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Have you seen this guy?

Putah Creek – February 8, 1999

By Jimmy Toy

Just east of the Napa/Sonoma wine country is Putah Creek. Located off highway 128, Putah Creek, a tail-water fishery, is about an hour’s drive from either San Francisco or Sacramento. This creek flows east out of Lake Berryessa through the scenic hills that separate the San Joaquin Valley from the Napa Valley. Characteristics of this creek are sections of pocket water and riffles separated by long, slow moving pools or lakes.

The report that I received from Leo at FishFirst was that fishing was best from about 11-3, with a chance of a BWO hatch in that time span. Otherwise, BWO nymphs and midge pupas were the ticket.

I arrived around noon and started nymphing the riffles and pocket water just below the bridge. I picked up a couple of rainbows in 8-10" range through the riffles and pockets, which emptied into a large pool. It was at the head of this pool that I caught and released a 14" and 19" rainbow! I caught these fish on a size 18-20 pheasant tail and WD40. Some baetis were coming off and I saw a couple of rises, so I switched to size 18 comparadun and raised a few, but landed only one.

I got back in my car and headed downstream until I found some more riffles and managed to catch a couple more in the 8-10" range on WD40’s. As I came to the head of another pool, yep, you guessed it! Another fish that had to be in the 18" range. I hooked, but didn’t land, him. He took my size 16 SJ worm with him.

Back to the car and downstream to Access 3. I found another riffle and pool, and no small fish this time. I landed another 19" rainbow in beautiful spawning colors! It was now 5 o’clock and time to quit.

Not a bad half day of fishing! No pictures because I certainly didn’t expect the larger fish I caught. I could easily mistake these rainbows for the ones at the San Juan - very strong and very deep. Even the little guys were fat. The only downside to Putah Creek is that there isn’t a whole lot of water, i.e., riffles and pockets, and I imagine it can get fairly crowded given the proximity to SF and Sacramento. I fished on a Wednesday and saw quite a few fishermen by the dam, but it thinned out as I went downstream. All fish I caught were rainbows, although I’m told there are smallmouths, too. I will definitely give Putah Creek another try before I finish my tour in Sacramento to make sure this wasn’t a fluke!

Air temperature was in the low 60’s. Water was a bit off color and temp was probably in the high 40’s.

Getting there from SF or Sacramento – Take I-80 east from San Francisco or I-80 west from Sacramento to I-505. Take I-505 north to 128 west (Winters offramp). Go west for about 10 miles. 128 parallels Putah Creek and eventually crosses it just below the dam. Within a few miles of the dam, there are 5 fishing access parking areas ($5 fee), in addition to lots of roadside parking on 128.

If you go, check FishFirst’s website at www.fishfirst.com or call for the latest info.



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