October on Putah Creek, Fall is a Great Time to Explore it
So here we are, back at the transition fall season again. Sierra rivers are still low after the recent deluge, and lakes have also been slow with the big guys diving deep for the winter. What is one to do? Well, how about our best nearby fishery at Putah Creek in Winters. Yes, that Putah Creek; the much maligned tough fishery of a thousand casts and big fish but only 1:25 minutes away. And after the May presentation by Steve Kerr on how to fish Putah, why not go? So a few TVFF members ventured up on different trips to Winters this month to check it out.
Overall conditions: Clear and sunny days with water levels now at winter levels of 240 cfs (vs. 450 summer cfs). Last year’s fire burns are very evident from the Access 1 at the bridge all the way down through Access 5. While the bad news is that the burn scars are there, the good news is that access is much more direct and easier to the creek. The blackberries and poison oak mostly burned out, but are starting to come back.
I highly suggest if you have the time to check out Putah before the voluntary closure November 15. From mid-November until the end of February all local reputable Putah guides and responsible fisherpersons voluntarily close their fishing on Putah during the rainbow spawning period. But right now the fish are fattening up for the spawn and seem to be on the bite with the cooler weather.
Saturday October 9, 2021, James Kirchner
Took a friend fly fishing for the first time yesterday (Saturday 10/9/2021) to Putah creek. Wasn’t expecting much of anything at all considering how hard Putah can be to fish and crowded the water gets on weekends.
We were on the water at 730. All the lots already had plenty of cars in them so we started at the last lot before the dam. We fished across from the campgrounds for a couple hours with no luck. I had my friend who is a new angler on an indicator set up while I was swinging and stripping small streamers.
We eventually made our way to staircase riffle around 10am. I switched over to a tight line/euro set up. Within 10 minutes we were getting hits. I got one in the tail out of staircase and one in the fast water tight lining a Walts Worm and a 16 natural pheasant tail nymph.
After about an hour we decided to head toward access 5 to finish off what would be our half day trip. Again 10 minutes into fishing the riffle at the end of the long stretch at 5 we were on the fish. All in all I had 10 to hand in the day while my buddy had his first 3 fish to hand on the fly rod. There were plenty more we hooked and lost (clean released). The highlight of the day was when I hooked into my personal best. A 25” stud of a fish shaped like a football. On the 11’ 3wt I wasn’t sure we would get him in but we managed.
What I expected to be a typical 0-3 fish day at Putah turned into my best day there in the 10 yrs or so I have been going. All the fish for the day were on 16-20 pheasant tails. Natural looking seemed to be the key. Tight line is ideal while you can definitely get some good fish on smaller streamers in the morning and evenings. There were even fish rising and rolling for emergers.
Sunday October 10th
Mitchie McCammon: Fished access 4 & 5
We started out fishing below the access 4 riffles, and I finally conquered my fear of wading Putah with the slick rocks. Taking my time it turned out to be much easier than I thought with carefully picking my way across the creek with no problems. And that opened up a great new fishing area on the south side of the creek where I had never been before. As it turns out our group got four fish. Two on an indicator setup throwing beaded olive midges. The others were also on olive zebras using a euro setup and missed another 6 fish on soft takes. But I finally got my very first fish at Putah Creek which is always known as a tough fishery. So the trip was a complete success and very exciting for me personally. And we found that last year’s burn really helped clear out the access to the creek so it’s much easier until the lower brush begins to fill in. I’m so excited to learn the creek that is so close for a spur of the moment trip.
Wednesday October 20th
Started out at Access #1 and fished under the bridge with euro, and with indicator setups. Not much activity except one good grab by a 16” ‘er that chucked the #20 olive Zebra hook on the run down the riffles. Such is life on Putah. Moved downstream a bit, but too many people in the water at the staircase, and didn’t observe any hookups. Too bad; it’s a great area.
Decided to head back to my usual haunts and moved back down to access 5 in the late afternoon. Promptly hooked up with a small 12” ‘er in the riffle on an indicator setup with a tan Pheasant Tail, followed by another small one lost on a euro setup. Then around 5 PM got a big fish hooked up on the euro setup again with a Pheasant tail trailed by a size 16 olive Sexy Walt’s Worm on 6 X tippet. And so the game was on!
What could go wrong; light tippet, clearly a big fish, fast current, nearby brush pile, and the adrenaline going off the charts? When she first surfaced it was clear that this was a big slab of a fish, so just a bit of added pressure to keep her buttoned up. Got her to the net the first time, and she bolts for cover. Worked her back into the soft water just a bit, re-positioned, and get her back close to the net again. But no; she bolts again and isn’t done yet. Work her back in against the current, but ½ way in she bolts upstream in the riffle, which is to my liking in finally getting her upstream. Worked her back downstream with her head up and plane her into the net. Then comes the hard job of lifting the net! This is one heavy, typical Putah Creek female that we see in the fall. Gorgeous color, 26” in length and an estimated 6 pounds of eggs waiting for the November/December spawn coming up. What a party girl!
Three different club members took the challenge in October and all were rewarded with either their first fish, or in the case of James and Rob, very large exciting fall fish. If you are anxious to get out, you should definitely give Putah a good shot. Find someone in the club that knows the creek well and go for it this fall before it closes up.