Your gateway to the best fly fishing that California has to offer                                                                                                             
photo by Greg Vinci

section begins.  The twenty miles between Trout Creek and the Nevada state line the special regulations limit tackle to single barbless hooks and also set a size and bag limit of two trout under 14 inches from the last Saturday in April through November 15th.  For the winter season which runs from November 16th through the Friday before the last Saturday in April, no fish may be kept. There is one stretch of the river located right in the middle of the special regs. section, owned by the San Francisco Casting Club that receives a plant of hatchery fish by special permit.  A local secret, is that fishing just upstream or downstream of the clubs boundaries is especially productive.  

  Access points are easy and numerous along the Truckee.  Though there is some private water along its length, there is plenty of U.S. Forest property in between so that you can always find a way to get to the water.  The upper section begins at the outlet from Lake Tahoe, or what is locally known as Fanny Bridge.  Its name is derived from the view one gets of the rear ends of tourists who are bending over the bridge railing to look at the huge trout that hold below begging for a free morsel of food.  This upper section is some of the most beautiful water one can fish, but unfortunately its beauty also has made this a very popular rafting run.  I personally got dumped into the water by a raft full of youngsters who were either inebriated or just too unskilled to avoid me.  For that reason this section should be avoided mid day.  Highway 89 follows the river all the way to town, so one can park at almost any turn out and easily access the river. 

  From where the Wild Trout section starts just below town, and where it ends at the California/Nevada state line access is still good, except that some sections will require a little walking.  The first section that parallels Glenshire Drive is what is known locally as Art’s run.  This section was named after colorful long time guide Art Lew, who livedwithin walking distance of this water and fished it for twenty years.  Several unimproved parking areas can be found alongside the railroad tracks and the river is only about a hundred yards walk to the South.  The Truckee doesn’t drop much in elevation here so the water consists of short fast sections between and over boulders separated by long (sometimes shallow) flat runs.

  Continuing a couple of miles down Glenshire Drive, you come to a bridge and then an improved parking area that is what is appropriately called the Glenshire access.  Because of this parking lot access this section gets lots of pressure but none the less still manages to give up quite a few fish.  Being that it is the upstream boundary of the private San Francisco Casting Club property, it benefits from the fish plants the club undertakes each year.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that all you are going to catch is planters.  What it does mean is that the concentration of wild fish can sometimes be higher here soon after the club dumps all of their alien fish into their water.  Snorkel studies in some California waters have shown that wild fish will leave an area once planters enter their territory, and then concentrate on the fringes for a time before spreading out.  The Glenshire section is on the fringes, so if the timing is right fishing here can be awesome. 

  The next access point is at the community of Hershdale, which is reached by continuing down Glenshire Drive, which eventually winds through a residential area that is Truckee’s version of suburbia.  There are lots of places to park here on both sides of the river.   The cold Little Truckee River enters the main stream after traveling only a few hundred yards from under the dam that impounds Boca Lake.  Water stays cool in this section and the fish like it. Downstream from Hirshdale the access gets more difficult as the Truckee now rushes through a steep gorge that has limited drive in access.  A dirt road parallels the river but reaching many of the sections requires some dangerous slip and sliding down steep embankments.  The canyon consists of pocket water and very deep pools and this is where some of the Truckee’s largest Browns lurk.  

Insider Techniques
The Truckee has a reputation as being one of those waters that will kick your ass.   Though that’s been the case more times than I would like to admit, the reality is that if you don’t catch fish it is generally because of either one or two reasons.  The first is “location-location-location”.  Truckee fish are notorious for moving around to different sections looking for comfortable water temperatures.  If you don’t pay attention to relative water temperatures you may find yourself beating the water to a froth to no avail.  Wise Truckee fishermen know for example that when water temperatures are cold, that the fish are most likely to be found around where springs seep their warmer water into the cooler main stream.  Conversely when the main stream gets warm later in the year, sections with springs will tend to have cooler water.  Late in the summer, when the water temperatures rise in the main channel, the best success is achieved below where tributaries empty into the river the river such as Prosser Creek and the previously mentioned Little Truckee River, which are cold tailwaters.  Most importantly is; when the water is cold, get on the water late and when it warms up get on the water early.  The second reason for lack of success is “presentation-presentation-presentation”.   Truckee’s  fish see a lot of flies, so presentation must be fundamentally right.  It’s not so critical in the pocket water where the fish must make quick decisions, but in the slower runs, flats and  tail outs, poor line handling and a poor drift will certainly mean failure. 

Seasons and Bugs
During the winter period, the primary bugs are going to be chironomids (midges) and Baetis (blue wing olives).   All of the size #18, and #20 midge patterns such asWD-40, Rojo Midge, Brassie and Crack Back Midge work fine.  The colors red, black, olive and brown work well at different times.   Any of the usual midge patterns such as, Baetis or Blue Wing Olives are still around in early winter, and then again from early spring to June.  Nymphs such as Mercer’s Micro-Mayfly or Sloan’s Mity-Mite Baetis and Vinci’s Crack Back Baetis are good choices, though it is amazing how many fish you will catch with just a size #18 or #20 flash back Pheasant Tail too.  It is good to keep in mind that though hatches of these bugs can vary during the year, their larval forms are present year round.  You can also do like many of the locals do and slap on a big and ugly streamer that mimics a Sculpin and drag it through the undercuts and deep pools.  When surface activity does occur, most fish are going to be taken on midge or tiny mayfly cripples. Generic “go to” patterns are the venerable Quigley Cripple or Griffith’s Gnat size #18 or #20. 

  Springtime means run off and that can occur during various interval lengths beginning in the month of April and continue into June.   If you are planning a trip during this time,  it is wise to call ahead to check on river conditions.  When the river is roaring during runoff the fish find refuge along the edges so dragging a streamer in the slower water near the bank can get you some of the largest fish of the year. Large streamers like bunny leaches, Wolly Buggers, and Cutters “Goblin” fished on a sink tip, will get fish.  There is an old saying that when the water is high and roily, go big heavy and ugly so big and heavy flies like the Riffle Dragon Stone and Copper John’s should be a part of a double nymph rig.     The spring transcending into summer season brings the beginning of significant hatches with one of the first most anticipated hatches being the Green Drakes.  Some years the hatch comes off during high water and most fishermen don’t have the opportunity to fish it, but more often than not the flows drop to fishable levels in early to middle June in time for the tail end of the hatch.  March Browns also appear and Baetis continue during the early part of spring.  A March Brown Soft Hackle can be deadly when swung through a pod of feeding fish. 

With the arrival of summer the flows settle down and all of the bugs that we know and love show their faces.  Caddis, Golden Stones, Little Yellow Stones and Pale Morning Duns are the most common.  For dries the Elk Hair Caddis , Cutter’s “EC Caddis”  (developed on the Truckee) and Stimulators in appropriate sizes do a good job representing Stones and Caddis. Parachute patterns in gray (the good old Adams), light yellow and cream cover most mayflies.  The venerable Yellow Humpy that was developed on the Truckee by Jack Horner many years ago, is still a popular and effective fly.  Sparkle Duns and Quigley Cripples are popular for representing mayflies (and Caddis too) struggling in the surface film.  For nymphs, the “Riffle Dragon Stone” and Mercer’s Poxyback Golden Stone work well for representing Golden Stone Nymphs and the “Gas Caddis” and Rick Fox’s “Radical Caddis” have been proven to work well on the Truckee to represent the pupal stage of Caddis.  Most mayflies can be covered by various sizes of Pheasant Tails though Sloan’s “Mighty May ” series in different colors are very popular.  Also of mention are terrestrials such as hoppers and very importantly the huge Carpenter Ants that blow up slope from the valleys below.  Last but not least are Crawdads that are a very popular cuisine with the river’s larger trout.  Speaking of Crawdads, one of the most deadly techniques during the warm dog days of August is dead drifting a Crawdad imitation under an indicator. 

Fall means fewer fishermen, particularly on weekdays, and cooler water temperatures.  Cooler water temperatures mean fishing will remain good all day and as with other waters located where there is a harsh winter environment, the trout’s feeding habbits change from selective to opportunistic as they bulk up for winter.  The Baetis are beginning to show again and the October Caddis are preparing to leave the comfort of their pine needle homes to pupate into huge moth like creatures.   Trout can get very aggressive when these bugs start getting active.  Because water is low stealth tactics are important as said previously, it is always good practice to sneak up to the waters edge so as not to spook a trout that may be holding in shallow water waiting for a hopper to pop in.  

Rigging and Gear
The river is relatively wide in spots so a combination of short line techniques such as high sticking or the Czech technique combined with long line nymphing are going to be what is productive here.  Fishing streamers will get you the largest fish.  A good nymph rig starts with about a nine or ten foot leader tapered to 4X. Then tie in about a six to  ten inch section (in pocket water this section will be shorter and when fishing deep slots it is better to go longer) of 4X fluorocarbon and a heavily weighted pattern such as a Stonefly, Birds Nest or an attractor like a Prince Nymph (try a big Green Drake nymph in the Spring).  I personally use what I think is the most common big bug present in the water at that time of year. To the hook bend of the nymph tie in about another eighteen inches fluorocarbon tippet, with the diameter determined by the size of the bug you will be fishing.  I personally like to tie in a small (#16 or #18) mayfly or midge pattern here so the hook eye will determine how large the leader can be.  Remember that movement is a key trigger, so the finer the diameter of the leader the more action that will be imparted to the small nymph.  Two to three BB size split shot should be placed above the knot that ties in the tapered leader to the 4X fluorocarbon section above the first nymph.  Don’t be afraid of using lots of weight, because on the Truckee, “more is better”.  Fish hold between the big boulders on the river bottom, so a lot of weight is need to get the flies down there.  Lastly all that weight requires a relatively large strike indicator to support it.   For long line nymphing, indicators that utilize a hinge effect are preferable to those that attach inline.  Inline indicators cause the leader to bow which make soft strikes less obvious.  Hinge style   indicators (that allow the leader to bend at a 90 degree angle) such as Pop-Top IndicatorsTM, Micro-Ball IndicatorsTM and the new Balloon Indicators come in sizes that will support lots of weight.  

Being that the Truckee River is located adjacent to Interstate 80 which is the major East / West interstate linking the western half of the country, it is one of the favorite destinations for fly fishermen living in Northern California and Nortwest Nevada.   It is only an hour and a half from Sacramento and three hours from the San Francisco bay area, so for fly fishermen living in those metropolitan areas, having a trophy trout fishery adjacent to the interstate and within a one day round trip, is a real treat.  The Truckee area is visited by thousands of tourists from around the country each year both winter and summer and for those who fly fish, it provides an opportunity to test the skills of the most impassioned anglers.