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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Lower Yuba River Update & Nor Cal Fly Fishing Outlook

The Lower Yuba River crested on the 10th at 83,173 cubes, and retreated down to 8k on the 13th. In the last 24 hours the water level has increased around 19k and stabilizing. The river continues to be big, dirty, and unfishable. There is another parade of storms lined up to slam us this week with an atmospheric river of moisture starting this Thursday. The waiting game continues. We may not see the river come down to 2k or below until next September, which has happened before during years of excessive precipitation and a large snowpack. The Truckee river was fishable for a little while until the last deluge hit. Currently it's still pretty big with flows on the Glenshire stretch at 1,140 cubes and in the Canyon the flows are running at about 3k. Like I have said before, the Truckee can be fishable sooner than most because it sits at the top of the watershed, and colder conditions allow for less melt of the snowpack...unless we have high snow levels, which are forecasted at the start of the series of storms.

Photo by Gonzalo Peewee Curiel

Because of all the water the north state has received so far for this season, conditions have changed dramatically for our reservoirs and roadways. Lake Oroville water level increased to the point where large releases had to be made though the main spillway or the dam was going to breach. I'm sure you are well aware of what happened in the last week with the spillway failing, and after the Department of Water Resources turned it off for inspection of the newly formed hole, the lake continued to rise.

Photo by Gonzalo Peewee Curiel

The decision was made to run the main spillway which would further damage the release chute, they had no choice as the lake reached its maximum capacity of 900 feet with all forks of the Feather producing a huge volume of inflow. An emergency spillway which was never used before was the only option as the elevation increased to 902 feet. Excessive erosion occurred at the base of the Emergency spillway and there was a possibility that a section of the 30 foot tall wall could be compromised. Evacuations of the Oroville area commenced and nearly 200 thousand people had to be relocated. The evacuation order has been lifted and residents couldn't be happier to return to their homes.

 Photo by Gonzalo Peewee Curiel

There has been way too much finger pointing and misinformation spread on the internet by self proclaimed experts who think they could do a better job than DWR. These are people who jump on the bandwagon claiming they have known all along. The Baiocchi family certainly knows about DWR as they have filed hundreds of formal complaints and motions of intervention the last 47 years on a number of projects including Oroville dam through the FERC relicensing process. I really do not have an opinion at this time other than large amounts of water should have been released from the dam a month ago after the amount of snow and precipitation the northern Sierra received. When you have been in a drought, I guess it's easy to be greedy with storage capacity. I really hope everything is ok, I would hate see a bunch of people, livestock, and family pets lose their lives. We're not out of the woods yet.

Not much fishing happening right now, and I'm thankful for a half dozen article request from magazines, and presentations to fly clubs to help pay the bills. One thing is certain, my fly boxes sure look good right now. Stay positive, Summer is sure looking good right now...

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Trout Unlimited Article ~ "Voices From The River".

Check out the my latest interview with Sam Davidson of Trout Unlimited in their monthly column "Voices of the River". It sure does bring back some great memories of my childhood, and reinstates my future path of sharing fly fishing, and conservation for our watersheds. Click HERE to view the article.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

February Presentations

For the month of February I have three speaking engagements featuring my newest Powerpoint program "Mastering The Dry Fly - A Visual Experience". The feedback I've received from the clubs that I have presented to is overwhelming. I hope you can make it to one of the locations listed below and learn about the epitome of fly fishing.

On Tuesday the 7th I will be at my home club Gold Country Fly Fishers, the general meeting starts at 7pm, followed by my presentation. The meeting place is located at the Nevada County Fairgrounds, Ponderosa building, Gate #2 off McCourtney Rd. in Grass Valley. The public is welcome and it is a free event.

Wednesday the 8th I'll be down in the bay area speaking to Flycasters of San Jose, one of the oldest fly fishing clubs in the state, and one of the largest in the world. The meeting starts at 7pm, followed by my presentation. The Flycasters meet at Moreland Apartments meeting room located on the northeast corner of Payne and Saratoga. Doors open at 6:30pm. This is a free event, and welcome to the public.

On Thursday the 16th, my speaking circuit takes me to my other home club of Tahoe Truckee Fly Fishers. Their meeting takes place at the Truckee Recreation Center located at 8924 Donner Pass Rd. Doors open at 5:30pm, with the meeting starting at 6pm. I expect to see all my Truckee peeps to show up for this presentation. This event is also free and open to the public.

I can't wait to see all of you at these great fly fishing clubs and talk about the amazing world of the dry fly. See you there...

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Lower Yuba River Tours For 2017

Lance Gray and I have 3 Lower Yuba River Tours coming up in April and May. These Tours are great and you'll learn all you need to know about the river once it drops back into shape.

The tour includes transportation, a riverside lunch, beverages, and snacks during the day. Handouts for the tour will include maps, access areas, flies, rigging setups, recommended equipment, and special features with helpful hints that pertain to the fishery. A complete list of all the equipment that is needed will be attached to the confirmation package upon securing your date.

For rates & dates, contacts, and all the info you need, click on our Yube Tour electronic flier HERE

We are looking forward to sharing the knowledge with you, and enjoying our time together on the water!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Lower Yuba River Update 1/27/2017

I went down to the river today to poke around and it's still flowing good at 5,150 cubes and water clarity is poor and brown in color. Many of the new side channels are just a trickle, so when the flows drop even more they will be non existent. Still curious to see the topography of the bottom once the river drops and the water clears up. It will be very interesting to say the least. 

The two pictures above are of Long Island, the top photo is from two years ago and the bottom photo is from today. You'll notice that the top of Long Island has washed away a lot of cobble stones and willows. On the far bank down near the tailings a tree has been washed away, and you'll notice that the tailings themselves have changed. I looked for skwala adults today and found none. I did see a few BWO spinners fluttering in the wind. It will take a while but the aquatic insects will come back.

I'm going to wet a line before the next storm system comes in on Wednesday. I'll be using streamer tactics with an all black bunny leech I call "Darth". As for the storm, we can expect a good amount of precipitation into the weekend of the 11th. 2-3 feet of snow is expected on the crest as of now, forecast models could change either way by next Tuesday. See you on the water...

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Lower Yuba River Update 1/19/2017 ~ So Close!

Releases from Englebright reservoir were cut drastically last Monday evening and the river went from 14k down to 5,165 cubes. Knowing there would be more clues revealed as to how the river may have changed, I drove down to get an accurate picture of such. I studied the river below the Parks Bar Bridge down to near the Hammon Grove Park area. The river’s course did not change that dramatically, but there are some interesting new side channels and islands popping up. 

It seems there could be more braided areas but no one will know for certain until the flows are down to 1,000 cfs. I’m by no means an expert hydrologist but the river structure has definitely been changed. We’ll know a lot more when the clarity improves as we will then be able to determine the bottom structure more accurately.

The woody debris fields are an impressive sight. There is also a lot of garbage lining the banks like plastic bottles, and other household garbage. In the future anglers should bring a trash bag and after a day’s session, make an attempt to fill it up and dispose of properly. Access on the Hammonton road is good, high clearance vehicles can get through the washout, and other spur roads that lead down to the river. It will take a while, but added traffic will wear these areas into better shape. The “put in” seems easier now but again this area will need to be packed down by multiple vehicles to smooth things out. 

Right now the Lower Yuba River is up and flowing at 10,383 cfs after the first storm that rolled through yesterday, and more precipitation is headed our way tonight through Tuesday. Hammon Grove and Sycamore Ranch are still closed to the public. I know its torture waiting for our rivers to clear up and come down throughout the entire state, but my streamer box is filling up quite nicely with some fresh patterns, and some long overdue tying sessions are being completed. Be safe out there if you’re near big water, or getting some face shots on the board with all that fresh pow.

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!

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