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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Lower Yuba River Flood Report

I went down to the Lower Yuba River today to check out the changes so far as the river is just a tad under 16k, down from the big surge of 81k plus. I worked from the Parks Bar Bridge down to the bottom of Long Island. It's possible to cross the washout with a high clearance 4x4, but it is very soft and muddy. I do not recommend it. Major changes so far and we'll know more once the river comes down to 2,000 cubes (might not be until fall) and the water clears. Major shifting of gravel and cobblestones, with additional sediment loads all over the place. The willows were hit very hard with many ripped out and wrapped around other standing willows and trees. The Army Corps / USFWS habitat logs are gone and a few are scattered about. There is so much destruction and new channels forming that it is utterly amazing.

I then poked around Hammon Grove and Sycamore Ranch for some more images. This is looking into the boat ramp and the picnic area where Dry Creek meets the Lower Yuba. I don't think we will have a boat ramp left to take out on. The river in front of Hammon Grove is pushing to the south. I did not get a chance to get up to Clay Banks but I'm sure it has changed too. I've posted some other pictures below of the carnage, and it's not over yet being that it's only January 14th. Another atmospheric river arrives Tuesday evening into Thursday. More water, and more changes ahead. Be safe out there...

To be continued.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Pyramid Lake Closed! ~ Press Release



Nixon, NV 01/11/17 – Effective immediately, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe has closed all fishing and boating activities at Pyramid Lake until further notice. This action is to ensure public safety due to hazardous road conditions, and power and water outages in the Sutcliffe area. We thank the public for your cooperation. 

Please check the following sources of information for the most current information; 

Emergency Contact Numbers: 

  • All Emergencies: 911 
  • Emergency Tribal Operations: 775-574-2426 
  • Washoe County/Tribal Dispatch: 775-574-0444 
  • Pyramid Lake Ranger Station: 775-476-1155 
  • Marine Distress: Channel 16 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Lower Yuba River Update ~ XL High Flows!

The great atmospheric river of 2017 (so far) started its wrath on the region early Saturday morning with light rain, and intensified into the evening. By Sunday morning the precipitation was heavy, along with very windy conditions here in Nevada City. The Sierra started off with snow in the morning which then turned to rain, and snow levels increased up to 9,000 feet by the evening. During the day I checked out the river at 36,000 cubes, and Deer Creek ripping at just under 8,000 cfs. I shot some video and have provided the links off my Facebook page below which delivers better quality than what Blogger can;

Lower Yuba River 36,000 cfs 1/8/2017 1pm

Deer Creek 7,889 cfs 1/8/2017 2pm

I was glued to the internet on Saturday evening checking out all the updates on social media, weather sites, and the gauges keeping track of this large event. The Carriage Inn located in Downieville was receiving encroaching flows from the Downie River and later flooded. The heavy wind and rain stopped about 10pm here in Nevada City, and creeks, rivers, and reservoirs kept rising, in fact at one point Lake Oroville had over 150,000 cfs of inflow. I woke up early this morning around 5:30 and headed down to the Lower Yuba in the dark. I took Hammonton road on the south side and could only get as far as the washout. There was not a soul around, and only the roar of the river. It was eerie. I shot some more video there, then walked out on Parks Bar Bridge and took some more footage. Click the links below to see the Yuba River at 82,000 cubes, just after the peak.

Lower Yuba River 82,000 cfs 1/9/2017 7am

Lower Yuba River 82,000 cfs 1/9/2017 7:35am

Lots of local areas were flooded like Hammon Grove Park above, including Sycamore Ranch as well. Yesterday I tried to video Englebright dam, they had the top gate closed so I parked and walked down. Just past the ranger station driveway the water levels became apparent. There was no way to legally get to the observation post as everything was flooded, even the toll booth was completely submerged.

Rivers all over the state swelled to massive proportions like the South Fork of the Yuba River above. I -80 near Truckee and on Donner summit closed twice in the last 12 hours due to mudslides. They had a big mudslide at Pyramid Lake too. Reno also had their fair share of carnage. There is endless news stories floating out there as I write, all over the northern state. This was a pretty big event. Those Know-It-All types will always make sure you're aware that this latest deluge was not as big as 1997, or 2005 while in a conversation. What about those high water events before the white man came, as passed down by generations of Native Americans? Think about it.

More weather is forecasted through Thursday with colder air temps and heavy snow in the mountains. Could see a break after then with sunny to partly cloudy skies. 

So let's get to the fishing and the future. For now the river is unfishable, it may be for a month. Even longer if we get more heavy rain or another pineapple express. The river has changed dramatically, aquatic insect life will be altered, and hopefully most of the fish got into some side slack water as the river did rise on the slow side. The river started out at 10k before this big water came through, so I would like to think the fish were already on the banks playing out the waiting game. Hammonton road on the south side has been affected near the washout and Miner's corner. Other access areas may not be usable anymore. Lots of questions with no answers until the flows come down to at least 2,000 cfs and clarity returns. When that happens I'll be drifting the Lower Yuba River and taking notes, that's for sure. The only game right now is Pyramid Lake, in the weeks to come the Truckee river, and maybe the Lower Sac. Like a wild trout, us fly anglers will adapt to changing conditions, and the challenge to be in the game.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Denis Peirce Fishing & Outdoors News Interview

Check out this video of an hour long interview with KNCO 830's celebrity Denis Peirce as we talk a little bit about the Lower Yuba River and the encroaching high water on the way, the Truckee area, the Middle Fork Feather River, and a whole bunch of good useful info on Lake Davis, including the late Jay Fair. I used Facebook's new live feed, and for this type of scenario it was a perfect match. 

KNCO 830am Jon Baiocchi Interview

Keep a close tab on my personal FB page for upcoming live broadcast videos and events!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Lower Yuba River Update 1/5/2017

The Lower Yuba River is blown out again with flows reaching 19,247 cubes on Wednesday evening, and is currently at 16,727 cfs. The big news is that a pineapple express is on the way with heavy precipitation and high snow levels Saturday through Monday. The current snowpack on the ground from 3,000 to 7,000 feet will be melting and is of concern as this may duplicate the floods of 1997. I'll be down on the river through the storm and documenting the event. Get your PFD ready and batten down the hatches!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

California Fly Fishers Unlimited Presentation 1/3/2017

On Tuesday January 3rd I will be in Sacramento with a speaking engagement to California Fly Fishers Unlimited featuring my all new Powerpoint program "Mastering The Dry Fly ~ A Visual Experience". The new program unlocks the mysteries of fishing the dry fly, topics include proper presentations, rise forms, water structure, tips & tricks, and proven patterns. Brilliant slides with animated step by step instructions will provide the audience with the necessary information to raise your game on the river. If you're in the area this is a presentation you do not want to miss!

The meeting will be held at the Richard T. Conzelmann Community Center in Howe Park at 2201 Cottage Way, Sacramento. Doors open at 6pm with my program starting at 7pm. I'm looking forward to seeing you there!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Lower Yuba River Update

Some good news concerning the Lower Yuba River came this morning as the flows were nearly cut in half at 12am dropping down to 2,104 cubes. When I saw the graphs at 6am while drinking a thick cup of Joe, I made plans to get a firsthand look at the conditions of the river. Surprisingly all the puddles on the south road had ice on them as I made way getting first tracks and making observations at Long Bar and Miner’s Corner. First off the clarity of the water is looking better at two feet max. With current cold air temperatures and even colder air moving in, there will be little snow melt resulting in minimal runoff. We need the mud cloud that is hovering in Englebright reservoir to pass through for better clarity conditions. I did a quick seine in the drift this morning as well and there were small numbers of baetis nymphs #18, and midge pupa #22 in the sampling. Flipping rocks on the side water revealed some scouring, especially on the outside bends of the river. Look for conditions to improve in the weeks to come. The last 3 weeks have been torture for me and others not being able to fish on the Lower Yuba River. It’s time to play ball. Swinging dark sculpin patterns and salmon fry with a RIO 3ips Versitip would be my first choice, and dead drift nymphing a big stone with a S&M trailer would be my second option. See you out there…

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Skwala Stonefly ~ Tips & Tricks

The Skwala Stonefly hatch is right around the corner on the Lower Yuba River. I've see the hatch start as early as late December and last until the 2nd week of March. With two big water events taking place already in the month of December alone, I'm being optimistic about the populations that will appear for 2017. I'm sure they took a beating, but Mother Nature is very resilient in so many ways. In this post you'll find a whole lot of information including links to past posts, and breaking down the key components and materials for tying the Skwala adult pattern. Some say that this hatch is overrated which I disagree, yes it does get a lot of attention and with that comes hype, that's for sure. You'll see various guide services exclaiming how fun it is to throw a big dry during the winter. The fact remains that the Skwala stonefly is not that big, and an angler must put their time in with careful observations, and the perfect drift to fool the highly educated Lower Yuba River wild rainbow.

Let's first start with some past posts that will cover many different things about the hatch from behavior to presentations;
The best resource on the Skwala stonefly hatch would be my article "The Skwala Hatch" that was featured in the 2014 December issue of California Fly Fisher. If you do not own a copy of that issue ask around, it's loaded with some great information. 

When it comes to Skwala presentations there are many different factors involved, it's way more that just chuck and drift. I have just completed a superior Powerpoint presentation on fishing dry flies, "Mastering The Dry Fly ~ A Visual Experience" is a program that is both technical and informative, with new animated step by step instructions on the proper casting presentations that will equal success. I will be showcasing this program to many fly clubs and shows throughout 2017. To check out my presentation schedule, follow the link to my "News" page on my website HERE.

There are a few good patterns out on the market that will definitely increase your chances for a hook up with a surface eating trout that is keyed in on the Skwala. A Stimulator in the right color will work when the fish are really on the grab, but let's look at some specialty ties that take it to the next level.

The "Unit Skwala" is my favorite pattern and one that I have a high level of confidence in, and confidence is everything when we fish no matter the species. This pattern was turned onto me by a long time guest and fishing buddy of mine who travels to the Bitterroot River in Montana most every year for the Skwala hatch. Created by veteran guide John Cook, this pattern has an extended foam wing that is highly buoyant and provides the right profile. It has fooled many fish on the Lower Yuba River.

Morgan Thalken's "Double Dutch Bug" is my second favorite pattern, and it's also a highly effective fly. The color shown here is not up to par for the Yuba Skwala (which I'll go into detail further down) and better suited for Skwalas on the Truckee River, the Rocky Mountains, Washington, and Montana. Morgan's fly is readily available at most higher end fly shops and a must have in your box.

Photo by Dan LeCount

Truckee River guide Dan LeCount's version is another fine bullet head pattern complete with rubber legs, and an egg sack, which at times greedy trout will key on. Dan is one hell of a fly tyer, if you have a chance to see him tie - do it, you'll learn a lot from him as I have.

As a fly tyer, one is always improving patterns whether they are commercial, or their own. I do it all the time, and that's what progression is all about. I want to share a few things I've learned about tying medium to large stoneflies, and the best materials to choose. Check out the top picture of two male Skwala stones, and the lone female. Notice the size difference? For the female I use a Tiemco TMC 2312 in a size 10, I really like this hook as it features a straight eye, and is slightly humped, which allows the abdomen to sit flush in the film just like the natural. For the male, the same hook in a size 12 replicates an exact match.

When it comes to body material small diameter yarn is a good choice, it speeds up your time on the vise, and when applied properly gives a segmented look to it. Be careful in choosing the properties of the yarn. I look for blends that are both nylon and acrylic, which floats better than others that are made with natural fibers. Another aspect in using synthetic yarns is that they have more sparkle to them that shimmer and shine. One key technique when applying your yarn is to twist it in a clockwise direction, this tightens the fibers and does not allow for water to soak in. I like to use Cascade Yarns Cherub DK blend. For freshly hatched Skwalas, or specimens that are a few weeks old, I go with color #43 (located on top) which has is a pale yellow/olive color to it. Skwalas live quite a long time, about a little over a month, and as they age they darken up a bit like a ripening banana. For this life stage I go with color #51 (located on the bottom), which is more like a spicy brown mustard color.

Matching dubbing to your exact yarn color is easy. Snip off a 3" piece of the yarn and with your fingers pull it apart, repeat the process over and over until you get a fine blend. An important technique in dubbing dry flies is to use less, and spin tighter onto the thread so water does not absorb into it. Try this important technique with all your dry flies with dubbed bodies.

All foam is not created equal, and I have a lot of experience with foam as I have been tying with it since the mid 90's. Foam that you buy in fly shops is the same formula as sheet foam you can buy at a craft store, except three times the amount. Thickness may vary though. There is nothing wrong with craft foam, it comes in many colors, and serves a purpose like on my club sandwich hoppers. Larva Lace foam is simply the best, it is more buoyant than most other foam products on the market, and has the ability to be stretched when wrapping bodies. Whatever foam you choose, make sure it is "closed cell" and not "open cell", which will sink.

Quality moose hair is hard to find and one reason I've been buying my deer, elk, and moose hair from Blue Ribbon Fly Shop in West Yellowstone for the past 22 years. These patches of hair are from the Montana area from hunters who network with the shop. If you're lucky enough you'll get a patch with a bullet hole in it. When Ordering, ask for patches that have a high sheen, minimal underfur, and with straight hairs throughout.

I prefer a sight wing over a clump of foam on my patterns, and a white or off white color is best. You can use natural hair like a calf tail or go with a synthetic material. Z-lon and McFlylon have better floating abilities and resist water saturation. Antron is a great material for nymphs and emergers as proven by the late Gary LaFontaine, but it also does not float which is not the best choice for a dry fly.

Last but not least is medium round rubber legs in brown. Spirit River materials was bought by Hareline Dubbin so look for that name brand when buying your rubber legs. A key action for rubber legs is to keep them on the long side. This will give them more action as they flex with the micro currents of a river. Too short and they will not move at all and be stiff. I use a closed loop knot while fishing my Skwala patterns, this knot allows more movement and closely replicates those highly twitchy legs which is a behavior of the Skwala stone, and a strike mechanism for enticing trout.

Well there you have it, just some tips and tricks for you to ponder before hitting the vise and spinning up some bugs. We'll have to play the waiting game to see how the hatch unfolds on the Lower Yuba River this winter, and on the Truckee River a little later in spring. Tightlines!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Baiocchi's Troutfitters ~ 2016 Year In Review

Photo by Peter Niebauer

2016 was a pretty solid year for the waters I guided on including the Truckee River, the Lower Yuba River, Lake Davis, North Fork Yuba River, Frenchman's Reservoir, the Little Truckee River and the Middle Fork Feather River. I've also got to mention some of the smaller creeks that lie within the above mentioned waters. The region had a little bit more water this year than the previous three, but on some watersheds and still waters I noticed the impact of the drought from the quality of the fishing, and the numbers caught were way down. 

I want to personally thank all of my guests that went out on trips, clinics, workshops, and tours with me. I had such a great time with all of you! What makes it special for me is that I know each and everyone of you learned a little bit more about the craft through my teaching, and truly appreciated a day on the water with me. So let's run through month by month and talk about the fishing highlights of 2016.

January started off being very cold in the foothills, and I focused all of my trips on my home water of the Lower Yuba River for the next three months. Swinging sculpins and salmon fry was very productive. The skwala stonefly was first seen on the banks of the river on the 15th. Heavy rains impacted the river at the end of the month, and on the 18th the first high water event occurred where Deer Creek and the flows from Englebright dam reached 10,188 cubes. On the 30th, the second big water event came down from the mountains and once again high snow levels melted the snow pack, and serious runoff occured. The river topped out at 15, 907 cfs, and slightly scoured the bottom, while moving some smaller cobblestones.

February brought some sunny warm days early on the river and because of such the Skwalas were out in good numbers on certain days. During this hatch an angler on the bank is much more in tune as they can see the subtle takes, and productive feeding lanes, while those in a drift boat that go whizzing by and are a little out of touch. The weather got even nicer and I took a fews days to fish the Truckee river and did quite well with beatis and worms high stiked in the deep water of the tail outs of major runs. Sunny skies and even warmer weather held out so I gave my guests the option of doing some Truckee trips, which proved to be totally worth it.

Back on the Lower Yuba dry fly fishing was productive with even more Skwalas, and lesser hatches of BWO's, Pinkies, and the occasional Gray Drake. The false spring was about to turn back to winter near the end of the month with a 10 day forecast of precipitation that would eventually lead to another ass kicking from Mother Nature.

We got another week of good weather that was productive for making some dry fly presentations with the skwala adult and some very nice fish were landed, then it hit...

March - On the morning of the 6th major flooding occurred on the Lower Yuba River and Deer creek with a combined flow of 22,912. I was down on the river river checking things out and the amount of water flowing down, along with the speed of the flow was an amazing sight. It took quite a while for the river to come back down and clear, and when it did there were major changes to bottom topography with new deeper areas, and many tail outs of runs that filled in substantially. The fishing was effected by the scouring flows, and since I have 2 different USFS permits and a third I work under, there was plenty of options. I quickly switched gears to the Truckee area. The Yuba needed to heal.

April saw very fishable conditions during pre runoff on the Truckee, and it was good action using indo rigs and high sticking the usual flies. The Middle Fork Feather River was a little too cold and high for the early opener, but it was good to see a high volume of water. This is one of the watersheds that took a hit as a result of drought and we're hoping this winter will bring more water and better populations of wild rainbows into the system. 

May was awesome on the Truckee River and my guests and I continued to have great success while fishing the Glenshire stretch. Once the flows got big and the runoff started, I headed up north and started guiding at Lake Davis. The lake had favorable conditions using indo rigs in deeper water, but still fishing the upper water column. The lake level at that time was about 70%. The hatches really turned on in the middle of the month with blood midges, callibaetis mayflies and the beginning of the damsel hatch. Catch rates were still down due to DFW not planting as they normally do, thus providing a low population of rainbows, but the size of the fish were very big with 4 and 5 pound trout making the net.

June was great at Lake Davis, the weather early on was really nice and that brought out the damsels in full force. There was plenty of good sight fishing until mid month when we saw colder than normal weather and had snow squalls at the lake for a few days combined with a week's worth of big wind. 

Once that cold weather blew through the hexes popped and the evening hatch was good, we caught more small fish in front of the campgrounds with the occasional toad. The damsels kept emerging but as always the trout wise up to artificials which can make for some very challenging fishing. We learned a few more tactics for such occasions. 

One of my highlights is guiding at the Cliff Frazier Memorial Trout Camp for kids put on by Tahoe Truckee Fly Fishers. The San Francisco Fly Casting Club hosts the event and let's the club use the private water on the Truckee river with full access to their club house. It's a very special event that provides the opportunity for kids to experience fly fishing and the great outdoors.

I was quite pleased the way the Lake Davis fished during the month of June, and I've come to the conclusion it's my favorite time of year at the lake. Nice weather, and strong aquatic hatches with multiple games just can't be beat.

July 1st and the water temperatures at Lake Davis exceeded the 70 degree barrier and it was time to head over the hill and guide on the North Fork Yuba River. The river was in great shape with more water than we've seen in years past. The dry/dropper game was all time and this river is the perfect classroom for new fly anglers to heighten their skill set quickly. You can't find a more beautiful place to fly fish in the northern Sierra as it offers solitude combined with a wild and remote setting.

August and the dog days of summer usually means slow fishing, but on the upper reaches of the North Fork Yuba River where many cold springs pump in 44 degree water, it still fires on all cylinders. Switching to terrestrials like ant patterns and hoppers keeps the wild rainbows eager to take your fly. I did many trips and my guests and I did not see another fly angler on the water. It's possible to have solitude on this popular river if you drop into the remote gorges and areas with difficult terrain to navigate. I can't wait for next summer...

Also during the month of August, Ken Hanley, Jon Marcacci, and myself were able to finish our year long carp project titled "Gift of Gold." The pursuit of catching the golden ghost on the fly is so incredibly challenging, and so satisfying once you make a solid connection with a hook up.

September had me all over the northern Sierra and guiding at venues like The Middle Fork Feather River, Lake Davis with its cooling water, and nearing the end of the North Fork Yuba River season. The MFFR was decent, Lake Davis started out slow, yet came on strong by the middle of the month. The NFYR was fabulous with the daily mid morning spinner fall of tiny BWO's.

The callibaetis hatch was pretty strong at the lake providing some sight fishing conditions with dry flies. If the population of trout were bigger, we would have had more heads to hunt. Still, a few of these big toads was good enough for many of my guests.

October was a blustery month at Lake Davis and there were many days it blew up to 40 mph. This October was a little better than the previous two, but still nothing like it should be. I'm blaming low populations of fish, if they were there, we would be catching them.

There were a few days that gave me hope at Lake Davis with multiple risers in a couple feet of water on the mud flats. As we came upon the end of the month the fall colors erupted during the third week displaying a blaze of pastels and the best eye candy ever.

November started out well but at another still water, Frenchman's reservoir. With the boat back down off the hill and safely in the confines of my low elevation yard, it was all walk and wade trips until ice up. Business slows down for me during this time until mid January, and with as many trips, clinics, workshops, tours, and photo shoots I put in - It's nice to be able to take a break, and get my ducks in a row. I'm thankful for that.

December and I'm back on the Lower Yuba River until the first week of April. We had some pretty good action on the egg bite, but now that the salmon are nearly done, the rainbows are in transition switching back to aquatics. You can read my reports below from a few weeks ago before the deluge of big water hit. We had some pretty stellar days dry fly fishing with good mayfly hatches. I'm looking forward to getting back out on the water as soon as it comes back into shape after the big flows of December.

So we've come full circle and nearly a year later. I have a great feeling about the opportunities that await myself and my guests for 2017! Let's hope we have a solid winter, a good snowpack, reservoirs and lakes filled, healthy fish abound, and profuse hatches taht scatter the water's surface. Wishing you all the very best during the holidays. Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

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