Stream and river outlook
There has been lots of talk about the snowpack this spring. It is well below normal: not what most people hoped for. Our north state reservoirs are all in good shape so the lighter-than-usual snowpack is not an immediate disaster. Two consecutive years like this will turn a moderate problem into a major problem.
But I prefer to look on the bright side. We anglers tend to be optimistic folks. Who besides an eternal optimist would tie a small wad of feathers or stick a stinky fish egg on a hook, throw it in the water and expect to catch a trophy fish any minute? And whether we do or not, and accomplishing nothing else for the day, we still call it a great day. Yes, it takes a special person to be a fisherman.
Rather than lamenting the sparse snowpack, I am going to celebrate the clear and lower-than-normal flows in our local streams and rivers. Many of these local waters open for trout fishing April 27. (Streams flowing into Lake Davis, Butt Lake and Lake Almanor do not open until later in May. Be sure to check the fishing regulations before you go.)
Some years our local streams have high flows and muddy waters that make it all but impossible to fish on opening weekend. But not this year. With the exception of Mill Creek, which always carries a milky colored glacial silt early in the season from its headwaters near Lassen Peak, all of the local streams should be in very good shape for the opener.
Insect activity is still a little slow, but ahead of normal for this time of year. Fly anglers should concentrate on nymphs. I like small stonefly nymphs or pheasant tails or midge patterns.
The only dry fly activity will most likely come from the Baetis family of mayflies, commonly called “blue-winged olives.” These are small mayflies. Size 18 works well for the nymphs while the dries are a slightly larger size 16.
These are important mayflies for the trout for a few reasons. First is their sheer numbers. These little guys are very abundant in most of our local waters. They tend to emerge in colder water (anything above 40 degrees) so they are available both earlier and later in the season. They also spend more time in or on the surface film as they transform into adults capable of flying. That makes them available to surface feeding trout longer and allows the fly fisher to make some longer drifts.
I like to keep my fishing simple. Of course to get to this point I had to spend considerable time going through the phase where I figured more tackle was sure to lead to more fish. That usually didn’t pan out so well. I spent too much time dazed and confused while I sorted through so much tackle. The fish were certainly not impressed.
But I am over that now. When I go stream fishing, if I am not fly-fishing, I just take a jar of salmon eggs and a couple spinners. Pautzke’s Balls O’ Fire salmon eggs and Mepps spinners are still my favorites. That’s probably because that is pretty much all I have used for the past 50 years. A spinning outfit loaded with 4- or 6-pound line, an assortment of split shot weights, and I am good to go.
If you are wondering where to fish, Deer Creek along Highway 32 should be very good. The Susan River is another good option. The bike trail along the river provides great access for those who want to get away from the crowds. Indian Creek below Antelope Lake would be another good choice. The Middle Fork Feather should be very good and offers plenty of auto access from Portola to Sloat. For the more adventurous, hiking or four-wheeling into the Middle Fork Canyon will get you into some excellent fishing.
The North Fork Feather River above Belden should fish very well. Caribou Crossroads will be hosting its annual Opening Day Fishing Tournament. When you are done fishing, you can take part in their barbecue, listen to some great live music and try their (nearly) world-famous wild blackberry milkshakes. I don’t know about you, but a tough morning of fishing can make me hungry.
The only Plumas County waters to receive fish plants prior to opening weekend are the North and Middle Forks of the Feather River. In nearby Tehama County both Gurnsey Creek and Deer Creek will be planted.
It is still a little early in the season, so not all local campgrounds will be open for opening weekend. The Alder, Elam and Potato Patch campgrounds along Deer Creek on Highway 32 will be open. Two of the three Forest Service campgrounds along the North Fork Feather River above Caribou Crossroads will be open. The Queen Lily Campground opening will be delayed while some damage from the Chips Fire is repaired. The Spanish Creek Campground near Quincy will not be open.
Call the local Forest Service district office for information on other Forest Service facilities. Local Pacific Gas and Electric Co. campgrounds will not open until May.