy but the fish are small.
The best water conditions might be at Gold Lake above Bassett’s Station. It is a natural lake without a dam so the level should be good with a launch ramp still usable.
Below us in the valley the salmon run is probably peaking with the September full moon. Justin Leonard, Out Cast Guide Service, has seen a better grade of fish recently. The anglers fishing the Sac Metro area have been picking up a few salmon in water temps in the upper 60s. Verona with 67 degree water has been a bit better than the metro area. From Tisdale up through Ord Bend 65 degree water can be found. At Woodson Bridge the water is 62 in the early morning. Los Molinos is at 60 and above Red Bluff you can find high 50s.
This is the last weekend of September. Starting in October the flows on the Sacramento will be dropped. If you have a prop boat this might be your last weekend on the river above Verona. I do not have a definitive word on the river levels in October but it won’t be good. Go this weekend for new fish and relatively high water.
The last word from Tom Page at the Reel Angler Fly Shop spoke of good numbers of salmon continuing to move up the Lower Yuba. The trout and steelhead are definitely looking for egg imitations to eat. He had not seen actively spawning fish yet but with the full moon and equinox this week I expect the spawn to commence any day.
The steelhead run on the Klamath/Trinity is above average for both numbers and size. It is not a river that you fish on an impulse, you need to plan that one. This will be one of the better years on the Klamath that we have seen in a decade.
I hope you have already put up your fire wood and finished the dry weather projects you started this summer. October is only four weeks long, plan your time wisely! I hope to see you 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
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