Fish respond to warming water, hatching insects
“I think I fish, in part, because it’s an anti-social, bohemian business that, when gone about properly, puts you forever outside the mainstream culture without actually landing you in an institution.” —John Gierach
Lake Davis may be the comeback story of the year.
Lake Davis was poisoned a few years ago to rid the lake of invasive pike that were a threat not only to the famous trout fishery at Davis, but to fisheries downstream all the way to the Sacramento River Delta.
Fishing was decent after the treatment thanks to the restocking efforts of California Department of Fish and Wildlife. But it wasn’t like the old Lake Davis.
This year it seems like the Lake Davis fishery of prior years is back. And the sometimes hard-to-predict insect hatches are cooperating.
Davis is a very productive lake. It is relatively shallow so the energy from the sun penetrates to the lake bottom, which supports lush aquatic vegetation. Aquatic insects thrive in that vegetation. The insect hatches are numerous.
Two insect hatches that are most important to anglers are the blood midges and the damselflies. Both are happening right now. And the current moderate temperatures may help to prolong them.
According to local guide Jon Baiocchi (228-0487), this may be the best hatch many longtime Davis fly anglers have seen in quite some time.
Water temperatures have spiked and are ranging from 67 to 72 degrees. Even with these near-lethal conditions the trout will still come in to feed for a few hours before returning to the comforts of deeper, cooler water. The best fishing is from daylight to about 1 p.m. As evening comes the last two hours of light are good and there can be many rising fish if the water is not too choppy from a windy day.
Effective flies right now included size 12 red ice cream cones, blood midge emergers and size 10 and 12 damsel nymphs. Jay Fair wiggle tails in olive and brown, olive mayfly nymphs in size 14 to 16, and Jay Fair trolling flies in brown with copper flash are all catching fish right now.
The rainbows are in good shape. They are fat and feisty and running between 16 and 20 inches.
Even with good hatches, these fish are being very selective. Alan Bruzza of the Sportsmen’s Den on Highway 70 in East Quincy cautions anglers to be prepared to work for their fish. Change flies frequently until you find a combination that works on that day.
Trollers are also getting in on the action. Try trolling 12 to 15 feet deep with 12- to 15-foot range small frog patterned Needlefish and copper/red Dick Nites.
The surface water has warmed into the low 70-degree range and that is warm enough to slow the bite and send the fish deeper in search of cooler and more oxygenated water.
Fishing pressure has been light. The boats that are out are scattered around both basins but the better fishing is in the east basin, according to Doug Neal of Almanor Fishing Adventures (258-6732). The early morning bite has been good. Fish move deeper after 8 a.m. Doug likes to start out fishing shallow, but once the sun is on the water he lowers his gear to 20 feet or more.
Doug says that most fish are feeding on insect larvae. The pond smelt that are such a mainstay of the trout diet are not such a big factor.
Doug says trollers have been pulling a variety of offerings, from fast-action lures to slow-trolled naked crawlers. Attractors like Sep’s Strike Master Dodgers in chartreuse, with half a crawler, have been effective.
The best news at Almanor is that the Hexagenia hatch may be starting a little early this year. The hatch usually starts down by the dam and works northward from there. Look for shallow sloped muddy bottoms.
Fish nymphs until you see adults on the water just before dark. Then switch to emergers and cripple patterns. Let your fly sit for a while. Every few minutes strip it a few inches. And hold on, because there are some big fish cruising for these giant yellow mayflies.
The powerhouse has been running at Butt Lake. Try fishing pond smelt imitations in the powerhouse outflow. White crappie jigs also work well.
At the opposite end of the lake, some Hexagenia are starting to show by the dam in the evenings.
Antelope Lake continues to fish well. The fish at Antelope may not be as large as those of some of Antelope’s better-known neighbors, but what Antelope fish may lack in size they make up for in numbers and diversity. In addition to rainbow and brook trout, Antelope has both largemouth and smallmouth bass as well as crappie and catfish.
For trout, dodgers trailing night crawlers, Rapalas and trolling flies have been the ticket for trollers. Bait fishing off the points is producing fish for shore bound anglers. Try PowerBait or suspended nightcrawlers.
Most area streams are fishing very well. Flows are at summertime levels and water clarity is good everywhere except Mill Creek, which always runs off-color the first half of the summer. Still, dark colored flies in the evening are catching fish on Mill Creek.
Deer Creek is fishing well, especially below Elam Creek Campground.
Hamilton Branch and Goodrich Creek have both been planted recently. They are both low, clear and fishing well.
The Middle Fork Feather from Two Rivers to Nelson Creek is in excellent shape. Look for mayfly and caddis fly hatches. There are a few golden stoneflies hatching in the evenings.
Local guide Jay Clark (414-1655) reports that flows are dropping and the warm weather last week spiked water temperatures sending them into the mid 70s during the afternoon. Jay says the early mornings are still good with water temps in the mid 60s and a stellar Trico hatch. A size 20 Trico spinner fished to rising fish in the slower water is getting a lot of action on trout to 15 inches.
Yellow humpies, elk hair caddis and other attractor patterns are all good. Try tight line nymphing in the deeper pools and slots.
According to Tom Maumoynier of the Lake Almanor Fly Fishing Co. in Old Towne Chester (258-3944), Yellow Creek is producing both browns and rainbows. Try fishing in the evenings when green drakes and caddis flies are hatching. This is one of the most beautiful streams around in my opinion. But it is never easy to fish, especially the spring creek section above the campground.