After weeks of office related work from being an independent guide and writing articles for major fly fishing magazines with little personal fishing, I jumped at the chance to take a road trip with my mentor Jimmy aka "Obi Wan". Jimmy's approach to fly fishing is no different than being a Jedi Knight; stealth, observations, smart presentations, and a fully focused mindset equals unparalleled results on the water; disciplined.
Our first day on "Jimmy's Most Excellent Superbowl Trout Tour" was on the Lower Yuba river. We both love this time of year as the skwala stoneflies are out and our favorite game of trout stalking off the bank is very effective. The river is low with the current flow still idle at 720cfs and very clear. Trout are spooky, especially in the skinny side water. Being stealthy is an absolute must, and careful observations of currents and seams often dictate success. Locating risers can be problematic for some anglers who are in too much of a hurry. Slow down, keep your eyes wide open, decipher small sections of the river, and make a plan of attack. Other than the skwalas, there was a fair amount of Epeorus mayflies or "pinkies" hatching. The trout were eating both.
Joining us that first day was my good friend Dave from Walnut Creek, Ca. Dave is still learning the way of the force and in his early stages of becoming a Jedi Knight, he was impressed with Obi Wan's teachings, often just watching rather than casting - smart. Fishing was good, but your presentations had to be perfect with the right Skwala adult pattern, any micro drag in your presentation whether it was traditional or fly first, would not get a take. These rainbows are serious professionals.
Dave fished a back slough that had zero current and some aggressive rising rainbows, it was like a still water setting, and those trout could really study your fly to see if it was the real thing, or an artificial. He spent about 2 hours trying to get those trout to inhale his offering, but in the end the they won. I admired Dave for staying focused and not just walking away, he gave it his all.
We left Dave as he departed back home and made our way up the hill to our hotel room in Reno, after gorging ourselves on sushi, we got some shut eye and rest for our next day at Pyramid Lake. With an approaching storm we felt good about our chances as the lake fishes so much better with wind and nasty weather. I was pretty stoked to be back at Pyramid after a 15 year hiatus, back then I was torn between two lovers; Eagle Lake and Pyramid. I chose to pursue my craft at Eagle and with it's current state of low water I may be coming back here to fulfill my high alkaline still water addiction.
We arrived mid morning at Popcorn Beach and passed up the first light bite which has been productive. The middle of the day has been tough if you cannot locate the fish, and that's the thing with Pyramid; Not a technical place like Crowley lake, and finding active schools of Cutthroats is everything. The regulars, or die hards were out there in force fishing from the shore and in tubes. After talking to a few of the experts, effective flies for stripping have been black and black/purple leeches, white/purple tadpoles, and chartreuse/white popcorn beetles. I counted 18 rods and after four hours there was not one single hook up; slow. The weather was very warm and I was a bit overdressed but I knew some big wind was on its way.
My friend, business partner, and Pyramid fly fishing guide Rob Anderson met up with Jimmy and I. The wind finally showed up, getting stronger by the minute and there were giant dust storms in the distance; a result from the driest year on record in the West. We followed Rob to another spot that would offer some protection from the wind. Let me tell you, with wind gusts up to 30 to 40 mph, it was a chore just trying to open the vehicle's door! It was so intense we chose to rig up down near the water in the wind break for fear of losing our equipment!
We ran bobber rigs due to the rocky bottom of this location with our flies just off the bottom and immediately Rob was into a fish. Effective flies were Rob's signature ties; the "Mahalo Nymph" and the "Albino Wino" midge pupa. There was three more Cutts landed in the next hour and yours truly got the big skunker award. That's OK with with me, I had a blast netting fish, taking pictures, and taking in Rob's knowledge and insight of this ancient inland sea.
Jimmy and I continued fishing as Rob disappeared up to the truck, minutes later we noticed red onion skins flying by us at a high rate of speed out into the lake, and the smell of beef cooking. Rob was grilling up some organic cheese burgers with caramelized onions for us and it was so appreciated. As we devoured our mouth watering meals I laughed out loud how these burgers could sell for $25 in these brutal conditions of wind and cold! Good food becomes great food when consumed outdoors in inclement weather! It's Rob's food that he provides his guests with that are the icing on the cake when doing his guided trips at Pyramid - He's got it dialed.
Our original plan for day three was to fish the Big Truckee in the lower grand canyon area, but the mountains were receiving a fair amount of sierra cement and the river rose slightly with an off color. After reading the weather report for the lower Yuba on the smart phone while heading west on Hwy 80, we decided to head back to the land of skwalas, and head hunting for Rainbows. It was a wise move, blue skies and mild air temperatures greeted us and we were on the water by noon time - Perfect timing.
The skwala hatch on Thursday was the biggest I've ever seen on the Lower Yuba, it was insane! Not very many trout showing themselves but if you made perfect drifts in the right places, you got a grab. It was another great day of trout stalking and without a doubt the funnest way to catch trout on a fly rod. I went back to the slough and stalked the fish that gave Dave a hard time on day one of the Trout Tour. I was on my hands and knees and offered them the "Skwala Unit" dry and got lucky hooking both. Meanwhile Jimmy fished some faster side water nearby and hooked into a few - Obi Wan has serious game!