Spring Edition

Spring Edition
Spring Edition

Friday, March 27, 2020

The RS2 ~ A Tail Water Trout Favorite ~ 3/27/2020

~ Rim Chung ~

The RS2 pattern was developed nearly 40 years ago by Colorado angler and tier Rim Chung. The name of the fly is short for “Rim’s Semblance 2,” and it fishes well as either a midge or a mayfly emerger. The original version featured natural beaver fur dubbing and saddle hackle for the wing. Many more modern versions appeared as newer materials were available to tiers, while maintaining the profile of Chung’s original pattern. As with many great patterns that have stood the test of time, you can fish the RS2 in many different ways. It can fished on the surface, in the film, subsurface, or as a dropper off another emerger pattern. This multi functional fly kicks ass!  

My first introduction to the RS2 was from Abe Chavez who owned Abe’s Motel and Fly shop in 1992 on the San Juan River in New Mexico. Having lived in Breckenridge and Alma from 1991 to 1996, The Juan was only a mere 5 hours away through beautiful country like the San Luis Valley, with spectacular views of the Sangre De Cristo Mountain range, and over Wolf Creek Pass (headwaters of the San Juan River) down through Pagosa Springs, and in route to Navajo Dam – Where the motherlode of tail waters lives. I always brought a crew of dudes down there, all professional snowboarders who I had taught how to fly fish, and they had the fever! Abe loved it when we would visit his shop for flies and materials. It was our youth and enthusiasm that got him amped up and willing to share. He would pull us aside and show us his favorite flies, like the atomic worm (orange Annelid) which we caught most of our fish on. 

I only used the RS2 on The Juan back in those days after Abe shared it with us. It shined on those side channel surface feeders up near the cable below the dam. Being a native Northern Californian, I was taught at an early age how to tight line nymph by my father, and I craved pocket water in canyons lined with polished granite (think North Fork Feather, Upper Sac, The Truckee, and the West Branch Feather River). It’s all I wanted to do at the time, and small tiny dry flies were not the norm back then.  As fly anglers, we all go through phases in our lifetime of fly fishing. As you can tell from my Lower Yuba River reports from the last 10 years, the Skwala game and technical dry fly first presentations on the Lower Yuba River to wary trout, is hard to beat.

Fast forward to September of 2019 when I returned to Colorado some 22 years later, and went on a 10 day adventure with a longtime friend who had recently got addicted to fly fishing, Cat Toy - https://flyfishingwithcattoy.blogspot.com/ We ventured up to the Yampa River below Stagecoach Reservoir, which she raved about for days before we left. I was pretty excited! Like any new fishery, it took me awhile to learn its rhythm. Cat was big on the RS2, so I tied one on she gave me and started to fish it once again on one of her most favorite home waters. That little speck of a gray and flash in the drift was well received by my intended quarry. Bent rods and fish in the net is the tell all.

Having had so much fun on that trip, I returned in December just before Christmas. It was a hell of lot colder, but nothing like Cat endured months later with subzero weather, and deep snow in the canyon of Yampa Land. In the short time since I had last saw her, she was now tying – as much as she could. Like REALLY into it. We sat down at the table the day before leaving for a trip to Stagecoach, and spun up some bugs. One of her ties of course, was the RS2. 

As tiers, we all have our own style and signature to the patterns we learn to tie. Cat’s RS2 was a little different. Most anglers fish the RS2 on the surface or in the film. This particular fly was tied on a heavy pupa hook. The TMC 2457 #18-22, and fished near the bottom with additional weight, using an indicator rig. Being winter, the takes were super subtle, and this presentation was best. Cat also used natural fibers like wood duck for the tail instead of microfibbets. She also has a version of the RS2 named “Cat Nip”, which I’m sworn to secrecy to. 

That covers the sub surface side of the multi functional RS2. The surface and in the film aspect of this fly does require different materials like a straight eye hook, the TMC 101 #16-22, and super fine dubbing spun tight as to not let the water soak in as easily. Using the natural floating properties of Cul de Canard (CDC) for the wing does wonders. There is something about CDC that the fish really like, maybe it’s the air bubbles that get trapped in the fibers resembling the natural emerging insect rising up into the meniscus. One thing with CDC though, after a lengthy battle with a trout, it is tough for your player to be ready to play the game again. Yes, using your desiccant helps, but I’d rather tie on a fresh fly. So, make sure you have multiple patterns of the same style and size for the hatch you are encountering. For the tails on your surface pattern, using microfibbets is the way to go because it is so identical to the natural, and maybe a detail the trout key in on. I learned from master tier Bud Heintz that using double sided microfibbets gave the fly more stability when floating on the surface, especially in choppy water. 

In the last couple of days I’ve been filling up my “small ball” box with all this “free time” I have at home now, both sub surface and floating styles of Rim’s fly. The RS2 is not as easy as one would think, unless you’re tying tiny stuff every day. The biggest problem to solve is the correct proportions. I was taught a long time ago to vary your ties to be regular, chunky, or sparse with the same pattern and hook size, because you never know which style will be the one the fish will want that day (or that hour of the day). If your RS2 does not look like something you saw on the internet from Joe Pro, fish it anyways. Cat proves that time and time again with her own way of tying the different patterns she has learned so far. The thread trick, using a short piece of extra thread to splay the tails is really cool (video link below). It is a valuable technique that will help you tie other small flies in the future. Make sure the piece of thread is of good length to be able to grasp with your hand easily, and I found it much simpler to split the tail if I twisted the piece of thread into a single rope. As for the dubbing noodle, keep it extremely sparse, and carefully build the body as you go. It’s really easy to put too much dubbing on, and have a fly that looks WAY out of proportion.

A big part of a successful fly in our modern day of fly fishing is using different materials the trout are not use to seeing, or a combination of newer materials. I proved that in Colorado from my last two trips using Hogan Brown’s S&M pattern with some very unusual material substitutions. Those Colorado trout had never seen anything like it before. They ate first, and asked questions later. For my sub surface RS2’s, I did something similar using a buggier florescent UV dubbing in black, dark brown, and gray for the body, and a whitish blue UV yarn for the wing. There are some time tested patterns that are commercially and readily available, and for whatever reason, they keep on producing. I swear though, on pressured waters it pays to think outside the box. If you haven’t sat down at the vice and started spinning dozens of bugs yet, well… `tis the season of self-quarantine and fly tying.

RS2 Videos & Websites:

This video, by Tim Flagler of Tightline Productions, offers step-by-step directions for tying this pattern by Matt Grobert, who shows off several neat tricks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27KQ6pDnLFM

This is Rim Chung’s version, it’s longer but there are some valuable lessons to be learned from the creator, and the master himself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Js1fwpZ0LVQ

Colorado angler Ferenc Horvath maintains a website devoted to the RS2, you can see it here: https://www.rs2fly.com/RS2/Welcome.html the site contains lots of great information, as well as a chart of good color combinations.

See you on the water…hopefully soon.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Lower Yuba River Fly Fishing Report ~ The Corona Skwala Session ~ 3/22/2020

Total escape. Spending time on the Lower Yuba River fishing, exploring, bugging, and reveling in nature. It was so needed during these dire times. I found my true self once again. Yesterday was definitely a highlight in my fly fishing experience. The best? Close, but the Yampa last December 23rd has been the most special to me so far. I wish every guest of mine could have experienced what I felt yesterday. Words cannot describe how beautiful and fun my day was, but I’ll try…

A warm sunny day greeted us as we walked for miles to keep a safe distance from others. The wind was much stronger than predicted, and oddly it had some bite to it early on. My micro thin merino wool BUFF gave me comfort. I love simple functional gear and all the good things they provide, it’s the best. The flows have come down after the last storm, and are currently running at 1,090 cubes – perfect. The water has color to it which is a good thing, with visibility right at about 5 feet. The Yuba River is a little clearer downstream near Hammon Grove Park, so expect the fish to be not so grabby. There were many anglers out yesterday including gold panners, and just regular folk enjoying and using their Public Trust Doctrine (thank you for all your work on the Yuba River dad, and for teaching me at a young age to be a survivor!)

Robert J Baiocchi ~ San Jaun River, NM ~ 1983

Just one example of thousands, from Battling Bob…

With all this free time on your hands during our situation, google my dad’s name and your favorite body of water, or interest. You will be amazed…

Yesterday was special for the sole reason of fishing with my mentor Jimmy, The Obi Wan Kenobi of fly fishing. For close to 4 decades I’ve fly fished with this humble man, and every session I learn something from him, even if words are not spoken. His teachings are legendary, and like me, he breaks down his knowledge that is so easy to understand, yet has so much powerful lessons to be learned. I was reminded yesterday to slow down your pace when moving or entering the water (if at all), keeping a low profile, cast less and observe more, study your intended drift, and make a perfect presentation the very first time (doesn’t always happen though). Jedi training with Obi Wan is never disappointing, and I always learn something from his knowledge.

I fished a solo Unit Skwala the whole day. For the last month the spicy brown mustard color has been the best, and clipping off the legs short like the natural seems to work even better. Also, more of a slender foam over body has resulted in more grabs, but it also does not float as well. What I like to do is treat my quiver of Units like a hockey team playing a game. When your player is not performing well after being on the water for a while (doesn’t float very well), put it on the bench (your fly patch), and tie on a fresh player lightly coated in silicone floatant. Rotate your players (flies) often for best results.

I had one of the best drifts ever yesterday, and a bump feed that came close to my longest ever that was experienced on the Fall River many moons ago. It was also the raddest drift scenario ever with a huge back eddy and the reverse current moving upstream. There was a rainbow making aggressive rise forms 65 feet away, right next to the wall of basalt rock. Being that far way, you lost sight of the fly, and I had to rely on instinct using the force with Jedi mind tricks. A lengthy bump feed of monumental proportions. With my target being that far away, getting the fly in the 2 by 2 feet of strike zone was extremely tough due to so many micro currents affecting the drift. The first 4 times, the fly missed the zone, and I let the fly travel several more feet before slowly moving it to the left side, and stripping back in. I nailed it the 5th time with a delayed and over extended hook set due to so much line out of the tip of the rod. Then, all hell broke loose with spectacular leaps from the water as a 17” wild Yuba Bow peeled line off my reel. This could well be the best take in decades…

I raised 12 fish, hooked 9 (3 missed takes), and landed 2. Lots of conservation releases near the net, and that's ok with me. I’d rather have it that way. It’s good enough for me to make the needed presentation, get the grab and a solid hook set, play the fish, and actually get to see the specimen before spitting the barbless hook. All of the Yuba wild trout that ate my fly were between 14 and 17 inches, full of fight, and with large aerial displays. Man, those rainbows sure like to jump high – bow to the king…

My fishing buddies crossed the river in a section I could not, being a lightweight does have its disadvantages sometimes. It’s not the level of the water that keeps me from crossing, but the mass of the flow that pushes me downstream being so light. To be honest, I’d rather be a skinny, small man, with a heart of gold - Wild, athletic, and nimble, just like those Yuba rainbows I long to hunt for. Here’s the thing when it comes to crossing, it’s not a race. I’ve learned such as I get older. Taking your time and making every step count is golden advice. It’s the big boulders that get you. Having a wading staff makes a big difference. Obi Wan doesn’t own a wading staff, never has. He just picks up a good strong stick and uses it to cross. If you see stray sticks along the banks of the Lower Yuba River, there’s a good chance he, myself, or the original Chico crew was there – and the tradition continues…

Limited to the amount of space to fish near my buddies, I ventured downstream to a spot that during the last drought produced incredibly well. Most anglers walk past this crap water, Overhanging willows with no room to back cast, soft water, and only old salmon redds for structure. It has changed dramatically since the floods of 2017, and 2019, but the fish were there. It’s funny how opportunity can happen right at your feet while just observing. Subtle rise forms. These particular fish had never been molested. Every fly first presentation resulted in a grab. It was beautiful.

California poppy ~  Eschscholzia californica
Plenty of aquatics were out, and early on it started with just a light spinner fall of varies mayflies. By the afternoon there was BWOs, PMDs, March Browns, Brown Duns (yes, still a few hatching!), Caddis, and Skwala stones. The trout were eager for the PMDs and the micro caddis, and from 2pm to 4pm it was all about the Skwalas. The Skwala Nation is definitely waning, but there were plenty of adults out yesterday. This year I learned that air temperature greatly affects their flying behavior. With air temperatures at 50 to 60 degrees, there is not much flight activity. From 63 plus degrees and above, there are many more flyers in the air. Montana, Idaho, and Colorado may have more fish per mile, but those states cannot boast they have a 3 month long heavy Skwala stonefly hatch with epic dry fly fishing. Quality over quantity. Most often I’ll take the former, yet achieving two dozen fish to the net, with many more lost in 3 hours of tight lining on the South Platte River, does bring me to my knees.

There is more weather coming, and the river will rise. Looks like rain at first, so with all this low elevation snow in the foothills, it’s most likely to be a sharp and short deluge of a melt. Escape the current situation, be safe, and explore your world of fly fishing. It is the saving grace that binds us together. See you on the water…

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Lower Yuba River Fly Fishing Report ~ Social Distancing Edition #1 ~ 3/18/2020

Well, much has changed since my last report with the world wide situation of C19, and 2 feet of new snow here at the top of the ridge, 4 miles north of Nevada City. Northern California has gone from warm and dry weather, to cold and snowy, on the verge of the official spring equinox. During the big storm, high wind and snow laden conifers fell across power lines and roads, all over the foot hills. I’m still without power, and lucky my landlord, who lives next me, has a generator he periodically runs. Yesterday, I had to try to go into town for food and supplies. I was not sure if the roads were even open. While trying to exit the property, my truck got stuck three times, and each time I would shovel the vehicle free. Once I got on North Bloomfield road into town, the roads were in good shape, just wet, no ice, and a few new debris piles and trees to navigate around. I was extremely grateful. Once in town, I made the rounds and was quite surprised at how nice and polite most of the people were. I did encounter some aggressive and rude people barging at will in the grocery store, treating humans like pylons. There was still plenty of food at SPD though, and I didn't hoard a bunch of items. I did purchase more than my normal supply, especially coffee.

~ Wild Yuba Cookie Cutter ~
Now that we are supposed to be socially distanced from other large groups of humans, I’ve been spending my time reading, writing, tying and upgrading my PowerPoint programs. I’ve also been thinking about the future business plans and the fallout from C19. In the last week I’ve had to cancel 3 back to back presentations, including lodging, and a car rental. I can understand completely why, especially with large groups at fly club meetings. Many unknowns…Right now there is no safer place for me than being on the river alone, or with a couple of people who are in good health, and love fly fishing for trout.

So before the storm on the 13th, the Lower Yuba River was fishing pretty good for that day. The flow was about the same as the last month before, 970 cubes, sunny, yet really windy with the low pressure setting up off the coast. I put my guests on heavy indo rigs with rubber leg skwala stones, either trialing a baetis nymph, or a red copper John. We got into a few, mostly on the stone. There were fish rising, but the wind was too hard to punch through with the dry fly set up. There were a ton of bugs out early in the day around 10am with March Brown spinners hovering above the riffles, mixed in with some PMD spinners, and caddis. The trout have been very interested for the past two weeks in regards to caddis hatches, especially on the emerging pupa rising to the surface. There are about six different caddis flies out, from a size 12 down to an 18. 

I flipped cobblestones next to the riffle we were working and instantly saw skwala stoneflies hiding underneath. Under one rock there was a large orgy of 11 adults doing their thing. The fish were still receptive to eating skwala dries in the afternoon, but due to the strong south west wind, it was extremely hard to get a good downstream fly first presentation that was needed. I’m looking forward to getting back on the river in the next few days, hopefully sooner, then later.

So after the storm passed through, the Lower Yuba River rose up to 1,845 cubes rather quickly as you can see above. This really helps the fishing conditions, flushing food, organic material, and creating new and more productive feeding lanes for large trout. Right now the Yuba is flowing at 1,166 and seems to be leveling out for now. There is a bunch of snow down low that will still have to melt at some point and that could keep the river up a little more. It just depends on how quickly the bulk of the melt will be, or how slow.  

Deer Creek came up to 883 cfs, that’s a really good flow for such a short period of time, another flush. Currently the creek is at 192 cubes. It’s been snowing all day, about 3 inches so far, to add to the 1-2 feet that fell on Saturday night. Looks like we’ll get a shot another good shot of precip this coming Monday, with sunny skies in between systems. The storm door is open, and it looks like it’ll be this way until the end of the month. For the straight scoop on the technical side of weather and snow forecasting, check out Bryan Allegretto’s site https://opensnow.com/dailysnow/tahoe My go to source for tracking weather systems that effect the Northern Sierra watersheds. 

Who wants to go fishing?

Monday, March 9, 2020

Lower Yuba River Fly Fishing Report ~ 3/9/2020

Fishing still remains to be good on the Lower Yuba River, and spring has sprung with more wildflowers out, and new birds returning to the region. The cliff swallows are back, and I saw my first Osprey yesterday circling above the river looking for a vulnerable rainbow to snatch up. Songbirds and warblers are making an appearance as well. I love watching the birds and how they interact with the current conditions for food sources, like the hermit thrush patiently waiting on the cobblestones next to the bank anticipating a Skwala snack. They’re not dumb.

It was nice to see some light and steady rain grace the land this past weekend, just enough to keep the dust down and recharge the green colors of the foothills. We had nearly a half inch of precipitation fall in Nevada City for the last 48 hours. Not nearly enough, but we’ll take. The flows out of Englebright dam remain stable, and Deer creek barely bumped up during the storm so no new color was added to the system. 

Currently the combined flows are running between 970 and 980 cubes. From Yuba Water Agency’s website “Current snow survey data and long-range forecasts indicate dry conditions. For water conservation purposes, releases from Englebright Reservoir have been decreased to maintain Lower Yuba flows above the required minimum flow of 788 cfs. If weather conditions change, adjustments to flows will be re-evaluated.” 

Fishing pressure has diminished a little and there were very few anglers out this past weekend compared to the weekends of the past month, yet last Tuesday there were 10 vehicles on the north side of the Hwy 20 Bridge. Go figure, it must be the weather.

As for the aquatics, there is still a ton of Skwalas out, and as I’ve said before I’m seeing more spent adults. When it comes to Skwala activity, it all depends on the warmth of that particular day. Yesterday it was cooler and there were not as many adults running around the cobbles like last Tuesday and Wednesday. I flipped rocks along the shoreline and sure enough I found a little over a dozen in a few minutes as they were seeking shelter and waiting for some solar radiation to heat things up. 

I’m seeing more March Brown mayflies (Rhithrogena morrisoni) during the middle of the day, the same PMDs (Emphemerella infrequens) too with the pinkish abdomen and the orange thorax. Many factors such as diet or natural selection may influence the coloration of mayfly species. The Yuba river streambed having  a slight reddishpink coloration due to the type of algae coating the cobblestones, impart to the nymphs, and in turn the duns a pale pink staining.  There are some Pink Alberts (epeoris) in the mix as well and also some BWOs (Baetis) which were more prolific over the weekend with the rain and cloudy conditions. On our float yesterday I saw those rusty PMD spinners near the Aquarium section again around 10am, yet this time nobody was eating them. I’ve also noticed an increase of multiple species of caddis out and have definitely witnessed fish eating them here and there while the females are returning to oviposit on the water’s surface. I have not seen any Brown Duns (Amelitus) in the last week and no new shucks on the rocks, but I’m sure there is still a few around. 

Yeah, lots of aquatics in the mix for sure with a daily and constant dose of midges that is so prolific within a tailwater system. It’s fascinating when drifting on the river for miles how each riffle and run has different hatches, especially when it comes to the mayflies. It has made me realize that a basic fishing report is kind of obsolete. You got to be there in “real time” to see just what is happening as every hour is different, as well as the day.

There are many new trout/steelhead redds that have been constructed in the last week with visible fish on them. Please do not interfere with them by fishing, and be extra careful while wading around the redds. Though flow regimes and loss of habitat is the main culprit for low populations of trout and steelhead in the river, wading through the redds and crushing eggs and alevins doesn’t help either. Please be aware, and help educate those who are new to fly fishing about spawning beds.

My guests and I are still not nymphing so I will have to recommend those indo rigs from the last report when I drifted with Brian Clemens. Big and little rubber leg stones, baetis nymphs, zebra midges, red copper johns, Hogan’s flies (S&M’s, Red Headed Step Child, Military Mays), and JuJubees. As for dry flies, just carry different emergers and adult mayfly patterns for the species listed above. 

The Unit Skwala tied in my own personal way is still crushing fish, especially those that see less pressure, or are in the rougher crap water most anglers just walk on by. 11am to 4pm on most days are the magic hours to be head hunting with fly first presentations. Oh, and btw – 5X makes a big difference when it comes to receiving eats on the Skwala dry, but you got to be careful on the hook set or you’ll pop the fly off.

Yesterday was fun as I coached Gregg and Justin fromGuideBox on how to float the river and the techniques of handling the sticks as they just got a killer deal on a nice used Hyde drift boat. We fished a little, got some some Skwala eats, ate soggy sandwiches (LOL), laughed, and overall had a blast. Greg and I will have another training session is a few days so he can gain the needed skills to float on his own, with no accidental 360 spins down the riffles of course!

Looks like it will warm up again and dry out heading into Friday where there is a chance of another small storm which will move down from the north this coming weekend. Colder air is the easier part of the forecast, though the exact track of the system and precipitation amounts are harder to evaluate this far out. We should see this system move in Saturday into Sunday. For the fantasy range forecast, the models keep the trough over the West with negative height anomalies over CA through the 3rd week of March. That would keep the door open to more systems dropping into CA from the north/northwest. That could bring us another weather system for early the week of the 16th, and possibly another system later that week into of 24th. No Bid Daddy storms looking ominous on the horizon, but we’ll take any kind of precipitation at this point. So many fisheries and watersheds all over the state are producing right now. Get some while the getting is good! See you among the cobblestones of the Lower Yuba River…  

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Dry Fly Workshop ~ Yuba River ~ 3/14/20

Dry fly tactics and presentations is the most rewarding way to catch large educated trout, seeing the take happen in real time is the epitome of fly fishing. The Yuba River is the perfect classroom to hone your skills and your ability to match the hatch for challenging trout and steelhead. You will learn much from this most informative workshop that you can apply all over the west, and on technical fisheries. This is an intermediate class for anglers who want to heighten their skills to the next level.

We'll go over the best equipment for fishing dry flies, rigging leaders for technical waters to mountain creeks, flies, presentations from searching to the reach cast, tips & tricks, and a very informative handout. Cost is $150, limited to 4 anglers (3 booked, 1 spot open). Shoot me an email if you want in baiocchistroutfitters@yahoo.com

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