Sunday, April 17, 2016

Opened Early - The Middle Fork of the Feather River

Upper Feather River Middle Fork

The Middle Fork of the Feather River between A-23 bridge above Portola and Mohawk Bridge in Mohawk is the only Sierran trout stream in California that opens the first Saturday in April. For anglers who are not in the know, this early opener can be a frustrating game of hide-and-seek. I tried fishing the opener last year but the severe drought hindered my chances of finding fish. This year was different.

The El Nino storms of 2016 have helped bring up water levels and pack the Sierras with much needed snow. Good flows and warm weather welcomed me as I made my first stop in Clio.

Clio is the furthest "town" upstream that provides access to the MF before it turns into a canyon. The water in the upper MF has a brown tea colored tint that begins to clear further downstream. This darker tinted water is quite deceptive at first glance. Most fly anglers would take one look at the upper MF and leave because of its tint but trout do live there.

Good Snowpacked Sierras

Jon Baiocchi is a guide that fishes the upper section of the MF every year during the opener. He has mastered this section and has found that the most important detail when fishing the opener is water temperature. Jon has also caught a few brown trout in this early season section which is very cool.

Tea Tinted MF Water

I dedicated this trip to fishing streamers in order to try and catch a rare MF brown. Throughout the day I was able to find one solid take and a few bumps. When I finally hooked my first fish I thought it was a brown, mission accomplished! As it spun itself around to try and throw the hook, the sides of the fish flashed a silvery hue with no signs of a red lateral line. Once I netted the fish I saw that it was not a brown but instead a rainbow. Mission failed...

First Upper MF Bow

Although there were bugs flying around everywhere, I had a difficult time finding fish. I covered a lot of water from Clio to Graeagle and was a bit bummed that the fishing was so slow however it was nice to fish some new water.
The water is still a bit cold but once it warms up I'll give this section another shot before shifting my focus to the canyon.

NFFR Baby Bow

On the way down HWY 70 I stopped and fished an open section of the NFFR. I was able to rise a few smaller fish with a caddis dry but with the wind gusting through canyon I wasn't able to hook any. I changed tactics to tight lining and caught a little guy.


  1. That's a nice rainbow Matthew. I find that the MFFR trout start taking flies readily once the water temps get up to 55-57. It's frustrating to see Gray Drakes hatching there in the early season yet nobody is looking up. Thanks for the props and best of luck to you wherever you fish.- J.

    1. Thanks Jon. You are the Feather River Middle Fork guy! I've never thrown dries in the Upper MF but after seeing all the bugs flying around this trip I'll definitely try it the next time I get up there.
      Thanks for sharing what you've learned. Good luck out there to you as well.

    2. June - mid morning can provide hatches and eager fish, but the last hour of light (the magic hour) is where it's at. E/C Caddis, Yellow sallies, and stimi's in yellow. Bring a headlamp to get back to your vehicle and make loud noises to let the mountain lions know you're there ;)

  2. Thoughts on 2017 opener? I'm thinking of driving up tomorrow.

    1. I think it's going to be really high this year. The NF is still raging with run-off so it'll be tough but there should be some fish around. I'm keeping my eye on reports, especially Jon's, but I'm not holding my breath. Good luck and let me know how it goes.