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Who doesn't love a good trip report? Members are welcome to post their reports here or on our Facebook group.
I had an opportunity to fish Milton Lake on a scouting trip prior to our scheduled Truckee Watershed trip scheduled for next week. It was my first trip to Milton after hearing a great deal about it as “the ultimate stillwater challenge” and a small lake requiring your “A” game. And that it was, after a significant drive to get in there. It is located about 25 miles north of Truckee on highway 89 and then a 17 mile drive west on paved road to Jackson Meadows Reservoir, and finally a two mile drive down a dirt road to Milton Lake. And so it is not as easy to access as other Tahoe water, and thus sees much less pressure.
Milton is a 12 acre lake and administered as a CFW wild trout program participant with some trophy size trout found here, reputably as large as 30’ including both browns and a few rainbows. The deepest part of the lake is about 40’ on the west end near the dam, but it has many areas that are 4-7’ deep with weedbeds and mud bottoms making for abundant aquatic life. The elevation of the lake is 5650 feet. No motors are allowed on this lake so it is peaceful and calm, when the wind isn’t blowing in the afternoons.
The lake is small and fed by the Middle Fork of the Yuba flowing out of Jackson Meadows reservoir. Once at the lake, it is easily accessed from a few campsites for watercraft. The campsites are un-developed. I camped within 40’ of the lake and were able to leave my pontoon fully setup and “parked” on the grass launch after fishing for the day. Nice!
So what did I find? There is a terrific #14-16 Callibaetis hatch from about 9:30 each morning until noon and the lake gets alive with surface activity. Lots of gulps, dorsals, and heads bobbing about. But I got there too late after an 1 & ½ hour drive from Stampede and by the time my pontoon was setup, it was over. An awesome surface hatch and I missed it. Shameful for a dry fly guy! So out I went in the afternoon’s wind with Callibaetis spinners (still looking for the surface “fool”), dragging Wooly buggers, and pitching nymphs under an indicator as the fish retreated into the weed beds and depths of the lake.
The lake has a lot of sub surface obstructions, mainly trees that are still standing but with the top stumps about 7’ under the surface. And a perfect place for a large trout to break you off, as I learned quickly. Had a mid size Woolly hit by a freight train, which then decided to teach me about the lake’s hazards (and taking my Woolly and 5’ of 3X tippet). After fighting the wind for several hours I retreated to a sheltered cove and caught a nice 14” brown on a surface hopper; and quickly followed with a 12’ brown caught on a #16 EC Caddis. And so on to fix dinner, rig up for tomorrow’s activity, turn in, and get a great start on the next morning’s awesome hatch.
Except…there was none! I was on the lake at 6:30, all geared up with a dry and Callibaetis nymph dropper on one rod, and a dual Callibaetis nymph setup on my 5 weight for nymphing. I have no idea why the hatch didn’t come off at all. No wind, no major temperature change, and no changing water flows. It was a major disappointment as I thought that I was fully prepared from the previous day’s activity. Goes to show why they call it fishing. Only two other guys on the lake and not much for them either. So I packed it up at noon, but vowed to be back camping and fishing again at this awesomely peaceful lake, and on time for the hatch next visit.
Awarding congratulations for completion of the Fly Fishing Fundamentals Class of 2019 after the “on stream” practical session is Kent McCammon…
But let’s digress for a minute. How did we get here, in the middle of nowhere, five miles up a National Forest road next to a gorgeous gin clear stream?
Well, our story begins with Kent and Rob organizing an on-stream day of final instruction before turning loose these new fly fishers on un-suspecting trout everywhere. The target was Beaver Creek, an excellent early season small creek with very willing small trout, when the North Fork of the Stanislaus is ripping too fast with 800 cfs of cold snowmelt. So off they go with six (Warren Wagner, Charles Brown, Charles Wortham, Joey Tchang, Mark Evans, and James Sprecher) accompanied by Alan Wyosnick for teaching advanced nymphing, Tom Vargas for teaching the fine art of streamers, and Rob Farris teaching “frustration with the dry fly”….
All was well on this little stream with 2-4 feet of depth for the trout, until this busload descends mid-morning. “Wader up, boys” is the call as the group splits up with the three instructors for some seriously fun education.
The group heard a repeat of the Flyfishing Fundamentals class about wading safety, reading a stream, approaching the fish without spooking, fly presentation techniques, prevention of ‘drag’, rigging and fishing a nymphing indicator rig, and once in a while even hooking and netting an un-suspecting little rainbow trout.
Special congratulations are in order for Charles Brown for the loudest scream when a voracious small 5” rainbow rocketed up from the depths to attack his dry fly. Condolences are also in order for missing the hookup on that one Charles! Surprised you with the quickness of the take, eh?
The weather was great (72 degrees), the stream temperature was a brisk fifty degrees for those wet wading, the fish were cooperative with numerous caught, and the meandering free range cows serenaded us with their cowbells. All topped off with cold drinks streamside after the event, and then early dinner at the Lube Room in Dorrington.
Joey Tchang summed it up for everyone afterward in an email and commented, “Thank you very much to all of the instructors and to Kent for planning and teaching the stream trip yesterday. I learned so much more than I expected. The application of the information provided on the water was so beneficial. I can't wait to apply what I learned on my next trip. Thank you again for spending time with us novices!” Joey, it was our pleasure…
Another two day trip to Hat Creek this past week as the “bug season” is well under way up there, and I just can’t pass up a good hatch or two. Hooked eight with four to the net from 10-15”, including a very nice and active 15” rainbow who put on a great show in, out, and above the water. Also raised in excess of 25 risers between AM fishing at the Powerhouse and the evening fishing down at Carbon Bridge; all on dry flies so a very active two days with lots of casting to rising fish.
Typical situation at Hat Creek with the most activity in the early AM until noon, very slow mid-day, and then really active hatches with the mosquito attacks at sunset. So I started with E/C Caddis “leftovers” in the early AM which enticed the largest fish of the day; switched to Parachute Adams around 9, and then on to PMD’s when the hatch came off in the riffles around 10 AM, just like clockwork. There were only four of us in the PH#2 riffles until they all left at noon and they were all fishing under indicators and skunked. I think that the fish in the riffles see so many nymphs flung at them that they are very skittish, hence my move to dries to take advantage of the rising hatches.
The evening was a spectacular sight down at Carbon Bridge with multiple hatches coming off just about 8 PM. The Little Sister Weedy Sedges are in full flight right now, and I was on to to them with Henryville Down-wing Caddis. Landed two, but the rest of the fish must have been on to me as they were a real challenge to get on the hook. And as quickly as the Caddis came they left 15 minutes later, to be followed by a blizzard of Pale Evening Dun mating swarms above the shoreline with the spent spinners falling and collecting in the shallow quiet water. Quite another very quick but spectacularly thick hatch that caught me by surprise, and by the time I had tied on a Rusty Spinner it was over. Easy come, easy go I guess. Next time I’ll be rigged and ready for that hatch.
Weather is still a major determinant up at Hat Creek, and it seemingly changes every hour this time of year. I had sun, overcast, periodic wind, rain, rainbows, and occasional thunderstorms so one has to be prepared for what you are going to get. Got cold the previous night and local Mt. Burney and the pass over to Redding both had fresh snow in the morning. But the bald eagles were out fishing too; fresh new families of Mallard ducklings (one with 11) as well as Canadian Geese families were also in the creek with deer on the hillsides so it was a National Geographic type of trip. A nice time of year to be up there if you can handle the weather changes.
This TVFF trip was designed to catch the Salmonfly hatch of size 2-12 bugs on the creek, and we sure did. We had several resources say that it was too early, including one well-known Redding fly shop (un-named), but we witnessed a good hatch of these big guys throughout the two days we were on the creek. Pictures here: https://tvff.wildapricot.org/Hat-Creek-photos
They are just amazing to see, and as once described to me, appear as miniature helicopters as they flutter across the river. We saw them over the river never touching down, and they were also seen in the bark ridges and folds of pine trees near the creek if you looked hard enough. The results: I had only one strong take on a size 12 dry Salmonfly and it was aggressive. Sad to say; no fish to the net. The bugs only periodically hit the water, usually dropping from streamside trees so it’s not like fishing a profuse Caddis or Baetis hatch. Best approach is to fish Stonefly nymphs off the banks late in the day and just before night when they crawl out to bust out of their exoskeletons.
The rest of the trip was very good. Starting with Gary Prince knocking down a few rainbows in the first day’s evening hatch at Carbon Bridge with the largest about 16”. Hat Creek is a two stage fishery with hatches in the early AM, quiet at mid-day, and then a large amount of fish rising in the late evening, just before dark. And they have substantial cover being laid down by the mosquito hordes, which are just as hungry and must be on the trout’s payroll. Don’t go without your insect repellent! Nevertheless, Gary was persistent as usual, staying until there was no light available (8:40 PM) and returning up the trail via flashlight. Mark Spruiell, Chris McCann, Roger Perry, and I were all shut out with multiple takes and a shortened evening as we were all driven out early by the mosquito’s and the call of a cold beer.
Day 2 began at the Powerhouse 2 riffles with cloud hatches of tiny Tricos in the early AM as we arrived. No one wanted to tackle tying on a size 24 Trico dry fly imitation, but I’ll be back after those little guys in the future. Just because I’m a glutton for punishment with dry flies on 7X tippet with #22-24’s, and just because I want to say that I could. Quite a contrast to the size 2 Salmonflies. A few of us jumped into the riffles at the Powerhouse which were only running about 6” higher than normal with the strong winter, with Euro nymphing setups. We had early season company with about 6 other guys and another 4 or so downstream in the flats. It was a busy day at PH #2 for a while, and almost everyone left by noon as the fishery quieted down.
I had a good day in the riffles with dries raising about 20 fish, hooking eight, and landing five with the largest an unusual Brown at 14”. Based on past experience I anticipated that the Baetis and Pale Morning Duns would come off right at 9 and last until about 11:30, as they did. I ended up chasing pods of the rising fish downstream as they followed the drift and hatch, and then again back upstream. So much fun; so little time until the hatch died. We all packed up and then headed to the downstream side of highway 299 for an afternoon of fishing the riffles in the shade, and moving toward the final stretch before the creek drops into Lake Britton where the Salmonflies congregate. As I recall Roger netted our only fish that afternoon, which was a disappointment in such a beautiful stretch of the creek. When I caught up with him Roger was mesmerized by a 19-20” rainbow that was jumping and clearing the water way out of reach in the middle of the stream. Of course that kept us there longer than normal trying to get a cast to him, with no luck. We called it a day, while Gary, Chris, and Roger departed back to Carbon Bridge again to try and replicate the previous evening, but without much success this time around.
So off we went to all areas of Baum Lake on Thursday as the fully recognized “TVFF Flotilla” in our prams, pontoons, and fishing rafts. Reading a lake is tough for a stream based dry fly guy like myself, but not nearly so challenging for Mark Spruiell who headed off in his pram like he knew EXACTLY where he was headed further down in the lake. And he sure did, netting 10 rainbows over 17”. Mark is clearly the “Wizard of Baum” as he sure knows where, when, and how to speak trout. Chris is a good strong 2nd at Baum with his two rainbows, which is below his normal take rate up there, but he is still chasing Mark. A great job by Chris and Mark on a windy day for those of us in the pontoons and rafts that spent our day back rowing, dropping anchors, and flailing at the water. Overall, the trip went well with success depending on what type of fishing suited your style best, and we certainly had all styles represented. Weather was terrific as well, but the food in Burney? Very limited to non-existent options with late night fishing after 9 PM. So if you go; fish the mornings and evenings until dark, but you better bring your own dinner…LOL.
Fished Putah yesterday with Marty Loomis and Gary Prince on a great clear and 75 degree day. Flows are way down and now at 330 cfs vs 1,500 last month. Water temp is in the high 50's, and wading conditions are good. We fished the bridge and staircase, and then access #1 and #5. All three of us were Euro Nymphing with mostly small Zebra midges. Midges were hatching of course, along with Glossoma Caddis later in the afternoon. No surface activity at all, so it was all down on the bottom with our rigs. I didn't get into any more big guys (darn!) but hooked 5, and landed four 10" rainbows; three on the #20 Zebra, 1 on a #18 Perdigon, and 1 on a #16 BH Hare's Ear. Marty also got into a small rainbow in the riffles. As usual, Putah Creek took its toll on flies, and I lost a couple of two fly nymphing rigs and another fly in the bottom junk. We all recovered nicely with a great happy hour dinner and some $4 "805" beers at the Buckhorn in Winters. All in all a nice day on the water, and only 1.25 hours away for wetting the waders.
Just got back from a day and a half on Baum Lake. The weather was decent with temperatures ranging from the low 30s to around 70.
There were plenty of folks out enjoying the lake. These guys saw me catch a few:
I managed to land a total of 16, including a new personal best on this lake of a 23" rainbow:
Stripping an olive wiggle tail on an intermediate line near the shore was the most productive technique for me on this trip.
Fished Putah Creek this past Tuesday after scouting for our Entomology Field Trip scheduled for Saturday. The creek is high and 5X its normal flow and almost impossible to wade at 1500 cfs. Nevertheless, I found a few nice calm seams above the bridge between the current flows and landed two nice fish; a 15" smallmouth (never knew they existed in the upper Putah) and a gorgeous 25-26" female rainbow. Both were caught on a Woolly Bugger stripped on an intermediate sinking line. Pictures in the Events Gallery.
Lots and lots of rain last night. Over 9" at Venado by the Russian River and storm track is right through Marysville. Gauge at parks Bar rose from 3,800 cfs at 9 PM last night to 18,000 today at 7 AM. Jon confirmed that we'll have to postpone the workshops until the river comes down...:(