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.
4 days ago