Fly-fishing is fun, I wish I were good |

Fly-fishing is fun, I wish I were good

If fly-fishing were bowling, my average would be about 120.

Why should you care? Because last week this so-so fly-fisherman caught two rainbow trout (aka steelhead, more about that later) while dry fly-fishing on the Lower Yuba River with help from Grass Valley fly-fishing guide Ralph Wood. And it was easy. And you could do it too.

That’s because the hatch has begun near the Highway 20 bridge. After a long winter underwater, insects with names like pale morning duns and March browns are sprouting wings, letting go of their rocks, floating to the surface, and then sticking there a while before flying heavenward.

For fish, it’s a smorgasbord. When the hatch was on and bugs floated by on smooth water, the Yuba – to use a fly-fishing cliche – practically boiled with trout gulping them down.

Your task, as a fly angler, is twofold: not to get too excited, so you can cast a dry fly over the fish which (you hope) will be fooled into thinking your fly is a bug.

Helping me do that last week was Wood, who wrote the book on fishing the Lower Yuba. At least part of the book, anyway.

Wood contributed several chapters to the 368-page “Flyfisher’s Guide to Northern California,” including the chapter about the Lower Yuba.

“When I first arrived here nine years ago, there was hardly anybody on the Lower Yuba. You’d go down and see all your friends and neighbors. Mostly locals,” Wood said this week. “It’s gotten a lot more popular. Part of the reason is … it’s the last wild salmon and steelhead river left in the Central Valley … there are no hatcheries on it.”

In not-too-technical terms, here’s how we fished: with little dry flies that looked like pale morning duns. You watch the fish rise, cast upstream, make a mend in your line, and keep the rod tip pointed toward the fly.

I didn’t have a notebook handy, but one thing Wood stressed was to take your time. Don’t scare the fish. If you see a fish rise, it’s better to cast short with your dry fly than to cast over the top of the fish and spook it.

Fishing on the Lower Yuba is catch-and-release only, with barbless lures.

The Yuba’s steelhead trout are listed as threatened on the federal endangered species list, which is the same rank as the northern spotted owl. Steelhead are rainbow trout that go to sea. Since all the Yuba’s rainbows could, technically, reach the sea, they’re classified as steelhead trout.

Another thing Wood stressed is not holding fish out of the water as you release them and otherwise handling them gently.

Have any outdoors information that you’d like to submit for publication? If so, contact Tim Omarzu at 477-4237 or by e-mail at

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