There are many places to go in the Sierra if you want to fish for trout in flowing water. The larger rivers, such as the Truckee, Yuba and Feather, are well known, and anglers travel long distances to fish them. What many local anglers do not realize is that we must drive over some rather nice water with native wild trout in order to get to any of those more notable waters.
Back during the Gold Rush, towns were established on mining creeks. As time has moved along, most of us spend our time on the streets and ignore the stream beds around which the towns were founded. Another feature of our local streams is that during the dry season, their flows are enhanced by irrigation water from the Nevada Irrigation District system. This ensures good conditions year-round.
Wednesday, I spent the afternoon fishing our local creeks with local angler and guide Jon Baiocchi. Our goal was to fish each of the major local creeks in one afternoon and hopefully catch trout in all of them.
Grass Valley, Rough and Ready/Penn Valley and Nevada City are each located along a different stream. If you want to fish these streams, the first thing you will notice is the difficulty of access. Creek side property owners are protective of their land and have posted much of it. The second difficulty regarding access is the dense blackberry thickets with the rather barbed wire-like qualities.
It is not my intention to give you the access points. There many of them, and you should find your own. These creeks flow for miles above and below town. Once you have reached the stream, you can move up and down the water readily if you are prepared to get wet. What struck me was the contrast between the city life just a short distance away and the serenity of a mountain stream.
We started our trip fishing Deer Creek near Nevada City. The water is a cool 60 degrees, which is ideal for trout and quite refreshing in this week's weather. We caught the most fish here. I attribute this first to the fact that we spent more time here - more than two hours. Second, there is more water and it is cool. We fished dry flies on the surface and Jon's foam hopper was the most effective. Deer Creek produced both brown and rainbow trout.
Our second stop was Wolf Creek in Grass Valley. We hurried through this location wanting to get to our third stream, and the fish were not in a rush like we were. We did not connect this day on Wolf Creek, although I have done well here in the past.
Our final destination was Squirrel Creek. Our chosen stretch of stream was well defended by poison oak bushes, and it took some hiking to gain access. At the first pool we fished, Jon landed a feisty rainbow on the second cast.
These local streams have a surprising trout population. These are self-sustaining wild fisheries that do not rely on stocking. The most common fish you will catch are juvenile rainbows in the five- to nine-inch range.
Trout, especially rainbows, wander everywhere they can go. I have heard stories from longtime residents of catching bragging-sized brown trout in the smaller tributaries to Deer Creek. The rainbows in Wolf Creek range well down stream to the McCourtney/Perimeter Road area. Both browns and rainbows populate Squirrel Creek from the falls up through Rough and Ready and above.
Maybe the most gratifying aspect to our local trout streams is the access they provide to young boys who have a passion for fishing. The weekend trips with your dad to distant fishing locations are great, but there are many lessons to be learned getting out on your own and figuring things out for yourself. More than once I have seen a young man walking out from Wolf Creek in Grass Valley with a fishing rod and a couple of trout with an extremely proud look on his face.
So the next time you are driving an hour to fish the North Yuba, Truckee or the Feather Rivers, remember that you have to drive over at least one of these streams to get there and on any given day the fishing could be better right here in your backyard.
Denis Peirce writes a fishing column for The Union's Outdoors section and is host of "The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report," which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via his website at www.fineflies.com.