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Friday, January 31, 2014

Lower Yuba & Pyramid Lake Fishing Report 1/31/14

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!

What a great trip and I can't wait to do it again next year, though there is still a month and a half of Skwala time on the Lower Yuba - You'll know where to find me in the coming weeks ahead! Thanks Jimmy! See you on the water.......

Monday, January 27, 2014

Yuba Ramblings....

Last Friday I was able to get out and share the Lower Yuba with my guest and fellow Italian brother Mario and his father in law Dave. It was an amazing day, not catching wise, but one of the biggest Skwala hatches I've ever seen and the air temps were way to warm; talk about sweating up a storm! The fish were never really looking up in big numbers that day. I played the "dry fly snob" game and missed one nice fish on a Quigley's hackle stacker (pinkie version). On days like this, it goes down better if you can appreciate a good hatch, zero angling pressure (not one boat), and great company with good dudes. It was awesome!

Current observations for the Lower Yuba included; tons of salmon smolts in the system, good hatches and early arrivals of March browns, and one confirmed sighting of a golden stone adult. PMD's, and the fish were favoring them that day. Low flows, so low that holding water that was taken for granted is gone (adjust your location). Tons of black bodied and creme headed midges pupa #18-20 in the drift are abundant. Really clear water, we need some tint (come on rain!)

I've been extremely busy setting up the new year with trips, presentations, clinics, and outings - something had to give, and it did. Starting tomorrow I'm off on Jimmy's annual "Most Excellent Superbowl Trout Tour". This year we are ditching the skis and boards since the conditions are not soft and deep as we like it. Featured waters include the Lower Yuba, Pyramid Lake, and the big Truckee. Fish or no fish I'm going to have a blast not being held hostage by my office and computer! I'll give you a full report when the mayhem has come to an end. 

The gate is getting ready to drop and I'm ready to grab a handful of throttle and pin it! Later!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Tying The "Skwala Unit" Adult

With the Skwala stonefly hatch in effect on the Lower Yuba River, I would like to share a great new pattern I have been fishing for the last year. A long time guest of mine turned me onto this easy tie, he got it from a guide in Montana by the name of John Cook on the Bitterroot River. 

What caught my eye on this pattern was the extended body, simple to tie, sat flush in the film like the natural, yet was extremely buoyant. I tied dozens of these last year for special orders and the feedback I got back from those anglers using them was eye opening; performing well and catching fish.

The body color of the Lower Yuba Skwala is different than those of other rivers. When first hatched it is a mustard color, then turning to a spicy brown mustard within a few days. After this stone fly has been out flying for a few weeks the body does darken up a wee bit with a subtle olive color to it. Very subtle.

Tie a few of these up to see for yourself, the pattern can be used for other stoneflies by adjusting the size and colors. Durability wise it is not bombproof, and after a dozen fish or so the extended foam body can be tattered and torn. Not to worry though, put it back in the vise and take the material off with a sharp utility blade and start over; recycling the hook.


-Hook; Tiemco 101 or Mustad 94840 #10.
-Thread; Uni 6/0 dark brown.
-Under body: yellow olive vernile wrapped tightly.
-Extended over body: Larva Lace black foam.
-Wing: Spirit River UV2 poly yarn.
-Head: Moose hair tied bullet style.
-Legs: Large round rubber in brown.  
*Note: After tying, treat with Loon Hydrostop.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Current Conditions for the Lower Yuba River

Happy New Year from the banks of the Lower Yuba River! The weather has been too nice lately; we really need some precipitation and a whole bunch of it as soon as possible. The river is very low from the lack of rain with the outflow from Englebright Dam at a meager 700cfs, and crystal clear water making fishing tougher than normal. Many salmon redds are very exposed now and the wading fly angler needs to be very careful where they step while fishing. Walking on redds can crush eggs that have been deposited and are waiting to hatch. In the last week I have seen numerous anglers walking right through these sensitive areas without a clue. When the opportunity presents itself a little education in a nice manner to those who do not know any better can be beneficial to the salmon and the health of the river.

The salmon are nearly all gone and the resident trout are coming off the “egg bite”, there is usually a lull in the action of a few weeks as the egg bite ends. Then the native trout’s attention will turn onto the many hatches of aquatic insects that are already showing great promise. If the Lower Yuba or any other river for that matter does not blow out due to high water, the bug life can be prolific as the river is not scoured by damaging flows.

The big news in the last week is the much anticipated Skwala Stonefly hatch has begun with confirmed first hand sightings from myself and other guides. It’s just the start, but this hatch will continue into the month of February and quite possibly the first few weeks of March. The fun of fishing this hatch is presenting the large dry fly adult patterns on the edge water of the river. It’s always a blast when you get to see your quarry take your fly off the surface! Other hatches right now included tiny midges, blue wing olives, and pale morning dun mayflies. The Lower Yuba is one of the best rivers for winter dry fly fishing and a must experience.  

I had the pleasure of being invited on a float from Tom Page who owns Reel Anglers Fly Shop in Grass Valley last Saturday. We drifted from the Highway 20 Bridge to the Sycamore Ranch take out. Tom also guides the Lower Yuba from his drift boat and has many years of experience where any angler from rookie to experienced can learn the tricks to conquer this moody river; and he does have a few crafty tricks to say the least! That’s what my day with Tom was all about, taking in his knowledge like a sponge, and processing it for my future needs. 

For those fly anglers who want big numbers of fish caught, drifting with a local knowledgeable guide is essential to your success. In a drift boat you cover more water than that of an angler off the bank with the right rig, in the most productive water. It can be fast and furious at times. On the flip side the bank angler can take their time with a single section of the river, observing the conditions, and deciphering the puzzle that lies before them. Both styles have their rewards.

I’m so excited thinking of the many weeks of challenging dry fly fishing that awaits me and my guests on the Lower Yuba for 2014! For current conditions on the Lower Yuba, or the hot flies that are producing, please do not hesitate to call Tom at Reel Anglers Fly Shop 530.477.5397. 

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