Denis Peirce: Dry fly time on Sierra rivers |

Denis Peirce: Dry fly time on Sierra rivers

It is mid-June and the bugs are hatching in the Sierra. As the snow melt subsides and the waters warm, the best hatches of the season are coming on. As a general rule, the hatches start at the lower elevations and progress up stream. The next few weeks will be the best of the year for dry fly fishing on our mountain rivers.

A classic example of this is the Truckee River. Tom Brochu of Mountain Hardware & Sports received news of caddis, little yellow stone flies and golden stones hatching in the Reno area. Based on his years of experience on the river he said, “these same bugs will be hatching here in a week.”

Another factor that will affect fishing on the Truckee is the increased flows coming from Lake Tahoe. The annual flow increase for the rafting public will commence this week. The initial rise in flows will put the fish off for a day or so then the good fishing will resume.

Truckee River water temps are in the high 50s. The air temps are swinging from high 20s at dawn to 80 degrees in the afternoon, a swing from winter to summer in 12 hours.

The Sacramento River above Lake Shasta is fishing well. Bob Grace owner of the Ted Fay Fly Shop, says “The Upper Sac is known as a nymphing river. The best opportunities for dry fly angling occur at the end of June. During bright light conditions you will take small fish. If you want a quality fish you need to stay until dark.”

On the North Yuba flows are moderating and warming. Tom Page, fly fishing guide, fished the lower reaches of the river on Sunday. The water was warm enough for him to “wet wade” although he did admit to a little thermal shock when first stepping in. He saw the same mix of insects on the North Yuba as I noted on the Truckee and the Sacramento. The numbers of bugs are not yet at their peak .

Tom fished a “dry & dropper” rig which consists of a large buoyant dry fly with a smaller nymph hanging below it. In five hours of fishing, he caught nearly a dozen fish with all but one taking the caddis pupa nymph rather than the dry fly.

On the East Fork of the Carson River, south of Lake Tahoe, the dry fly action has yet to kick in. This river drains higher elevations and is traditionally one of the last to get the fish feeding on the surface. For anglers fishing below the surface the action is good. The river is clear and it has been heavily planted.

A common thread to the reports I received yesterday was the return of the flying ants. These bugs came out for a few days before Memorial weekend and went back to ground with cold, wet weather. For three weeks they were not in evidence. Then in the middle of last week they re-emerged. The biggest concentrations were above 7,100 feet near Robinson Creek outside of Bridgeport, Calif. in the central Sierra. Ant patterns are a good bet throughout the season in the mountains.

Another river fishing well on top at this time is the Middle Fork of the Feather River in the Wild & Scenic canyon stretch. The access is difficult but the fishing was good last weekend on a variety of floating flies.

The mackinaw bite on Donner Lake remains good. Large fish up to 20 pounds have been landed on a weekly basis. Bucks Lake near Quincy has also been producing macs on a consistent basis.

The first hexagenia mayflies were seen emerging last weekend on Lake Almanor near Prattville. There have not been many yet but it is a little bit early. Fishing nymph imitations is the ticket early on. Often in drought years the hatch is heavier than in wet years. Look for this hatch to increase through the Fourth of July and then taper off.

Denis Peirce writes a weekly fishing column for The Union 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. He may be reached via e-mail at

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