Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Swan Creek - Breckenridge, CO

This a follow up to the beaver pond fly fishing day outside Breckenridge, CO.

I had finally got a chance to fly fish a beaver pond. It was a lot of fun. The first cast landed a nice brooke trout.  In all, I netted 7 in just a couple of hours.  Then - all the action just stopped.  I didn't really see a hatch. There were no fish rising. It just stopped. 

N. Fork Swan Creek

The first thing I did was to scout the nearby creek.  The beaver ponds are actually along the North Fork of Swan Creek.  As you can see from the photo, its a fairly small and shallow creek.  Not much in terms of bigger pools or deep pockets. So, I decided to follow Swan Creek downstream and fish the main creek instead.

There is a rock quarry along the creek. At first, I drove upstream, scouting the creek. But much of this area is private property and is posted. So, I went downstream, below and away from the quarry.

I found a pullout, and just picked the first hole I saw.  I still had the same mayfly on.  I was flip casting in a small hole, kind of checking for a hatch, noticing the wind, looking up and down stream, trying to figure out where to go, and I had a hit. Since I wasn't really paying attention, I missed the fish.
Swan Creek Brooke trout

I saw a promising hole upstream about one hundred yards. I cast upstream, and sure enough. I netted a little brooke. 

Just around the bend I saw a really nice looking hole. The creek flowed over what looked like a broken beaver dam, and into a pool.  I tossed into the headwater - and let the fly drift through. BANG. I saw the strike, hooked the fish, and netted him. He was small, but fun to catch.  However, I continued to cast into the hole, and proceeded to catch five fish on the following few casts, and they were much nicer fish.

This is where the story takes a tragic turn. 

Above this hole, which had been very lucrative for me, was an even better hole. And - I saw fish rising in it. As well as I had been doing, this was going to be like shooting fish in a barrel!  I was so sure I was going to get great action, I reached once again for my cell phone to roll some video.  But - IT WAS GONE!! Where was my phone? I had it in my pocket a moment ago.  I looked along the bank and along the rocks.  It was nowhere. Then, I turned and spotted it - at the BOTTOM OF THE RIVER!

I grabbed it out. It was still on and working. I shot this quick video of that nice hole just to test my phone. After that I quickly and thoroughly dried my phone and turned it off. I was too bummed about my phone to fish the sweet hole. I left the area and went downstream.

Nice Fishin' hole

The rest of the day I had no way of taking pictures and showing the fish I caught.  Remember, I had caught seven in the beaver pond.  Along the creek I soon had nine more - 16 total. I decided I wanted to make it 20 for the day.

I went from hole to hole, looking for a few more fish. But now, other anglers had arrived. I tried to find secluded stretches of creek.  In some places the bushes were too thick to even get to the water.

Nice little brookie

Eventually, hole by hole, spot by spot I landed 3 more fish. I had 19. I wanted one more.  I was making my way back to the car. Finally I arrived at what would be my last chance at 20. I cast upstream and let it drift, and finally - one little guy hit.  I had my 20. I called it a very successful day, and I headed home.

My phone? Well, it still works, but it isn't as reliable as it had been. It does some funky stuff these days. I'm in the process of getting a new one. I gotta go go-pro and a headband. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Drought in Tahoe Area:

You may have heard about the California drought.

Winter rain and snow have been below normal for the past couple of years. There has been little snowpack, and hence short spring run-offs.

Water tables around the state are far below normal. The state has been tapping into underground water for several years – and there are fears concerning the long term affect of continually drilling deeper.

Many wells in rural areas are already dried up. There are harsh Ag water restrictions – and most cities have implemented restrictions – with more expected in the coming months.

Sagen Creek, Sept. 2014

So, how does this affect fly fishing?

Rivers, streams and creeks often run low by October. But this year – things are drying up to levels not seen in decades, and it is happening earlier this year – by late July and August.

I visited a Truckee are fly shop. They post all the latest fishing conditions.  Next to each river and stream location they have posted "please do not fish." Its just to harsh on the fish.

Here are a few streams I documented in the Tahoe area.

Moss in Sagehen

Sagehen -  This is a small creek anyway. It still has water – but it is low – and with air temperatures still in the 80’s and low 90’s – water temps can be close to 70 degrees. This is almost uninhabitable for fish – and as you can see – there is a ton of moss growing.

Little Truckee -  These pictures come from above Stampede reservoir. As you can see – it is very low. Most of the rocks and boulders you see are usually covered. The water that is visible is only about ankle deep.

Upper Little Truckee

The story is a bit better below Stampede – mostly because they can still release water.  The Little Truckee between Stamped and Boca is a very popular fly fishing area.  present. But with low water levels and high temperatures - local fly shops are asking people to either stay away or fish early in the morning, but leave the fish alone after 10am.

Truckee thru the town

Truckee River - The Truckee River is fed out of Lake Tahoe. The lake is low and not releasing water now. The Truckee can get low this time of year, but it is especially low above and thru the town of Truckee, CA. Below the town are more tributaries (Prosser, Little Truckee, etc) - so flows are usually a tad better around Floriston near the California/ Nevada State line. But again, they are asking fishers to not stress the trout too much. 

Walker and Carson Rivers – I did not visit the Walker and Carson rivers in person – but after reading on-line – the Walker system is mostly unfishable. They say the fish simply cannot survive the low water and the heat. 

The Carson still has a few fishable spots, but it is spotty at best.

Jackson Meadow Res. - Sept. 2014

Jackson Meadow Res. – Jackson Meadow Res is one of the better bets this late in the season. In fact, the lakes are your only hope this year. Try Stampede and Bocca as well.

As you can see – there is plenty of water in Jackson, but it is low.

Dry "bay" at Jackson

The picture here is of an inlet and bay that are usually full. Places like this almost look like meadows. In good years, these areas have water. The entire area up to the trees would be under water.

M. Fork of Yuba River - Sept 2014
Middle Fork of the Yuba River – This stretch of river isn’t too bad. I have seen it so high and raging it is blown out and unfishable. But this year it is accessible and looks decent.

It is low, but the levels are ok – and the water coming out of Jackson is ice cold.

I saw lots of fish rising and feeding.

Milton Reservoir is just down stream. I looked at it, but did not fish it. Looked good overall.

The bottom line – California needs a very wet and cold winter. A few “Pineapple” express storms (from Hawaii) can bring a ton of rain – but the storms tend to be warm. Often – it rains on top of mountain snow – creating the infamous “Sierra Cement”. These storms also saturate the ground table too fast – and the water just runs off, back to the ocean - or creates mudslides etc.

Little Truckee water depth

What the state really needs is a few wet systems mixed with ice cold artic air. These storms mean much better snowpack in the Sierra – which means better storage and a longer run-off the next year.

But they way things are right now – ANY rain is much needed.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Breckenridge Beaver Ponds:

My dad used to tell me how much fun it could be to fly fish a beaver pond.  I had never done it, but I always wanted to try.  I finally got my chance outside Breckenridge, CO.  After a little internet research I located a few beaver ponds, and headed out.  I had no idea what to expect.

3 Beaver Ponds
Note to self: beaver ponds can be a little treacherous.  I would not recommend walking on the dam itself. Which I didn't. Too unstable. Getting to the pond can be an adventure. The backside tends to be  marshy.  That often means cattails, or tall grasses and thick bushes, as well as muddy, mushy ground. There tends to be a lot of little feeder streams coming into the pond.  But with the thick brush and tall grass, its nearly impossible to see these fingers of water.  One false step and you could be talking sprained ankle, or worse.

Never-the-less, I made it to the beaver ponds. There was a series of three in a row. I decided to try the largest first. If you look at the picture you will see a smaller pond to the far left, a middle sized pond in the center, and the largest pond is to the far right. That's the one I tried first. 

The dam wall was pretty impressive. Several feet high with well established, tall green grass across the front. 

Breckenridge, CO beaver pond

I entered from the backside and made my way to the edge of the water, finding a spot with fairly solid footing.

I had no idea what kind of fly to use. I didn't really see a hatch. So, I selected a nice, generic, blue winged olive (BWO) mayfly.  I tied it on, and tossed it out. BANG!  I don't even know if the fly actually it the water, but before I could even gather my thoughts, my rod was bent and I had a fighter on.

That worked well.

First cast - first fish.
Every now and then I'd see one rise, I'd cast in the general direction - and bang - fish on.

The first one was a fairly decent sized brookie.  I proceeded to cast and catch. I didn't get a hit every single cast, but I was getting lots of good action. Some of the fish were small, as most brookies tend to be. But they are so aggressive and feisty, that I was having a great time.

There was a fair amount of moss growing in the bottom of the pond. Every time I hooked a fish, its first instinct was to dive into the moss. That meant I was not only reeling in a feisty fish, but also a glob of moss.

At one point I tried to shoot cell phone video of the strike.  But it was impossible. The fly would hit the water. I'd quickly reach for my phone, but before I could even hit the record button I'd have one on. Trying to reel in line and not drop the phone was too much. Check out the link below.

I had netted seven fish when things went quiet.  I saw no more fish rising. The sun was high and the day was getting hot. The action just stopped. I decided to try the middle pond. It took some doing to get through the marsh, the grass, the busses and unsure footing, but I got there. But like the first pond, there was no action at all.

I had had my fun.  I decided to break, have a snack, and drive downstream to fish the river. But that story is for another time.

Back to Jackson.

So, just shy of one year since my post about not being able to match the hatch and find what trout were feeding on, I returned to the Middle Fork of the Yuba, just below Jackson Meadow Res.

During the course of the last year I read someplace that when trout are rising and feeding, but you can't find a dry they'll take, consider a "sub hatch" that may be occurring just below the surface, if not in that fine "film" on the water.

I went to the exact same spot. (I'll post a photo later. Don't have it with me as I type this.) It was about the same time of day, and the usual sunny, warm weather conditions. I saw many of the same bugs in the air.  I tried the usual dries. Nothing. Fishing rising, but no takers.

I remembered what I had read. I left the dry on, after all, there was a legit hatch and I had the correct fly.  I added a dropper about 12 inches below the dry.  I made it an emerger, not a beadhead nymph with weight, but a fly that was light and would float, if not sink just a tad.

Bingo!  The trout loved it. I started get hits, and attacks.  I reeled in six trout in a short period of time.

And I noticed that all the rising fish were in the shadows.  Not much happened on the portion of this "pond" where the sun was hitting.  In fact, they way the current flows, I was able to cast into the sunny side, and let it slowly drift into the shadow.  Almost every time, just as the fly was crossing the boarder between sunlight and shadow - that's where they hit.

I finally felt victorious.  Fun day. Caught fish. Figured out the problem. Awesome.