Denis Peirce: The dog days of summer
For trout anglers mid-August can be the toughest time of year. The days are still long and the water temps are at the max. For river anglers the best insect hatches of May and June have tapered off, which leaves terrestrial insects as the best bet for fly anglers.
I checked in with Tom Page (Reel Angler’s Fly Shop) who has been guiding the lower Yuba River through the summer. This year has been a bit unusual. The mild weather of late winter and early spring seemed to bring on unexpectedly strong hatches of mayflies and caddis. The insect activity in late spring and summer have tapered off much earlier than he expected. Tom sees it as a shift of the hatches, the same number of bugs in a different time frame.
During the winter and spring, there were good numbers of rainbow trout in the 14 to 16 inch range that were actively feeding on the plentiful food. This made for good fishing. As we have headed into summer, the population of these nice sized trout were not to be found in the numbers seen earlier in the year. Tom speculates that these fish are migratory and have moved on to better feeding areas in the valley river system.
The last two mild winters have provided excellent spawning opportunities for the trout and the number of juvenile trout is very encouraging.
On recent trips Tom has found that standard flies to imitate the caddis and mayflies will produce smaller fish. What has attracted the attention of the fewer remaining good sized fish has been big grasshopper imitating flies. Tom’s favorite is the “Fat Albert,” which is a big foam bodied fly with rubber legs. The most effective way to fish it on the lower river is to be on the water casting it toward the bank.
Tom’s opinion on prospects for the lower river is that the good fish will return when more food is available. Some of the best fishing of the year comes on with the salmon spawn. The salmon commonly lose eggs when digging redds and the trout are there to eat them. Currently Tom has been seeing a few of the early arriving salmon holding in the bottom of the deepest holes. The bulk of the salmon are still a month or more out with the peak spawn occurring at Halloween.
Hoppers are also a main trout food in the Sierra. Eric from “The Troutfitter” at Mammoth Lakes in the Eastern Sierra, commented that this has been another good year for hoppers. Typically the hopper population in the mountains is cyclical. A couple of good years are followed by a few down years. This year is the fourth in a row for good hopper production. In his 30 years of guiding the area he has never before seen four consecutive years of prolific hoppers.
This time of year the trout in lakes will go deeper and deeper looking for cool water. I recently checked in with Val Aubrey at Eagle Lake outside of Susanville. She is part of a water monitoring program at the lake as well as an angler. She spoke about the depth at which she has been catching fish recently. Contrary to the deeper impoundments, Eagle Lake is a relatively shallow, high desert lake with alkaline water. The trout at Eagle are to be found at depths in the 10 to 25 foot range, in water that is in the 67 to 72 degrees. In other lakes that would be too high a temp to hold trout. The limiting factor is the dissolved oxygen content that trout need. In Eagle, the depths that may hold cool water do not have enough oxygen to support the trout due to the unique water chemistry at Eagle Lake. The native strain of trout at Eagle have adapted over the years to tolerate warmer water in order to get enough to breath.
Most anglers are waiting for the valley salmon run to get into high gear. Currently the Feather River is warm and has relatively low water. An increase in the flows would help bring some fish up but without that it will take time for the weather to cool. Over on the Sacramento River there are some fish arriving. The best fishing is coming from the river north of Chico. Woodson Bridge north to Red Bluff has been producing a few fish. It is still early in the season and the best is yet to come. There are good numbers of quality salmon off the coast and they will be swimming our direction in the near future.
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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