Denis Peirce: As warm weather comes on, the catching can be quite good |

Denis Peirce: As warm weather comes on, the catching can be quite good

Denis Peirce

There comes a time each year when the Sierra river flows drop, the water warms, the bugs start to hatch and the fish begin to bite.

You really know the time has arrived when you see river anglers “wet wading” in shorts rather than donning waders. This usually happens in the late spring but this year it did not occur until July.

I spent a few days over the holiday weekend fishing on the North Yuba above Downieville. I have been following the river flows weekly. In three weeks the river had dropped from 2,600 cubic feet per second to 1,500 to 1,000 and down to 700 cfs for the holiday weekend. By the time you read this it will be below the 550 cfs mark. The river had settled down from a roaring torrent to a modest flow where I could cross the river in many places.

There is a seasonal progression to river fishing. During the winter and the spring snow melt there is little angler pressure. As the warm weather comes on, the fish feed more heavily and the catching can be quite good. As the trout see more and more flies and lures they get a bit more selective. They will not take a casual presentation. As an angler you have do a better job. Right now we are still in the prime time on the west side rivers.

The allure of the North Yuba for me is an good sized river where you can cast a fly to a lot of trout in a beautiful setting.

On the North Yuba the water temps have risen out of the 50s into the low 60s. There are bugs hatching including golden stone flies, some sort of blond mayfly and mosquitoes that you can not help noticing. Over the weekend a number of different flies would get the trout’s attention but by far the top producing fly was a yellow Stimulator #14. I fished for an afternoon with Jim Johnston ( The majority of his guests are there to fish and the consensus among the fly anglers was that the rainbows had a decided preference for the Stimulator.

The North Yuba is not noted for big trout. There are a few big ones but the majority of the rainbows are modest size. A number of years ago I spoke with John Hiscox, a now retired fisheries biologist with the DF&W. He explained that the west slope streams of the Sierra fall at an almost continuous gradient from the crest down to the valley. This allows for frequent scouring of the bottom which is not conducive to bug populations. On the east side the mountains drop precipitously down to flat terrain where the slower currents support a better food chain. The Sierra south of Lake Tahoe is the best example of this.

This past weekend Tom Page (Reel Angler’s Fly Shop) fished the Little Truckee River between Stampede and Boca Reservoirs. The bite was on! Tom had a great day catching trout on dry flies. The hatch was a pale morning dun may fly. Tom’s top fly was a “Pinkie”, which is a blond may fly pattern with a body color best described as a dusty rose color rather than a bright pink. A good presentation with the right fly was necessary for a good day.

This section of the Little Truckee is a meadow stream with a flat gradient, strong bug populations and quite a few good sized trout. It has cold water coming from Stampede Reservoir above and it is close to Truckee, Reno and I-80 which adds to the angling pressure. All of these factors contribute to making this a technical fishery where you have to get it right to be successful. A bit of a contrast to the North Yuba.

The allure of the North Yuba for me is an good sized river where you can cast a fly to a lot of trout in a beautiful setting. With almost 40 miles of river, you can find your own run to fish, even at the peak of a holiday in mid summer. It is close enough to home to go after work, and get in some evening fishing which is prime time on Sierra trout streams.

Whether your choice is the North Yuba or the Little Truckee the time is now for the best river and stream fishing of the year in the Sierra.

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

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