Denis Peirce: Opening day ‘best in recent memory |

Denis Peirce: Opening day ‘best in recent memory

Some of the best water on the lower Yuba River lies above the Highway 20 bridge. The reopening of this zone to fishing Dec. 1, was a much anticipated event.

The river from the Highway 20 bridge upstream to Englebright Dam closes to all fishing for the months of September through November, the prime salmon spawning time.

The Lower Yuba River has not fished well for the last couple years. There have been spurts of good angling on the river below the 20 bridge this fall, with resultant speculation that these steelhead were headed up river.

I have been hoping for good results with the opening of the closed zone. I think that the fishing could offer a glimpse of how the river is rebounding.

The Gold Country Fly Fishers schedule an annual fishing day for the first Saturday in December on the U.C. Davis property, which lies a mile or so above the bridge. This year their Saturday outing fell on opening day and it produced the best opening day in recent memory.

There were about 15 club members fishing Saturday and there were 35 fish landed, with a number of others hooked and lost. There were very few salmon in evidence, which is normal this late in the year. What was most obvious was the lack of salmon spawning redds, marked by clean gravel. This was expected due to the poor salmon run this fall.

The trout/steelhead caught were in excellent shape with deep thick bodies reflecting a plentiful diet of insects because there were not many salmon eggs for them to feast on. Early in the day the fish responded well to egg imitations and small nymphs. Pheasant Tail nymphs in size #16 were high on the list of flies that produced.

Late in the morning there was a mayfly hatch that was unseasonably plentiful. The fish definitely keyed in on the hatching insects and were feeding at the surface. Most of the surface feeding took place in fast water, giving the anglers a glimpse of the splash that was immediately lost in the surface chop. The increasing wind in the afternoon coincided with the end of the surface feeding. There was another hatch at about 4 p.m. for those stayed for the full day.

The most productive dry flies were blond mayfly patterns from as large as a #12 down to a #16 Pale Morning Dun. But exact imitation was not a prerequisite for hooking fish. One club member hooked five fish using a Black Ant pattern during the surface feeding.

Overall, the angling was good and the fishery is in good condition. It is the food source that ultimately determines the health of the fishery. The insect hatches have been plentiful since last summer and now there are some good fish feeding on them in the river.

Some of the best fishing of the year on the Lower Yuba occurs early December. It is at this time that anadromous fish are in and they have not been pressured by anglers for up to three months. The prognosis is good for the Lower Yuba.

John Kusanovich and Ed Stember traveled to Pyramid Lake, Nev. one day last week. They fished sinking fly lines and various buggers from their float tubes. Between the two of them they took two fish in the 20 inch range. They fished near the Pelican Point launch ramp. Water temp was 48 to 50 degrees. Their fish finders indicated that most of the fish were close to the bottom in 10 to 15 feet of water. The best catching was by anglers casting large spoons from shore.

On the Sacramento River, Rick Thompson of Oroville fished Monday at the Butte City launch ramp. He caught two jack salmon in the 5 to 6 pound range fishing sardine fillets from shore. He was targeting stripers but came up with the two salmon in a 15 minute span in early afternoon. Both of the fish were chrome bright. He has taken stripers there from shore in the last week.

The current storm front began dropping serious rain in the Trinity River drainage Monday afternoon. If it keeps up enough to raise and color the river, look for the Trinity steelhead fishing to take off. The fish are there and new fish are continuing to enter the system at the mouth of the Klamath. I have heard “stories” of steelhead being caught with four flies already in their mouth.

Even if this is a stretch of the facts it does make a point. The fish have been stalled in the river and need rain to mix things back up.

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