Wednesday, August 31, 2011
I made it out on the lower Yuba River for the last day before the season closes for 3 months above the Parks Bar Bridge. Frank Rinella and his wife Karen joined me. It was a calm warm day with just a slight breeze. We made it out early and had the boat in the water by about 8:00. OK, 8:00 isn't really that early, but we had willing fish coming up checking out our hopper offerings in the subdued morning light before the heat and brightness really came on.
We found that as the day progressed and it got brighter and hotter, the fish were not aggressively taking the fly. It was sort of like they would dash up and say, "Boy, it's bright up here" and then dash back down. As the day progressed there were many last minute refusals and nips at the flies. We also noticed that there were many smaller fish, 6 to 8 inches or so, coming up and trying to inhale our hopper patterns. This all amounted to many missed fish. It was definitely a day where you had to have patience and let the fish take the fly, count to 1 or 2, and then set, or wait for a bigger fish.
I took a turn fishing and had a hopper floating about 4 feet off the bank as Frank was rowing, and a nice size head came out of the water on my fly. What did I do, I yanked it right out of its mouth. That's what. I had another one come up not 30 feet further and what did I do, I yanked it right out of its mouth too. I recast immediately and it came up for a second time. I counted to 2, set, and hooked it. Goes to show I can sit in my rowers seat watching my buddies quick set and laugh at them and then when I get the chance, I do the same thing. We laughed about that!
In general, we have been fishing dries instead of nymphs under indicator and the fish have been pretty cooperative for the last three weeks or so. The fish have been looking up for dries since the flows leveled off at 3,ooo cfs in July. I was in Montana when the best action on top was happening.
I did notice lots of stonefly cases at the water's edge. These had the look of ones that had hatched pretty recently. I ran into Keith Kaneko and he said he'd been having luck with rubberlegs. Think there's a connection?
An interesting thing about fishing the river for the last 10 days or so, is watching the river and what happens when the flows are being dropped about 200 cfs a day. The powers that be started the fall reduction on about August 21st. The river had been running pretty consistent at about 3,000 cfs for quite a while, from back in mid July. Before the start of the reduction of flows, the fish were comfortable in their holding areas and fishing was about as good as it gets fishing hoppers and hopper droppers. Things have been a changing.
I checked the flows this evening and by about 1:00 this afternoon it was lowered to 1000 cfs. The river has been in a process of lowering for about 10 days now. So in the last 10 days it has dropped about 2000 cfs. How has this affected the river and the fishing? I fished the river on the day they started lowering the flows and didn't notice much difference until about a week ago. Many of the areas that were holding fish were noticeably shallower and the light penetrated all the way to the bottom. I'm of the opinion that the fish have been moving around and are basically uncomfortable with the change of flows and the resulting change of their habitat and the world they live in. When they're in this mood they tend to move to their sanctuary water, sulk and hide out. That doesn't mean that they are uncatchable, they just are more wary. You have to go to stealth mode, especially as the water levels continue to drop.
The fish will adjust to this and the everyone fishing the river will need to start digging into their bag of tricks for the fall. The river will be low and clear from this point on until the storms start moving through. The salmon are now starting up the river and the fish will change their tactics as well. Eggs!
I'm looking forward to seeing the salmon in the river as it's always fun to float the river amongst them and look for steelhead and trout hanging out below them. So as the season moves forward, towards the real fall, beware of the salmon redds and the spawning areas. Keep out of the buckets and redds. In general be conscious about what you're doing and you and the fish will be fine.
Posted by Clay Hash at 7:43 PM
Sunday, August 21, 2011
I fished the Lower Yuba River after returning from my time in Montana with friends and family. As it turned out when I left in mid July the Lower Yuba was running at over 6,000 cfs and wasn't really fishable and while I was gone it finally came into shape. I heard reports from my local friends of having big days casting hoppers to the banks. This seems to happen every year that I'm in Montana. Darn it!
I took a new friend, John Davis, down the river to give him some pointers on rowing a drift boat. John was here on a backpacking trip to Yosemite and we hooked up right before he headed home. He has a friend who is a guide on a steelhead river on a tributary to one of the Great Lakes up north. He rowed his friends boat once for about 20 minutes and decided he wanted to get a better handle on drift boat rowing techniques. Good idea. For those of you that have friends that are guides, learning to be proficient on the oars will get you a phone call whenever the guide has a day off and wants to go fishing. Guides spent all their time on rivers, rowing their clients and like everyone, they want to fish sometimes too. If that isn't a hint, I don't know what is.
We found the river running at about 3,000 cfs and in great shape. The water has good clarity and with that much water the deeper slots and runs have a deep blue color. It was a bright clear day and not overly hot.
We sort of took turns with practicing rowing techniques and fishing. So I'd say that 50 percent of our time was spent practicing how to do basic rowing strokes, pivot turns, ferrying and moving around obstacles. The other 50% was spent fishing. We started off rigging with a Fat Albert to imitate the grasshoppers that are all along the river and trailed a Red Headed Step-child or other attractor nymphs on a dropper below it. We found hungry fish quickly along the deeper banks and lines of willows. When I say hungry, I guess I should say maybe starving fish. Most every fish we caught were very thin and "Snaky".
My feelings are that the bug population has been decimated by the continuous periods of high flows. On almost very run you can see long tongues of bright fresh gravel laid on top of the river bottom. I believe that this has basically buried the bugs where they live. This could mean for some tough fishing in 2012, but time will tell. Bugs are remarkably resilient. The fish move around and the river will evolve.
Usually at this time of year you will see the beginnings of the salmon run with a few salmon here and there but we didn't see any. As far a bugs go, I saw a couple of PMD's and that was it. No hatches what so ever. I can tell you one thing for sure, when the salmon do show up the trout will be gobbling up eggs like their lives depend upon it, and they probably do!
We found that when fishing the willow lined banks, the fish where holding in water that was from 2 to 4 feet deep where they could find a bigger rock to hide out and watch for an opportune item to come floating by, aka our Fat Albert. They also were hanging in deeper water in the runs among larger boulders and you could actually see them coming up from the deep to aggressively take the dry. This is exciting fishing. The fish also took the trailing nymph once in awhile. We also spent a little time fishlng under indicator, but when fish are coming up to a dry like they were, what would you choose to do? You got it, keep banging the dries!
We had a great day. John got a good head start on his rowing skills. The only thing he needs to do now is to beg, borrow, or steal a pontoon boat, get out on a body of water and practice the techniques and he'll be good to go. We caught fish too!
A pretty good welcome home I'd say!
Posted by Clay Hash at 1:36 AM