Fly Fishing Traditions

Fly Fishing Traditions Blog and Website
"It's about Life & Fly Fishing"

Friday, January 20, 2017

Part 2 - Following the Big Flows on the Lower Yuba River

Old Island Complex Looking Upstream - Photo #1

This is part two of the post dated 01/17/17. The purpose of these photos and notes is to provide  some perspectives as to what affect the extreme high flows of the recent storms, peaking at 85,000 cfs, may have upon the stream bed, trees and the natural environs of the Lower Yuba River

The photo above was taken downstream from the "Old Island Complex". This is just downstream from the area that is known as the "Aquarium". Why the name "Aquarium"? When floating downstream there is a complex of rock formations that have created a run of deep water, in some cases over 20 feet deep. When the river is running gin clear, you can see every pebble on the bottom as the fish as the scurry away.

Back to Photo #1 - The channel of water to the center right is flowing out of the "Aquarium" There is another channel to the left was flowing through but has now stopped. Both channels are trying to cut the corner so to speak. These channels are what we all hope will continue to flow once the river drops to fishable conditions of 2000 cfs or less. My thoughts are that it will not. This complex is a prime example of an area that could use a restoration project. It would require a piece of equipment to do so, as mother nature needs some help.

This area had water flowing through multiple channels years ago before the main channel was scoured deeper. There is too much gravel at the top end of the channels to allow the river to flow down through the area when there are lower flows during the summer and salmon spawning time. They can put equipment to fix Putah Creek, why can't this be done on the Yuba? Maybe a volunteer group of volunteer with picks and shovels good get it to start flowing?

Old Island Complex Looking Downstream - Photo #2

Photo #2 - This photo is taken from the tailout of the "Aquarium" run. At the right the water is running into what is at 5500 cfs, a big bay. The water in this channel is no longer running through. Just to the left there is a channel that is still running through, (see photo 1). Most of the water is running to river left which is shown in the foreground. This continues to run at the highest volume, thus digging the tailout deeper on this side. This will result in the main flow continuing to flow down the main channel at flows of 2000 cfs or less. Thus drying up the other two channels. Back to the way we are accustomed, but not the way we would like.

Miner's Corner - Photo #3

Photo #3 - This run, which is the main channel below the tailout of the "Aquarium", flows into "Miner's Corner". This corner on the left has been dubbed as "Miner's Corner" by Jon Biaocchi, and maybe others that I am not familiar with. It is appropriate as there are often people panning for gold on this corner. This photo was taken when the river was flowing at 5500 cubes and the river is in its normal deep channel. The river hits "Miner's Corner" and then turns to the right to the antiquated "Concrete Diversion Structure". All back to normal.

Erosion at Road - Photo #4

Photo #4 - The road along the run above "Miner's Corner" has a paved road along it. A large portion of the right edge of the road has been undermined. This piece of asphalt is hanging over about 4 feet. This shows the power of the river at the high flows. It takes established trees and shrubs to hold the gravel. Sometimes even that isn't enough.

Run Below Miner's Corner to the Antiquated Concrete Diversion Structure -Photo #5

Photo #5 - The run shown here is right back where it always is found. The gravel bar to the right was completely underwater at the highest flows during the storm.

Top of "Long Island"  - Photo #6

Photo #6 - This photo was taken about 1/4 mile below the antiquated concrete diversion structure just above the top of "Long Island". The flow is divided and is flowing into the main channel on the right and to the side channel at the left. This is back to normal, although it looks to me like the top of Long Island has been eroded back a ways. There is a big pool to the left as the water flows into the side channel.

Pool at Side Channel of Long Island - Photo # 7

Photo #7 - This is a better look at the pool just downstream from the top of Long Island. The high flows carved this out. Water is currently flowing into the pool, dead ends and then dumps off to the left into the side channel. This will get much smaller as the water recedes to fishable shape of 2000 cfs or less.

Middle of Long Island - Photo #8

Photo #8 - At the middle of Long Island the channel is a bit wider and gravel has been eroded behind some of the willows on the main gravel bar. This may stay this way at fishable conditions. Time will tell.

Long View of Long Island - Photo #9

Photo #9 - This is a longer view of Long Island taken about 1/3 down from the top. I appears to me that this side channel has widened and deepened a bit. Long Island was completely under water during the highest flows of the storm. With that said it it back where it normally is.

Bottom of long Island - Photo #10

Photo #10 - The final photo is of the bottom of long Island. It looks pretty familiar but what the structure of the stream bed will be like, We'll have to wait until I can float it once it drops down to about 2000 cfs.

In summary;
  • The photos from this and the previous post were taken from the areas of the river that was accessible by vehicle. 
  • Sycamore Ranch Park and Hammon Grove Park were closed. 
  • The river was flowing at about 5500 cfs on the day they were taken. 
  • The portion of the river where the photos were taken was from about 1/3 of a mile above Parks Bar Bridge to downstream about 2 1/2 miles from the bridge.
  • The photos are meant to open a dialog as to the effect the highest flows have upon the river and its environment. 
Hopefully this dialog may answer a few questions. Time will tell where the fish are.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Lower Yuba Storm - January 2017 - Photo Essay Part One

1/3 Mile Above Parks Bar Bridge - Photo #1

It's January 17th, 2017 and the recent storms have just receded and the combined flows of the Lower Yuba plus Deer Creek is about 5400 cfs. and still dropping. The flows from the previous storms came up as high as 76,200 plus Deer Creek at 9850 for a combined flow that  totaled approximately 86,050 cfs. That is a lot of water. Now that the waters have come down maybe we can see if anything has significantly changed.

There are many conversations going on among fly fishers, guides, conservation groups and the general public about how these recent storms and the resulting high flows may affect the structure and course of the river. I believe that the photos in this post may provide some clues. As a background, I have been fishing the Lower Yuba for over 30 years,been guiding it for 8 years and have been rowing a drift boat or raft on it for the last 15 years. I have been through this type of weather cycle a number of times.

This will be a longer post with lots of photos with commentary regarding the photos. I will probably do two posts to cover this topic. The photos start from a position about 1/3 of a mile above the Parks Bar Bridge and the will end at the bottom of Long Island which is about 3 miles below parks Bar Bridge.

Photo #1 - Taken about 1/3 a mile above the Parks Bar Bridge. (See Above)

The photo at the top of the post was taken from a position that was up stream of the Parks Bar Bridge along the Timbucktoo Road. It shows the view around the corner that is about 1/3 a mile above the Parks Bar Bridge. During the peak flows all of the white gravel was under water, Non of the in stream willows could be seen. Today there is a trickling flow on the left. This is at 5400 cfs. When the flows drop this will probably dry up. The same can be said about the trickling flow to the right behind the willow line. The river is now and will pretty much stay in its normal course.

Old Bridge Rock Plies - Photo #2

The photo directly above was taken from on top of the Parks Bar Bridge looking upstream. The stream is a bit wider than normal and some gravel on the left side has migrated downstream. The launch under the bridge is to the right side. The water is back where it normally is flowing around the center rock pile. We will have to wait until the waters drop to under 2000 cfs to make any final conclusions as to the nature of this run.

Launch Area Under the Parks Bar Bridge - Photo #3

The photo directly above is the launch area just above the Parks Bar Bridge. Prior to the storm there was a large gravel bar just downstream from the rock piles. Most of this gravel bar and some of the willows have been pushed downstream.

Run Directly Below Parks Bar - Photo #4

The photo directly above was taken while standing on the top of Parks Bar Bridge looking west, downstream.. This entire bar was under water pretty much bank to bank at the peak flow of the storm. There is a side channel that is flowing into the main channel from the left. My guess is that this will stop flowing when the water gets below 1500 cfs or so. The river is back in its main Channel. The willow line on the river left side is still there but pretty mangled. The rocks on river right are still there. In the longer distance on river left is where the Army Corp of Engineers placed a large number of log piles. They are all gone.

Log Stacks - Photo #5

Photo #5 was taken when the log piles were placed in the fall of 2016. There were probably 16-20 stacks on this bar. As stated above, they are now all gone.

Single Log Stack - Photo #6

Photo #6 - This is another photo of a single log pile which is typical of the multiple log stacks. they are probably in the San Francisco Bay by now.

Bar Below Parks Bar Bridge - Photo #7

Photo #7 - The sand and gravel bar in the foreground is where one bunch of approximately 16-20 log stacks were placed. In the background you can see a willow line with water running behind it. Will this be flowing when the water drops to 1000 cfs. I hope so, but I have been disappointed in years past. Time will tell. You can see the Parks Bar Bridge in the top right corner of the photo.

Run at Granite Rock Face about 1 Mile Downstream from Parks Bar Bridge Photo #8

Photo # 8 - This photo is taken looking downstream looking at the big Granite Rock on river left and then the run that is directly above the Aquarium. The Aquarium is downstream about 1/2 a mile after the river bends to the left and is not in the photo. There is a big pool on the left just downstream from the granite rock face flowing into a side channel. This is new. The main flow of the river is in its normal channel.

Run Upstream of the Aquarium - Photo #9

Photo #9 - This photo is a closer view of the distant view of Photo 8. You can see the rock pile on river right in the center of the photo. This is the normal rock pile in this run and it is back. It was completely underwater at the high flows. The water in the foreground is spilling into the riffle moving from left to right. This is different. 

New Side Channel Flowing Directly into the Aquarium - Photo #10

Photo #10 is showing the new side channel that is flowing into the top end of the Aquarium.  The water shown extending to the left of photo #9 connects to the water in this side channel. At 5500 cfs the pool is currently receding. There may be a trickle flowing when the water drops to 1500 cfs or less. It may stop flowing. We'll have to wait and see.

Stay Tuned For Part Two

Friday, December 4, 2015

Tale of Two Days

This is a tale of two days on the Lower Yuba river, the "Opener" and the "Day After". The Lower Yuba river above the Parks Bar Bridge opened up on December 1st after being closed for 3 months. The river above the bridge is closed to protect spawning Chinook Salmon. The "Opener" is a much anticipated event that most local fishers have blocked out on their calendars, called in sick or just plain played hooky from whatever they should be doing. In other words there are a typically a lot of anglers on the river. This story is about a bunch of fish to the net on the "Opener" versus "A Few" on the next day. I'm not much of a fish counter so let's leave the counting to that.

Here's how the opening day went. I made it down to the river early with my good fishing buddy "Frank Rinella". We've fished the "Opener" for many years, it's sort of a ritual. Something we both look forward to. We hit the river at about 7:30 and took a survey of the river where we launched the boat. There was a drift boat with two wading anglers in a different run a fair distance above where we were. There were two anglers fishing the tailout of the run we were in. I noticed 2 more anglers hiking upstream. We really had one choice, get it the boat and fish the run right in front of us. This run is known for the spawning beds for salmon just upstream at the head of the run. This run goes from the drop off at the base of the riffle upstream to a nice run that is about 5 feet at the deepest and then tails out. It is about two football fields long. We had about 200 yards to fish for ourselves. Pretty darn lucky.

We had to rig up and get to fishing before the crowd closed in on us. Frank set up a nymphing rig with a Troutbead and a San Juan Worm and startted fishing. I had to put my rod and reel together and get set up. Franks was into fish immediately. It took me 10 minutes to get rigged as I kept getting distracted netting his fish. As far as my rigging up I really had a couple of things I could do, but there were salmon beds upstream and a few salmon in the riffles splashing around. So the choice was obvious to me. My Egg Rig!

I tied up a three fly rig. I started with a 9 foot 3x tapered leader, extended with 3x Fluorocarbon tippet to a painted Troutbead, natural color. I tied another 18" piece of 3x Fluorocarbon and tied on a black rubberleg stonefly, I then added another piece of 4x fluorocarbon and added a size 18 Flatulator, (BWO). When all tied up the flies are about 14" to 16" apart. I then placed two decent sized split shot at the first tippet knot above the Troutbead. This is sort of my standard rig for fishing the runs below most any spawning beds. The egg goes closest to the leader, followed by by an attractor and then a imitative mayfly on the point. I mostly fish this rig without an indicator and just stay tight to the flies. I often add an indicator to the rig but I typically start out "Tight-Lining".

Once I got rigged up Frank took a break and watched me fish. I had similar luck. We fished this run and found a bunch of willing fish. They slashed at the Troutbeads at will. Quite a pod of fish. They averaged about 12" to 13". 3 out of 4 took the beads, I caught 2 on the Stonefly, Frank caught a couple on the San Juan Worm. Not one on the mayfly. The fishing was fast until the sun rose over the ridge and shined on the river. It slowed down almost immediately. Not that it stopped, it slowed down. We fished this run and headed downstream in the boat. The rest of the day turned into a fish here and a fish there and then shuting down at about 2:00.

The summary for the "Opener" was great, a bunch of fish to the net, mostly in the first 2 hours,  mostly about 13" (the largest about 15"-16", mostly on Troutbeads. Fishermen all over the place and hard to find open water.

So on to Day Two. Frank and I decided to come back the next morning and fish until about noon. Basically start at the same spot and get there about a half hour earlier. We expected the crowd to thin out considerably and not be as crowded as the "Opener". We got there as planned, rigged up pretty much exactly as the day before. No one on the river. We had the river to ourselves, at least early on. We started with high hopes, we fished the same run as the day before, we got our clocks cleaned. Not a bump. This was after changing rigs, flies, techniques the works. We could not buy a fish. (actually 1). We took our lumps and headed down stream. The count for the half day was three. Three is easy an easy number to keep track of. A Bunch is hard.

So, the tale of two days, A bunch to a couple. I guess that's fishing, it's also about sore lips and  fishing pressure!