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.

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