Summer Edition

Summer Edition
Summer Edition

Monday, July 27, 2020

Lost Sierra Fly Fishing Report ~ 7/27/20


The flows have dropped for the North Fork Yuba River and the creeks of the Lost Sierra which isn’t a bad thing, it only concentrates the fish into the deeper pools, runs, slots, and pockets. Water temperatures are running between 57 degrees in the morning to 63 in the afternoon depending on the watershed. It’s been so nice wet wading in the cool bubbly water on those hot days! Fishing has been great if you can appreciate small to very small wild trout, solitude, and the natural world. It’s wonderful to know there are many fly anglers who are grateful for such things. 



Last weekend I did my first trip in the Truckee area of the year at the tailwater and it was kind of a culture shock for me. Hundreds of people lined the shore of Boca reservoir. At the inlet there was a group guide trip with 15 people. Masses of people everywhere - Total Covid overload. Until then, it had been months since I’ve seen another guide. What a stark difference compared to dropping into a remote creek, deep in the Lost Sierra and seeing nobody, just like yesterday’s trip. My guests and I are enjoying it all immensely, but I’m also looking forward to autumn, cooler water temps, and the Northern Sierra rivers and stillwaters to fire up.


I get asked often what is the difference between a stocked fish on the North Fork Yuba River, and a wild one. Above is a stocked rainbow. Notice the pale color and the large head and skinnier body.


Though much smaller, above is a wild rainbow. Brilliant colors, orange white tipped fins, and par marks on the side. Wild trout will lose their par marks when they are about 10 to 12 inches long. When you look at both pictures side by side you can really see the difference.


Terrestrials and caddis are the main dishes being served up at the café for the trout, and a smidgen of the smaller Yellow Sallies for desert. Ants, hoppers, and beetles are plentiful, and there are caddis from a size 18 to a 12 out in full force. If you want to catch more fish use a smaller Elk Hair caddis, and if you want to keep the really small fish off the end of your line, use the bigger Stimi. Shorten up that leader too, when your high sticking a dry fly in the pocket water, there is no need for a long leader.


As I grind out trip after trip, I’m in tune with what my guests are yearning to learn, and the common mistakes that hinder their success in catching more fish. As a guide who takes pride in sharing the knowledge and instructing the finer points of fly fishing, here is some invaluable information:


-With smaller trout, one must be lighting quick with the hook set, and once you do make a solid connection, one has to back off with the force of such or you will launch them out from the water into another dimension. Quick’s the action, and sharp the word. That’s all good until you fish for larger trout which requires a totally different approach, like waiting for them to dip below the surface before setting the hook. If not you’ll pull the fly right out of their mouth. With very small trout you’ll also be used to just hauling them in once hooked. With big trout, once you make contact be prepared for all hell to break loose. You must keep tension, but also allow them to run, or it’s “Snap”! Goodbye.

-The fun of fishing smaller water is covering sections quickly, and then moving upstream to fresh unmolested water. One needs to study each section from afar, then devising a plan of attack. My first move is to go right to the meat of the pocket, or run. Basically the area that will give me my best chances to get a grab. For beginners this is difficult as they are still learning to read water. My dad taught me long ago to mentally record where and what type of water structure you are catching your fish in, and then duplicating that same water as you move upstream to new areas. Make a plan from right to left, or left to right, and near to far. Also factor in obstacles like bushes, and overhanging branches from trees that may hinder your casting or presentations.

-When fishing pockets of water linked up to each other, the water is turbid and often blurry. It is harder for the trout to see you with those conditions, so you really can get very close - in fact a lot closer than you think. Moving slowly into position and keeping a low profile is still extremely important though. The calm tail outs of pools or the skinny tail outs of runs is where you will need to go full stealth mode and be undetected in order not to spook your quarry.

-Trout in small waters and creeks like a dry fly offering that is floating high and dry. Great care must be taken in order for your fly to do such. False casting to dry your fly off between presentations is often needed. If not, your fly will become soaked in a very short time. Another mistake I see all the time by my guests is once they are in position and ready to fish a section of water, they take their dry fly off and let it go into water, then take too long to make their cast. This causes many problems like having the fly swept downstream into rougher white water, and drowning it, or even worse snagging it under a rock in deep and fast water. Here is the answer…Unhook the fly from your rod and hold it in your hand, position yourself and set up to cast, let go of the fly… then SECONDS later make the cast. Keep your fly nice and dry for greater success.

-Far too often I also see my students hook into a fish, big or small, and strip in too much line as they try to land it. They struggle with putting it in the net, or with a smaller fish, grabbing the leader to place it in hand. How much line should one strip in? That varies. Once the fish is close, raising the rod high will bring it towards you. There should be enough line out from the tip of the near vertical position of the rod that the fish is still in the water. Simply net or grab the leader at this time, then lower the rod tip and there should be an ample amount of slack to unhook the fly and marvel at your catch.

All the above can only be learned by time on the water, fly fishing is a perishable skill, and one must fish often to increase their skill set and knowledge of such.


One more month of small water for my guests and I as we head into the dog days of summer, then it’s off to Colorado again for a few weeks of hosted trips and some Jonny time. I’m really looking forward to getting back out there! Dates are filling up quickly from now until the end of October for the Northern Sierra. I have these dates available as of now: 8/9,10, 20, 21. 9/17, 27, 28, 30. 10/3, 4, 23, 26, 27, 31. If you want to book a trip let me know asap. If we get good weather into November and the snow stays away, I’ll continue doing trips at Lake Davis with the boat – Then it’s a transition back down to the Lower Yuba.

Take care and be safe – See you on the water…

Scarlet Lily 

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