Three trips to Putah Creek in last two weeks
OK, I’m a glutton for punishment with lots of streamside brush, tough wading in the pocket water, widely un-predictable fishing, and fluctuating water this time of year. And tough fish to land, which you’ll see later on. I’m on the water in 1.5 hours from the house, AND there are big fish lurking if you know where to find them. And they are rising. How could I resist since I couldn’t take 4 hours to Tahoe or Shasta and an overnight?
Trip 1; on my own with water at 300 cfs (normal for this time of year). Fished a new section at Access 5 at the base of the upstream rifles. Looks like great feeding lies (lots of oxygen and food flow). But no; nothing after a good 2 hours of changing depths, flies, and presentation with euro nymphing. Well, I did lose a few flies since I was definitely dredging the bottom. Hmmm... Key new information observed in the downstream flats: heavy male and female Trico hatching at 9:30 AM as well as midges, followed by #16 Glossosoma Caddis hatch, followed by BWO hatch in 18’s. So I moved downstream and into some other riffles where I got into one frisky 12” rainbow, and hooked a big guy on a 5X Euro setup (Zebra midge) between two rocks. And you can probably guess what that led to. Loss of fly, loss of self-esteem and loss of fish over 20”. So it goes at Putah Creek. Drowned my sorrows at the Putah Creek café with a draft and a great personal pizza at the counter, so all was not lost.
Trip2: this time a week later, with Todd Hyrn at my side. Big creek changes as water dropped to 45 cfs (25% of normal) and were really skinny due to some downstream creek bed work in Davis. We both Euro nymphed our way from Access #5 all the way to the top where the flows were very thin under the bridge. Todd did pick up a little guy in the riffles below the bridge but that was it for the two of us. Kind of embarrassing but in our travels we did spot huge pods of fish from the streamside banks. Water was crystal clear and very low so not much chance of getting close to them, but it was useful to put in the library of knowledge where they were holding. So after some pretty good trips up to Putah and starting my year of with a 26” rainbow in March, I go home skunked. Oh, the shame of it all. But “Ah Ha…!!!”, I now have a new section of the creek to fish after spotting all of those pods, and seeing some good surface activity about mid-day (didn’t have my dry fly rod and setup as I was committed to Euro nymphing that day). Dinner at Putah Creek café was typically great (homemade fried chicken, biscuits, gravy, etc.). And Jordan Romney (our September Club speaker) was there as well and came over to say hi.
Trip #3: Wednesday this week (the 6th) on my own as well. I’m coming armed this time with BOTH my Euro stick and my dry fly rod/setup. Water is up marginally to 70 cfs (still 25% of normal). Show time! On the river flats right at 9:30 and ready for the surface activity and rigged up on the dry with an E/C Caddis indicator fly (Hopper) followed with 7x and a #22 Trico dropper. Light surface activity but little beyond two swirls at the dry (after trying both male and females and a Trico spinner). So I shift to changing out the Trico, lengthening my leader, and dropping a #22 Zebra midge underneath. And voila (!!); fish on! Caught two 12” jumping rainbows (great dark coloring) before my indicator fly took a huge plunge and a 18” fat rainbow leaves the water twice to show off. Of course you know the end to this story too, as 7 x tippets, and an aggressively jumping 18’ fish don’t mix very well. But all is not lost as I finished the day with 6 fish from 12-16” in the net, with 10 hooked, and another dozen or so grabs on the Zebra midge. And topping it all off with another 18” rainbow attacking my Elk Hair Caddis dry late in the afternoon, but not liking it that much unfortunately. I did fish downstream for much of the day below a guide and his client who hooked a big 22” rainbow, but they lost it as well. So goes Putah Creek. The big fish are there, however they take some serious work and thought to land. But I’ll be back…and soon, as the creek is open all year, except for the voluntary spawning closure from Dec-Feb.