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photo by Greg Vinci


out enough in stretches to allow relatively easy hiking.  Within the twelve-mile stretch between Sierra City and Downieville is located the special regulation water of the North Yuba (check the California Dept. of Fish & Game website http://dfg.ca.gov/regulations for the exact boundaryís of the special regulation section) where only artificial lures (flies) with barbless hooks and a two fish limit are allowed during the summer months (last Saturday in April through November 15th).

The balance of the year is open to fishing and has the same gear regulations, but with a zero limit.  Most of the water is accessed from turnouts or at campgrounds.  If you use a campground access make sure you hike some distance before fishing as the water close in gets pretty hammered, though if you time it right and you are not snooty about the fish you catch, fishing near the campgrounds is really good after the hatchery truck pays a visit.  During 2009 the California Department of Fish & Game could not stock the Yuba with hatchery fish as the result of litigation requiring an environmental impact report assessing the impact of hatchery trout on the naturally occurring aquatic life.  Stocking is expected to resume in 2010.  All that being said, the North Yuba is not heavily planted water.  There are long sections away from the road that see few fishermen and have exceptional fishing for wild trout so if you park at a turn out, donít hesitate to walk at least a hundred yards or so before you begin fishing and be sure to give mining claims a wide berth. As the summer progresses the water in the lower section downstream from Downieville tends to warm up enough to impact fishing so you are going to have your best chances early and late in the day though the hatches that come off just before dark can be impressive.  Conversely the water upstream from Sierra City stays cooler due to its higher elevation.

Rainbow Trout are the predominate species on the North Yuba, with the exception of the Brown Trout that come up out of Bullardís Bar Reservoir to spawn in the fall.  In the higher elevation section upstream from Sierra City you can occasionally catch Brook Trout that wash out of higher elevation lakes in the spring.  The sections above Sierra City and below Downieville are where Rainbows are regularly planted in normal years and the fish are generally stocked at the bridges and at the several campgrounds.  For wild trout the special regulation section between Downieville and Sierra City is the place to go.  Rainbows are generally in the eight to twelve inch range with a few going fourteen of fifteen inches.  Occasionally a Brown Trout over fifteen inches will be caught in the fall. 

 The North Yuba can produce some impressive hatches though itís not that any one bug will come off in great quantities at any particular time, but itís just that when the hatches start you will see a whole variety of bugs all at once.  A typical October late afternoon can have small Caddis, October Caddis, PMDs and Midges at the same tim.  During the summer or just after runoff in June a few Caddis start showing but the most significant bugs are the Golden Stones that begin to migrate towards the shoreline boulders to eventually escape from their exoskeletons and fly to the branches of the shoreline vegetation.  As June progresses the Caddis become more predominate and the PMDs begin to hatch mid morning when the temperature warms things up at the end of the month, Little Yellow Stones start showing and hang around until the end of August.  One of the rather larger mayflies that are not normally associated with a freestone environment such as the NorthYuba, are the Gray Drakes which appear in July.  When the temperatures cool off in fall, the October Caddis become a favorite trout food.  In the winter the fish generally feed on midges and Blue Wing Olives.

Fish on the North Yuba arenít picky so conventional attractor dries and nymphs are all you need most of the time.  For example the Adams Parachute in size #16 & #18 imitates most mayfly duns, though a size #16 tan parachute is a more specific match for a PMD.  A size #12 Parachute Adams works perfect for the Gray Drakes.  Size #14 & #16 Elk Hair Caddis or Stimulators cover the small Caddis and Stoneflies and if tied with yellow elk or deer hair for wings works for the Little Yellow Stones.  CutterĎs EC Caddis is a great cripple pattern that sits in the surface film with the shuck protruding below, that crosses over between caddis cripples and mayfly cripples.  This is a great spot to mention the fly that possibly has been the most associated with the North Yuba over the years.  Itís called the Buzz Hackle, which consists of a grizzley hackle tied near the eye of the hook and a brown hackle tied at the bend with Peacock herl in between.  It also has a tail consisting of red hackle feathers (or calf tail).  It looks like a Renegade with a tail.  There is some evidence that the Buzz Hackleís development preceded the Renegade by several years as the wife of E.C. Powell, the founder of Powell Fly Rods back in the 1920s, first tied the it.  The Buzz Hackle looks like no bug that can be found on the North Yuba but to the fish it looks like food and they gobble them up. 

Tony Dumont who owns the Nevada City Angler fly shop says that nymph patterns such as the Bead head/flashback Pheasant Tail in #16 & #18 cover most mayflies and also recommends a red Copper John as an all around go too fly.  Long time local guide Ralph Wood ties up the Bead Head Turkey Nymph (looks like a Pheasant Tail tied on a scud hook but tied with the cinnamon turkey flat) that long has been a local favorite.  For Caddis larva Iíve personally like the generic patterns like Birdís Nests in Olive and Tan size #14 & #16 or if you prefer, more bio-specific patterns such as the Depth Charge Rock Worm.   For pupaís the Gas Caddis, Radical Caddis and local guide Bill Carnazzoís Peatridge Hot Wire Caddis will catch fish.  In the fall Ralph Cutterís (he lives close by) Tangerine Dream is an excellent representative of a October Caddis pupa.  Successful Golden Stone patterns can vary from the Epoxy Biot Golden Stone to the Riffle Dragon Stone in sizes #8 & #10.   Try rubber leg patterns early in the season, or when the water is high or when the fish are sitting in deep pools, Tony Dumont says that most do well with just a generic black Wooly Bugger. 

  Being that the North Yuba has no impoundments upstream its flows vary drastically from spring to fall, and rigging techniques need to accommodate that fact.  Because flows change so much during the summer that in the spring five and six weight rods are necessary where in the fall you can confidently fish your two or three weight.  Nymph rigs for the North Yuba vary from the conventional split shot anchor/dropper set up to creative rigs that if given a chance can help you catch more trout.  Guide Bill Carnazzo has an interesting leader set up he uses for short-line nymphing.  He uses a twelve inch section of amnesia with alternating four inch sections of orange and chartreuse knotted together, and a loop on both ends.  The alternating colors (like you find on lead core line) act as an indicator that, when properly fished with a tight line, will help you detect strikes.  A five-foot tapered monofilament leader is attached to the indicator with a loop connection. At the end of the leader is another loop connection to which is attached a three foot section of fluorocarbon (4X) that has perpendicular dropper tied into it.  He ties in his smaller fly to the dropper and a larger heavier fly such as a Stonefly pattern (a heavy ďDepth ChargeĒ double bead style would be good) as the point fly.  Heíll sometimes add an additional small pattern to an additional twelve inch section of fine fluorocarbon below the point fly.

The North Yuba is a beautiful Sierra river that has easy access and plenty of trout.  Itís also a fascinating place to visit if you are a history buff or just want to experience the flavor of the old west.  Itís kind of the river that time forgot.