No rain and conditions look rather bleak for precipitation in the future. At the moment, I could care less. What we are experiencing right now on the Yuba River is why I moved to Nevada City from part time in 2008, to full time in 2011. A mix of mild and sunny days with colder periods, lower flows, good hatches with two sizes of PMDs, the Skwalas, Brown Duns, Epeorus mayflies (pinkies), BWOs, and midges. Nothing better than drought conditions on the Lower Yuba River. It's been a real pleasure sharing the Yuba River experience with great fly clubs like Tr-Valley Fly Fishers, High Sierra Flycasters in the past few weeks, and many individual anglers who participated in workshops and regular guide trips. Stalking individual trout off the bank and hunting heads on the Yuba is the most rewarding game you can play while fly fishing in Northern California during the winter. It's so good... I never want it to end.
The river has been very busy with anglers, and I still see folks racing around trying to out do one another and get the spot. It's quite the opposite action that one really needs to do...Slow down, cast less, observe more, and make a game plan for each unique area, or an individual fish you are targeting. Some of the trout are wising up to artificial Skwala and mayfly patterns. Accurate drag fee drifts are now becoming more important than ever. Fishing the overlooked nooks and crannies is wise. Time of day is everything, with the sun up a little longer, 3 to 5pm is magic now chasing the stoner hatch, especially in skinny water with 1-2 feet in depth. Now we must adjust, and think outside the box to keep being successful. Here are some tips that will surely help you, a gathering of thoughts from the wisdom of the guides, and hard core Skwala soldiers of the Lower Yuba River.
More than ever, color can make a difference on your patterns. As I mentioned before, these stoneflies live a long time because they can eat and drink. As they age their colors also change, and with so many different colors in the mix, I'm beginning to wonder if their diet affects each one's unique color combos. Shit's getting weird...again. With different colored sharpies in light and dark olive, brown, and black, plus tying in colored ribbing between each segmentation (a dubbing loop of tying thread spun into a single rope works great) of the yarn on your Unit Skwalas, one can dial it all in. When using the sharpies, just brush the abdomen, or add those three minute dark spots in the thorax. Check out these color combos I took pictures of in one hour of picking up specimens off the shoreline cobbles last Saturday.
- Fish the insignificant seams of riffles, side water, and faster glides. Go beyond where everybody else is fishing, fish the crap water.
- Stop repeatedly casting in the same water with the same drift over and over. Rest the water, and make real presentations that count. Really think about your approach. Systematically make presentations near to far.
- Cover sections of water, then find fresh unmolested water.
- Quit slapping the water over and over with multiple casts, all you're doing is letting those trout know you're trying to hurt them with intent. If you make a mistake in your location of your cast, finish the drift, then pick it up softly, and resume. Also, land your fly softly after you make your cast. These trout do not dig inferior presentations.
- A fly first, downstream presentation to rising educated fish is a must.
- Check your tackle. Knots, make sure they are strong. Reels, make sure your line is on evenly and with tension so when peeled off in milliseconds by a hot Yuba trout, there is no jamming up.
- Set the drag before you start fishing, there should be no backlash, free spool, or a reverse motion ending with a long sharp pull of the fly line out of the reel.
- When casting to a rising fish whether it is from a upstream, or a downstream position, make sure your placement is well enough upstream of the holding fish so the fly enters its cone of vision naturally.
- Rest the water, cast less, observe more, and take mental notes. Apply what you have learned...