Monday, June 8, 2015

You Should've Been There 45 Years Ago

Yellow Creek Meadows

With 95-100 degree temperatures in the first week of June, I'm going to say its unofficially summer. School is officially over which leaves me with more time to spend on the water. I have a feeling this summer is going to be a long hot one.
This week I spent some time on the Feather fishing for steelhead as a small warm up for Yellow Creek where Amanda and I fished and camped for the first time.

Feather River
Its been awhile since I've fished for steelhead but the low-flow section is looking good with hatches of caddis, mayflies, and midges. The CFS flow is higher than usual due to the farming season but wadeable if you are careful. I've always found that the hardest part of steelhead fishing is finding the fish. Taking the time to poke through pocket water, drift through riffles, and tight-line through deep holes are the only ways you'll find these beauties.

Wild Beauty

After eliminating all of my usual holes and riffles, I finally found where the fish were. However, the only way I could present my flies to the fish was by stand upstream, dead-drift my indicator and at the same time feed line directly downstream. This technique can be difficult to pull-off because if you set the hook, you could potentially pull the flies out of the fishes mouth instead of hook them. I was able to get two BIG beautiful fish to take with this method.

At first I thought I had hooked into a big sucker or a spring salmon because it felt heavy but didn't fight hard. After getting the fish closer towards me I saw that it was a steelhead. There was no way my dinky net would be able net it, so instead I did the famous steelhead tail grab and brought it to the bank where I could admire it. Definitely one of the better fish I've caught out there. A couple more casts in I hooked another steelhead that was a lot more chrome but lost I it before I could net it. My luck ran out the rest of the day so I decided to call it quits. It was starting to get hot and I didn't bring my sunscreen!

Yellow Creek
Manda and I planned a weekend camping trip to Yellow Creek to beat the heat. I'd never been there before but have heard and read good things about it. The road to the campground off HWY 89 was well-maintained and easy to drive on. Once we drove over Butt Creek bridge and through the woods we finally arrived at our destination. Meadows of tall green grass, a spring creek flowing through the center, and pine trees surrounding the borders between valley and forest. The great Humbug Valley!

Humbug Valley

Once we set up camp, I headed out to scout what I was up against. Never have I seen water so clear and pristine with a bottom mixed of volcanic stone and aquatic weed beds. The tall grass lined the entire bank and thick bushes grew over parts of the creek providing ample shade and cover for the fish. As I waded upstream I saw little fish dart out of the weed beds to try and get avoid me. The fish were small but they were there.

Small Creek Fly Fishing

"You should have been there 45 years ago!" was what I was told during my visit to the local fly shop. The spring creek section of Yellow Creek was once known to have supported trophy-sized brown trout. Several decades have passed since the last big brown was caught however rumors tell of a few living trophies that have defied extinction. The creek hosts an abundance of weed beds and undercuts that could help keep the big ones hidden during the day until night when they come out to feed. My expectations and chances of finding a trophy were extremely low. However, before I could start looking for a trophy I had to first figure out how to fish the creek.

Beautiful Cool Slow Water

Spring creek fly fishing is a whole new level of fly fishing. Presentation, fly selection, and stealth are critical. With an emphasis on the stealth, you basically need to become a trout ninja blending into the grass, stalking the fish that you see, and try to make them rise. This is a challenge that will make you forget about the fish's size and was by far the greatest fun of the trip.

First fish, a Nice Brown Trout

First Brookies I've Ever Caught

The fish I caught out there were not easy to catch. It took some hard work to try and accurately present the fly to them without spooking them away. The creek hosts a rare trifecta of trout. Brookies, browns, and bows. This trip will always be remembered as the one where I caught my first brook trout!

Rare Meadow Bow

Yellow Creek's meadow section is an fantastic place for small spring creek fly fishing. Something I notice was that the fish were only to be found within 15 minutes of the campground. The further upstream or downstream I waded the less fish I found. Perhaps it is the natural degradation of the area or maybe the fish just like it there better? What ever it may be, I believe that CalTrout did a great job restoring this unique spring creek habitat.

All fisheries go through a cycle prime and decline and many believe Yellow Creek is going through the latter. Here's to hoping that it gets better so I don't have to tell the next generation of Yellow Creek visitors "You should have been there X amount of years ago when there were actually fish there!"

Although I couldn't find a trophy fish, I can cross Yellow Creek off my bucket list as a place I must experience. There are very few spring creeks in California as accessible as Yellow Creek and every fly fishermen owes it to themselves to challenge their skills here.

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