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Saturday, December 31, 2016

California Fly Fishers Unlimited Presentation 1/3/2017

On Tuesday January 3rd I will be in Sacramento with a speaking engagement to California Fly Fishers Unlimited featuring my all new Powerpoint program "Mastering The Dry Fly ~ A Visual Experience". The new program unlocks the mysteries of fishing the dry fly, topics include proper presentations, rise forms, water structure, tips & tricks, and proven patterns. Brilliant slides with animated step by step instructions will provide the audience with the necessary information to raise your game on the river. If you're in the area this is a presentation you do not want to miss!

The meeting will be held at the Richard T. Conzelmann Community Center in Howe Park at 2201 Cottage Way, Sacramento. Doors open at 6pm with my program starting at 7pm. I'm looking forward to seeing you there!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Lower Yuba River Update

Some good news concerning the Lower Yuba River came this morning as the flows were nearly cut in half at 12am dropping down to 2,104 cubes. When I saw the graphs at 6am while drinking a thick cup of Joe, I made plans to get a firsthand look at the conditions of the river. Surprisingly all the puddles on the south road had ice on them as I made way getting first tracks and making observations at Long Bar and Miner’s Corner. First off the clarity of the water is looking better at two feet max. With current cold air temperatures and even colder air moving in, there will be little snow melt resulting in minimal runoff. We need the mud cloud that is hovering in Englebright reservoir to pass through for better clarity conditions. I did a quick seine in the drift this morning as well and there were small numbers of baetis nymphs #18, and midge pupa #22 in the sampling. Flipping rocks on the side water revealed some scouring, especially on the outside bends of the river. Look for conditions to improve in the weeks to come. The last 3 weeks have been torture for me and others not being able to fish on the Lower Yuba River. It’s time to play ball. Swinging dark sculpin patterns and salmon fry with a RIO 3ips Versitip would be my first choice, and dead drift nymphing a big stone with a S&M trailer would be my second option. See you out there…

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Skwala Stonefly ~ Tips & Tricks

The Skwala Stonefly hatch is right around the corner on the Lower Yuba River. I've see the hatch start as early as late December and last until the 2nd week of March. With two big water events taking place already in the month of December alone, I'm being optimistic about the populations that will appear for 2017. I'm sure they took a beating, but Mother Nature is very resilient in so many ways. In this post you'll find a whole lot of information including links to past posts, and breaking down the key components and materials for tying the Skwala adult pattern. Some say that this hatch is overrated which I disagree, yes it does get a lot of attention and with that comes hype, that's for sure. You'll see various guide services exclaiming how fun it is to throw a big dry during the winter. The fact remains that the Skwala stonefly is not that big, and an angler must put their time in with careful observations, and the perfect drift to fool the highly educated Lower Yuba River wild rainbow.

Let's first start with some past posts that will cover many different things about the hatch from behavior to presentations;
The best resource on the Skwala stonefly hatch would be my article "The Skwala Hatch" that was featured in the 2014 December issue of California Fly Fisher. If you do not own a copy of that issue ask around, it's loaded with some great information. 

When it comes to Skwala presentations there are many different factors involved, it's way more that just chuck and drift. I have just completed a superior Powerpoint presentation on fishing dry flies, "Mastering The Dry Fly ~ A Visual Experience" is a program that is both technical and informative, with new animated step by step instructions on the proper casting presentations that will equal success. I will be showcasing this program to many fly clubs and shows throughout 2017. To check out my presentation schedule, follow the link to my "News" page on my website HERE.

There are a few good patterns out on the market that will definitely increase your chances for a hook up with a surface eating trout that is keyed in on the Skwala. A Stimulator in the right color will work when the fish are really on the grab, but let's look at some specialty ties that take it to the next level.

The "Unit Skwala" is my favorite pattern and one that I have a high level of confidence in, and confidence is everything when we fish no matter the species. This pattern was turned onto me by a long time guest and fishing buddy of mine who travels to the Bitterroot River in Montana most every year for the Skwala hatch. Created by veteran guide John Cook, this pattern has an extended foam wing that is highly buoyant and provides the right profile. It has fooled many fish on the Lower Yuba River.

Morgan Thalken's "Double Dutch Bug" is my second favorite pattern, and it's also a highly effective fly. The color shown here is not up to par for the Yuba Skwala (which I'll go into detail further down) and better suited for Skwalas on the Truckee River, the Rocky Mountains, Washington, and Montana. Morgan's fly is readily available at most higher end fly shops and a must have in your box.

Photo by Dan LeCount

Truckee River guide Dan LeCount's version is another fine bullet head pattern complete with rubber legs, and an egg sack, which at times greedy trout will key on. Dan is one hell of a fly tyer, if you have a chance to see him tie - do it, you'll learn a lot from him as I have.

As a fly tyer, one is always improving patterns whether they are commercial, or their own. I do it all the time, and that's what progression is all about. I want to share a few things I've learned about tying medium to large stoneflies, and the best materials to choose. Check out the top picture of two male Skwala stones, and the lone female. Notice the size difference? For the female I use a Tiemco TMC 2312 in a size 10, I really like this hook as it features a straight eye, and is slightly humped, which allows the abdomen to sit flush in the film just like the natural. For the male, the same hook in a size 12 replicates an exact match.

When it comes to body material small diameter yarn is a good choice, it speeds up your time on the vise, and when applied properly gives a segmented look to it. Be careful in choosing the properties of the yarn. I look for blends that are both nylon and acrylic, which floats better than others that are made with natural fibers. Another aspect in using synthetic yarns is that they have more sparkle to them that shimmer and shine. One key technique when applying your yarn is to twist it in a clockwise direction, this tightens the fibers and does not allow for water to soak in. I like to use Cascade Yarns Cherub DK blend. For freshly hatched Skwalas, or specimens that are a few weeks old, I go with color #43 (located on top) which has is a pale yellow/olive color to it. Skwalas live quite a long time, about a little over a month, and as they age they darken up a bit like a ripening banana. For this life stage I go with color #51 (located on the bottom), which is more like a spicy brown mustard color.

Matching dubbing to your exact yarn color is easy. Snip off a 3" piece of the yarn and with your fingers pull it apart, repeat the process over and over until you get a fine blend. An important technique in dubbing dry flies is to use less, and spin tighter onto the thread so water does not absorb into it. Try this important technique with all your dry flies with dubbed bodies.

All foam is not created equal, and I have a lot of experience with foam as I have been tying with it since the mid 90's. Foam that you buy in fly shops is the same formula as sheet foam you can buy at a craft store, except three times the amount. Thickness may vary though. There is nothing wrong with craft foam, it comes in many colors, and serves a purpose like on my club sandwich hoppers. Larva Lace foam is simply the best, it is more buoyant than most other foam products on the market, and has the ability to be stretched when wrapping bodies. Whatever foam you choose, make sure it is "closed cell" and not "open cell", which will sink.

Quality moose hair is hard to find and one reason I've been buying my deer, elk, and moose hair from Blue Ribbon Fly Shop in West Yellowstone for the past 22 years. These patches of hair are from the Montana area from hunters who network with the shop. If you're lucky enough you'll get a patch with a bullet hole in it. When Ordering, ask for patches that have a high sheen, minimal underfur, and with straight hairs throughout.

I prefer a sight wing over a clump of foam on my patterns, and a white or off white color is best. You can use natural hair like a calf tail or go with a synthetic material. Z-lon and McFlylon have better floating abilities and resist water saturation. Antron is a great material for nymphs and emergers as proven by the late Gary LaFontaine, but it also does not float which is not the best choice for a dry fly.

Last but not least is medium round rubber legs in brown. Spirit River materials was bought by Hareline Dubbin so look for that name brand when buying your rubber legs. A key action for rubber legs is to keep them on the long side. This will give them more action as they flex with the micro currents of a river. Too short and they will not move at all and be stiff. I use a closed loop knot while fishing my Skwala patterns, this knot allows more movement and closely replicates those highly twitchy legs which is a behavior of the Skwala stone, and a strike mechanism for enticing trout.

Well there you have it, just some tips and tricks for you to ponder before hitting the vise and spinning up some bugs. We'll have to play the waiting game to see how the hatch unfolds on the Lower Yuba River this winter, and on the Truckee River a little later in spring. Tightlines!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Baiocchi's Troutfitters ~ 2016 Year In Review

Photo by Peter Niebauer

2016 was a pretty solid year for the waters I guided on including the Truckee River, the Lower Yuba River, Lake Davis, North Fork Yuba River, Frenchman's Reservoir, the Little Truckee River and the Middle Fork Feather River. I've also got to mention some of the smaller creeks that lie within the above mentioned waters. The region had a little bit more water this year than the previous three, but on some watersheds and still waters I noticed the impact of the drought from the quality of the fishing, and the numbers caught were way down. 

I want to personally thank all of my guests that went out on trips, clinics, workshops, and tours with me. I had such a great time with all of you! What makes it special for me is that I know each and everyone of you learned a little bit more about the craft through my teaching, and truly appreciated a day on the water with me. So let's run through month by month and talk about the fishing highlights of 2016.

January started off being very cold in the foothills, and I focused all of my trips on my home water of the Lower Yuba River for the next three months. Swinging sculpins and salmon fry was very productive. The skwala stonefly was first seen on the banks of the river on the 15th. Heavy rains impacted the river at the end of the month, and on the 18th the first high water event occurred where Deer Creek and the flows from Englebright dam reached 10,188 cubes. On the 30th, the second big water event came down from the mountains and once again high snow levels melted the snow pack, and serious runoff occured. The river topped out at 15, 907 cfs, and slightly scoured the bottom, while moving some smaller cobblestones.

February brought some sunny warm days early on the river and because of such the Skwalas were out in good numbers on certain days. During this hatch an angler on the bank is much more in tune as they can see the subtle takes, and productive feeding lanes, while those in a drift boat that go whizzing by and are a little out of touch. The weather got even nicer and I took a fews days to fish the Truckee river and did quite well with beatis and worms high stiked in the deep water of the tail outs of major runs. Sunny skies and even warmer weather held out so I gave my guests the option of doing some Truckee trips, which proved to be totally worth it.

Back on the Lower Yuba dry fly fishing was productive with even more Skwalas, and lesser hatches of BWO's, Pinkies, and the occasional Gray Drake. The false spring was about to turn back to winter near the end of the month with a 10 day forecast of precipitation that would eventually lead to another ass kicking from Mother Nature.

We got another week of good weather that was productive for making some dry fly presentations with the skwala adult and some very nice fish were landed, then it hit...

March - On the morning of the 6th major flooding occurred on the Lower Yuba River and Deer creek with a combined flow of 22,912. I was down on the river river checking things out and the amount of water flowing down, along with the speed of the flow was an amazing sight. It took quite a while for the river to come back down and clear, and when it did there were major changes to bottom topography with new deeper areas, and many tail outs of runs that filled in substantially. The fishing was effected by the scouring flows, and since I have 2 different USFS permits and a third I work under, there was plenty of options. I quickly switched gears to the Truckee area. The Yuba needed to heal.

April saw very fishable conditions during pre runoff on the Truckee, and it was good action using indo rigs and high sticking the usual flies. The Middle Fork Feather River was a little too cold and high for the early opener, but it was good to see a high volume of water. This is one of the watersheds that took a hit as a result of drought and we're hoping this winter will bring more water and better populations of wild rainbows into the system. 

May was awesome on the Truckee River and my guests and I continued to have great success while fishing the Glenshire stretch. Once the flows got big and the runoff started, I headed up north and started guiding at Lake Davis. The lake had favorable conditions using indo rigs in deeper water, but still fishing the upper water column. The lake level at that time was about 70%. The hatches really turned on in the middle of the month with blood midges, callibaetis mayflies and the beginning of the damsel hatch. Catch rates were still down due to DFW not planting as they normally do, thus providing a low population of rainbows, but the size of the fish were very big with 4 and 5 pound trout making the net.

June was great at Lake Davis, the weather early on was really nice and that brought out the damsels in full force. There was plenty of good sight fishing until mid month when we saw colder than normal weather and had snow squalls at the lake for a few days combined with a week's worth of big wind. 

Once that cold weather blew through the hexes popped and the evening hatch was good, we caught more small fish in front of the campgrounds with the occasional toad. The damsels kept emerging but as always the trout wise up to artificials which can make for some very challenging fishing. We learned a few more tactics for such occasions. 

One of my highlights is guiding at the Cliff Frazier Memorial Trout Camp for kids put on by Tahoe Truckee Fly Fishers. The San Francisco Fly Casting Club hosts the event and let's the club use the private water on the Truckee river with full access to their club house. It's a very special event that provides the opportunity for kids to experience fly fishing and the great outdoors.

I was quite pleased the way the Lake Davis fished during the month of June, and I've come to the conclusion it's my favorite time of year at the lake. Nice weather, and strong aquatic hatches with multiple games just can't be beat.

July 1st and the water temperatures at Lake Davis exceeded the 70 degree barrier and it was time to head over the hill and guide on the North Fork Yuba River. The river was in great shape with more water than we've seen in years past. The dry/dropper game was all time and this river is the perfect classroom for new fly anglers to heighten their skill set quickly. You can't find a more beautiful place to fly fish in the northern Sierra as it offers solitude combined with a wild and remote setting.

August and the dog days of summer usually means slow fishing, but on the upper reaches of the North Fork Yuba River where many cold springs pump in 44 degree water, it still fires on all cylinders. Switching to terrestrials like ant patterns and hoppers keeps the wild rainbows eager to take your fly. I did many trips and my guests and I did not see another fly angler on the water. It's possible to have solitude on this popular river if you drop into the remote gorges and areas with difficult terrain to navigate. I can't wait for next summer...

Also during the month of August, Ken Hanley, Jon Marcacci, and myself were able to finish our year long carp project titled "Gift of Gold." The pursuit of catching the golden ghost on the fly is so incredibly challenging, and so satisfying once you make a solid connection with a hook up.

September had me all over the northern Sierra and guiding at venues like The Middle Fork Feather River, Lake Davis with its cooling water, and nearing the end of the North Fork Yuba River season. The MFFR was decent, Lake Davis started out slow, yet came on strong by the middle of the month. The NFYR was fabulous with the daily mid morning spinner fall of tiny BWO's.

The callibaetis hatch was pretty strong at the lake providing some sight fishing conditions with dry flies. If the population of trout were bigger, we would have had more heads to hunt. Still, a few of these big toads was good enough for many of my guests.

October was a blustery month at Lake Davis and there were many days it blew up to 40 mph. This October was a little better than the previous two, but still nothing like it should be. I'm blaming low populations of fish, if they were there, we would be catching them.

There were a few days that gave me hope at Lake Davis with multiple risers in a couple feet of water on the mud flats. As we came upon the end of the month the fall colors erupted during the third week displaying a blaze of pastels and the best eye candy ever.

November started out well but at another still water, Frenchman's reservoir. With the boat back down off the hill and safely in the confines of my low elevation yard, it was all walk and wade trips until ice up. Business slows down for me during this time until mid January, and with as many trips, clinics, workshops, tours, and photo shoots I put in - It's nice to be able to take a break, and get my ducks in a row. I'm thankful for that.

December and I'm back on the Lower Yuba River until the first week of April. We had some pretty good action on the egg bite, but now that the salmon are nearly done, the rainbows are in transition switching back to aquatics. You can read my reports below from a few weeks ago before the deluge of big water hit. We had some pretty stellar days dry fly fishing with good mayfly hatches. I'm looking forward to getting back out on the water as soon as it comes back into shape after the big flows of December.

So we've come full circle and nearly a year later. I have a great feeling about the opportunities that await myself and my guests for 2017! Let's hope we have a solid winter, a good snowpack, reservoirs and lakes filled, healthy fish abound, and profuse hatches taht scatter the water's surface. Wishing you all the very best during the holidays. Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Lower Yuba River Update ~ Blown Out Again!

It was inevitable that the Lower Yuba River would blow out again after the heavy rains of Wednesday night into Thursday. The river peaked at Parks Bar Bridge at 4am with a recorded flow of 28,972 cubes. Deer Creek topped out at 5,220 cfs and once again became a raging torrent. It's going to be a while until we are able to fish successfully on the river. So let the flows come down, and wait until the water clears. We'll have to learn the river all over again as I know the bottom substrate has been altered, and bug life has been affected. Thinking those Salmon eggs took a beating too, but the high flows did carry the fingerlings downstream. It is what it is, time to hit the tying bench and be productive.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Now Booking The Lower Yuba River Tours ~ 2017

Lance Gray and I are already deep into our guiding calendars for 2017. We have a few spots open for the Lower Yuba Tours on 1/12/2017, and 1/21/2017. If you're not familiar with the Lower Yuba Tour, it's a great way for new anglers to learn about the river and the idiosyncrasies about this complex river that often leaves many with a serious case of frustration.

Lance and I will lead a small group of anglers along the river, pointing out access areas, fishing techniques, rigging for dry flies, nymphing, swinging, and working with anglers on the water with casting or learning new techniques. We will also help anglers with reading the water and stalking techniques needed for the very wary Yuba rainbows.The Tour includes handouts with specific details on maps, access areas, flies, hatch charts, special setups, equipment recommended, and other special features that pertain to the fisheries. Streamside lunch and drinks are also provided. A steal of a price at $145 gets you in the door and on the path to being more successful on the Lower Yuba. To book your spot contact Lance HERE If you can't make the above dates we will be announcing more dates as they become available.

We're looking forward to having you join us in 2017, and sharing this total wild fishery with you!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Lower Yuba River Update ~ High Flows & Big Water

Well, I was a day off when the big water would hit, but it did in a huge way this afternoon! The river topped out 25,149 cubes, Deer Creek reached 5,130 cfs, and the water was spilling over Englebright dam. Pretty serious conditions. Water levels are slowly dropping at this time.We have a break on Sunday and Monday, then another system hitting late Monday evening with heavy rain through Thursday. We won't be fishing on the Yuba anytime soon, and your time tying flies will be better spent. With the high flows we'll see some changes to the river bed as we did this past winter, but at what extent won't be revealed until the flows come down, and the water clears. Northern California is truly the land of extremes.

Deer Creek 12/10/2017

Englebright Dam Spilling Over 12/10/2017

Friday, December 9, 2016

Just In Time For Christmas ~ Baiocchi's Troutfitters Gift Certificates

Looking for a great gift to put under the tree for your favorite fly angler? Check out Baiocchi's Troutfitters gift certificates for 2017, Good for full or half day trips, and hourly instruction. You'll be giving a gift that includes beautiful waters like Lake Davis, Lower Yuba River, Truckee and Little Truckee River area, Middle Fork Feather River, North Fork Feather River, and Frenchman's Reservoir.

The gift certificate is easy to set up. First, download the link HERE, then contact me for payment and an authorization code. Next, fill out the GC, place under the tree, and watch the recipient light up on Christmas morning!

Wishing you and your families the very best this holiday season! - Jon.

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