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Monday, May 20, 2013

Pre-Publication of "Pro-Tips"...loooong

Below you will find the pre-publication "Pro-Tip" feature on Water Temperatures that will appear in the summer 2013 issue of  Sierra Fisherman magazine ( It is timely, most especially this season because of the minimal amount of snow received in the mountains during the winter or 2012/2013. The low snow-pack and in turn minimal amount of run-off will affect all fly anglers' planning as to WHERE, WHEN and HOW to fly fish selected water through-out California.
My "Early Season Prognosis" remains accurate in that I've forecasted conditions will be "minimally three weeks" ahead of a normal season. For a perspective consider this information relative to the Truckee area of the Sierra. The Truckee River from the town to the inflow of Prosser Creek is currently at 41% of the historical average. From the Boca inflow (Little Truckee) into the Grand Canyon of the Truckee the flows are currently at 77% of normal.

So...Water heed...
In our pursuit of game-fish we always seek water where we will have our best chance of locating them. Instinctively, while “reading the water”, we search for three basic requirements for finding a prime fish area; food, protection from predators and shelter from the current…or whatever similar concepts/terms one wants to apply.

That being done, there is a single caveat we must consider…water temperatures. Whether in moving waters, lakes or ponds, water temps are important. Too little or too much oxygen can put the fish off relative to their feeding activity. We want to find the best temperatures that are conducive to optimum feeding behavior.

Another consideration relative to water temperatures is the type of water. For instance, a tail-water trout is acclimated to lower temps than a freestone trout, Shad prefer certain water speeds and bass have more tolerance for high water temps and they will move to areas where their prey is most comfortable...regardless of the water-temps.
This issue’s pro-contributors continue to impart unique concepts and fresh ideas. It is the reason why this “Pro-Tip” page has become a valuable part of Sierra Fisherman magazine; it informs the readers who in turn become better anglers. 

Favorable water temperatures for trout vary depending on location. For example, on the Middle Fork Feather River, trout seem to start taking flies around 53-55 degrees. The native fish in the MFFR deal with much warmer overall water temperatures and have over time acclimated to deal with their surroundings.  On the Truckee River fish will take flies at temperatures slightly lower as they have adapted to a colder watershed. Even on stillwaters, water temperature rules can be misleading; the special strain of Rainbows at Eagle Lake still actively feed and take flies in the mid to high 40’s during the late fall season.   

The bottom line is that these fish need to eat to survive and sometimes will break all the rules. Understanding Mother Nature is a constant learning process. “Local knowledge” is the best answer to really know about the variables in each body of water. Fly shops, guides, and current literature can give us anglers a helping-hand when prospecting new waters and finding the most productive water temperatures for that area we plan to fish.
Jon Biaocchi

Ideal water temperatures for shad, the “poor man’s tarpon”, are 56-62 degrees. There are other considerations for success. Water levels are an important factor when considering which valley river to fish.  Water speeds from 2-4 mph are best. Look for “soft-water”; a slight upwelling or behind a surface obstruction. Locate water depth in the 5’-7’ range. There is no need to guess where the shad are located in the water column. Simply, probe the bottom where they are; the only option you have to effectively get hook-ups. How to get there is the fly angler’s choice. My preference is a selection of integrated sinking lines in various grain-weights. Some “old-schoolers” still insist on shooting heads. Regardless, get down!

You know you are fishing during an active spawn when you see erratic surface activity late in the evening.  The males display bloodied faces and the females show bruised sides. This is the result of the female shad’s “broadcast spawn” when the males aggressively ram and smack into her sides. The eggs are then forcefully expelled from the female and free-fall to the bottom of the stream.  There are no redds. The males then fertilize the general area where the eggs settle to the bottom. This is literally “tough-love” mating behavior.
Al Smatsky

Most people assume that bass move from deep to shallow water depths to find a “comfortable” temperature during the hottest months of summer; deep during the day and shallow during the evening through morning. While this is true, the reason why is not what most people assume.  The most efficient use of food for a bass (percentage of digested food left over for body growth after fulfilling the basic requirements to sustain life) happens at a temperature range of 75-85 degrees. They do fine when the water gets hot. 
Water temperature is important because of the effect it has on the basses prey. Cray fish and small bait fish become stressed in warming water and frogs and macro-invertebrates become lethargic…making them all vulnerable to predation.  The key to success through-out the day while summer bass fishing is knowing the main prey of the specific body of water you are fishing and how it is affected by changing water temperature. Basses prey will move as water warms or cools. Find the food and you will find the bass.

Hogan Brown
As a  fly fishing guide I do my best to simplify situations. Here are couple formulas for trout that I live by; COLD water means trout will hold in slower water and in WARM water the trout will hold in faster water.

In the winter months in the Eastern Sierra, I find that the fish are holding in the slow plunge pools, slickly runs and tail-outs. We call it “leech water”; the fish lay on the bottom and leeches are able to easily cling.  My toes are my thermometer and I consider my best efforts to be when the sun is the highest in the sky. These are days when we don’t take a lunch break. The slower, silt bottom runs of the Lower Owens, south of highway 6, are a perfect winter scenarios…slow and slick.
As the sun gets higher in the sky and the icy-cold, sweet water of the Sierra warms; the fish go into a hunting mode. Water temps in the 50-65 degree range allows the trout’s gills to process oxygen the best. Above the high-end of the temp range, the fish migrate into faster water; then I look for water with braided currents or spikes of water on the surface. This turbulence puts air in the water and provides shelter and shade.

I wet-wade when water temperatures rise above 60 degrees. Once water becomes bath-water like, it is time to pull the plug on the day; the grab turns-off and the fish switch to a survival mode; feeding is done nocturnally. Most important, in warm water, trout have less oxygen and in most cases, even upon proper resuscitation, never revive.

Pat Jaeger

Try and watch how closely you control your own temperature range sometime. We turn on the air conditioning when hot, or stand next to a heat source when chilled.  The fish can't...they are Ectothermic. They are roughly the same temperature as the surrounding environment. Fish metabolism and behavior, are in large part, driven by temperatures; so too the aquatic insects.
That makes water temperature something well worth studying for the fly fisher. My Fish Pond armored thermometer is a high-value tool in my kit; second only to my bug seine.

In winter, fish try and find warmth, and may "sun themselves" in the shallows.
Or, they may slow way down and pod up in deeper waters.

In summer, they will seek cooler waters. A confluence of a snow melt creek or an underwater spring attracts fish. Two to three degrees make a big difference to them.

 If you follow the temps, you will find fish...

Jim Landis




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