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Frank R. Pisciotta is one of California's top, veteran, independent, fly fishing guides.

Truckee River

Of interest to the fly-rodder on the California side of the CA/NV border is 20 miles of the Truckee River’s trophy trout water. The quarry is stream-bred Rainbows and Browns; some measured in pounds.

The regulations are barbless artificials only; no bait is allowed. During the Regular Season (last Saturday of April to November 15) the limit is two trout; MINimum of 14”. The Winter Season (November 16 to the last Friday of April) requires ZERO harvest

Unlike other California freestone streams, 15-25 fish days are few, if at all. Many competent anglers are befuddled by this fishery. But, if they are patient and attentive, the river will definitely hone their stream-craft. Being consistently successful here bodes well for excursions on other moving waters. I’ve often mused of a corollary: during my serious downhill skiing days of the early 70’s in the Tahoe area; I’d always return to Squaw Valley when my over-inflated ego needed an adjustment. The Truckee can serve the same purpose. Yet, once you have learned its idiosyncrasies, it is addictive and exhilarating…just like Squaw Valley.

Seasons

During the winter months, December through March, the major caveat for the fly angling enthusiast is simply…access to the water. The Truckee area receives copious amounts of snow. Snow-shoes are a useful winter gear and will provide the adventurous more solitude. The best times to fish are mid-day. April is a cusp month relative to stream-side access; subject to the rhythm of an early or late snow-melt and consequent run-off.

May and June can be an “iffy” proposition on the main Truckee River. The best strategy now is to fish the lakes and smaller streams. Nevertheless, streamers and rolling big & small nymphs (in tandem) in the lower water column are the most efficient methods; water flows and temperatures permitting.

The first opportunity for dry fly fishing is early June at the appearance of the infamous Big Bugs of June; Western Green Drakes, Golden Stones and the huge, winged, black carpenter ants are around….18″-25” trout are aware and looking for such opportunistic, high-caloric morsels! These huge trout will aggressively feed at the surface.

July, August and into September affords the angler the best opportunity to fish three of the Truckee’s major hatches; little yellow stones, and two “free-living” caddis, the green rock worm and the spotted sedge. Larval, nymph, emerger and adult patterns all work, if used at appropriate times. During the evening sessions, entailing late-afternoon to dusk, the river earns its well-known reputation as a “night stream.” Hint; do not read the rise-forms as surface takes, use soft hackles and cripple patterns.

If fortunate, late September to early November affords the autumn angler the opportunity to experience a glorious Indian summer, with an occasional, short-lived thundershower. Crowds are gone, nights become brisk, aspens and alders turn golden…river flows are low and clear. Stealth becomes a required tactic. The last brood of the Baetis are available to sighted surface slurpers at mid-day. The final huge bug, the October Caddis, flits around and affords an opportunistic, high-caloric intake for trout preparing for the snows of the High Sierra winter. Th big Browns bulk-up for the winter and will attack a well-presented streamer.

Considerations:

To fly-fish this east-slope, High Sierra stream effectively, one should be particularly adept at selecting the right times and places. Aside from the normal fly-angling considerations, other variables enter the equation, snow-pack and its percentile of water content, weather-related gradual or erratic volumes of run-off and human induced water releases from both Tahoe and other downstream bodies of water. An understanding of how these factors affect the fishery, is what separates the successful fly-angler from others.

Gear:

Studded, felt or rubber soles and wading staffs are strongly recommended. The river’s substrate of cobbles and boulders are algae-laden and can be very slippery; regardless of careful foot-probing. A lot of trout fly-rodders may be unaccustomed to 57-68 degrees being ideal water temperatures, but that is required to get the juices flowing optimally in the stream-bred Truckee River denizens. One’s thermometer is an essential tool here.

Personally, I prefer using a 10′-4-weight, medium action rod. That is, until the wind blows; which is a serious factor when it arrives, normally in the afternoons. A fast, 6-weight has enough body to “punch” line out when required. A 5-weight, single-handed or switch-rod is an ideal compromise. Minimally, a 9-footer is useful for mending, reaching, “high-sticking” or Euro-nymphing. A 9′-5x leader is all-purpose; merely adjust length and diameter as the situation demands. On this river, I do not use 7x, and rarely go to 6x. A 006″diameter tippet is usually the smallest; even when knotting on minute, late-Summer/Fall patterns of Baetis, Tricorythodes and Pseudocloeon. I will lengthen a 5x-tippet to its maximum extension, as long as it affords me proper presentation; which is always critical. I enjoy landing and releasing strong fish (in survivable condition!) and attempt to avoid breaking them off at the moment of truth, the hook-up, or the ensuing struggle.

So…trophy trout (20″+) are available throughout the river system, regardless of what section of the river you explore. They are not easily duped. Those anglers who commit to being observant, patient, and flexible relative to techniques employed, have the highest probability of hooking (not necessarily landing!) sophisticated, mature fish. The Truckee, being a freestone river, has its mix of riffles, runs, pools and pocket-water; all basic techniques will produce. The prizes are for the innovators at the vise or at stream-side. Most of the time, attractor dries, suggestive nymphs, simple emergers, standard streamers and bucktails will work. Sometimes not.


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…lessons well-learned…retraced steps and techniques. WOW! great results.

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…good fishing & camaraderie…

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That Brown trout was the largest fish I’ve ever caught on a fly rod.

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…good time…very relaxing; great fishing was the bonus.

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completely seduced by the beauty of that country. I especially enjoyed that one last fish before darkness fell.

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