Generation has been erratic and unpredictable for the most part. We have had more days with no generation this past week, more than we've had all year. The anglers who love to wade below the dam rejoice, but those who like to fish from boats have been challenged to locate the bite, especially when the weather's been bright and sunny with very little wind. It's been an early and late bite when the sun is low on the horizon.
Dam operators have been running water some afternoons. Best chance for that is during the week, not weekends. Weekends, they're leaving the water off. If they do run water, the amount has varied from one to four units. Yes, they've ran as much as 200 megawatts, which is a lot of water for this time of year. The U.S. Corps of Army Engineers has to pump a lot of liquid oxygen into the turbines to run that much.
On the subject of dissolved oxygen, our tailwater, every fall, has issues with low D.O. level in the water flowing from Table Rock Lake. It's not new. I've written about it extensively. But what I have to report is good news for our fishery this fall season. At 130 foot deep on Table Rock at the dam, there is water there with D.O. readings at two parts per million (ppm) which is great for this time of year! The water temperature is 51-52 degrees which is also very good. The colder the water stays, the better is holds O2 and keeps our trout healthy and strong. Our lake condition is nothing like last year which was the worse year on record.
As mentioned before in this report, during days when there's no generation, fishing is best early and late. Our guides are reporting the bite gets really tough after 9 a.m. and picks back up after 6 p.m.. Now this changes if we have one of two conditions -- wind and/or clouds. Wind breaks up the surface of the water, and the fish don't feel exposed and will feed. Clouds do basically the same thing. But if they run any water at all, that changes everything. Moving water stimulates good feeding patterns for fish because there's food in the water moving down lake. Holding trout won't usually turn down an easy meal.
First, bait fishing. Our water is pretty clear, so light line is a must. We've seen people throwing some pretty heavy line off the dock lately and bottom line -- they're just fishing, not catching. Even freshly stocked trout can see swivels attached to hooks and 10-pound line running from a glob of Powerbait. You might catch a couple, but if you want to catch more trout, you have to use light line. Two-pound is best. Four-pound is okay. Green line or clear line best.
Air-injected night crawlers are catching more browns than Powerbaits. But rainbows are taking floating Gulp and Powerbait dough and eggs fairly well. The best colors have been pink and chartreuse and sunrise egg, too. Dock fishing has been fair early and late. Some mornings have really been good though with some nice rainbows being caught off the upper end of the dock.
Out in boats, just below Fall Creek has been a good area for catching some rainbows that seemed to have traveled out of the trophy area. One 21-inch rainbow came in today caught just below the boundary on bait. The Short Creek area to Trout Hollow has been good and then down at the Landing. One angler reported seeing dozens and dozens of rainbows surfacing this morning at the Landing, signifying a load of trout have been stocked there in the last couple of days.
Leaves are starting to fall on the lake's surface and that always attracts trout. That also creates problems for boaters. When we check out our boats in the fall, we advise the operator that floating leaves will gather on the front side of a motor as the boat is underway, creating cavitation. Air gets sucked down to the prop making the motor rev up as if the prop had spun or the motor had jumped out of gear. The remedy is to stop the boat dead in the water, then put the motor in reverse and blow the leaves out.
We'll start to see trout hang around groups of leaves in the lake, picking off small insects that come off the leaves. We target these fish using small Zebra Midges under a small indicator, either fishing with a fly rod or spin rod. It's fun! Black has been a good color for us either with a black or copper head, size #14, #16 or #18, 6x or 7x tippet. Fish a couple of midges 12 inches apart, with the first fly only 12 inches deep.
Anglers are reporting that most of the time the "bite" is very, very slight. The trout are coming up and "tasting" the fly, taking it in their mouth without moving with it. This only vibrates the indicator. You have to watch the indicator closely, and if it moves, be quick to set the hook because the trout will spit the fly as soon as he realizes it's thread and metal, not organic.
Zebras can be used anywhere and everywhere on the lake, not just in the trophy area.
Fly fishing below the dam has been so limited all year because of constant generation, so the only areas people have had to fish are around the outlets and a few other small spots. But that's changing, and anglers are responding in big numbers reportedly packing in from the cable past Trophy Run. But I'm hearing glowing reports of nice quality rainbows and browns being caught on a variety of flies.
My friend Brian and his wife waded in below outlet #2 and fished a Harvester Midge and caught a few big browns. Brian said his wife landed her best brown trout to date, about 19 inches. Brian landed one about six pounds. Those are some nice trout and a good indicator of what fishing might be through September and October.
Brown trout are definitely starting to move up in the lake. Anglers up around the outlets are seeing more and more show up plus people fishing the lower trophy area are catching a few good ones. We'll see browns move up and out for the next 6 to 8 weeks.
Since I couldn't sleep past 3:30 this morning, I walked down to the dock office to get some work done. There was a slight fog on the lake which tempted me to go out. After a few tasks, I headed up lake in the Grizzly with no trouble seeing where I was headed.
Some guys who fished with guides yesterday told me they'd seen a couple big browns in the Narrows, so that's where I wanted to at least start. I figured I had two hours all to myself, and I was close -- the first boat came through at 7:30 a.m. which gave me three hours.
The full moon was hidden by clouds, but I could see pretty well. Thinking brown trout, I tied on a tan sculpin, then a big articulated streamer. I had two hits on the streamer, but they were small fish. Not until I tied on a purple, beaded Mo Hair Leech did the action start.
I caught a dozen rainbows up to 16 inches on the leech, casting it at a 45-degree angle downstream. There was a slight current most of the time I fished there. The strikes were fast and solid -- I didn't miss many bites. But no browns.
The streamer bite subsided as it got light, so I switched to a Zebra Midge under a small indicator. The best one was a #16 red with a dark head fished about two-feet deep in the channel. I tried to cast to some feeding trout in shallow water, but they were too spooky.
Next was a #16 tan scud, but nothing was interested. I had to try a jig, so I tied on a 1/16th-ounce sculpin/burnt orange with a brown head, two-pound line and caught rainbows pretty consistently for about 30 minutes.
I worked on down towards Fall Creek fishing the scud, then back to the midge, but couldn't scrounge a nibble. I pulled out the jig again and caught four rainbows before heading in.
Yes, I filmed this morning after it grew light enough for the camera, and I planned to edit a compilation for this report. However, when I returned to the dock, a young man was fishing with his family and wanted to see us do One Cast. I even videoed him catching a trout off the dock using a pink worm under a float.
I was setting everything up, adjusting the camera on the mount when the GoPro came unscrewed and dropped into the lake. Straight down.
We thought we could retrieve it with a net, but there's a lot of sticks and leaves down on the lake bottom. Matt, from our office, repeatedly dove down and tried to retrieve it, too -- even without a wet suit at first, but . . . as of publish time, no camera.