Fall Edition

Fall Edition
Fall Edition

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fall Prognosis for the Northern Sierra

The Wild & Scenic Middle Fork Feather River glows with autumn color.

The much anticipated wait for the best fishing of the year is nearly upon us. Fall is a very special time of year if you’re an angler; there are so many fantastic opportunities, yet only so much time before winter takes hold. It’s short and sweet. An angler has to choose just where to concentrate their efforts and what species one decides to hunt. You can’t be everywhere at once. I’d like to share with you my favorite locations for fall in the Northern Sierra, waters that not only produce great fishing, but stunning fall colors that will surely move you.

Lake Davis in Fall; Stalking trout in ankle deep water.

Lake Davis is at the top of my list and I consider it the best game in town when fishing for trout. The rainbows that inhabit the lake have fed on the best aquatic insects that Mother Nature can provide all season long and are usually fat and spunky. These fish also start coming into the very skinny water for the comfortable water temperatures and abundant food supply to fatten up for the long winter ice over. This is when an angler can fish right off the bank and sight fish to individual trout that can be so exhilarating!
The lake fishes so well that all methods will work depending on the game you like to play whether you’re fishing off the bank, in a float tube, or trolling some big and ugly flies behind a boat. The trout know winter is coming, they can feel it and their instinct is to feed like crazy! Big flies, heavier tippets, and faster retrieves come into play now. Multiple strikes and big number days are the norm if you can find the fish. Fly selection is not that critical though the rainbows do favor flies such as wiggle tails and woolly buggers in burnt orange, rust, and brown in sizes 6-12. With the aspens glowing, the Sand Hill cranes flying overhead, and your rod bent, Lake Davis is unbeatable for an outstanding autumn fly fishing experience!



The Big and Little Truckee Rivers come alive in fall and if you’re after a big brown trout now is the time as these predators become active. Presenting baitfish streamer flies in the Big Truckee is much like steelhead fishing in that you must cover lots of water, and make many casts to every available spot a big fish can hold. Shorter stout 7 foot 8-12 pound leaders matched with a quick descent sink tip is the preferred rig for stalking these monstrous trout. It also is important to vary your retrieve, make your streamer look alive like a fleeing or wounded minnow with erratic movements. Effective streamer flies would include Bunny Leeches and Zonkers in black, black & gold, brown & yellow, and barred olive in sizes 2-6. The lower river from Hirschdale down to Reno is where an angler should concentrate their efforts when seeking a trophy trout. If you’re lucky enough to hook a big brown trout you’ll understand why “the tug is the drug!”
Challenging fishing; Sight fishing to sippers on the Little Truckee River.

Fishing the Little Truckee River in fall is a whole different scenario than its big brother that requires stealth and careful observation. The low clear water makes sight fishing easy but if you can see the fish they can see you even better. Midge flies are the most predominant food item on the menu and Blue Wing Olive mayflies become active in the crisp autumn air. Tiny dry flies sizes 16-20 are often needed to fool the savvy sippers, it’s best to check that day’s hatch before committing to a particular fly pattern.  Casting less and observing more will pay off now, and if an angler finds a willing trout to play the game a perfect cast with the perfect fly will be needed. You may find yourself changing flies a dozen times to a single rising trout before you get a take. Challenging and rewarding fishing; that’s what the Little Truckee is really all about.

Both the Little Truckee and the Big Truckee also have a good population of the October Caddis, fishing the big bug is high on the list for the seasoned Northern California fly fisher. See below for a few more clues on this great hatch in the North Fork Yuba paragraph. I will say this though, the October caddis adult can be around for many weeks until the snow flies. If you can time it right and be on the river during the first snow fall you’ll have October Caddis flies falling from the stream side foliage and pine trees and into the water. Trout being opportunistic know exactly what’s going on and will take full advantage of it – Be there!



By the time fall arrives at Frenchman’s Reservoir the water ski crowd and campers are gone and only the serious anglers ply her waters now. Frenchman’s is without a doubt Lake Davis’s little sister and the tactics, techniques, and flies are the same for both bodies of water. The rainbows are not as big on average as Lake Davis, but there are more of them and an angler can have some big number days here. The one fly and rig that does shine here is the Sheep Creek Special fished with an intermediate clear camo sinking line. This rig is best fished from a personal watercraft covering lots of productive water in 4-9 feet of depth. As temperatures drop and shore ice forms in the northern part of the lake, the trout will move down to the southern end of the lake as it offers more comfortable water temperatures. This is the time I like to fish here as only the hardiest of souls will be out, and sometimes solitude can be found on the quiet snow lined banks. Keep in mind that Frenchman’s will not ice over as quickly as Lake Davis due to its high desert location. This is the ideal still water for anglers traveling from Reno, Nevada as it is close by and easily accessible. If you have not fished Frenchman’s before I encourage you to check it out this fall, you won’t be disappointed.


Autumn is a very special time on the North Fork Yuba River, fall colors explode from the many oak trees casting a golden glow that can be seen for miles. Water temperatures are much cooler in the lower river this time of year and being high up in the water shed is not of importance now that the summer heat is gone. The lower river from Downieville downstream to the last bridge on highway 49 also holds the highest population of a very special aquatic insect; the October Caddis. The largest caddis fly found in North America resides here and the pupa and adult give the trout their last prime rib dinner before winter takes hold. The October caddis looks like a large burnt orange moth fluttering about, but upon careful observation an angler will notice how the female will dab its abdomen on the surface of the water. This is how she lays her eggs for future generations of the species. Tactics for fishing the adult is simple really; a long 6 pound leader to 9 feet with a size 8 orange Stimulator dry fly is all one needs when fishing the adult. The key to success though is using a shorter amount of line and twitching your fly, lifting it on and off the water just like the natural. Pocket water, seams, and the tail outs of big pools are the best place to make your presentations. Finding a nice sunny bend in the river that gets all day sun is important too, the big bug loves to fly in the warmer air. Once you play the top water game of puppet and puppeteer with the October Caddis you’ll have a hard time putting the rod down; it’s addictive!

Where ever you may roam this fall enjoy every minute of it, because once winter takes hold the show is over, and the long wait for the best fishing of the year begins again. 


Friday, August 16, 2013

The $12 Industrial Wading Staff


I've been extremely busy taking my guests to the North Fork Yuba River where a wading staff is vital for navigating the river’s gnarly terrain and banging the rocks to scare off the snakes. I've used many different kinds in the past from old ski poles to the latest the fly fishing industry has to offer. They work, but I wanted something hand crafted by myself that is both bombproof and industrial. For $12 in new materials, a little time, and some effort I created a no nonsense wading staff.  I took the best features of many wading staffs including Ron Hart’s design (which is the best retail staff on the market in my opinion) and kept the manufacturing simple. My work time was a bit longer since I made 4 staffs so I can outfit my guests. For a single staff the work time is about 30 minutes, not including drying time between steps. All of the materials were bought from Hills Flat Lumber Co., our local hardware store here in Grass Valley. Great store by the way and the staff is so helpful!


To make your own, first treat the 1”x 48” hardwood dowel with some high quality stain. I skipped putting on a clear polyurethane finish to keep the “shine” factor down for a stealthier appearance, plus it’s going to get beat to hell anyways so why bother. Next make your pilot hole for your leash anchor on one end, in this case a large wood screw and a washer. Thread the wood screw though the middle of the 5/16 shock cord until the screw point protrudes out to the other side. Now insert the screw into the pilot hole that has been filled with Goop brand marine glue and tighten it until flush. Clip off the tag end of the shock cord with a pair of dikes flush so the grip slides on smoothly.



With the mountain bike grip, ream the end hole out with a 5/16 bit to allow the shock cord to pass through. Laying the grip in the hot sun on some black asphalt will soften the grip for easier application. Once the grip is soft, shoot the inside with some carburetor cleaner to help aid in sliding the grip on. The carb cleaner will eventually evaporate and the grip will be locked in place. This step does require a bit of muscle! Measure how long you would like your leash and make an overhand loop knot, tighten this very well until it’s seated. I opted for a flat black locking carabiner which will run you another $9, you can get away with much less but I wanted “bombproof” technology with a little insurance.


For the tip I then glued on a 1” vinyl leg protector for furniture with the Goop marine glue. Your next step will be removing just the bottom vinyl section of the leg protector so that the wood dowel is exposed. This will provide enough grip for wading and it wears in nicely, it’s also so much quieter than a metal tip; which the trout can appreciate. Using a Surform hand held planer will speed up removing the bottom material quickly. Finish off with a palm sander until flush and smooth.

That’s it! You’re ready to rock the canyon water! 


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sneak Peek "The Entertainer" Sierra Fisherman Fall Issue


The upcoming Fall issue of Sierra Fisherman magazine will be featuring an article I wrote revealing a day in the life of a hard working successful fly fishing guide. Below is an excerpt from "The Entertainer" which paints such a clear picture that you feel like you were there on that magical day.

Many of his friends said he took guiding too seriously, but in his eyes it was the only way to be. It was no different from being a Sherpa on a big Himalayan peak, his clients came first, and even more importantly his hard earned reputation had to be sustained. Reaching the summit with them was not the issue, that goal was obtainable and within reach. Anyone who bags a big mountain will always have that memory locked away forever; it never goes away and lives with them every day. He wanted to paint them a masterpiece on the water, one that would never be forgotten for as long as they lived. Great artist can do just that.


The truck rolled into the parking lot on the South shore boat ramp and he was greeted with a grand sight of the lake shrouded in fog back lit by a glowing sunrise welcoming the new day. Coots called and chirped as they worked on their morning breakfast filling the air with the most calming melody.  He slid the boat in the water, tied it off on the dock and waited for his clients to arrive. The rush came upon him and you could see the passion in his eyes; it was time to wave the magic wand and spread the magic. His guests showed up on time, they were regulars of his and had their act together. They knew the drill. Paperwork was completed and the rest of the gear sorted. Trips with these types of clients are not necessarily easier, but they are more enjoyable because everyone works together as a team just like any good summit bid. “Good morning Dean, hey Dan!” “Did you find the fish yesterday?” Dan asked. “Yep, we’re going to have risers in about two feet of water in the next hour” he said. They both smiled with anticipation as they made their way down to the idling boat that was purring away. The throttle was pinned and they bolted for Sheppard’s cove.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Upcoming Middle Fork Feather River Presentation at High Sierra Fly Casters


I'll be speaking this coming Wednesday evening (8/14) at the High Sierra Fly Casters monthly meeting In Gardnerville, NV featuring "The Wild and Scenic Middle Fork Feather River". Considered the most beautiful river in California by many authors, this unique river flows gracefully from the Sierra Valley, through the lush Mohawk Valley before plummeting downstream into the expansive gorge of the "Wild" zone.

My power point presentation will feature great useful information on access areas, flies, entomology, techniques/tactics for all seasons, maps, and equipment. As a designated "Wild and Scenic" river, I'll also explain the 3 different zones that make up the MFFR and how they can be best approached by a fly angler.  


The High Sierra Fly Casters monthly meeting begins at 7pm followed by my "Wild & Scenic" Middle Fork Feather River presentation. Check out HSFC for more information and details on the club, who knows? You may become a member...


Trout Dog Approved!




Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Bare Essentials


It's easy for guides and other entrepreneurs involved with fly fishing to take things a little too far in self promotion. In reality, one must be compelled to in order to survive and make a name for themselves. It is a business after all. It me took me a long time to figure this out yet still be humble and executed in a proper way that carries class and dignity. It amazes me how the public can see right through the smoke and mirrors of some, and the golden rays of integrity of a chosen few. The straight and narrow path is an easy one for me to follow and there is no turning back now.

When it's time for me to escape the rigors of commerce I resort to what I call "The Bare Essentials", which entails a small river, complete solitude and the quest to dance with the wild trout. What does one need to reach such a simple platform of pureness? For some it could be less than what I chose today, which was a hat, polarized glasses, and a fly rod with a hopper pattern. I guess I could have really taken it too far and reached the "ultra natural" by not wearing clothing, and just used the branch of a willow with a tapered leader tied to the end of it. Maybe next time. When I feel like the last man on earth with this overwhelming grand cathedral of wilderness wrapped around me, only then do I consider my sojourn to be complete. 


No fishing vest loaded for bear or any other tackle. If I get a wind knot, break my only fly off, or get it hung up in a tree my day of making presentations is done. This is good for an angler to experience, it makes you focus on every cast and detail; failure is not an option. No $80 dollar fishing shirt, or fancy wading boots. When when was the last time you felt the cold slick granite under your bare feet only to step again onto a hot black rock that's been baking in the sun? To feel the many different textures of Mother Earth below your calloused feet is getting back to basics, getting back to your roots. With all the fancy high priced footwear out there, do people even have callouses now? Big america, fast food, and our creature comforts has made us as soft as hand soap. 

When you hold a wild rainbow in your hand for those few precious seconds before releasing it back into the water there is that moment of calmness and serenity. White tipped orange fins dance in the mountain breeze, droplets of cold clear water fall ever so slowly into the river below you forming mesmerizing dimples, and those vivid colors and black spots become ingrained into your memory bank for you to savor for years. The sound of the river is louder now and if you listen closely you can hear the music and its beat. Do you hear it?


Do You?

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