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.
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:
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.
-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.