If you're an avid trout fisherman or fisherwoman, you're probably in the mountains and not reading this story this morning.
After five months of off-season deprivation, trout fishing opens today on nearly all streams in California. Ideal conditions could mean a gold rush of sorts on previously closed above-dam stretches of rivers such as the Stanislaus and Tuolumne.
"The water's perfect, and it should be a warm weekend," said Mark Cotrell, a Sonora-based fly fishing guide with expertise on the Stanislaus.
Mountain snow patches are quickly receding, thanks to higher temperatures, allowing access to some fishing holes that usually are frozen at this point in spring, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife says. Hatcheries are stocking streams with trout, guides say, and anglers are expected to take advantage.
"Some make it a habit to go out on the season opener because they've been waiting so long," said Tom Knoth, who focuses on the Tuolumne between Groveland and Yosemite National Park. His clients come from all over the world, finding him on the Internet.
Trout seekers have been fishing tailwater stretches below foothill reservoirs since that season opened Jan. 1. Those who prefer higher mountain streams must sit out from mid-November until the last Saturday in April today.
"I know guys dream for tomorrow," fisherman Kyle Lemings of Hughson said Friday at Bait Barn in Waterford.
Manager Stacey Ridenour said trout anglers are snatching up Vault lures typically associated with bass fishing, as well as wedding ring spinners and silver-and-blue Kastmasters for lake trout. Bait fishers prefer worms and salmon eggs.
"What's killing them now is chartreuse Powerbait with a red-worm combo," she said.
Bee Facebook reader Erin Polsky said snow peas with red food coloring are "just as effective, if not better, and cheaper" than salmon eggs.
Sometimes, 'pretty' works
When Kelly Cahoon was 5, she said in a Facebook post, her father tried to discourage her from a pink and green rooster tail with polka dots. "Dad told me, 'Now, Doll, fish don't care about pretty.' I told him, 'But I like pretty.' So I got it," she said.
"Twenty years later, that rooster tail still gets me a trout every time, without fail. It's my old faithful," she continued, adding that she quickly replaces it with the same variety if she snags or loses the lure.
Fly fishers will want to take size 16 hare's ear and bead head copper john nymphs, Knoth said. Cotrell suggested pheasant tail and blue wing olive nymphs.
Dee Kaur, owner of Oakdale Bait & Tackle, said she's running out of Adams No. 14 flies, and yellow humpy No. 12 flies are popular, too.
Guides say late-summer stream fishing does not look promising; flows are expected to drop because of back-to-back dry winters. So heading up the hill early is a good idea.
"Just go fishing," Cotrell said.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2390.