January Feather River and Yuba River trips (4)
We’ve had several Club outings up on the Feather for steelhead this year, and a two session Skwala workshop on the nearby Yuba River as well.
Jon Baiocchi’s Skwala Workshop on the Yuba was attended by seven TVFF members and was focused on proper rigging, Skwala fly selection, reading the water, and mostly dry fly presentation techniques. Both sessions concentrated on the fundamentals through lunch, and then spending the PM on the river fishing with Jon’s hands-on instruction and assistance. The rainy and overcast weather was a bit marginal for the Skwalas who like warm weather to emerge, but numerous were seen on the rocks with the fish beginning to focus on them in the current, and especially late in the day on sunny afternoons. The two days consisted of early season fishing with 3 rainbows to the net and numerous rises, so nothing really exciting yet as the season gets underway. The fish are beginning to look up and that should bode well for the remaining month or so of the Skwala hatches which I will be fishing actively this year.
Meanwhile we have had four trips (Wyosnick, Nishio, Dueltgen, McCann, Spruiell, Farris, McCollum, Hyrn, Vargas, Loomis) to the Feather for fresh steelhead with mixed results in January and February. The trips in early January brought a few good sized fish to the net; however the general feeling was that the water was a bit lower than last year and that the overall success rate was also down. Recently the TVFF groups have been hooking more fish up to about 24” as more of the river is getting explored rather than the traditional spots. Alan Wyosnick had a conversation with the hatchery who explained that their fish counts were up and that they had encountered a “sold out” condition on one day early this year with over 1,000 steelhead coming into the hatchery for egg harvesting. So that’s a huge uptick that was also coupled with a huge salmon migration this year as well. All great news.
The most recent trip this past week (Feb 7th) saw an improvement with seven fish to the net from over a dozen and a half hooked, so activity has picked up. The challenge right now is avoiding the shallow gravel redds and the spawning couples which are numerous. At one spawningg run spot I saw no less than 8 spawning couples in a slower section of the river within 50’, so the activity is hot and amorous right now. It’s great to see so many large and colorful fish in the system, but fishing now needs to be concentrated away from the redds and in the faster riffle sections where they tend not to spawn.
Interestingly enough the fish have still been eating at this stage while they are staging for the spawn, although it’s been inconsistent on the flies with fish taking mayfly nymphs, rubber legs, stonefly nymphs, an infrequent egg pattern, and caddis nymphs. After a month now of intense fishing activity around Oroville, they are also very spooky and indicator shy and will move aside from imperfect presentations or even seeing an indicator float downstream. That makes high sticking being a good alternative style although certainly indicators correctly mended can still work effectively as both Chris and Mark both recently found out.
Wading is good right now on the Feather with the water levels down, but it can also result in a dunking if you are not careful on the slippery rocks as two of us have found out this year. If you plan on going, please make sure that you are not alone for safety reasons. These rambunctious steelies can be quite challenging as they run downstream so having a good net guy close by helps immeasurably on landing one as well. Best to be prepared and plan on buying a beer for your net guy across the street at the Exchange or the Oroville Brewing Company afterward. Enjoy…pictures from some recent sessions are on the Events page https://tvff.wildapricot.org/Feather-River-Steelhead-2020