Winter Edition

Winter Edition
Winter Edition

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

BUFF Product Review ~ Fly Fishing Gear

Decades ago when I was a younger man, mountaineering and snowboarding were my main two passports to an adventurous life. I can remember ordering a balaclava from an REI catalog, you know, the black all-in-one model. It was a god send on those stormy pushes to the summit, and a welcomed companion protecting my face with knee deep powder face shots. I never gave it much thought back then to protecting myself from the harmful UV rays of the sun. Now that I'm on the water 200+ days a year, protection from all the elements is a must. A buff is just a buff right? Not entirely. When BUFF USA sent me my first package to test and wear, I noticed small differences in both the manufacturing process, designs, and the awesome prints they came in. I'm huge on details, so I can really appreciate the little differences that make for a top shelf quality product.

As a company, BUFF USA produces the original multifuncitional headwear, and so much more. Besides buffs they make headbands, arm sleeves, gloves, hoodies, hats, beanies, finger guards, balaclavas, scarves, masks, neck warmers, arm warmers, and even buffs for your dog! (preferably a Queensland Heeler) Plus there are different materials or versions with each product like CoolNet UV+, Insect Shield, Merino Wool, ThermoNet, DryFlx, and Polar Fleece. You could literally spend hours on their website choosing all the different available options that are made specifically for the activity you desire, and the harshest conditions that you will endure. That's next level right there.

The Derek DeYoung signature series of products are Cat Toy's and my favorites. Whether he’s fly fishing in Montana, Alaska or the Florida Keys, renowned contemporary artist Derek DeYoung captures the beauty of his adventures in his rich, colorful and sought after paintings. He captures all the intricacies that all fish possess; their scales, patterns, dimension and texture. Derek's art really inspires me to get out on the water, fish,and experience everything that comes with that.

The colors of Derek's design really "pop" and make for better images like this photo shoot on the Yampa River in Colorado this past December. 

From UV arm sleeves to protect you from the sun...

To the Pro Series Angler 3 gloves complete with Tarpon scales that protect you hands while fishing all types of water, or rowing a drift boat.

To much flash or color for you stealthy ninja trout warriors? Derek has you covered with more subtle earth tones to mask your way closer to selective and shy skinny water eaters next to the bank.

The finger guards are really cool for those of us that strip flies all day long in the salt, or some of the more high alkaline lakes in Northern California like Eagle Lake, or Pyramid Lake in Western Nevada. Brackish water will ruin your hands, fly lines, and anything else it has constant contact with. You won't get the blood laden "groove" in your finger with this on. it's a must have...

I'm really stoked on the merino wool series of products. I'm currently running the buff which I have used numerous times on the Lower Yuba River lately when the fog from the Greater Central Valley creeps upstream. Its warmth that it provides makes a significant difference in being more comfortable. It's also an essential part of my gear when snowboarding. Merino Wool is a soft, warm, wind-resistant, and lightweight layer made with 100% Merino wool. It features the natural moisture management and odor control properties outdoor enthusiasts love about wool.

Just another Trucker Hat, right? Not really. Right out of the box this hat is one of the most comfortable hats I've ever worn. Not sure why, but it is, and it does not become bothersome wearing it all day long. A.D. Maddox is another artist that is featured by BUFF USA on many different products. Raised in an environment that encouraged artistic thought, A.D. Maddox has been painting for as long as she can remember. After traveling extensively through her 20s, she began her professional career in Wyoming, painting trout. Fascinated by the vibrant colors and unique beauty of fish, Maddox develops each piece of art through her signature layering technique. In her own words - “Trout are chameleon-like, constantly changing color in and out of water. They represent an intriguing and beautiful color palette, and incorporating the water is an artistic challenge.” I love her work!

I'm really hard on gear and out in the field more than I am under a roof of a house. It's just my life. I've blown up more products from everyday use than a career terrorist, and it's a shame that more fly fishing companies do not tap into my knowledge on research and design to make a better product for the general public, like the snowboard industry did in the past. So far, BUFF USA products have withstood my wrath. Nothing has torn or faded yet, and even stuffing wet buffs in a pocket for a few days has yet to see any nasty mildew experiments. Their buffs are simple, effective and infinitely adaptable, and at its core is a moisture-managing microfiber fabric that is wind resistant and able to control odor. Guide tested...Baiocchi's Troutfitters approved. 

If you do a guide trip, participate in a tour, or a workshop with me and you want to try some products out, just let me know. I think you will be pleased. Check out the 2020 line of products, I'm pretty stoked on them!  

Monday, January 13, 2020

Lower Yuba River Fly Fishing Report ~ 1/13/2020

It’s been fun fishing on the Lower Yuba River the past couple of weeks. I really enjoy sharing the rhythms of the river with my guests and improving their skill set. If you want to catch more fish on the Yuba, hire a drift guide as you will cover more water, learn the go to flies, and the indicator rigs that constantly produce. That’s great and all, but what are you really learning to be successful on your own? My approach to guiding the Lower Yuba River is so much different as it is from a walk and wade perspective, where deciphering hatches and the clues that Mother Nature provides to usable information for the common fly angler. Reading water, proper presentations, casting, the best access, river history, local flora and fauna, flies, fish handling, the best flows, hook sets, fighting fish, and special leader formulas for every application known. I take pride in my trips, and not once in the last 23 years of guiding have I woken up at 4am and said “I don’t want to go to work today”. I really do love it.

Flows have been stable, right around 1,370 cubes, which is good as the trout can set up some long term homes and feeding lanes. Speaking of which, check out my last blog post HERE on explaining the nuances of foam lines. Fishing pressure has increased, and some days are downright silly. I see way too many anglers racing upstream to try and beat the next guy, when they are passing up some really good water. Oh well, my approach is to slow down, and if need be, my guests and I will clean up the wake of their mess that they left behind. All types of rigs are working right now but if want to play the dry fly game, you can take your time getting to the river ‘cause those heads and rise forms don’t even appear until after 12pm.

So, what’s on the surface menu? BWOs, PMDs, Brown Duns, and Skwala stones. In the last week I’ve been observing more with my guests and helping them identify when a hatch is about to go off (it’s all about the song birds), the different species of mayflies, and trout behavior. The mayfly hatches have been really short, about 20 to 30 minutes, a little longer on cooler moist days as it takes longer for the mayflies to dry their wings from emergence and be able to fly off – Trout like that, they can take their time eating. One key to being more successful is to actually watch what specie of mayfly an individual trout is eating.  With 4 different aquatic insects to choose from, it varies. Here is an example; yesterday my guest and I were fishing multiple foam line/feeding lanes in an area, and there were about eight different fish rising consistently. We were close, like 10 feet away so you could see every detail – To be honest it was incredible! Most of the fish were eating BWOs, but a few ignored them and would only take PMDs. There were Skwalas and a few Brown Duns circulating in a Merry-Go-Round foam patch, and the fish ignored both of them. Just plain weird. Trout behavior never ceases to amaze me. A classic “Masking Hatch” was happening, where other aquatic insects mask what most of the trout are really eating. To complicate matters even more, they can switch to a different preferred food item at any given moment. This is what trout fishing is all about – Solving the ever changing riddle.

Not many Skwalas out yesterday as it was too cold and not a lot of abundant sunshine. They chose to hide out under the cobblestones until a better day. They sure do like it warm. I’m amazed at how many anglers do not see them crawling around or in the drift. But then again you need to be on the water often to pick up the subtle clues and train your eyes to be able to pick up on those particular variances. When it comes to that, I might as well be an Osprey. I just see the surrounding conditions of such so clearly – it’s all about putting in time on the water, and I’m very fortunate to be able to have those skills, and the time/job to hone them. I want to help other anglers though, and why I created affordable workshops to help increase a fly angler’s skill set. 

On February 12th I will have a Skwala Workshop on the Lower Yuba River. You’ll learn identification from male to female, habitat for the nymph and the adult, where and when they hatch, plus other rivers that hold good populations of them, emergence behavior, egg laying behavior, trout response to the hatch, recommended equipment, leader formulas, flies, presentations, and a highly informative handout that covers everything within the workshop. $150 per angler, limited to 4.  You’ll walk away after the workshop with a clearer understanding of the Skwala hatch, and how to be more successful when plying the water. Shoot me an email if you want in:

It looks like we are getting some real precipitation this week, with rain, snow, and below average temperatures. We’ll see what transpires with the flows, and just have to wait and see how much falls from the sky. Feel free to contact me with questions, it’s that time of year when I have a little more time to answer emails (ha ha! up at 3am this morning to do so and get caught up!). Put the resource first, give back, help a newbie, and I’ll see you on the water…

Friday, January 10, 2020

Fly Fishing Pro Tips ~ Foam Lines

We’ve all heard the saying “Foam is Home” when fly fishing our favorite waters in reference to making presentations among the foam and bubble lines that flow downstream with the currents. Natural floating foam on the surface of the water is the accumulation of leaves, twigs or other organic substances that make their way into the water and begin decaying. 

They release compounds known as surfacants. This interaction breaks the surface tension, which in turn allows air to more easily mix with water and creates bubbles. These bubbles congregate to form a fly angler’s friend – foam lines within the feeding lanes.

Yuba River Pink Albert - Two Tail Identification

As with most liquids, water molecules are normally attracted to each other. This attraction creates tension at the surface of the water, often referred to as the meniscus, or a thin "skin," which allows most aquatic adult insects to glide across it.

What’s really cool about foam lines next to the bank is it allows an angler to be able to sit and observe and see exactly what bug (or bugs, think masking hatch here) are floating in the drift and what the trout are keying on, in real time.

Merry-Go-Rounds: Swirling patches of foam that collect both live and spent aquatic insects, plus providing cover for shy trout. Think of a Dorado lying under a carpet of kelp in the Pacific Ocean. In this scenario you may often see a trout’s nose poke through while eating trapped forms of food within the foam. Making presentations in the foam patch and giving your fly slight twitches will most often induce a strike.

It does not matter the time of year, or what river or lake you’re fishing. Probing the foam lines is essential to your success whether you are fishing dry flies, emergers, or nymphs. Cast less, observe more, and seek out the foam. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Lower Yuba River Fly Fishing Report ~ 12/31/2019 ~ The Skwalas Have Arrived!

It sure is nice to be guiding in temperatures that are a little more warmer than that of the Yampa River in Co. The Yampa report from Cat Toy ( and yesterday’s session was brutal, low of -1, and a high of 15. It’s been chilly during the morning hours here in Nevada City, and unlike Colorado, the air is much moister which you tend to feel in your bones more. I’ll take it for now. 

Fishing on the Lower Yuba has been good if you can find the areas that are holding heavier concentrations of fish, which in turn will result in higher catch rates – If the planets are aligned. I have an acquaintance that works for CA DFW, and in his early years working for the department, he snorkeled the Lower Yuba River studying macroinvertibrates and fish behavior. During these studies he told me that there would be sections of the river that were devoid of trout, while other areas were bountiful. Turns out it’s all about the most abundant food source for that given time, plus the resident trout on this river move around a lot depending on where those significant food sources are.

Flows have been stable at 1,360 cubes, a good flow that compliments both drifters, and walk and wade anglers. According to the YubaWater Agency’s website “With no significant storm activity in the current forecast, we expect to maintain 1,200 cfs until storm activity and snowpack dictate higher releases. From Jan. 1 to Jan. 15, the minimum flow at Smartsville will increase to 1,000 cfs, and will decrease to 700 cfs on Jan. 16. The minimum flow at the Marysville gage for January is 500 cfs. Currently, Englebright releases are being held at 1,200 cfs. Flows from Englebright are managed to ensure that they don't drop below the minimum required flow”. Fishing pressure is moderate overall. It’s that time of year when you can sleep in a bit more as the best fishing is from just before noon to late afternoon.

The Skwala stoners are out, a little early but not by much. I was surprised to see as many shucks as I did over the past two days. 

They’ve been pre staging in the idle slack water downstream of riffles over the last month. Many of my clients are put back by how small the Skwala stonefly is compared to Goldens, and Pteranarcys. Your flies should be close to the same size for both the nymph and the adult.

You can see here a stillborn that started to emerge, than failed. I’m surprised the birds didn’t get this one. Oh, and speaking of the birds, my old friends are back on their favorite perches waiting to intercept passing aquatics in the breeze. Black Phoebes, Ruby Crowned Kinglets, Yellow Throated Warblers, and Townsend’s Solitaire in the mix. If you see birds starting to dart back and forth from their perch, you can anticipate that a hatch is about to go down, while putting yourself in a good run and waiting for the trout to respond. Mother Nature will provide the clues if you stop casting, and observe more.

Skwalas are most active during warmer air temps and are in the foam and bubble lines in the afternoon. The majority of the fish are not keyed in on them yet, but they will be. I’m hoping the river does not blow out like this year and continues for months. We had serious game last January on the surface until February came along, and you know the rest of the story – Whooosh! 

Mating has already started. Stoneflies live a long time for an aquatic bug and can mate several times, unlike a mayfly. I also like to point out how much bigger the female is compared to the males, having two sizes of both nymphs and adults can up your odds. #12 2xl for the male, #10 2xl for the female.

Check out my article in the December 2014 issue of California Fly Fisher magazine for the complete details on the Skwala hatch. I really dug deep with the information shared on this one.

There have been decent hatches out, nothing profuse but that should change here in the next month. Many different mayflies including the big Brown Dun (Ameletus) #10, BWOs #18, PMDs #14, and Pinkies (Epeorus) #16. Yesterday after noticing the birds eating rapidly from their perches, we put ourselves on a good flat and sure enough we had BWOs coming off and multiple rising fish. Unfortunately, the show was over in 20 minutes. There is also a sprinkling of micro caddis out as well, but mayflies taste better to the wild rainbows.

The weather looks to be perfect in the next week with a mix of sun and clouds, plus a chance of light rain on Saturday. It’s all systems go for the Lower Yuba River, and the fishing will only get better once the fish figure out the Skwalas are in the drift during the afternoons – Looking forward to that! See you on the water…

Friday, December 27, 2019

Colorado Winter Fly Fishing ~ Christmas Holiday Vacation ~ 12/27/2019

Back to the summit of the US of A, and back to the roots of my youth. Pretty weird how knowledgeable of Colorado fisheries I am, yet so many waters I'm still learning out there. If you haven't figured out why my quest to return to "Colorful Colorado" is in the past mix, you soon will after this post. It's a special state to me, so many close friends that truly know me there, and support me, makes it SO pleasing to be immersed in. I'm proud and honored to be a native Northern Californian, and to have been fly fishing the northern state since 1972, but as I age, there are more important factors in life - Thus the future looms. Yep, back to CBC, the most ultimate base camp ever, and "Mission 1" was in the works - Recuperating from the long drive, making a big pot of Cat's Hearty Beef Base Camp soup, and tying flies. Tying is so special to me, I wish I had more time to do so. I'm not not a commercial tier, or a superior speed tier. I tie for myself, my friends, and my guests. Payed signature tier of patterns? Not likely, those special patterns of mine will only be available from a guide trip, or a personal fishing session. Jonny B. is not going sell himself out, or be cheesy - but I will always share the knowledge to the masses. Always.

Six straight days on the water, and the mountain. A flurry of fun awaited us. Full Cat Toy pace. That intensity of life is not welcoming to everyone, but very familiar to me. I bleed it, enjoy it, and I live it everyday. The Yampa River was the place to fish and the walk down the "no vehicle access" road is always a welcoming approach, "Mission 2" was going down. The brutally cold  conditions put me in my place rather quickly. Seeing the temp gage hit negative 22 through Kremmling did not go over well. Surprisingly, I was not that cold fishing in 10 degree weather, and I handled it quite well. You'll notice in the above picture how the river is in the shade until 12pm, way colder than the sun lit parking lot. When your catching multiple large trout though, you tend to stay a little warmer than the conditions permit.

The landscape of the Yampa River is nestled in a broad valley by Steamboat Springs, an area I'm all too familiar with in regards to my snowboarding days, and the legendary Quinn Sandvold, a fellow team rider on the factory Wave Rave Snowboarding Team that I filmed and rode with. The area is stunning... real cowboy country, FM Light & Sons, ranching, so genuine, so Colorado. Easy to appreciate being a Nor Cal Native and growing up in the tiny town of Paradise. The Stagecoach area is as rural as it gets. 

Once we made our way down to the banks of the water, the rhythm set in, we could feel it, and embraced the grand scheme of it all. So beautiful... it takes my breath away just thinking of it. It's like the Little Truckee special regs section except for the rugged pocket water on the most extreme upstream part of the river, but has three times the number of trout. Colorado manages their fisheries so incredibly well. This place is ridiculous.

Fly selection is critical during the winter months, think small ball. I'll let Cat explain the details of such with her new blog on fly fishing, and an accurate an honest report for the Yampa River HERE: 

Watching Cat work the water is so gratifying to me since she has only been at the game for a short time. Results do not lie. Cat is the upmost proficient student of fly fishing I have ever come across in my 23 years of guiding. I really can't think of another individual that has a better track record. It's the mojo, and more...
Our first two days on the water were extremely special, double digits and being the only anglers on the water was incredible. Days 3 and 4 would bring a different mind set: Chasing the fall line and the ultimate carve. Let it run...

"Mission 3". It had been since the spring of 2018 that I rode some chairlifts with the board attached to my feet, and the listed sponsors of my past that continue to support my quest on the snow. I can't ride the park railings anymore, or hit the kickers, knees are shot, and if snowboards had suspension like my Honda 04 CFR 250F, I'd launch 100 footers all day long. Known fact right there. The 21st and the 22nd of December did not disappoint. As Craig Kelley once said "Snowboarding is just fun!". Check out the Smooth Groove: Craig influenced me heavily, and I will always make one more turn for that man, the dude brought so much knowledge and technique to snowboarding. Game changer he was.

Cat is a Patroller at Loveland Ski Area, and fully certified. Just like fly fishing, she takes her volunteer work very seriously. It's impressive to watch her work and ski as she is extremely gifted at both mediums. Lucky for me I got to ride for free, but those lift tickets are not readily available, every day Cat works the mountain, the company awards her with a pass to give to her guests. First chair, groomers, and epic corduroy. The smooth groove lives on...Le Carve. Thank you Cat!

Yep, that's me... Director of Snowboarding at Boreal Ridge, 1987 to 1990. Probably the best job I've ever worked in regards to being employed by a company other than my own. 6 days a week, 10 hour days, at $16.50 an hour. I was killing it back then. Watching Cat work the mountain brought back intense memories for me, I've been there, a professional, making damn sure the public received the best bang for their buck, and had a great time on the hill. My experiences at Boreal transcended into my guide service, and helped me immensely. Life skills...

"Mission 4". Back to the Yampa to close out the 2019 season. It was much warmer than the previous week, but also increased crowds, and bad angling etiquette. I watched a guide place 5 clients around two other anglers in a very short run without getting approval from those fishing the run. Being a long time guide, I was appalled. I nearly got in his face, but the older wiser Jonny B. took a step back, and listened to his local Yampa River guide Wendell, who told me to "move along".

Wendell is the man. The most knowledgeable fly fishing guide on the Yampa River. Obi Wan... Jedi Master. Kind, caring, and legit. The kind of frog you want to hang out with all day long.

Even when we missed a take, Wendell was soft spoken and encouraged us with sportive advice, and direction towards large rythmatic feeders that were just under the surface...

Wendell also informed us that the water temps were right at 32 degrees. That's the coldest water I've ever fished. Thank goodness the river has a good push of gradient downstream just below the Stagecoach dam where we were fishing or we would have been dealing with floating ice. 

Local Nor Cal fly guide patterns from Hogan, Adam, and Brian did well, it's really cool to see the actual evidence of an unknown fly being consumed by a large Colorado trout. They honestly have never seen the fly before, thus the take.

Wendall's fly selection was on point. #18 to #22, small tiny black shit...and light olive, purple, brown...all colors of Zebra Midges worked, and Cat proved them to be effective, hook up and after hook up.


I caught and released so many nice fish every day I fished the Yamp River, like this bully above. After 48 years of fly fishing I'm completely content with just embracing the day and all that it shares. The catching, is the bonus jib. I like to fish, but even more I like to watch fishing buddies just go off. Watching Cat is so much fun. She is so intense, and so focused that I can feel the energy emitted from the tip of the rod. Photography - bugs, landscape, lifestyle shots, and more - Just recording the special experiences. What a way to live...

I've never witnessed so many hook ups in such little time. The Yampa River is amazing! This trip was the best experience I've had in decades - Totally serious. So much fun I can't even begin to try and explain it to you. Great company, good food, warm lodging, the best base camp ever, carving groomed butter, ropin' donkeys, and living life to it's fullest. Complete bliss. I'll be back in the very near future Colorado. 

Here's to a kick ass 2020 - Bring it! - J.

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