Though the calendar still shows that we are technically in fall, winter is here, even during this brief dry spell. Northern California has seen some significant precipitation early, so much that many small tributaries that feed into the big rivers of the Sacramento, and Napa have seen good numbers of salmon showing up this fall. Many of these small tributaries have not seen salmon in the last 8 years. Water brings life, and why a good snowpack in the Sierra is critical for healthy watersheds during the warmer months.
Many fair weathered anglers think the northern Sierra is done until after the runoff of spring has come to an end. In reality, there is still fishable conditions to be had in the Tahoe-Truckee area during the winter, and mix that with a morning getting some turns in on the mountain and you've got a double header. When I lived in Truckee from 86 through 91 it was all snowboarding 24/7 for me during winter, that was my life. It's too bad I did not take some time to make a few drifts on the warmer days. Now that winter fishing has gained more popularity on the Truckee, I'd like to share a few tips from myself and my colleagues that will help you enjoy your time on the water even more.
- Fish during the warmest time of the day, an increase in water temperature by a degree or two can make a world of difference.
- Moist cloudy days can produce better hatches of baetis mayflies, let the hatch intensify, then look for snouts and rise forms. Fly first presentations are a must, plan your drifts with care as not to spook other fish.
- Nymphing will be your number one producer with your flies being presented near the stream bottom, if there is a hatch, drifting a bit higher in the water column can be more productive.
- Swinging streamers is an option, floating lines and heavy flies, or a RIO Versi Tip with a slightly lighter weight fly.
- Flies; Juju Baetis, Juju Midge, WD-40, San Juan worms in red and pink, X-May in purple and black. Think small ball and go with darker colors.
- Dries; Sparkle Dun, Loop Wing Baetis, Hackle Stacker, Parachute Midge Emerger, and midge clusters. Run a small size, If you are having a hard time seeing the fly, drop it off a bigger locator dry fly.
- Streamers; Slumpbusters in olive and black, Bunny Leeches, Stanley Streamer, and minnow patterns. Bright day bright fly, dark day dark fly goes a long way, but do not be afraid to present a rainbow fingerling on a dark day - anything can and will happen.
- Nymph the slower deeper water near the tail out of a run, trout will gang up in these areas. Depending on the clarity of the water, you may be able to sight fish for individual fish.
- With snow on the ground, rubber soled boots are best and will avoid the clump up that comes with felt soled boots. If your walk is of great distance to the river, consider snowshoes to avoid post holing.
- Inform yourself a few days before you get on the water with the current flows and weather. Dress for conditions, and keep an extra set of dry clothes in your vehicle in case you take a spill in the water.
- Never wear cotton, it is the cloth of death.
- Don't put on too many layers of socks, you want to be able to wiggle your toes. Too tight of fit results in poor circulation and colder feet. Try toe warmers instead.
- Work the water slowly and methodically, if you don't get a grab, change your fly and work the same water again.
- Bring a backpacking stove. Hot food like soup and chili keep you in the game, add some coffee in the mix and you'll be even more stoked.