“Give a man a fish and he has food for a day; teach him how to fish and you can get rid of him for the entire weekend.”
The weather is feeling more and more fall-like.
Not the like the fall I remember from living in Alaska where the transition for summer to winter seems to last for about all of a week.
This is more like the California fall we all know and love. The mornings are slightly chilly. Cold weather systems move by to our north with the occasional cloudy day and the even less common rainy day.
I may have jumped the gun a bit last week expressing my enthusiasm for the onset of fall fishing conditions. I went out fishing last week with the highest of expectations only to find out that while there are fish to be had, and there may be some transition in progress, by and large, the fish are still behaving like it is summertime.
Fall comes soonest at the highest elevations. Maybe this week I will head to higher elevations to see what the fish have in store.
The lake has cooled into the mid 60-degree range, which is good, but still a few degrees warmer than ideal.
Just like in mid-summer, the best fishing has been early and tapers off as the sun climbs in the sky. The fish are still concentrated around cool water sources in the lake (tributaries, springs and deeper water).
Fishing pressure has been light and the bite has only been fair.
On the bright side, pond smelt are the key food source for the trout and salmon this time of year and once again their population appears to be very healthy.
Fast action lures like Speedy Shiners are good for imitating pond smelt. The best action continues to be between 30 and 40 feet deep.
Stay tuned for the action to pick up soon. These recent frontal systems will continue to lower the water temperature. Whether it is shorter daylight hours or some other variable, the trout and salmon will soon figure out that winter is not far off and it is time to start gorging on those pond smelt.
The other change that is just around the corner is the brown trout spawn.
Almanor has some very large brown trout and they should be starting their pre-spawn activity very soon. These big spawners will move into shallow water with gravel bottoms. They can get very aggressive during the fall spawning season.
The Forest Service has pulled the dock on the Almanor boat ramp for safety reasons. If you like the convenience of a dock for launching your boat, Canyon Dam is your best bet for a public boat ramp.
Later this fall, as the lake level drops, there will be some improvement work being done on the Almanor ramp. The key improvement will be the installation of some concrete panels to extend the ramp, making it usable in lower water conditions.
Fall fishing can be spectacular at Davis. We are not quite there yet, but the fishing has been good and getting better.
Water temperature is in the low 60s in the morning, rising to about 66 in the afternoon.
Fly anglers are working the west side. There are good reports from Jenkins and Cow Creek. Try midges under an indicator in the morning. Later in the day try stripping damsel nymphs and olive buggers or rust colored woolly buggers or Jay Fair Nymphs.
Bank anglers have been doing well at Mallard Cove in the mornings using worms or PowerBait.
Trolling has been most productive around the big island and in the channel. Dick Nite Copper Red Head, Red Dot Frog and Fire Tiger are the go-to lures.
Frenchman has been cooling off lately and early morning temperatures have dipped down into the mid-30s. That is a very good sign that the fish will soon be feeding more actively and the fishing will get even better.
Lots of rainbows were being caught between Frenchman boat ramp and the right side of the dam this past week.
There are also recent reports of rainbows up to 3 pounds being caught at Crystal Point on woolly buggers. Turkey Point has also been a productive spot.
Call Wiggin’s Trading Post for the most current conditions: 993-4683.
Fall always comes first at the higher elevations. So if you are looking for fall conditions, what better place than the many lakes and creeks of Lakes Basin?
Packer, Sardine and Gold lakes are the most popular fishing destinations in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area. Recent reports from Gold Lake suggest that is the place to be.
Trollers are doing very well with worms behind a flasher. Try trolling the middle of the lake about 15 feet deep.
Just like in our local lakes, trout in streams will respond to the cooler nights and shorter daylight with some more aggressive feeding as their metabolism picks up and they prepare for the winter.
Fall also brings lots of warm and windy afternoons to the mountains. Grasshoppers are mature and abundant now and those to close to the stream banks get blown into the water where waiting trout can score an excellent meal … or fall prey to the offering of a clever angler.
If grasshoppers (whether live bait or artfully tied fly patterns) aren’t your offering of choice, there are the October caddis flies.
These huge caddis flies are the great pumpkin of western rivers. October caddis flies are orange tinted insects that are nearly as large as a golden stoneflies: think sizes 10 and 12.
October caddis larvae build cases of small pebbles and live in moderate to fast flows. In late summer they migrate to slower water near the stream’s edge as they prepare to emerge. In the process they may get knocked loose and drift in the current.
As they near maturity, the larvae will seal off their cases and pupate. Since this is such a big bug, it doesn’t take very many of them for the trout to recognize them as an excellent food source. When you see adult October caddis flies around, it’s worth drifting a pupa pattern near the bottom.
Adults survive for a couple of weeks after they hatch. They can easily be blown from bankside vegetation and land on the water, where eager trout are waiting for them. The females return to the water to drop their eggs on the surface. At these times, a dry fly can be very productive.
The October caddis is found in many of our local streams including Deer Creek, the Middle Fork Feather River and the North Fork Feather both above and below Lake Almanor.
Deer Creek is fishing well if you can find your way past the road construction.
Midges and small mayflies are hatching in the mornings. Drift a small dry (Adams, humpy, caddis) along the edges of runs, riffles and pocket water.
For the bigger fish, go deep in pools with a stonefly and a small beadhead dropper in plunge pools and deep runs.
There are plenty of stocked trout above Deer Creek Falls and plenty of wild trout below.
Be sure to check the Caltrans website or phone line for current road conditions before you go.
Fishing is fair on the Middle Fork Feather River.The flatter water is warm, especially above Two Rivers. Find oxygenated water where trout will seek cool conditions. Best fishing is early and late in the day when the sun is off the water. Dry fly action can be good in the evening.
The best fishing is downstream of Camp Layman especially around Sloat and Nelson Creek where water temperatures are lower.