If pressed to name one month of the year for the best fishing, I would pick October. It is the peak of the transition period between the “too warm” of summer and the “too cold” of winter. Based on 40 years in this county I have seen the weather change about the middle of the month. I expect Indian Summer until Oct. 15 and chilly fall temps with the possibility of rain after that.
Right on schedule, the salmon spawning activity on the lower Yuba has come on in the past week. October of this year has two full moons on the first and last days of the month. Salmon move on the full and new moons and here they are.
Tom Page, Reel Angler’s Fly Shop, was on the river four consecutive days starting last Saturday. On prior guide trips he had been seeing few salmon in the river, mostly in the deep holes. He was noticing an occasional salmon traveling upstream through the runs but no significant numbers.
All that changed last Saturday after a week off the water in the shop. Tom was starting a drift boat trip from the Hwy 20 bridge and he saw the first salmon redd of the season in that area along with fish in the shallow clear water. On Sunday there were more salmon staging in waist-deep water close to the shallow riffles. On his final trip, Tuesday, the quantity of salmon visible on the Yuba had doubled, with many of them digging redds at the tops of riffles at the bridge. This activity extended miles downstream to Hammond Grove Park. Tom’s trip ended at DaGuerre Dam but he saw no redds below Hammond Grove at this time. Typically the salmon spawn peaks at Halloween and declines with some spawning as late as December.
For readers who don’t fish the lower Yuba, the salmon run is a sight worth seeing. You will see 30 pound fish as long as your leg in a foot of water a few yards from you. A 15 minute drive down Hwy 20 will get you there. It is an interesting thing to do with out of town guests
For anglers on the lower Yuba, steelhead are the quarry. Spawning salmon kick up insects from the gravel as well as lose eggs that drift on the current. A true feast that put the steelhead on the bite. The best bite I have experienced on the lower Yuba has come with the first heavy rain that raises the flow and colors the water. We had rumors of rain for this weekend but it remains to be seen. The first rains soak in. It is the first heavy rain that stains Deer and Squirrel creeks that signals the bite is on.
I spent Tuesday fishing on the Feather River, launching a prop boat at Boyd’s Pump and fishing up river. There were salmon porpoising on the surface as they moved through, but none that wanted to bite what I was offering.
For anglers wanting to fish for salmon from shore, your best bet is the Feather River below Oroville. There are a lot of salmon coming through and the Oroville Wildlife area has good access. The Fish & Wildlife wardens have been active here. Read the regulations on line (wildlife.ca.gov) before you go.
Up in the high country the lakes have cooled down into the prime trout fishing zone. Last weekend I had reports from lakes as widely separated as Crowley near Mammoth, Lake Davis and Almanor in Plumas County as well as Eagle Lake near Susanville. The surface temps ranged from 58 in the morning to 62 degrees late in the day. This is the upper end of the prime fishing temps. Now that we are close to the middle of the month, I think the last of the heat waves are behind us. The overnight low temps will continue to drop the water down through the 50 degree range. This week Eagle Lake has had overnight temps down into the 20s.
Guide Ed Dillard has had his first really good fall fishing at Lake Davis. Last week the fish were feeding at the top of the water column. He was concentrating out over deep water, but he also found good action on the outside edge of the weed beds. What he has been trolling are flies in the brown-rust-orange-copper color range. These colors are typical for east side lakes like Davis and Eagle. He has been pulling them in the top six feet. Lake Davis as well as other high country waters will fish well into November.
There are only 22 days left in October. If you pass up this opportunity, you will get to the season of great excuses for not fishing — rain, cold, short days, getting more firewood, the holidays …
Get out now!
Denis Peirce writes a fishing column for The Union’s Outdoors section and is host of “The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report,” which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via his website at http://www.trollingflies.com.