Spring Edition

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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Lower Yuba River Fly Fishing Report ~ 2/23/2021


Quality over quantity. The last week on the Lower Yuba River has provided some unreal fishing opportunities for my guests and me. With the right day (warmer weather), the right fly, and the perfect downstream fly first presentation, you too can hook into a Skwala eater in less than a foot of water. It’s SO frickin cool! 

The game I like to teach is more about hunting individual trout feeding next to the bank in the foam lines. It takes patience, and a good game plan that is executed as flawlessly as possible. It’s not easy. There is so much hype with the Skwala hatch where most visiting anglers think you just walk up to the river’s edge and chuck out a big dry fly and instantly hook up. There’s so much more to it than that, and if you re read my blog post HERE “6 Keys to Fishing the Skwala Adult”, you’ll be more prepared to have a winning day.

We’ve had more wimpy storms roll through with just enough precipitation to add a tint of color to the upper river and keep the native grasses ultra green. Currently the flows are at 750 cubes and it looks like we’ll see extended sunshine for the next week and warmer air temps (the Skwala Nation is smiling) followed by cooler and some unsettled weather and a few shots of precipitation. 

Fishing pressure is about the same as my last report, and it just depends on the day and the location as to how many anglers you’ll see on the water. This past month I’ve seen more steelhead spawning than in years past, and from recent trips from myself and close friends, many of those steelhead are “clippers” coming from the Feather River. 

A guide buddy, Joe Garza of JAG Fly Fishing said it could be that the PH levels in the Feather River are out of whack from the forest fires last year in the Middle Fork and North Fork Feather drainage. I thought that was an interesting observation. I have seen many anglers fishing the steelhead and trout redds upstream of the bridge at the tail out of the Toilet Bowl, it’s not against the law, but really up to the individual angler as far as ethics are concerned. I know in Colorado and Idaho, anglers have no problem fishing on active redds with barbed hooks…Do as you wish…

Fishing has been pretty good overall on most days, but typical Yuba, every day is different with a few slower days thrown in to keep one humble. Nymphing has been a little slow in the mornings, and for my guests and me, most of the action is mid-day to late afternoon with dry flies. Long Line Euro Nymphing or swinging alevins/salmon fry in the mornings, then setting up on a productive flat around noon for the PMD, Pinky, and BWO hatches, followed by hunting heads with the Skwala adult all afternoon has been our game plan day in, and day out. 

My best advice is to stick and move, while covering plenty of different water. Too many anglers stay in the same spot for far too long. Either the fish are there and will eat your fly right away, or they are there yet don’t want your offering, or the fish are not there at all. Stick and move…

It definitely helps to keep a low profile when making presentations close to the bank in skinny water. Enter the stealth mode with ninja tactics for more success. Also rippled out water, rough water, or blurry water can help you get closer to your quarry without being detected. 

Hatching aquatics in the mix right now include the Brown Dun mayfly around mid-morning. These big drake like mayflies are not present in big numbers, but I’ve seen a few fish eat them. Swinging a pheasant tail soft hackle with some grouse mixed in can be productive as well.  By the middle of the day PMD, Pinky, and BWO hatches fire up on certain transition zones of riffles into flats. The PMDs and the Pinkies look a lot alike and one pattern can cross over to imitating them both. The best size fly for such dry fly presentations has been a size 16. For the BWOs, a size 18 is about right. This is considerably larger than the size 20 Pseudos (little blue wing olives) that were hatching about 6 weeks ago. 

I have yet to see any March Browns riding down the currents, but it’s only a matter of time. Since the nymphs are from the clinger family and live in fast riffles, be observant of the water directly downstream of these areas for their mid-stream emergence rising up through the water column. 

Because we have had such a warm and mild winter, there has been an increased amount of caddis hatching of late. Typically splashy rise forms this time of year are from Skwala eaters, or trout pushing salmon fry near the surface and wreaking havoc, but now you can add emerging caddis for such rise forms as a cause with their quick exit from the water’s surface.

The Skwala Nation remains strong, and the hatch has been consistent with more bugs in certain sections of the river than others. The air temps and weather greatly affect Skwala activity, the warmer the better, and why fishing during the warmest time of the day from 1pm to 4pm is prime time. In the past week around the the more popular fishing access areas, most of the trout have wised up to imitations and are being selective. I’ve seen this type of trout behavior in years past where you can watch individual fish eat a few naturals, but totally ignore your fly. This is when you’ll need to downsize your adult patterns and fish the male in a size 12. If that doesn’t work, try clipping the rubber legs short and dropping down to 5x. If that doesn’t work…go find another fish to play the game with.


In the December issue of California Fly Fisher and my article “Skwala Primer 2021 – Lessons Learned” I wrote about finding an area where there is evidence of numerous Skwala shucks on a wall of rock. With a location like this above, I’m able to wipe the slate clean of old dried shucks, then checking the same rock wall a few days later to see just how many new shucks have appeared, which translates to the intensity and numbers of newly emerged nymphs. The big picture tells all.

All in all, it’s been so much fun on the Lower Yuba River, and why moving down to Nevada City full time in 2011 was one of the wisest choices I’ve made to be able to experience and share the best winter dry fly fishery on the west coast. It’s simply phenomenal. This has been the busiest winter for me guiding, along with all the other special projects I do (presentations, writing articles, workshops, etc.), and I’m loving it. I may be running on fumes, but every morning I look forward to being on the water with my guests and teaching them the ways of the Jedi. March is nearly booked up with only 3 days available, and as we enter April, I will be transitioning up to my second home of the Northern Sierra for the warmer months -which I can’t wait for!

See you on the water…

Thursday, February 11, 2021

WildStream 105 Searcher Light Steelhead Rod Review


Though I’ve had the highly anticipated Searcher 105 (10 foot 5 weight) Light Steelhead rod for 3 weeks, I finally was able to do a thorough test and fish it last weekend on the Lower Yuba River. Compared to its younger siblings in the 3 and 4 weight ranges, the 105 is a much beefier rod that really surprised me by its performance. The 105’s design was intended to be a Euro nymphing rod for large trout/steelhead, but in reality, it is a very versatile and efficient tool for big water like the Yuba.

Construction: like the other Searcher models, the 105 is made of IM 10 graphite which is a weave that offers superior modulus of elasticity and the some of the highest grade graphite material available for rod manufacturing. The characteristics of IM 10 is one of being extremely lightweight with crisp responsiveness which delivers pinpoint accuracy, and a thinner side wall in the tip section for extra sensitivity that will transmit every tick on the bottom substrate, or the lightest grab from your quarry. The butt and mid-section is of a 7 weight caliber and you could most likely pick up a small toddler off the ground. Now that’s some serious back bone! In fact this rod reminds me of the older Scott Power Ply fiberglass 7wt. that was made in San Francisco. 

Action/Fishability: The action of the 105 Searcher is much different than your standard fly rod and takes a little bit to get used to. The butt section is very stiff, and the mid section has a medium flex, while the tip is soft, but not as whippy as the 1063 or 1064 Searcher. Because the 105 is so versatile, I’ve broken down the specific uses in sub categories that the user will be fishing it with below.

Euro Nymphing: Because the tip section is not as whippy, the 105 struggles with lob casting lighter weight jig flies, but to compensate for that, one must use a heavy anchor fly with the multi fly rig. The sensitivity though is still great and allows for the user to feel their flies tick the bottom, or see the sighter on the leader twitch and dance when a strike occurs. As I stated before, this rod was designed for big water and large trout/steelhead, and if Euro nymphing is your thing it is the perfect tool for that medium. Though the 10 foot length is not exceedingly long, it’s still plenty enough to reach out, or to keep the leader off the water while keeping a good angle down to your flies.

Dry Flies: When I first held the 105 Searcher and flexed it, I had a feeling that it would be a decent dry fly rod. Well, I was kind of right, but I did not realize it would surpass my expectations for such. I attached a Sage Spectrum LT 5/6 reel spooled up with a RIO Perception 5wt. weight forward floating line and fished the Skwala hatch making near to far presentations. Wow! I was impressed to say the least. For far off targets, it could shoot out line with a high level of accuracy in the 50 to 70 foot range. The coolest aspect of the 105 Searcher when fishing dry flies is the fact that the softer tip protects light tippets during the hook set, and while fighting fish. That’s a real bonus. 

Indicator Nymphing: Because the 105 Searcher excels with a heavier rig, it is the perfect boat rod when fishing multi fly indicator rigs with added split shot on big rivers like the Lower Yuba, or the Lower Sacramento. It is able to mend large amounts of line effortlessly, and water loaded casts are a breeze to present. The more I fished the 105, the more I realized that it truly is in a class of its own and very unique compared to the rest of the Searcher line.

Streamers: I did not get a chance to chuck big heavy streamers with the 105 Searcher, nor did I get to test it with sink tips, or full sinking lines. Though, I have a feeling it would be good for such. The 105 is just plain strong, and with the hardy back bone it employs, it could well be a very effective streamer rod, especially out of a boat. I’m also betting it would make a really good stillwater rod as well. I’ll keep testing it for these latter techniques and venues in the near future.

My overall opinion of the 105 Searcher is good to great. It can do it all for large fish/steelhead, and because of its lightweight, you’ll be able to fish it all day without much fatigue. It fights large fish very well allowing the user to have complete control of the situation, while reeling in the prized catch quickly. If you fish the big tailwaters or the coastal rivers of the west coast, you might want to have this rod in your arsenal. $240, comes with an extra tip and a case. 

It's Chinese New Year, a 2 week celebration of family and friends in China. This has caused a black out on communication with WildStream owner Jack Gu. We are working on rebuilding a non hackable website as the past one was destroyed by hackers. We only use PayPal for funds so never accept any other offer to pay. PayPal protects the seller and buyer. You can still order at wildstreamfishing@gmail.com, Attn: Jack Gu, or call James Kissinger at 7757371306.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Lower Yuba River Fly Fishing Report ~ 2/10/2021


It’s been a blur with trips and adventurous fun since my last report. I think this could be the busiest I’ve ever been during the winter season. I’m pretty dedicated too, getting up at 3am to keep up on answering emails and following up on trip details, then rigging rods with fresh materials, tying some flies for the day, and working on media projects like this blog. This is all before I even pack the truck and head down to the Yuba River, and what most clients do not even realize happens. To say I’m a full time guide is an understatement, more like a full time fly fishing ambassador! 

Male Adult Skwala, Note the cross on top of its head

Thank you so much for all the kind words regarding my latest presentation “Skwalas on the Yuba”, the response has been overwhelming. I think the coolest chapter in the program is the other game we play before the Skwala activity in the afternoon – Mayflies! If you haven’t seen it, my next presentation will be to my fellow members of Tahoe Truckee Fly Fishers on the 18th. Check it out!

Well, let’s get on with the report. We had a few storms push through, the first was a pretty good one on the 28th of January with the flows coming up to 1,600 cubes, a nice little flushing I must say. The flows cleared up within a day and it was game on again. The last one on February 2nd was just a little blip with flows coming up maybe 50 cfs, and really no change in clarity. 

Lately the upper river has a very slight tint of color, while the lower river is ultra-clear. Overall, those fish are pretty spooked out and on edge with the gin clear water...Bring your stealth game. Currently the flows are at 740 cubes. Another series of wimpy storms and moderate precipitation will roll through for the next few days. Good mayfly weather…

Fishing pressure has been really crowded to nonexistent. It just depends on the day and the location my guests and I venture to. We did have an experience last week that shows how uneducated new anglers are to river etiquette. My clients were spread out on a flat fishing a PMD hatch and having some good success. 2 guys walk into our area and I could tell right away they wanted in. Before I knew it, this guy wearing a big white cowboy hat just starts walking in between my clients as if getting ready to fish. I spoke up asking of his intentions, and he said “Oh, I’m crossing the river”. I just let it go as to not ruin our day but there is a lesson here for all of you to learn from, and that is to ask first. Communicate. Be friendly. Show respect.

As for the fishing, it’s been ok, to shitty, to super good. That’s what I call typical Yuba results, well…except during the egg bite. For me and my guest early morning nymphing has been slow, it seems to get better after 10am, and that’s just an observation. My days start with long line Euro nymphing, then setting up in an area for the mayfly hatches, once those wane, it’s full on Skwala tactics fishing the adult to around 4pm, Rinse, and repeat the next day. 

There are way more mayfly hatches around the bridge and upstream than down below. PMDs, Pinkies, BWOs, and Brown Duns are all active, though every day is different. We’ve seen some interesting trout behavior too, where there will be multiple species of mayflies on the water at once, but the trout are keyed in on only one of them. This is called a masking hatch, and often it is tough to figure out. One must actually look at individual duns floating down the currents and watch if they are being eaten or not. Too make matters more complex, they can switch from PMDs to Pinkies during hatch time. Observe more…Cast less. Then make a plan.

Top flies under the surface for my guests and I have been Skwala nymphs like my all-rounder jiggy Skwala, Brian Clemens Skwala nymph, Hogan’s S&M in a PMD scheme, Mighty Mays, super small free living caddis patterns, and pinkish Frenchie jigs. On top…for the Skwala…The Unit Skwala just keeps on producing, and there is no need to clip off the black foam over body. It’s a decade’s long proven pattern. Also, Bud Heintz’s Rough Water Skwala has hooked quite a few fish. When it comes to Skwala patterns, keep them on the small side and eliminate all the bells and whistles, there is no need for them. As for the hatch itself, I would call it moderate for now. 2020 was special, I don’t think we’ll see that this year, but the fish are actively looking up in the afternoons and moving into the side water and foam lines looking for Skwala cookies. Mayflies…Sparkle duns, comparaduns, cripples, loop wing parachutes, and anything CDC, with obviously the right color scheme for the individual mayfly you’re trying to imitate. I haven’t been playing the Alevin game too much, it’s just been so much fun playing the aquatics game, and watching the hatches materialize.

Spring is near, and slowly creeping in. I’ve noticed the Pacific chorus frogs are out and starting to chirp on the warmer days. I’m also starting to see some warblers and songbirds migrating through. March Browns will be out soon, and only time will tell. I’m not going out to Colorado at the end of the month as planned. It’s too hard to walk away from prime conditions on the Yuba River at this time. So, I’ve got more open days available. If you really want to learn how to be a proficient walk and wade angler on the Yuba, shoot me an email at baiocchistroutfitters@yahoo.com if you want in. Dates go incredibly quickly, so act now.

See you on the water…

Pinky Nymph ~ Pink Albert ~ Epeorus


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