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Denis Peirce: Summer has arrived

Denis Peirce

The summer solstice arrived this week. The longest day of the year and the recent warm temps necessitate an early start to the fishing day. The best strategy this time of the year is to travel to your destination midday, fish the evening, spend the night, fish at dawn and return home. You can hit the prime fishing times and travel when the fish are sulking in the depths.

Prior to the solstice, the last two weekends of spring were wet in the Sierra. This was a surprising end to a drought season. Two weeks ago Ed Everhart invited Colin and I to go smallmouth bass fishing in the high country. He was thinking of Stampede or Little Grass Valley. I had heard that camping was crowded at Stampede, so Little Grass Valley near La Porte was our destination when we departed Saturday morning.

The day was bright with a good wind and the lake was full. There was no indication of rain, based on the sky. I did not bother to check the weather.

During the course of the day we fished the western half of the lake. The water temps were in the lower 60s and the smallmouth were still in the pre-spawn mode. Ed was a bit disappointed with the quantity of bass we encountered. The water was clear and when we did find good spawning gravel there were very few beds to be seen.

The three of us were fishing reaction baits that covered a lot of water as we moved along the bank. The bait that drew the most attention was an “S-Waver.” I had never fished one before. It imitates a rainbow trout about five inches long. This bait suspends a foot or so below the surface and swims from side to side like a dazed bait fish. Some of the bass were caught with it but it brought a number of bass up from the bottom to take a look and not commit. Ed’s technique was to immediately switch rods and fish a soft plastic worm slowly next to any stump or rock in the vicinity. I was surprised to watch how effective this one-two punch was at finding bass and then targeting specific structure. I learned something this trip.

Ed did catch two notable fish a four-plus and a two-plus pound smallmouth. The rest of the bass we caught were more modest in size.

Late in the day we headed in to set up camp. I brought a big tent and at the last moment I decided to put the rain top on, even though it wasn’t necessary. About 3 a.m. I awoke to the sound of raindrops hitting the tent and within an hour it was pouring down rain. We stayed in the dry tent until the rain stopped around 8:30 a.m. The boat and our fishing gear was soaked. It was cold and damp in camp and we packed up and drove home.

A week ago I went up to fish Lake Davis in Plumas County with guide Ed Dillard. He insisted that we start at 5:30 a.m. to get the morning bite. Getting up at 2 a.m. to be on time was not an option I relished, so another camping night was in order. We drove up Wednesday afternoon and slept in a small guest tent at Ed’s camp site. We were on the water before dawn and true to form the trout were on the bite. Davis has made a comeback as a fishery. There were a number of years where the fishing was poor. With the fires last year, the lake was closed for much of the season. The lack of fishing pressure and the abundant food chain produced numerous fish in the 20-inch class.

The water was 65 degrees, a bit warm. We trolled flies starting at depths from the top down to 15 feet. The fish were feeding near the top on bright yellow flies. We had a good day, catching close to a dozen fish. Our day had started with a light breeze and ended late morning with a heavy wind and white caps across the lake. The wind drove all of the boats off the water by midday.

In a subsequent conversation with Ed, he said it rained on the following Saturday similar to the previous weekend. The morning low temp was 32 degrees and the lake dropped 3 degrees down to 62. On a side note, the tent Colin and I slept in was visited by a bear the following evening and torn up.

With the advent of summer I am hoping for calmer weather and less wind. What I have found promising is how many upper elevation lakes are full. My guess is that storing water at higher elevations reduces evaporation losses. I expect these lakes to be drawn down as the summer progresses. This spring Scott’s Flat, Jackson Meadows, Gold Lake and Little Grass Valley were apparently full. Getting out on the water in the near term will produce the best fishing. By mid summer I expect low levels and warm water to be the most common conditions. Be on the water early and late for the best bite.

This past spring the common denominator for my fishing adventures has been consistent strong wind. From the San Francisco Bay to Gold Lake to Scott’s Flat, Davis and Little Grass Valley, they have all been windy. On my radio show this evening I will have guide Brett Brady as a guest. One of the topics will be dealing with wind. The show airs at 6 p.m. and replayed Saturday at 5 a.m.

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

Ed Everhart with a four-plus pound smallmouth bass caught at the Little Grass Valley Reservoir.
Photo by Denis Peirce

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