Fall 2014/Spring 2015 Delta Fishing Report

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November 17, 2014

San Joaquin, False River, Fisherman's Cut, Dutch Slough, Middle River

Water temp: 57-59

Water Clarity: 2-8 feet
Stripers- Fishing is poor to fair. Unsettled weather, some windy days and a rapid drop in water temperature has had a less than positive effect on fishing. With the exception of the ever present juveniles, not many fish show on the finder and even fewer at the end of the fly line.

The trollers have moved to the channel edges, dropped anchor and switched to soaking bullheads with good results. Their success suggests that the bigger fish have moved to deeper water at least temporally until they adjust to the new lower water temperatures.

It's hard to predict what will happen this coming week. The bad news is that we have two weather fronts moving through. The good news is that it looks like we have a couple of days of rain which should hold water temperatures at their present levels.

Don't let the less than stellar rating stop you from fishing. You MAY not catch the big one when you go out this week but you damn sure won't if you don't go at all.
Topwater - Still no break through days but we keep on trying. Just enough grabs to keep you coming back.

Subsurface - It's time to experiment. If you see fish on the finder, try both quick and slow strips, long pauses and short pauses. Same with the flies, big and small, chartreuse/white, black/gray/white, pink/white. If the bait guys are right, work the edges of shoals close to deeper water. You're going to have to work for your fish but you may get a good reward for your efforts.
November 10, 2014

San Joaquin, False River, Fisherman's Cut, Dutch Slough, Middle River

Water temp: 61-63

Water Clarity: 2-8 feet
Stripers - Fishing is fair. The number of fish is not the problem, it's the size. Finding a fish over four pounds is a struggle requiring the covering of lots of water and some good presentation and casting  techniques. Almost every shallow water along the main channel will show some fish, mostly dinks. But fish of any size just seem to be absent from the system. Moving inside the delta seems to just make things worse with fewer and smaller fish. What seems to work is playing the numbers game, finding a school of larger dinks and just hoping that big mo will be hanging out somewhere close by. While big mo may not bite, chances for a 7 to ten pound fish are not completely hopeless. Topwater - No real change from the last two weeks.

Subsurface - 1/0 clousers, black/white, gray/white, Chartreuse/white, all seem to work. Again, a long cast mixed with enough time allowed for  the fly to sink and a good snappy retrieve should yield some fish.
November 3, 2014

San Joaquin, False River, Fisherman's Cut, Dutch Slough, Piper Slough, Middle River

Water temp: 62-64

Water Clarity: 2-8 feet
Stripers - Fishing is good. Actually, fishing is good one day and fair the next. The fact that it was so good today really was responsible for the move up from just plain fair. Could it be that the recent rain actually brought a few fish up into the delta? We're covering a lot of water and mostly fishing tule lines, and weed lines. We're not spending a lot of time on open flates or rock walls.

Tides, all over the place. The majority of the time the outgoing is the hot tide but today we picked up a 14 pounder at the start of the incoming. It's basically, "You can't catch fish if you're not fishing."
Topwater- We're finding more action but still haven't brought a big fish to the top. The best so far, about two pounds. We'll just keep throwing mornings and evenings.

Subsurface - My guys have been tossing a variety of flies, from Puglisi style bluegill to black over white clousers, and of course, all kinds of variations on the chartreuse over white clouser.  All catch fish when a decent cast is thrown accompanied by a good striper retrieve.
October 27, 2014

San Joaquin, False River, Fisherman's Cut, Dutch Slough, Piper Slough, Taylor Slough, Potato Slough, Middle River

Water temp: 65-66

Water Clarity: 2-6 feet
Stripers - Fishing is fair. I've downgraded fishing this week since neither I nor any of my contacts have scored a fish over four pounds. That amounts to about 100 hours of fishing by some pretty good rods. Another thing that I've noticed is that we're picking up a substantial number of underweight fish. Does that mean that there is a real lack of bait around?

I attempted some trips going into the interior of the delta and just haven't found much to brag about. After three to four hours of few fish I find myself wandering back to the big water. (Since this report only reflects the fishing up to the 27th, I have to add that in the four days since that time, some fish of greater size have been caught. Things are looking up a little.)

Topwater - Finally, some bigger fish have responded to repeated attempts to get some topwater grabs. Not really big fish but acceptable. The first 45 minutes after sunrise have been the most productive and days with a little ripple on the water better than those flat calm ones. A white gurgler with a long tail has done the trick.

Subsurface: I may be preaching to the choir but have to cover this subject one more time. On almost every outing, after graphing fish and my customers not getting grabs, I've asked to make a few casts and immediately stuck fish. I can only ask a guy so many times to do the following without bringing on frustration in what's supposed to be a fun outing. If after numerous attempts, a change isn't made, I just have to accept the fact that we're not going to catch many fish that day.

1. Use the proper line. T-14 or LC 13, head or integrated.
2. Be able to cast 50-60 feet. the longer the better.
3. Point the rod directly at the fly, rod tip in the water. NO ANGLE.
4. Allow for the line to sink according to conditions. While counting down is part of the equation, if the boat is moving and the line ends up at a greater angle to the rear than 45 degrees, it is starting to rise up and be trolled. Strip before that happens. Do what you need to to get the line within a foot or so of the bottom, dump line, mend, change the angle of your cast. Figure it out!
5. IMPORTANT, IMPORTANT, IMPORTANT! Use a series of SHARP strips about a foot long, along with pauses of different lengths to retrieve the fly. Vary the speed of the retrieve until you get consistent takes. Use the pauses to allow the fly to sink back to its target depth.
6. Don't pull the fly away from fish with a rod set. Use a strip set. You may get over 15 grabs on a single retrieve. After a while, you will feel when to use a strip set to stick the fish.
7. If the fish isn't big enough to put you on the reel. strip him in!. Over playing an undersize fish is not good for the fish and not good fishing practice.
October 20, 2014

San Joaquin, False River, Fisherman's Cut, Dutch Slough, Piper Slough, Taylor Slough

Water temp: 68-70

Water Clarity: 2-4 feet
Stripers - Fishing is fair to good. I didn' t get out very much this week but from what others have told me, the fish are scattered with a mix of dinks to ten pounders spread throughout the main channels of the delta. For success, fish a lot of water. Don't stay on a spot more than a few minutes if not producing. Work the sweet spots; tule points, points along rock walls, the soft side of current seams, weed lines. open areas of flats. Topwater - It finally happened. A good, almost great, day of topwater. We worked some shallow berms and picked up good numbers of LMB and some three pound stripers on an early morning bite.

Subsurface - Small to medium sized flies, 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 flies are producing better than larger ones. As always, allow the fly to sink to the bottom third of the water column, and don't forget the pauses when stripping.
October 13, 2014

San Joaquin, False River, Fisherman's Cut, Dutch Slough, Piper Slough, Taylor Slough

Water temp: 69-71

Water Clarity: 2-4 feet
Stripers - Fishing is fair to good. The fishing was tougher this week if one was looking for fish over five pounds. Plenty of dinks though to keep one alert at the other end of the fly line. While some blamed the fall off on the full moon, I believe that the trollers, working the river from the Antioch bridge to the mouth of Middle River, cull out the fish over six pounds on a regular basis. Schools of these bigger fish appear in certain locations only to diminish in number as the days pass. I may be upsetting some people when I say such things but the fact is that most of the trollers I see on weekends keep their two fish each.

Tide has been a large factor in getting the fish to eat as well. Numerous time last week we found what appeared to be decent schools of medium to large fish but had difficulty getting any to bite.

I did hear of good numbers of larger fish west of the Antioch bridge.
Topwater-- Haven't had a decent fish come up on top this fall. I just keep on trying.

Subsurface- The outgoing tide has been the tide of choice for the past two weeks. Getting the fly down to the fish and keeping it there will greatly increase your number of hookups. If you're not snagging bottom now and then, you're just not fishing deep enough. And don't forget to add PAUSES to your strips. When you strip the next time you might find that a striper has taken the fly on the drop. If so, turn that next strip into a strip-set!
October 6, 2014

San Joaquin, Potato Slough, False River, Fisherman's Cut, Dutch Slough, Piper Slough, Taylor Slough

Water temp: 71-73

Water Clarity: 2-4 feet
Stripers - Fishing is fair to good. The sudden onslaught of hot weather and fairly weak tides have thrown the fish off. What had been a big upswing in decent sized fish has tapered off to schools of dinks with fish to 3 or 4 pounds the best that they have to offer. A school of larger fish was found in the Frank's Tract area but was pounded by fly flingers, trollers and bait slingers until the fishing fell off.

With conditions the way they are, a fish finder is a really important tool. While they are not fail proof, they tell you when you're over fish if set up correctly. First, take off the Fish ID function. It's useless. Learn to read the difference between weeds and fish arcs. Set up the sensitivity so that any static on the screen only shows under power and the bottom is a good, solid image. While the fish finder will not show fish working the rock walls and other fish to the side, usually the schools are large enough that a few fish will pop up on the screen. Once you get your finder tuned in and are confident of what you are seeing, your fish count will go way up.
Topwater - The mornings have just not been the time to fish topwater. Not much happening. However, the evenings (from the reports of others) are reported to be just the opposite. In my mind, it's always worth it to throw some topwater in low light, whether morning or evening. When it happens, it's one of the most exciting moments in fly fishing.

Subsurface - Schools of dinks to 2-3 pound fish can be found on almost any flat and on the points of tulles and rock walls. However, with the warming weather, don't expect the fish to slam the fly. Most of the takes are very subtle. So much so that the novice angler may miss them entirely. Some key things to do. Make sure your rod tip is pointed directly at the fly. Slow your strip down and work very close to the bottom. Watch the sag in your line and if it changes and straightens, use a quick strip set. Likewise, if you feel you've suddenly picked up a small piece of weed, use a quick strip set. You just may find a fish on the line when you do.
September 29, 2014

San Joaquin, Potato Slough, False River, Fisherman's Cut, Dutch Slough, Piper Slough, Taylor Slough

Water temp: 69-71

Water Clarity: 2-4 feet
Stripers - Fishing is good. The larger fish seem more scattered and not quite as prevalent as the previous week but still, chances are excellent of hooking a 10 pound plus fish every time out. In the mean time, ,there are plenty of 3-5 pound fish to pull the rod down and occasionally put one on the reel. A fair number of fish are moving into the sloughs adjacent to the main river, enough to make it worth while to fish the ends of tule berms and points.

Morning temperatures are still warm enough for shorts and mid day temps not overly hot. The winds have been manageable most days with the wind speed dropping from morning highs to sometimes dead calm in the afternoons
Topwater - Nothing new to report here. Just dinks and LMB coming up so far. Just don't give up. Some morning or evening all hell will break loose. You won't know if you don't try.

Subsurface - If there is ONE thing that can improve the catch rate of the novice striper fisher, it's learning the proper retrieve. I had two anglers new to the delta on my boat this week. Both started out using the standard woolly bugger strip, and continued, even after my numerous attempts to correct. No fish. Their partners were having no problems at all however, bringing in lots of fish. When they finally "got it" they suddenly were keeping up or even exceeding their partners.

1. Judge the water flow and plan your cast so you are not retrieving in water so heavy you can't get your fly down.
2. Cast as far away from the boat as you can without strain, you're going to be doing it for six to eight hours! Stripers are notorious for following the fly before striking.
3. Count the line down. Stripers like the lower half of the water column. If you start stripping early, you'll be fishing over the top of the fish.
4. Use 8-12" snappy strips, (not little woolly bugger strips) in a syncopated pattern (Mix it up, 3, p, 1, p, 3, p ,2, p, etc.) with long pauses designed to allow the line to drift back down to the proper level after each series of strips.
4. Slow your strip down in heavy water, speed it up in lighter water. Fish the line all the way to the boat. (The famous Delta Dangle.)
5. Keep that rod tip in the water and the rod pointed directly at the fly. Use a strip set with grabs, not a rod set that will pull the fly away.
September 22, 2014

San Joaquin, False River, Sandmound Slough, Taylor Slough, Piper Slough, Fisherman's Cut

Water temp: 71-73

Water Clarity: 2-4 feet
Stripers - Fishing is good. The fishing has been good, the weather less so. We're transitioning into fall and the days have  been very unstable with heavy cloud cover, wind, and even rain and little lightening making up the weather for the week. Mornings are still warm enough to wear shorts but the afternoon temperatures (thankfully) are well off the hundreds. Wind has been the major problem of the week, making both casting and boat handling a chore.

Some of the schools of fish located earlier in the month have scattered while some really large schools of dinks remain. However, weather permitting, almost every flat and the edges of a cast to tule berm yield a few fish. A good fish finder seems almost essential in these situations. The outgoing tide has generated most of the action with the incoming producing a much slower bite and a lot of false takes.

Daily fishing reports can be found by following the Facebook link above.
Topwater - We're catching a few fish almost every day on top but all of them, dinks. It's just a matter of keep on trying. Sooner or later some big fish will be at the right place at the right time.

Subsurface - With the wind pushing the boat around much of the week, it was very difficult to get the fly down to the fish. Experience showed itself with anglers able to accurately judge the depth of their line, along with a strip that didn't bring the fly up the water column, did well. Other anglers struggled, especially those who's casting skills prevented good line management in windy conditions.

If there was any secret of the week, it would be, "get the fly down!" to near the bottom and use a strip that keeps it there. If the fly seems like it's coming up, just increase the length and frequency of the pauses in the retrieve.
September 15, 2014

San Joaquin, False River, Sandmound Slough, Taylor Slough, Piper Slough

Water temp: 71-73

Water Clarity: 2-4 feet
Stripers - Fishing is good. A good number of fish are in the San Joaquin system now, but as usual for this time of year, most are small. However, it seems that almost every school holds a couple of fish that are large enough to put you on the reel if you can get past the juveniles. If you locate a large school, work upstream to the front since the largest fish seem to hang there. Get the line DOWN to get into those fish or you'll just keep picking up the dinks.

The fish have been willing where ever found but the best bit has been during the running tides with a definite low at tide change.
Topwater - Very hard to predict whether it's going to be a good day or bad one. Some days the fish are willing and easy to get strikes from, other days you can't bring up a fish no matter what. However, it's always worth the effort, early in the morning to give it a shot. Long casts, constant strips, keep stripping until you feel the weight of the fish.

Subsurface Some days the fish are so willing, you don't even need to strip the fly in, just cast, let it sink and you'll find a fish on the end of the line when you start to strip in. Other days you get a series of false takes and then feel the weight of the fish ending with a strip strike. I'm finding fish in water from two to twenty feet deep. Count the line down and start a series of quick strips mixed with pauses when 3/4 of the way to the bottom. Two and a half to four inch Chartreuse over white clousers do the trick most days.
September 8, 2014

San Joaquin, False River

Water temp: 71-73

Clarity: 2-4 feet
Stripers - Fishing is good. Not exactly consistent, fishing is generally good. Some days are better than others but you're going to catch at least a dozen fish, even obounds is a real bonus.

The main arm of the SJ river from the Antioch Bridge to the mouth of the Mok and openings to sloughs such as False River and Fisherman's Cut are
holding enough fish for a long days work. I haven't found the need to go inside the delta but I've heard good reports about Franks, Sandmound and Holland Cut.
Topwater - Still an on and off affair. Some days the fish come up in the morning. Other days, it's nothing but casting practice. The time around low tide appears to be more productive except when a north wind is blowing. That seems like a turn off for any action, even slowing the subsurface bite.

Subsurface - If you're using a graph, you should be able to locate some decent sized schools in water anywhere from 5 to 15 feet deep, especially along shorelines and flats. Grabs are easy to get with the larger schools but we've found that when graphing just  few fish, a faster retrieve will do a better job of bringing on strikes.
September 1, 2014

San Joaquin, False River

Water Temp: 71-73

Clarity: 3-4 feet
Stripers - Fishing is Good. While the big fish are not showing in numbers, the fish in the 18-22 inch class are plentiful enough to provide a very satisfying day on the water. 20 to 30 fish per rod is not too much to expect if you fish some good holding water. Almost all the tule lines and rock walls will yield fish, especially in water less than 15 feet A good graph will help you locate schools. Once on them, try to stay on them for lots of  hookups and doubles if fishing with a friend. Topwater - It doesn't happen every day, and sometimes the fish are small but when it happens, it's worth the early morning start it takes to get into this action. Toss a white gurgler, silvery creas fly or one of Charlie's Pole Dancers out and then use a steady strip to bring it back to the boat. And remember, stripers will miss the fly numerous times. Keep striping until you feel the weight of the fish before lifting the rod tip.

Subsurface - I'm finding fish almost everywhere but some schools are small while others are fun sized. Try rock walls, the edges of tules, flats 5-8 feet deep. If the fish are small, move on, if decent, try to stay with the school. Schools generally move with direction of the current, up river on an incoming, downstream on an out going. However generally not quite as fast as the current itself.
August 25, 2014

San Joaquin,False River, Washington Cut, Frank's Tract, Sandmound Slough

Water Temp:71-73

Water Clarity: 4-5 feet
Stripers - Fishing is Good. Lots of fish in the system but most are dinks. However there are enough fish in the 18-20 inch range to make it interesting. Because the water is warm, the little guys pull hard and they're fairly easy to find. Work the rock walls, casting within a few feet. Start stripping right away so you don't get hung up in the rocks. A good graph will really help find the larger schools.

The flats are also producing on days when the fish are taking topwater. Try any water less than 6 feet deep. If no strikes, move on.
Topwater - If you've never tried topwater for stripers now is the time. Use a 3 inch white gurgler, or buy a pole dancer. Tie it to a six foot 20 pound leader connected to a floating line, preferably one to two weights heavier than your rod. Make a good long cast in the shallow water and start a rhythmic one to two foot strip without pauses. If a fish goes for the fly, KEEP STRIPPING until you feel the weight of the fish.

Subsurface - Nothing new here. Use a smaller chartreuse over white clouser on a quick sinking line. Count the line down to within a foot or two of the bottom and use a series of strips and pauses as a retrieve. Look for grabs at any time, especially when the fly makes that turn from horizontal to vertical close to the boat.