Hot bites, cool nights upstream |

Hot bites, cool nights upstream

July has arrived and with it we can expect extended periods of hot weather. This is the time of year to head uphill to find warm daytime temps and pleasant evenings.

The snow melt has finished and the rivers are at normal summer flows. July is an excellent month to put on a pair of shorts and wading shoes to pursue trout in mountain streams. The two best river systems close at hand are the Truckee and the Yuba rivers.

The Truckee River goes through a major change every year in June. As the snowmelt ends, the gates at Tahoe City are opened to introduce more water from Lake Tahoe into the river.

This drafts water from the warm surface of the lake and raises the Truckee River temps more than five degrees. This rapid warming moves the best fishing times to the low-light periods at either end of the day.

The fish are still in the river but they orientate themselves to locations with cooler water. If you go up, plan on staying until dark. That is the time of the most predictable insect activity and feeding trout.

The North Yuba is my favorite Sierra river. The fishing is dependable, there are 30 to 40 miles of river to fish and the number of anglers is a fraction of what you will see on the Truckee. Even on the Fourth of July you can find vacant water.

I drove up for an evening of fishing last Thursday and fished the lower river below Downieville. My strategy this time of the year is to pick an area, park the car and fish upstream with dry flies.

It is easier to fool the fish if you come upon them from behind during the day. I like to wet wade in shorts and wading shoes. I start with a standard dry fly like a Parachute Adams, Humpy, or a Buzz Hackle. I change flies if I see specific insects hatching or in the streamside bushes. Last week, the small yellow stone flies were coming off, but the fish were not feeding on the surface. Fishing was slow until 8 p.m.

At that time I decided to head back down the way I had come.

I do not like to have a long hike in the dark. My preferred downstream technique, late in the evening, is to fish a fly wet. As the day ends it gets dark under the trees along the river bed. If you look up into the night sky, it stays light enough for a fish to skylight a dark colored fly.

When I fish dry flies upstream, the line goes slack as the bug drifts back to you. You need to see the fish hit the fly to set the hook. In the dark of the late evening, I cannot see the fly to know when to strike.

In contrast, I cast a wet fly across the stream, it sinks as it drifts down river and I allow the fly to swing back to my side of the river, pushed by the current. Once I have cast the fly, I can feel it on the tight line. As the fly is going downstream I can walk down with it, watching where I am walking and feeling for a fish. Fish hitting flies on a tight line will tend to hook themselves.

The fish that had been refusing my dry fly in good light were more than ready to hit my Soft Hackle Prince Nymph swung just below the surface in the late evening.

The best water for this is where a fast chute widens and slows, but the surface still has a chop. I like a fly that is large enough to see (Nos. 10-14) and dark to give a good silhouette. Pheasant Tails, Princes, Zug Bugs are a few nymphs that have worked well for me.

In bright light, this technique is not as effective as it is late in the evening. You don’t need to be a good caster, you just need to get the fly on the water across the current and hang on. But be sure you stay until dark.


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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