Putah Creek

High Water Fishing (Part 1: Putah Creek)

10,000 cubes of water is a massive amount of whater. But it is all relative to the system. For example if the Yuba went to 10k I’d hardly be concerned. When little Putah Creek gets that big, the only word to describe it is: impressive. In perspective the river was running at 100 cfs before the glory hole spilled. Think of it this way, there are 100 more Putah Creeks coming out of the lake at that point.

This is nothing new but not something that happens that frequently. The glory hole in my lifetime has spilled four times. Two in the last three years, so it is rare. For those you who do not know what the glory hole is, its not a dirty porn term here. Be careful with your google searches. The top of the Monticello Dam is around 460 ft. high. The opening of the top of the glory hole sits at 440 ft high. So if the lake ever get so high where it could breach the the top of the dam, the glory hole will empty the water before it has a chance. Imagine a 440 ft boot, that paints a better picture of the shape of it. The impressive thing is when it spills it takes with it a powerful wind. Gravity pushes air down it along with the water. I know birds have been seen sucked down it. Don’t fly your drone too close, you will struggle to gain altitude if you get too close. I’ve fished where it spills out in 2017 and it produces about a 40 mph wind. It is probably even higher when the flows are higher.

When we flooded out in 2017, everyone was in panic mode. Most of us had never seen the rivers do what they did. We were aware that they can do what they did, but they were just stories told to us from older anglers. We had no idea about how long it would last and at what point could we try fishing it again. It was a big year of learning for us. I didn’t have many answers for what to do and where to go. I had no previous experience fishing in these conditions. Through some R&D with my guide buddies we figured it out. And what we figured out is it make fishing really good.

I was able to sneak in a do some floats in my raft in the floods of 2017. I have the perfect boat to do it. The Outcast Striker is a two man frame-less raft. It is very lightweight and extremely maneuverable on the water. The big thing is that it weighs 102lbs. I do not need a trailer to move it around, it easily fits in my truck bed. This means I do not need a boat launch, I can drop it in and pull it almost anywhere. We were able to spot float certain key sections of Putah Creek. This gave us a chance to cast streamers from the boat and get to some spots where we could get out of the boat and nymph on foot. Crossing the river at this point was hopeless, so we were the only ones fishing most spots.

The Striker from Outcast is an incredible little raft.  It’s light weight, versatile, and only needs a truck bed.

The Striker from Outcast is an incredible little raft. It’s light weight, versatile, and only needs a truck bed.

I remember the first time I ran it, the flows were just over 3 grand. That was pretty puckering to be honest. Ideally we want the flows to be below 2000. Before you run out and try to float the creek on your own seek professional advice first. It can be very dangerous if you do not know what you’re doing. There are several kayaks that don’t make it home every summer, and that is just from a small 800cfs. There have also been a few deaths that have occurred out there. So look before you leap, do your research.

The nice thing is that the clarity will be there before the flows get in shape. The lake settles a ton of the silt and even know its high it is still pretty clear. When Putah Creek floods it gets dirty because of all the bank erosion that occurs along the shoreline, not because of the lake. Once the river drops back to the main channel it will start to clear up again.

Now with all I said I am still learning high flow fishing out there. I have one season with it and was pretty successful. I am excited to see what I can drum up this year. When things like this happen it gives me a chance to keep learning and growing as a guide. Anyone can figure it out when it’s “normal.” You get a lot more days to practice. It’s when the shit hits the fan how succeed through it.

I will have some openings to get you out there. Probably by mid March it should be in shape unless we get a few more crazy storms. This a great way to see the river from a different perspective. The streamer junkie will be thrilled with it. Also, it might be the only thing to do for a while.

An absolute “Walerus” taken on an olive Sculpzilla out of the Outcast Striker in 2017.

An absolute “Walerus” taken on an olive Sculpzilla out of the Outcast Striker in 2017.

Stay tuned for part 2 of high water fishing where we discuss the Truckee at these stages. If you like what you are reading, share it with your friends and become an RSS subscriber.

My Piece On Etiquette

There has been a lot going around lately regarding practices and behaviors of anglers.  My goal here is to help shed some education and advice on the issues. We’ve been seeing an increase of bad etiquette on the rivers and social media.  Keep in mind that I know I do not make the rules and do not think I have any type of ownage on the river. This is a way to help the new anglesr or to help the existing ones think a little differently on ethics.  

Let’s discuss the redd, spawning fish issue.  First of all if you’re targeting spawning fish, please STOP.  Those fish you see spawning only got that way because their parents successfully spawned.  It seems pretty reasonable to understand that fish you catch next year were the offspring of successful spawn from the previous years.  

Spawning Fish and Their “O” Face

Spawning Fish and Their “O” Face

There are two types of people who target actively spawning fish.  Those who dont know, and those who do not give a shit. Let’s break down both perspectives.

See the obvious clear rocks. Do not fish or walk, “No Tread On The Redd”

See the obvious clear rocks. Do not fish or walk, “No Tread On The Redd”

It’s understandable that new anglers might not be able to recognize spawning fish or identify redds.  I think every angler may have been guilty of this at some point. Along the way they learned more and decided to leave them alone.  I think for what is at stake here that anglers need to take more initiative in educating themselves before they tread. The state requires hunters to have a really good understanding about the animal they are pursuit.  Duck hunters must be able to identify the type of duck and the sex before they shoot. That is knowledge that is required from day 1. I think we can do better requiring anglers to have more knowlege before they go fishing.

Here are some ways to identify spawning fish and redds.  First is being able to see the fish. If you see a big fish or multiple in shallow water chances are they are spawning.  They did not get big by being dumb. If you can see them easily in water less than 2 ft. deep they are not there to feed, they are there to reproduce.  Think about it, if they lived in shallow water like that they would have been eaten by an otter or an osprey. A fish isn’t going to make big movements that leave them exposed.  They know big movements give away their position. So when you see fish in shallow water moving around a lot, they are spawning. There is a protocol while they spawn where the female protects her nest and eggs.  She is going to chase the males around leaving only the most dominant fish to get in to fertilize. The dominate males will chase the other males around too. This is what creates the chaos you see when fish spawn.

We have the opportunity to sight fish on a few rivers.  One of the things that I have learned is that you do not get many shots at those fish.  If you’re able to see a fish and make multiple casts at it and it doesn’t spook, chances are it’s spawning.  If you continue to cast to that fish it isn’t feeding on your fly it’s protecting the nest or itself. You are force feeding that fish at that point.  Remember they do not have hands, they cannot bat things away. There only defense mechanism is to bite. They only have a finite amount of energy. That energy is better used procreating then fighting you on a fly rod.  Plus it adds stress on them, they secrete eggs or sperm in the fight and not on the beds.

If the fish’s activity doesn't’ tip you off that they are spawning, the habitat might.  They look for a certain depth, and speed of water. Generally this is a shallow riffle less than 2 ft deep.  They also want a certain diameter of gravel to dig a nest in. They find this on the sides of the river and at the tailouts.  The females will dig out the redd, this can sometimes be observed by them “fanning” which means turning on here side and shaking her body.  Take a look at the bottom of the river, you’ll notice a certain color of the rocks with slime, and silt on them. The areas that they dig will be clear or clean rocks.  They generally stick out pretty well if you take the time to be observant.

Let’s address the angler that knows that the fish are spawning and doesn’t care.  I guess at the end of the day there will always be “that guy.” We should really push to be more progressive and outlaw fishing to spawning fish.  If this were to be on the ballot for a regulation change I would be the first to sign.

People who are target spawners really should know better.  I guess we have to except everyone has a different tolerance of ethics.  I assume anglers decide to fly fish because of the challenge. Simply, there are easier ways to fish.  Fly fishing is all about learned and testing yourself. Pulling a fish off a redd is an embarrassment not an accomplishment.  If you want some perspective, I know a 5 year old kid who casted, hooked, and landed a 10lb steelhead all on his own on the American a few years back.  He was fishing in a side spawning channel near sailor bar. I’ve seen the video to prove it. Now, I do not have it in me to ever shame a child but think about that next time you decide to target the redds.  You are not being challenged, a 5 year old can do it. Your fish picture with a beat up dark fish, eggs or sperm falling out of it is shameful. It is bad for the sport.

Let’s discuss river etiquette.  It seems as the sport is slowly growing the conduct on the rivers is dwindling. Remember that we have a lot of people in this State so our waters are going to have crowds.  If you're creative and willing to venture you can get out and find some great water. If you follow the herds do not be disappointed when it is crowded. You are part of the crowds too, and so am I.  Since I spent a lot of time on the water guided and personally fishing I am around bad practices more than the general angler.  When I see bad manners I try to stay calm and remind myself that most people simply do not know the unwritten rules of angling. I think the golden rule applies here.  Try and think how you want to be treated and reciprocate to others. If someone tresspasses on your standard stay polite. Try the nice guy approach first. Don’t go in guns blazing.  

The easiest thing that you can do is communicate.  Politely talk to other anglers when you see them. It creates a happier place.  I have seen anglers literally sprint to the water to get there before I do. Realistically, had they stopped and chatted we both could have made a plan as to who goes where.  Maybe we could have swapped some intel or traded some flies, we will never know. If you are first to the run enjoy it, fish it well but do not be a hole hog. If you are Johnny Come Lately talk to the anglers who are fishing.  Ask them “which way are you working?” If you desperately have to fish near someone, ask first. On a busy days at Putah Creek if someone asks if they can fish near us I have never said no. It’s when someone jumps in too close to us without asking that I first address with a polite conversation.  


Social media is here to stay.  It is a fun useful way for us to communicate and show off a part of our life.  It’s a double edged sword though. Sometimes the wrong message, info, or tone can leak.  I think there is a responsible and polite way to share info online. If you look at my reports, posts, blogs etc you will see that I never give up exact locations.  This is out of respect for the local anglers who are more protective to me about hot spotting. Spots are sacred and should be discovered through trial and error. It’s not fair to the angler that explores and finds a gem to leak spots to the lazy anglers.  

Fish with water drops down next to the water make much better photos

Fish with water drops down next to the water make much better photos

Keep em wet.  The hero shot is done, I know if you look through my photos you will see some grip and grin photos of me.  I’ve changed my practices when learning more about fish handling. The biggie is the fish flop. Bend down and make that fall shorter.  The new practice is to crouch down and just life the fish so the camera can see the fish. My anglers have to hold their breath when handling the fish.  If it is hard for my client to breath it is definitely hard for the fish to breath. One set of quick photos and the fish goes back. We do not need evidence of every fish caught.  Shoot your first fish and a good fish and that’s it.

Take a listen to my latest podcast with the guys over at Barbless…

Recaping Summer and Looking Ahead

In one word to describe my summer...NUTS.  I do not think I could have done anymore guide trips and classes.  Throw in a wedding, mini honey moon and random camping trips I haven't had much time to update the blog.  I gave myself a much needed day off today to get back to normal.  

So how was the fishing?  I would sum it up with average.  I spent almost everyday in the Truckee area.  The "Big T" fished well early on and became tough after the 4th of July.  The water predictions were way off.  The river dropped tremendously and the weather got hot.  We had some good days and bad days.  Most mornings were good and evening fishing was inconsistent.  Afternoons were a bust.  

I met a bunch of really good anglers from all over the country this year.  Summer time we get a lot of new anglers or part time anglers.  I enjoyed teaching and getting anglers up to speed on ability this summer.  Watching a newbie or kid land their first fish is entertaining to say the least.  

As of late, the weather has cooled off, especially over night.  The river has cooled down a bit and fishing for a full day is getting a lot better.  Look for this trend to continue to get better, unless we get a warm spell.  Put it this way, if fishing requires a sweatshirt or light jacket at any point of the day things are going to be pretty good.

We are on the brink of fall.  The leaves are about to change color.  Fall is a great time to fish for several reasons.  The first is fishing pressure.  Anglers spread out more during autumn.  The Trinity will start fishing, the lower sac and yuba egg bite takes off, Putah Creek flows drop, the Feather will fill up with steelhead, and the Truckee streamer fishing will get insane.  With many options for fishing anglers will spread out.

Let's talk Yuba or "Newba".  Big changes to the river from the floods last spring will peak your interest.  Fishing runs that you used know by heart that have now rerouted different paths is like learning a whole new river.  I have heard rumors that the flows will be down to 1000 by the end of August.  With the changes to the river I would expect to see a good run of salmon this year.  From the reports I have been hearing lately there are a lot of small fish thriving right now.  The bigger fish have been hard to find.  This is either a result in the big flows all summer making them harder to find.  It also could mean that the floods harmed those fish.  We really wont know until the egg bite.

The Feather was another river with major changes.  If you have been living under a rock you may not have known about the Oroville Dam Spillway malfunction.  When the spillway failed a giant torrent of water came screaming down the Feather.  This has made a huge impact on the river bed.  From what I have seen there is a lot less water to fish in the low flow sections.  Especially for walk and wade anglers.  It may be even more important to be in a drift boat now on the Feather.  However, I was impressed with the amount of fish that were in the river all summer.  Not a lot of big fish but lots of numbers of 14-16" scrappy fish.  The big fish will be here soon.

Putah Creek.  Not a lot of new things to consider here.  The biggy is that the flows have already dropped.  I've heard fishing has been really good as of late.  Generally the fishing gets really good after labor day.  When the flows are between 100-400 it is game on for being able to fish the creek entirely.  

Truckee.  I am most excited about fishing the Truckee this fall.  It has been years since we have had enough water in the river come fall due to the drought.  Typically fall fishing is awesome out there.  The water temps are perfect for fishing all day.  The fish are getting desperate for some protein before the cold winter.  They need to pack on some extra pounds.  I absolutely love streamer fishing out there during this time.  Another thing to look for is a good October Caddis hatch.  From the bug samples we have been doing all summer have shown and great number of them. 

Technical Nymphing Clinic

Mega rainbows swim around in Putah Creek.  They are not easily fooled.  Learn how to be a technical angler and you will be rewarded here. 

Mega rainbows swim around in Putah Creek.  They are not easily fooled.  Learn how to be a technical angler and you will be rewarded here. 

Putah Creek

Let’s face it, California is a nymphing state when it comes to trout fishing. While we all prefer those great days of dry fly fishing when it comes to fishing day in and day out we need to get those flies down to the bottom of the river.

We are offering a technical nymphing class to help get you dial into everything right for those picky fish. We will spend about two hours in the classroom going over rigging, casting, mending, reading water, dead drifting, hook sets, and fighting the fish. The next four hours will be spent on the water getting you in tune to technical fishing. This class will be held on Putah Creek, one of the most technical rivers in the state. You will come away with the confidence that you are presenting your flies to the fish the way they want it. The knowledge you will gain in this class will take you to the next step in your fishing career. Watch your success rate increase with all the tips you get from the class, you will be out fishing your buddies in no time.

Reading water, water speed, seems, holding areas, approach, advanced mending are all things needed to fish Putah Creek

Reading water, water speed, seems, holding areas, approach, advanced mending are all things needed to fish Putah Creek

If you cannot make this date, ask about setting up a private clinic for you.  All we need is two anglers to put this together.  Special discounted rates if you bring a group of 3 or more.

Location: Putah Creek near Winters, CA

Date: March 4, 2017.  6 Hour Class

Cost: $150 per angler

Required Gear: Valid California Fishing License, 9’ - 11’ 4wt or 5wt, Reel with floating line, Waders and wading boots, General Fishing Tackle, Note pad and writing utensil