Spring Edition

Spring Edition
Spring Edition

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Sage ESN Reel Review ~ 3/30/2021


I really respect a fly fishing company that takes the time to engineer a product, and does it right the first time. The Sage ESN reel is one of those products. It doesn’t take me very long to fish a particular piece of equipment and come to a conclusion of it being half ass, or superior. So for the sake of those reading this, I’ve been tight lining since the early 70’s on the Upper Sac, West Branch Feather River, and the North Fork Feather River. Back then  my dad and I used Fenwick 8 foot fiberglass 5wt. rods (the yellow one), or Walton Powell 4, 5, 6wt. fiberglass rods, Pflueger reels, and short leaders that started with a 1 foot section of orange amnesia to a very heavy single fly. These days that equipment would be frowned upon for American & Euro Nymphing. But you know what? We used what we had and we caught and released thousands of fish. We made it work.

The European influence for nymphing in the last few decades has brought forth specialized rods that are longer and more sensitive in the tip to detect strikes, along with very long leaders with custom sighters. It was my fishing buddy Roger Stover who last fall introduced to me to a concept of a 40 to 50 foot leader (see diagram below) which he called Long Line Euro Nymphing. For big water like the Yuba River, it made all the difference.

As you can see, the small diameter Amnesia running line causes a major problem with regular fly reels as it likes to sneak out of the cracks and foul around the reel. I had a few my guests lose some really nice trout and steelhead due to that unfortunate situation. With the Sage ESN reel, it is full framed and the leader and competition fly line can never pass through the frame. That’s a major victory right there. The design of the Sage ESN is built around a super thin and large diameter arbor, this design now makes it easier to get fish on the reel quickly, just like a good stillwater reel. It weighs 4.93 ounces with a diameter of 3 7/8”, and a width of 1 1/16”. The operation of the reel is extremely smooth with tight tolerances which equals to pure precision and performance.

The most innovative part of the Sage ESN reel is the counter weights that can be added to balance out any specialized nymphing rod, or even a standard fly rod. The counter weights come in three sizes, ½ oz, 1 oz, and 1 ½ oz. 

The coolest option the counter weights offer is that they can be rotated towards the tip of the rod or towards the reel seat with minimal effort to achieve a pin point location of balance. 

Lastly the Sage ESN features a sealed carbon system drag, which Sage states as “With its smooth engagement and consistent, dependable, and repeatable pressure, our SCS Drag allows you to fish with confidence knowing your tippet is protected. Proprietary high-grade US made carbon easily and repeatedly handles high pressure and quickly dissipates the kinetic energy of that running fish into thermal energy. Tailored configurations allow us to create specific drag systems for each model, size, and fishing application, and the entire system itself is sealed to keep out water, sand, grit, and salt.”


-Full Frame

-SCS Drag

-One Revolution Drag Knob with 20 numbers and 40 detented settings

-Ultra-large arbor for fast line pick-up

-Narrower spool for small-volume ESN lines

-Concave, ported arbor for greater strength and capacity

-Fully machined 6061-T6 aerospace grade aluminum

-Cold forged and tempered for superior strength and rigidity

-Hard anodized for surface protection and corrosion resistance

-Stainless steel 1/2, 1, and 1-1/2 oz weights to adjust ideal balance point of nymphing setup

-Ergonomic handle

-Easy conversion from left- to right-hand retrieve

-Neoprene and embroidered ballistic nylon reel case & spare weight case

-Colors: Stealth, Chipotle

Price: $425

My overall review for this reel is…It’s a really bad ass reel that will elevate your game while American & Euro Nymphing, and fighting fish off the reel. There you have it, my honest opinion. I will be featuring the Sage ESN reels matched to WildStream Searcher Nymphing rods in either the 1063 or the 1064 models for all my guide trips where you will be able fish them for extended periods of time before throwing down the money for either one.

See you on the water…

Friday, March 26, 2021

Lower Yuba Fly Fishing Report ~ 3/26/2021

Well, I wish I could say I’ve been on the water, but I’ve been on the DL since the 17th due to some medical issues. That morning I woke up with a kinked neck and moderate pain. Its happened in the past many times as a result from my professional snowboard days, basically hitting the ground with so much g-force that it loosens teeth. This time it was different. Through the day the pain intensified to point that my body temperature was elevated, sweating, and I was pacing around the house trying to keep busy and to keep my mind off it. Late in the evening my chest began to tighten up, and my left arm began to tingle and go numb. I thought I may be going into cardiac arrest so I drove myself to the ER at 11pm. After many scans, muscle relaxers and hard core pain meds my diagnosis was compressed nerves in my neck, and because of inflammation and swelling of the muscles around the area, the pressure of such was the culprit of the most intense pain I’ve ever experienced.

I got through it, and currently I’m healing pretty well, but also taking it easy. Doctor’s orders were simple – No guiding. That hurts as my whole reason for being on this planet is to be on the water and teaching my guests the finer points of fly fishing, and sharing our incredible natural world. So this will be a report that utilizes my guide buddies, friends, and fans experiences for the last week. I’ll start with my last day that I guided on the 15th and it’s a mirror of the past few months, except I had some older guests so we couldn’t cover water like I normally do. These guys were all about dry fly eats, and I put them on many fish. Skwalas and Pinkies were the most effective patterns. I’ll say one thing… you don’t have to see risers in order to play the game. Only 1 out of 7 fish was a rhythm riser, the rest were out of the blue while fan casting blind to productive water. Observe more…cast less.

Photo courtesy of Casey Brunt

On that day, I was amazed seeing several Skwala nymphs emerging from the water and crawling up on the cobbles to hatch. The Skwala hatch on the Lower Yuba is one the greatest spectacles I’ve ever seen in my 49 years of fly fishing. It’s the longest, most prolific, and dynamic Skwala hatch on the entire west coast. Saying it is legendary is an understatement. Joe Garza of JAG Fly Fishing shared with me the first confirmed report of March Brown mayflies hatching mid stream. He also said that there were fish eating not the duns, but emergers just under the surface. Joe also shared with me that the fishing has been difficult with lower than expected numbers, and for a drift boat guide who covers miles of river, that says a lot. He thinks it is the months of angler pressure that has impacted the behavior of the fish. Currently the flows are at 747 cubes, and fishing pressure has been hit or miss.

Photo courtesy of Casey Brunt
Photo courtesy of Casey Brunt

Follower Casey Brunt also shared this cool photo of a salmon fly – Ptaranarcys. Though the population of these bugs is small on the Lower Yuba River, they are available to the trout and steelhead. Match the hatch.

The most satisfying report I received was from @looks_fishy who used the valuable dry fly lessons I shared to be successful on her own. Making fly first bump feed presentations with the Unit and the Pinkie comparadun proved worthy. To me, this is what it’s all about…teaching the necessary skills to be successful, then watching from afar and seeing those students be victorious. Well done Melissa!

This is going to be my last report for the Lower Yuba River until fall. Without a doubt this past winter guiding season has been the most enjoyable ever. I’ve never been so busy and in demand before, but like I’ve always said when it comes to my business – Put in the hard work and you’ll see results. I’m going to take a few more weeks off to heal up, and do some scouting in the Northern Sierra before taking on an already nearly full guide schedule for April through June. I’m really looking forward to it as my heart is dear to the old growth coniferous forest of the Lost Sierra. I can’t thank you all enough for your continued support, it means so much to me.

See you on the water…


Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Lower Yuba River Fly Fishing Report ~ 3/16/2021


When I see the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly working the wildflowers of the Yuba River, it’s for certain that spring is here. The weather though has been much colder lately with a few decent shots of precipitation and low snow fall. The first storm on the 10th provided 8 inches of fresh pow here at my house north of Nevada City, and the last storm on Sunday night gave us 4 inches of snow. After such a light winter, we’ll take it. Thursday’s storm could be a good one, with another weak system possible Monday followed by an extended dry spell. As always, if you really want to geek out on the upcoming weather go here: https://opensnow.com/dailysnow/tahoe

Deer creek came up slightly on both storms but did not dirty up the Yuba River, in fact it was very beneficial as it added a slight tint to the upper river keeping those trout and steelhead less spooky. Currently, the flows on the Yuba River at Parks Bar Bridge are flowing at 795 cubes with Deer Creek slowly dropping.

Fishing has been decent with the really good days mixed in with the slower days. When you’re on the river 5 days a week, you notice how different everyday can be, and often there seems to be no rhyme or reason to it – It’s the Yuba lol. It is advantageous though, as you can really get in tune with the hatches and the daily behavior of the trout and steelhead. My guests and I are still long line Euro nymphing in the mornings, and then switching to dry flies through the afternoon. Yup, the same old game plan for the last 3 months. On the nymphing rig, the Skwala stone anchor fly is receiving the most love from the fish, and for the tag fly it’s all about the shot glass baetis – anything baetis really. 

This past winter season I’ve switched to using a standard 9 foot tapered leader for my guests when they are fishing dry flies, and it really makes a difference with those that have less skill. They hit their marks better with a shorter leader, and as long as you are using a fly first presentation, or fishing rough or blurry water that can mask your mistakes, fly line, or leader while making the traditional upstream approach, you will find success. A longer leader helps though on the glassy flats, and I use a leader formula taught to me by legendary guide Dale Dennis on the Fall River in the late 90’s. The original Fall River formula starts with 5 feet of 40lb. hard mono, then using a blood knot attaching a 9 foot tapered leader to 6x, then adding 36” of 7x tippet with a triple surgeons knot. For the Yuba or other waters, I go with 3 feet of the 40lb. and then adding a 9 foot tapered leader to 4x (skwalas, goldens, hoppers, etc.) or 5x (mayflies, midge clusters, etc.). I even use the latter leader formula for fishing stillwaters like Lake Davis with a floating line for the shallow shoals. 

Let’s talk bugs. I’ve said this before, but I’m consistently learning something new with the aquatics. The Brown Dun (Ameletus) I’ve been reporting about the last 3 months has a new twist to it. For the past few weeks I’m noticing a tad smaller version of it, which would point to maybe another brood, and adding to more confusion of the Brown Dun being a March Brown. Does it matter? I think with some fish it will, being that both mayflies have their own unique size and color. The other difference is that the March Brown is much more available to the trout because the nymph to dun emergence is mid-stream, whereas the Brown Dun hatches on the shoreline and must be blown into the water to be consumed by a fish.

Skwalas are waning but they are still out and being eaten. On yesterday’s trip I actually saw several nymphs leaving the water and preparing to hatch into an adult on the cobbles. 2 to 5pm is the best time for making your skwala presentations on top, and the smaller Unit Skwala just keeps on producing! What a fly!

Pinky mayflies (Epeorus) have been the most dominant mayfly, and there are two sizes hatching in both a 14 and a 16. I’m noticing less PMDs, but they are still out there. The Comparadun, a simple guide tie, can cross over for both bugs and crushes. Lastly, seeing more BWOs and they are much bigger than previously reported in a size 16. One thing I’ve noticed on the Yuba is using a slightly smaller pattern than the natural will most often make a big difference in getting the grab. With a little more rain in the forecast, we should see increased mayfly activity and better dry fly fishing. Looking forward to it!

See you on the water…

The Pipevine Swallowtail ~ Battus philenor

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Lower Yuba River Fly Fishing Report ~ 3/7/2021


In the last week, spring has really shown its true colors on the Lower Yuba River, and the wild flowers have been exploding upwards toward the sky. Poppies, Lupine, and many other varieties are giving the landscape some beautiful colors along with greenest of native grass. With only a few weeks of winter left, the rainy season is coming to a close. Let’s hope for a March miracle, and some substantial weather systems to bring us the much needed precipitation through early spring.  

Fishing has been great most days. When you work a particular stretch of water as a walk and wade angler on the Yuba dozens of times in a short period of time, you really get to know the intricate details of it. Where the fish like to be in the morning and afternoon hours, what flats produce the best mayfly hatches, and where there is the most adult Skwala activity. 

The river remains low and clear and is currently running at 745 cubes. It’s been slippery out there wading due to the algae and moss that hasn’t been flushed away with higher flows. Fishing pressure seems to be less, and every day is different, you just never know unless you go.

On February 28th I got quite the surprise when I landed this clipped steelhead measuring at 32” and an estimated 12 pounds. It was caught on my all rounder jiggy Skwala nymph tied on a Togens #8 jig hook with a 3.8 mm tungsten bead using the long line Euro nymphing technique on 4X tippet. We had made 4 other separate turns working the bucket and picked up much smaller fish, then on my last turn I randomly hooked the beast. It was a very subtle grab, usually you feel the take with those Yuba fish, but the sighter helped me detect the strike and I buried the hook with authority. When I felt the weight of the steelhead at first it was nothing out of the norm, until I felt the big slow head shakes, then the huge tail appeared out of the water and I about shit! It took almost 15 minutes to land it on my WildStream 10 and a half foot 4 weight Searcher nymphing rod. Thankfully I had a buddy there to help me land it, but his net was way too small and proved to be a challenge. After removing the fly, it jumped out of the net twice, but I was able to get it back in safely. So many things could have gone wrong, and I’m grateful it all worked out!

The Skwala hatch has peaked and is slowly waning. I’m starting to see more spent adults that have fallen victim to old age and being caught in the algae where they cannot escape. There are still enough stoners in the drift during the afternoons, and the trout are eagerly looking for them. Even when the Skwala hatch really wanes, the fish remember them and will take an imitation for weeks after. 

The mayfly hatches of PMDs, Pinkies, and BWOs have not been very prolific in the last few weeks. The good news is that they are still hatching like clockwork every day on certain flats and runs. Around noon is when the PMDs and Pinkies appear, followed by a light hatch of BWOs. There is also slightly more caddis on the water in the afternoons, and caddis dry fly patterns have caught a few fish too.

I have yet to confirm a March Brown mayfly adult, nor have I received a confirmed report, or a picture. There is a great confusion between the Brown Dun (which has been out since late December and is often misidentified as a March Brown) and the March Brown. Both have mottled wings and two tails, but that’s about it. Here are the differences:

Brown Dun ~ Ameletus 

-Size 11, not quite a size 10, yet too big for a size 12.
-Big black eyes.
-Unique segmentation and pattern on the abdomen like a Drake.
-Dark grayish brown color.
-From the Swimmer family and emerges on the shoreline and rocks like a stonefly.

March Brown ~ Rhithrogena morrisoni 

-Size 14.
-Lacks big black eyes.
-Normal segmentation with light colored ribbing.
-Light brown color.
-From the Clinger family, and lives in fast riffles emerging mid stream.

The daily game plan has remained the same, Euro nymphing in the morning, then switching to the dry fly rod and starting out with 5X and mayfly patterns. Around 1pm, it’s time to switch to 4X and tie on a Skwala adult pattern and hunt heads. 

The smaller size 12 2xl Unit Skwala has been working really well. The fish have seen so many bigger skwala patterns that there have been refusals with those types of patterns. Small and slender is the key now with over pressured trout. The Unit Skwala is an amazingly effective fly for being so simple. Many of my guests are tying their own and the biggest flaws I see is that the foam is too wide, and the overall fly is too bulky. Yep, small and slender…and don’t forget about fishing the nooks and crannies, the riffles, and the rough stuff with your Skwala stoner.

From the South Yuba River Citizens League Facebook page, this otter was caught on camera with a rainbow trout in its mouth. It seems the Daguerre Point Dam fish ladders make for easy picking.

I’m currently booking trips already for the Middle Fork Feather River, Lake Davis, Lost Sierra creeks, and the North Fork Yuba River for spring and summer. If you would like to get on my calendar, shoot me an email at baiocchistroutfitters@yahoo.com. Also check my news page HERE on my website for upcoming presentations, workshops, and special events.

See you on the water…

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