Denis Peirce: Fishing the North Yuba
August 10, 2017
In the dog days of summer it can be difficult to find good fishing. Although the longest day of the year is six weeks behind us, the lakes and streams are still getting warmer. The fish don't like heat waves any more than we do.
This time of this year there is a notable exception, the North Yuba River.
Although the snow is gone, last winter's precipitation is still making its way down the canyon. The above-normal flows are keeping the water cooler and the trout are still quite active.
My son and I went fishing on the North Yuba Wednesday and stayed until dark. In mid afternoon we met Jon Baiocchi (http://www.baiocchistroutfitters.com/) as he finished a day of guiding on the upper river. One reliable indicator of good fishing is where the guides are working. In addition to the Yuba, Jon has been fishing the high elevation creeks flowing into the Middle Fork of the Feather River and the Little Truckee River below Stampede Reservoir.
The high flows of the North Yuba last winter moved a lot of material around. In some of the narrower stretches there is river debris 15 feet above the current water level, a testament to the volume of water at times last winter. Jon has noticed stones as large as a couple of feet across that are newly arrived in familiar pool tail outs.
The heavy flows have knocked down the insect populations as well. The quantity and mix of bugs is different this year. Jon was seeing Green Drakes, a large mayfly, in July. These bugs are unusual on the North Yuba and June is the month for them to hatch. Caddis, which are common in the summer, are scarce this year. Golden stone flies, which are over an inch long, are still around.
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The fish in these conditions will focus more on land-based insects. Jon's most productive rig has been a two fly combination of a large floating stone fly followed by a drowned ant. The large dry fly can be a grass hopper pattern but it is more of an indicator of where the submerged ant is. Ants are not good swimmers and the flies are best fished just below the surface. I have never eaten an ant, but the trout must find them tasty, because year after year ant imitations are productive flies.
The good news on bug populations is that when they get knocked down by floods, the second season following the high water they rebound to an overabundance and return to normal in the third year. Mother Nature is quite resilient and has dealt with these problems before.
My son and I started our fishing on the upper river above Sierra City. The river here is steep with boulders creating a stair step contour. The water is cooler up high, the upper 50s at first light and low 60s late in the day. Here the river is small enough to cover all the water and there are quite a few aggressive fish.
There is easier wading and access in the lower river, where there is much more water and sand bars on the insides of the bends. On the upper river the fish will hit with full sun on the water but downstream shade is a prime ingredient. Between the steep ridges and trees there are shaded spots to be found at any time of the day. The prime time, though, is the evening.
Colin and I fished a bend in the lower river wet wading on the sandy bottom, casting to the faster and deeper water on the opposite side. The later it got, the more active the fish were. We could not see any bugs hatching, but the fish were feeding on the surface with an occasional splash. They were not picky eaters; they hit almost anything if you put in their feeding lane.
Currently, the North Yuba is flowing about 50 percent above normal for early August. The river and food conditions are typical of early July. There are 30 plus miles of river along Highway 49 so that even on a holiday weekend, you can find a nice place to fish by yourself. It is close enough to home to go there for an evening after work.
I recommend you head up to the North Yuba, wade into the river and go fishing.
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 http://www.trollingflies.com.