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Stories from the valley

Hitting the lakes when the water is cold and high

Contributed by Tim Johnson

With temperatures rising to over 100 degrees for the first time this year, it is easy to forget about all of the rain and snow in the Sierra’s. Maybe you catch a brief story about skiing in July but hey you are just out hiking or camping. After 35 years of fly fishing and hiking the Sierra’s, I can tell you the effects of this winter are just starting to make themselves known on our summer recreation plans. As such, it may time to be adaptable and make new plans – I did!

Normally the small trout streams I fish are in their prime in June. The water has started to come down and more importantly warm up. The bugs are popping and the trout active. It is really hard to beat casting an emerging caddisfly on a June evening about sunset, as the trout start to feed during the evening rise. Not this year!

A recent foray over the Cosumnes River near my home in Placerville was all I needed to confirm that this year stream fishing would need to wait until August or even later. This backed up a recent report I read that spring would not come to the alpine areas of the Sierras until August this year. The water is just too high and far too cold. While the intrepid fly fisher is never deterred, it would be far from fun to wade the creeks with numb feet and the chance the next step on a slick rock would be your last.

This reality has sent me happily to the many outstanding lakes in the same region. Whether high elevation or the many lakes in the foothills, they are a great option when streams are months from being able to fish.

So grab a boat or just scout the edges of the lakes with a grey hackle morning or evening when the trout cruise for the emerging midges. Lakes along Highway 50 and 88 and Highway 4 are spectacular. Great for a day fishing, picnicking or as I often do when things are slow – napping in the fresh breeze coming off the water.