June 29, 2009

TU Truckee River Fish Outing

The Sac-Sierra chapter of Trout Unlimited hosted a fish outing this last Sunday on one of my favorite rivers, the Truckee River. We had 29 people join us, including Trout Unlimited members from the Sac-Sierra and Sagebrush chapters, members of the Granite Bay Flycasters, and several other guests new to Trout Unlimited. It was good to meet some folks from other chapters and spend some time doing what we all love to do, fish.

Every good fishing trip always begins with a healthy breakfast and some Joe, so I figured everyone would be ready to fish after a few maple glazed and a couple cups of house blend. We all met at 8, but I was ready when I walked out the door at 6. I just have to remember to eat the doughnuts before the three cups of coffee next time. We broke-off into groups and tried to spread-out as best we could, but I'm pretty sure we had the river corked from Trout Creek to Hirschdale.

My good friend Jason and I headed straight to Horner's Corner to drop-off the gear for lunch.

We fished for about an hour and a half before we had to head back and start grillin' for 29 hungry fly flingers. Not a whole lot of action for us in that hour and a half. Two smaller fish to hand and a lost whitefish that Dave Lass said may have broke the state record... Not the greatest fishing record, but I would've accepted it gracefully, "And the biggest whitey award goes to JJ..." Rad...

We had quite a spread ready for lunch as people came in from the river. Thank you to Nancy, Don, and Joy for helping arrange all the food and other good stuff.

Some better morning reports came in from up river. A couple of guys said they had some solid takes and several good fish to hand swinging streamers through the schoolyard. Another group had some luck on the ol' tan worm (san juan), but nobody really ran into numbers of fish (it's not like we'd been fishing for hours though). The numbers didn't start to show until the afternoon... and did they ever...

While we ate lunch, Dave Lass, the Nor-Cal Field Coordinator for TU, talked with the group about some of the conservation work that's going on around the Meiss Meeadows and Little Truckee areas.

The Little Truckee is considered one of the most fun and technical fisheries in northern California, but it's having problems with some of the unauthorized "social" OHV trails that are distributing sediment into the riverbed. TU is wanting to designate new routes and improve/remove older routes to help protect this fishery. For more information about this and other projects, visit the TU California webpage at http://www.tucalifornia.org/. It was a great talk and I think I'll be participating in that project for sure. I hope to see other familiar faces.

After lunch we headed up river for some nymph action.

Before we could even get our lines in the water, Jason proceeds to snap the tip off his rod on some sagebrush. A total bummer, but I have to admit that the face he made was pretty good when I snapped his photo.

I'll give it to him though, a broken rod didn't slow him down at all.

The first 30 minutes were slow, until around 4:00 when the fishing simply got stupid! We were hooking 4 to 10 fish in every fishy looking run, and they weren't little fish either. None of the fish we got to hand were less than about 16" with some beef on 'em. Nearly all the fish we caught were taken on my "signature" trout slayer fly. The slayer struck hard that afternoon!

There was one wide run where I proceeded to catch 5 fish in 5 casts, plus an additional 5 more in the next 10 or so casts including a 24" bruiser on my last cast that I had to chase about 150 yards down the river before landing it.

I could barely fit the fish in my hand. It was hard enough to take pictures of fish that were like 18", with the fish in one hand and the camera in the other. Try doing it with a 24" fish. I got 'er done though. Check out the bent hook from that bad boy.

And that wasn't even the fly he took! The hook bent from the pull of the dropper fly.

Every fish fought hard! I came to the river with about 10 slayers in my box and broke-off all but 3 in some monster trout.

Jason was also nailin' fish on a big green drake pattern (the pattern that did absolutely nothing for me last Friday) broken rod tip and all.

When I caught-up with him upstream he was re-rigging after breaking off his entire setup in a fish's mouth. After setting his indicator a little higher, he hooks a fish in the same run, and (I could've guessed that this would happen) in one corner of the fish's mouth was his freshly tied-on nymph, and in the other corner was the rig he had broke off 10 minutes prior. Like I said, stupid fishing...

We had several instances where we had double hook-ups and fish hooked only about two or three feet from our legs. Check out this fish hanging out in the back eddy behind Jason's legs.

Good stuff all day long. Met some great people and had some great times fishing. Jason and I bailed before the evening hatch. To be honest, my arm was tired. The count at the end of the day for Jason and I was well over 40 fish with a couple of pigs to brag about. This fishing thing is easy... sometimes...

Thanks again to everyone that helped put the outing together, it was a great success. Thanks to Tom Smith for giving a good talk about the Sagebrush chapter, and thanks to Dave for giving a great talk about some of the now and upcoming conservation projects. Dave was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic and he opened some ears about TU's mission. We'll see everybody at the next TU function.

June 27, 2009

The Trout Slayer.

After several friends asked me how I tied this fly, I figured it would be easiest to show them here, rather than to try and explain over the phone. So... without further ado... The Trout Slayer. Currently named that for lack of a better name. I'm still undecided though; it's either going to be the Trout Slayer or the Master Baetis (thank you Scott).

This fly has worked exceptionally well in most of the rivers and creeks here in the sierras. Many times all of the other flies in my box would fail while this fly was catching fish. It was tied to imitate a Baetis or Callibaetis nymph as it ascends the water column, but has served well as both a PMD and BWO nymph (and probably some other kinds of bugs too, but only the fish can verify that one).

I use it all the time, even during hatches. Although I love catching fish on dry flies, when the Yuba rainbows start getting real selective about their surface meals, I get tired of watching them eat invisible bugs just inches away from my fly. So, I tie-on one of these and they just can't resist. The Truckee river trout seem to enjoy this pattern more so than any others during the summer and fall, as well as the trout on the E. Carson.

Here's the basic recipe:

Hook: Daiichi 1120 (size 16)
Thread: brown/olive 70 Denier
Thorax: olive/tan dubbing with polarflash flashback
Abdomen: hollow midge tubing, olive
Tail and Legs: Hung. partridge feather

Start with a small winding of lead wrap to help give the fly some weight.

Wrap thread several times around the lead windings, back and forth, to hold them in place. You can apply a drop of super glue or cement to the wraps if you like, I usually don't. Continue the thread wraps all the way to the bottom of he hook bend building a slightly tapered abdomen.

Lash-down some long straight Hung. partridge feather barbs to the hook bend as a tail using a couple of tight thread wraps. Trim the excess above the thread wraps.

Lash-down the end of the hollow tubing to the hook bend at the base of the tail feather barbs using a couple of tight thread wraps. Continue wrapping the thread back up the hook and stop just above the base of the lead wraps. It's important to note that the bulk of the tubing lashed to the hook can be significant, so sometimes you might want to leave a small section of tubing that extends up the hook to keep the abdomen somewhat naturally-shaped after you wrap the tubing over it (next step)

Take the tubing and wrap it around and up the hook until just above the lead wraps. Keep the wraps tight to each previous wrap to imitate a segmented abdomen. Tie the tubing down with a couple of thread wraps.

Tie down a few strands of polar flash and pull it back towards the back of the fly. Add a couple of thread wraps to the flash to lock it in place.

Dub-in a small amount of olive/tan dubbing and wrap it to create a small thorax. Be sure to use enough dubbing to make the thorax bulkier than the abdomen.

Take a small Hung. partridge feather tip and pull the lower barbs off exposing the feather shaft. Using you scissors, trim the feather shaft at the very tip of the feather to create a small V-shaped set of legs.

Lash-down the feather shaft to the hook near the eye, and pull the feather shaft to position the barbs as legs. Pull the polar flash back over the thorax of the fly covering the dubbing and legs. Tie the flash down below the eye of the hook.

Trim the excess feather and flash, and then add several thread wraps to create a head on the fly. Whip finish and add a small drop of head cement to secure the thread.

An that's the Trout Slayer. If you use it please let me know how it works, or if I can improve it. I'm always up for suggestions.

June 20, 2009

Still no Green Drakes.

I've been waiting for these stupid bugs to show up for months now... It doesn't sound so bad when I read it, but it sure sounds funny when I say it out loud. Every time I start talking about bugs my wife gets this weird look on her face that basically says, "I didn't think you could be any more of a huge nerd, but you've just proved me wrong." I'm sure she's getting used to it by now, but I wonder sometimes what she tells her friends: "He started talking about bugs again, so I just smiled and nodded my head and imagined I was talking to Dwayne Johnson [The Rock]." That Dwayne Johnson, what does he have that I don't? I keep telling her that it could be worse, I could be totally infatuated with a hobby that was ridiculously expensive and totally time-consuming...

Anyway... Every time I've fished the Truckee in the last couple of months I've expected some kind of a green drake hatch to happen, but it never does. In the last couple of weeks my friends kept telling me that they were seeing green drakes in the evening but I didn't see any yesterday. I thought I saw some coming off, but it was getting dark and there were a million other kinds of bugs swarming. I possibly saw one or two unconfirmed. Definitely not enough to warrant the purchase of $11 worth of green drake dry flies.

Tons of caddisflies and PMDs everywhere though. We saw PMDs all afternoon and some sulphurs and yellow sallies in the late afternoon. The caddis didn't show-up until around sundown. You know the caddis hatch is good when you can see them crawling under the bill of your hat and you start inhaling them as you breath. Not a whole lot of rising fish though. Not like I'm used to in these caddis swarms. We caught several smaller fish on PMD emerger and e/c caddis patterns as the daylight started to disappear. Louise caught a bigger fish a bit earlier on her PMD emerger, but most of the fish caught in the early afternoon (including a beauty of a whitefish) were taken on subsurface flies.

I started using this crazy-looking green drake nymph with a dangling thorax and a san juan worm dropper. I though for sure that the green drake nymph was going to be hot, but it didn't turn a single fish (again, another well-worth-it purchase). I switched the dropper to a small tan BH hare's ear and hooked a fish immediately, who promptly broke that fly off. I tied another of the same fly on as a dropper and hooked and released two fish out of the same hole (I checked their mouths, but my lost fly wasn't in there).

After breaking off my entire setup on a category 4 stick, I tied on a larger olive BH hare's ear along with the same tan BH hare's ear dropper and started catching fish left and right on both flies. I hooked a fish in a deep pocket that would've easily been my personal best trout (I'm guessing it was well over 6/7 lbs), but that fish was quick to break-off that tiny dropper fly and leave me standing motionless at the top of the pool in disbelief for about 10 minutes. After an experience like that, it takes a while to come crashing back to reality... I may have cursed a little...

I looked in the fly box for another of those small tan BH hare's ears, but my last one was stuck in the face of that submarine of a fish. Bummer... A bird's nest was all I had that was close enough, so I used that, and it was just as productive.

The fish were holding all throughout the river, in all types of water. Some guys who passed in their pontoons said they were taking fish on huge streamers in about 12 - 16" of water. Another group of floaters said they had been using dry flies all day and had done great. It sounded like the catching was good no matter how you were fishing.

All in all a good afternoon with lots of beefy fish and the one that got away.

June 14, 2009


Having been raised right next door to the south fork of the American river, I can honestly say that I know that stretch of the river pretty well; however, until last Saturday I had zero experience with the middle fork. I've had several people tell me that the middle fork holds huge trout in its deep pools in the spring and summer, and if that's true I was going to find out for myself. "Ruck-a-Chucky," is what they were telling me. "If you want huge trout, go to Ruck-a-Chucky." No problem.

Isn't the middle fork just a river for rafters and weekend warriors? Isn't there a nude beach up there somewhere? Neither of these bode well for fishing, but whatever, it was getting late on Saturday and I was dying to fish. I just hoped that I might miss the nude beach (if it is in fact up there somewhere). In my experience, nude beaches are never what you expect, and not in a good way.

The road down to the river wasn't too bad. Fairly well-maintained with some washouts here and there. 2 wheel drive the whole way down and back out. Great views almost the entire way down.

After dropping down about 800 ft and dodging two huge trucks stacked with rafts and tourists, I came up to the fee area and campground. Not an open site left with some kids out on the water in an inflatable canoe. The canoe looked like fun, but the water the canoe was on looked even better.

I kept driving through. The road got a little more squirrelly once I passed the campground, but again, not too bad. I pulled up to a locked gate and parked it. As I rigged-up my 5 wt I was having some internal debate as to which flies I should try first. Should I use a nymph rig? That water looked pretty deep, a lot deeper than I enjoy fishing with nymphs, so I decided on a big flesh-colored zuddler on the end of a type 6 versileader.

Not a whole lot of action at first except for a toad of a trout following the zuddler a couple of times as it came up and across the 1st deep pool. That fish was pushing 5+ lbs. It made the huge carp look small. I kept trying, but that monster trout wasn't interested anymore. Story of my life.

The water was pretty clear with a slight emerald green tint and I could see fish eating something suspended in the water column so I switched to a nymph rig.

I could see some huge stoneflies flying around above the banks so tied on a beadhead golden stone pattern with a hare's ear dropper... After about 45 minutes I hadn't turned a single fish so I just sat down on the rocks and figured I'd wait for the evening hatch (If there was one).

The sun started to get low and I began to see some caddis flies swarming above the frog water. Couldn't tell what kind of caddis they were, but they had a darker brown tint with very thick antenna.

I was busy snapping photos when the first several fish began to rise. One here, then another on the other side of the pool, and then a third right in front of me. Suddenly the entire pool was alive with slashing rises as these fish were consuming the caddis flies as they hit the water. I re-rigged quickly and started firing. No takers at first, but then I added about 4 feet of 6x tippet to my leader and that did the trick. I quickly brought two fish to hand on a brown e/c caddis pattern and missed several others. Nothing to brag about size wise, but these fish did enjoy the acrobatics as each one hooked shot out of the water at least 3 times. Reminded me of steelhead season.

I just started to get into the groove when a gusty wind coming up the canyon hit me right in the face. In the wind every cast was a total train wreck. I could get about 2 good cast every 5 minutes in between gusts, and the sun was going down fast. Pretty soon the rises shut-off as fast as they began. Silent... dead silent. So I decided it was time to go.

All in all it was a good (quick) trip with a couple of good fish caught (not the monsters I had hoped for). I would recommend this spot for just about any angler: easy access, lots of water, and a good evening hatch. It might be more fun to camp next time though.

Good thing I wasn't on the Truckee today, it looked like there was some good thunderstorm action going down up there.

June 9, 2009

SMB... What does SMB stand for?

My right foot hasn't been the same since that hard tackle in my last soccer game. Who would've guessed that a guy weighing no more than about a buck-10, maybe a buck-20 soaking wet, could smash my ankle so hard. Didn't think much of it after the game, except that it hurt a little when I ran, but with work the next day, who's gonna need to run, right?

Needless to say, I could barely walk the next morning. That was Friday; it was two Thursdays after and I finally went to get some X-rays taken. It was funny to hear the X-ray tech laugh when she read my chart, "You did this two weeks ago?!" She said.
I corrected, "Actually, it was 15 days ago to be exact."
That's when the laughter ensued, but not because it was funny.
"You're such a guy," she said shortly.

I took it as a compliment, but regardless, it still doesn't help my foot feel any better.
"How am I going to fish with a busted foot?"
She laughed again, opened the door and left.

I'm guessing nothing was broken (although it sure feels like it) because I haven't heard from my doctor's office since the X-rays were taken last week... or should I be expecting a call from the other office where I was referred to have the x-rays taken?... Who cares, it's all just a bunch of copays anyway.

As I limped back to my truck from the exam room I made a quick call to the old man who was already lined-up to go wine tasting with mom and some of her friends and their husbands on Sunday... It didn't take much persuasion to get him in on a lake trip that Sunday instead. If the doctor says not to walk on it, fine. I'll keep my feet totally stationary... on a boat.

It was about 2:00 pm when we launched the boat, a little chilly with broken clouds overhead, and hardly any people on the water (which is not normal on this lake for a Sunday in June). As long as you were in the sun it was warm, but when the sun left it sure didn't seem like summer was less than two weeks away.

I won't claim that this lake has excellent bass fishing, but I will claim that you won't find small-mouthed bass... exscuse me... "SMB"... this big in any lakes this high in elevation. After fishing this lake with conventional gear for nearly 25 years I began this year to fish for SMB with my fly rod. The last few trips have been very productive so I had high hopes for this trip.

Fishing for SMB with a fly rod is just fine on small ponds, because there simply isn't a whole lot of room for the fish to hole-up. On a 1 to 2 acre pond, everywhere you cast your fly is right above a fish. On this lake, we're fishing (on average) in about 15 plus feet of water. The lake holds over 40,000 acre-feet of "high quality" water, so I didn't know what to expect using little poppers and wooley buggers. But, that's all I had, so too bad if none of it worked. I can always just reach down into the rod locker and pull out one of my dad's spinning rods with a "fugley" fat gets-it jig tied on the end of 10,000 yards of mono. The fugley never fails.

After about 30 minutes on the water we had our first fish to the boat, and much to my surprise it was hooked to the popper on the end of my tapered leader. First fish belonged to me and my dad wasn't surprised.

The buzz didn't last long though. We went about three hours without a fish before dad hauled in a nice red-eyed SMB on the good ol' fugley. This second fish was probably a good 2 maybe three times bigger than mine, but I still had first fish and I was hoping that it wasn't my last for the day.

It was probably about 6:00 when my dad pulled in his 4th fish, and there I was trying to fly cast in gale force winds with 300 grain shooting head and a clouser minnow that weighed about 5 lbs. I was quickly reminded why it's so important to wear sunglasses while fly fishing as that 5 lb fly bounced off my hat at around 40 mph. I took it as a sign and sat down to regroup with the dog who had been patiently sitting at my dad's feet for the last 4 hours. After consulting with the dog for 10 minutes, I decided it was more important to me to catch a fish right now than to try and perfect my cast in a simulated catagory 3 hurricane, so I picked up the spinning rod and had at it.

The fugley I was casting turned-out four fish in about an hour with the biggest at about 18 lbs. or was that 18 inches?... Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. It was a big fish and a lot of fun to catch. We usually don't take any pictures of the bass on this lake, primarily becasue hardly any of them are picture worthy, but this one would've made the front page of the local paper, along with the meth lab fire and upcoming antique sale. Man I love fishing!