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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Lower Yuba River Fly Fishing Report ~ Pleasanton Fly Fishing Show ~ Upcoming Presentations ~ 2/28/2020


Wow, what a busy couple of weeks it has been. I’m sorry for the delay in making this post but business has been out of control, and I’m still not even close to being caught up yet. It's been the best winter guiding season in 24 years and I'm so grateful, thanks for all the support. First off, let’s talk about our weather and the dry spell of the extremely warm temperatures we’ve been experiencing. 




It’s Spring in February. On the Yuba River there are lupine and poppies blooming, and the Pipevine swallowtail butterfly is out. All signs of Spring. We have a chance of precipitation through the weekend, then warming back up again, and the models suggest a pattern change starting the second week of March where a trough may set up off the California coast. That could change as well. You just never know with California weather in this era of late, gone are the days of my youth growing up in Paradise with massive amounts of rain and snow from October to May.


Last week, Cat Toy and I floated the river with Brian Clemens of Nor Cal Fly Guides on a guided trip and did really well. As always, if you want bigger numbers of fish, floating with a good knowledgeable guide will do just that as you are covering miles of the river. We got most of our fish on indo rigs with multiple rubber leg stones and Hogan’s Red Headed Step Child. Drag free drifts are everything when it comes to being successful on the Yuba River, wet or dry.






Cat is hoping to be guiding this late spring in Colorado and I had her shadow a trip with me. She definitely has some serious life skills that make her an excellent teacher and communicator. She’s even taught me how to be more effective when instructing my guests. 



She guided our guest Pat into a very big rainbow that was being selective with Skwalas, unfortunately a death grip resulted in a break off and we did not get a chance to net the fish. I’m thrilled and excited for Cat’s future, and I know she will make an excellent guide. Check out her blog: 


So the Skwalas are still going strong and because of the nice weather I’ve been seeing fish eating them off the surface as early as 11am. Today I finally saw a few March Brown mayflies coming off around 1pm. They are a size 14, and are hatching downstream of fast riffles. 


The mayfly hatches overall have been pretty slim in the past few weeks. I see more of them upstream of the bridge then down below. A bigger PMD in a size 14 is out, BWOs in a size 18, and still a few of the larger brown duns in a size 10. I did see some rusty PMD spinners on the float last week near the Aquarium section with a few fish eating the spent females post ovipositing. The fish have been pretty wise when it comes to artificial imitations, and some of them are uncatchable. Just a few important tips when it comes to fishing the Skwala dry:

-A downstream fly first presentation is super important using a reach cast, or a bump feed.
-Don’t beat the water, cast less, observe more, and make your casts count.
-Don't neglect the skinny water, trout have been hooked in 8 to 12" of water right off the bank.
-Change patterns often.
-Fish the faster rougher water where a trout cannot inspect your fly as closely as the slower flat calm water.
-Check your leader often for wind knots and abrasion.
-Test your knots after fighting a fish.
-Set the hook when the fish has taken your fly and is heading back down below the surface.





The rainbows right now are so chunky and fat from gorging themselves on the Skwala stones. These fish are so pristine, hard fighting, and absolutely beautiful! 



    The 2020 Pleasanton Fly Fishing Show was the most fun and successful show I’ve ever done. With “da Dean of Guides” Frank Pisciotta absent and attending his nephew’s wedding, I ran the Truckee Guide Network booth alongside of Cat Toy, Adam Eisenman, and Kara Zambricki. I really want to thank them all for doing an incredible job, well done! 




Adam was tying flies at the booth and I’m so impressed with his skills – mind blowing! My talks went extremely well with huge numbers of folks attending. The “North Fork Yuba River” and “Creekin the Lost Sierra” were very popular, and I did not expect that many anglers to be so interested. What a great show! Thanks to all of you who came by the booth to say hi and talk about future guide trips with us. I’m excited for the upcoming season!



Celebrity tyer and winner of the 2018 Buz Buszek tying award, Bud Heintz teaching Cat Toy the finer points of tying the PMD comparadun at the Pleasanton Fly Fishing Show 2020


I have some upcoming presentations for the month of March. This coming Tuesday I will be at Gold Country Fly Fishers with the Lost Sierra program. On the 17th I will be in Placerville speaking to the ElDorado chapter of TU presenting “Creekin the Lost Sierra." The next night I will be at the Tracy Fly Fishers with a Lake Davis and Frenchman Lake program, and the next night at Peninsula Fly Fishers with the same program as well. Back to back, to back – Boom! Also I will be hosting fellow club members from the Tahoe Truckee Fly Fishers at the UC Davis property on the Lower Yuba River tomorrow. TTFF is one of the best clubs out there with quality people, no egos, and a positive influence for fly fishing and conservation.

Well, let’s hope for rain in the very near future, but you might as well enjoy the weather and get some quality fishing in. See you on the banks of the Lower Yuba River.



Monday, February 10, 2020

Mid Season Yuba River Skwala Hatch ~ Upping Your Game



No rain and conditions look rather bleak for precipitation in the future. At the moment, I could care less. What we are experiencing right now on the Yuba River is why I moved to Nevada City from part time in 2008, to full time in 2011. A mix of mild and sunny days with colder periods, lower flows, good hatches with two sizes of PMDs, the Skwalas, Brown Duns, Epeorus mayflies (pinkies), BWOs, and midges. Nothing better than drought conditions on the Lower Yuba River. It's been a real pleasure sharing the Yuba River experience with great fly clubs like Tr-Valley Fly Fishers, High Sierra Flycasters in the past few weeks, and many individual anglers who participated in workshops and regular guide trips. Stalking individual trout off the bank and hunting heads on the Yuba is the most rewarding game you can play while fly fishing in Northern California during the winter. It's so good... I never want it to end.


The river has been very busy with anglers, and I still see folks racing around trying to out do one another and get the spot. It's quite the opposite action that one really needs to do...Slow down, cast less, observe more, and make a game plan for each unique area, or an individual fish you are targeting. Some of the trout are wising up to artificial Skwala and mayfly patterns. Accurate drag fee drifts are now becoming more important than ever. Fishing the overlooked nooks and crannies is wise. Time of day is everything, with the sun up a little longer, 3 to 5pm is magic now chasing the stoner hatch, especially in skinny water with 1-2 feet in depth. Now we must adjust, and think outside the box to keep being successful. Here are some tips that will surely help you, a gathering of thoughts from the wisdom of the guides, and hard core Skwala soldiers of the Lower Yuba River.

More than ever, color can make a difference on your patterns. As I mentioned before, these stoneflies live a long time because they can eat and drink. As they age their colors also change, and with so many different colors in the mix, I'm beginning to wonder if their diet affects each one's unique color combos. Shit's getting weird...again. With different colored sharpies in light and dark olive, brown, and black, plus tying in colored ribbing between each segmentation (a dubbing loop of tying thread spun into a single rope works great) of the yarn on your Unit Skwalas, one can dial it all in. When using the sharpies, just brush the abdomen, or add those three minute dark spots in the thorax. Check out these color combos I took pictures of in one hour of picking up specimens off the shoreline cobbles last Saturday.







As you can see, there are many different color combos on the water right now. Light olive, darker olive, yellowish olive, gold, and the two tone schemes. Ragged wings are also now present, life on the river is not always easy on these stoners after being in the elements for a month. Now you can understand why tweaking your patterns can give you the edge. A few picky fish in the last week were fooled because we cut the rubber legs off in half to shorten the length and make them appear more natural. Think outside the box...


More on the water tips:
  • Fish the insignificant seams of riffles, side water, and faster glides. Go beyond where everybody else is fishing, fish the crap water.
  • Stop repeatedly casting in the same water with the same drift over and over. Rest the water, and make real presentations that count. Really think about your approach. Systematically make presentations near to far. 
  • Cover sections of water, then find fresh unmolested water.
  • Quit slapping the water over and over with multiple casts, all you're doing is letting those trout know you're trying to hurt them with intent. If you make a mistake in your location of your cast, finish the drift, then pick it up softly, and resume. Also, land your fly softly after you make your cast. These trout do not dig inferior presentations.
  • A fly first, downstream presentation to rising educated fish is a must.
  • Check your tackle. Knots, make sure they are strong. Reels, make sure your line is on evenly and with tension so when peeled off in milliseconds by a hot Yuba trout, there is no jamming up. 
  • Set the drag before you start fishing, there should be no backlash, free spool, or a reverse motion ending with a long sharp pull of the fly line out of the reel.
  • When casting to a rising fish whether it is from a upstream, or a downstream position, make sure your placement is well enough upstream of the holding fish so the fly enters its cone of vision naturally.
  • Rest the water, cast less, observe more, and take mental notes. Apply what you have learned...
Get some...See you on the water.



Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Lower Yuba River Fly Fishing Report ~ 2/5/2020



It’s been pretty good on the Lower Yuba River, but the air temperatures greatly affect Skwala activity, and also the mayfly hatches. The last two days with the extremely cold north wind really hampered the dry fly fishing. In fact last Monday was the coldest day I can remember on the Yuba River. That north wind cuts right through you and it’s enough to give one an ear ache for days (I’m there right now). Here is an example of how the air temperature and wind chill affect Skwala activity. On Saturday the first of February, I was hosting group #2 from Tri Valley Fly Fishers at Hammon Grove. That day we saw dozens of stoneflies in the willows, on the rocks, and in the drift. We saw many blow ups from the trout eating them as well. This past Monday, I saw one Skwala out, with only a few rise forms. Where do they go? They simply hide out under the cobbles and wait for another day that is warmer. For the mayflies, it’s a different story. They have a 24 hour life cycle, where as a stonefly can live for a month or longer. Cold wind can affect the water temps from coming up a few degrees which is part of the trigger mechanism that mayflies use to hatch. The other aspect is that with a strong wind, the duns are not on the water as long and are simply blown off the surface, much to the trout’s dismay.


The flows have come down and Yuba Water Agency has cut the flows back a little from the lack of precipitation and is currently running at 1,093 cubes – Love it! There’s more to come too, from their website this morning: “Current snow survey data and long-range forecasts indicate dry conditions. For water conservation purposes we will decrease releases from Englebright Reservoir on Tuesday 2/4, Wednesday 2/5 and Thursday 2/6 by 50 cfs per day, from 1,000 cfs to 850 cfs. If weather conditions change we will reevaluate and look at adjustments to flows. Releases from Englebright Reservoir are managed to comply with license flow requirements.” Fishing pressure has been busy especially on the weekends. The lack of fishing etiquette has been disturbing, especially from new guide boats, and new pilots of public boats. We had three boats drift right through a foam line with rising trout that my clients were fishing last Saturday, and they didn’t even acknowledge we were there. I’ve been in the same situation before where veteran drift boat guides would drift behind us as to not disturb the feeding lane. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again – Communication goes a long way. 


So I’ve been working closely with Brian Clemens on trips where our clients do a day with him in the boat, and then a more instructional day with me on how to best approach the Yuba River on their own as a walk and wade angler. Brian has been doing really well nymphing from the boat. He’s covering the most productive water, with the right flies, and at the right depth – for miles. The best bugs for the indo rig have been Clemens’s Skwala Stone, Clemens’s Bad Ass Baetis, Jimmy Leg Stones, and the worm. The upper river has a little more color to it than down below, so switching to 5X has its advantages when the water is clearer. I’ve been up on the upper part of the river a lot, and there is a ton of fish stacked up there right now. According to Brian the top and bottom sections of the Yuba down to Daguerre dam have the biggest amounts of fish in the system, while the middle section is just ok. You know how the Yuba works, the trout can be here today, and somewhere else tomorrow. If you’re not catching – Move!




For me and my trips, it’s all about the afternoons. Hunting selective trout from the bank is so much fun, and it’s not easy, yet very challenging. I love it! Mayflies start appearing round 1 pm or so, look for the songbirds being active to help guide you. Two PMDs are out, and the BWOs as well. Once the fish are keyed in on the mayflies and are looking up, it then becomes Skwala time with the best fishing from 3 to 5pm. You’ll have better results with broken water than the flat calm water. The trout have more time to inspect your fly on the flat calm water. With more fishing pressure on the river you’ll often see the fish take a natural Skwala and refuse your artificial. Try changing patterns and see if they take it, if not, move on and find another fish.

I’m totally booked up for February with regular guide trips, workshops, and the Pleasanton show, but have a few dates open for March as of now. If you really want to learn about the Yuba, I can teach you the ways through Jedi training and mind tricks. See you on the water…



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