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Fishing the Lower Yuba River
By Jeremy Gray
The Lower Yuba has been a secret treasure of Northern California fly fishing for quite a while, but the secret is getting out. Today, the river is enjoying its greatest popularity in years, but it is still far from being over-fished and is still wide open except on big fishing weekends. The lower Yuba River between Englebright Dam and the Daguerre diversion dam offers over eight miles of wild trout, steelhead, and salmon waters, and it is just a little over an hour drive from Sacramento.

The fall is the most productive time for fishing the Yuba. Fall brings the salmon to the redds, and dead drifting glo-bugs and nymphs under an indicator can make for some 20+ fish days. The Salmon redds are identified as white patches in the gravel on the bottom of the river. The salmon stir up the gravel with their tails as they build their nests, shaking off the algae coating on the gravel and turning it over. This action also stirs up mayfly nymphs, stone fly nymphs, caddis lava and pupae. Combining this with the escape of hundreds of eggs makes for easy pickings for the trout and steelhead who get right into the redds with the salmon or wait down below them. You can see the salmon chasing the trout and steelies along with the jacks (immature salmon) as they work on the spawn.

The trick to this kind of fishing is getting a dead drift and getting the flies right down in the gravel. Lots of split shot and a good indicator are keys to success this time of year. Boles Float Right Indicators are the best for novices learning this type of fishing. They look like pumpkins and float better than anything. They are orange and have a little green and black "toothpick" sticking straight up out of the indicator. The reason these work so well for novices is that they will point in the direction of the drag. If the toothpick is pointing upstream, it means your line is dragging behind it and a downstream mend is needed. And if the toothpick is pointing downstream then your fly line is dragging the fly, and an upstream mend is needed. At least one BB size split shot is needed unless you are fishing water that is relatively flat and calm. In faster riffles and slots you may need up to 3 BBs to get your fly down. If you aren't hanging on the bottom at least every once in a while, your flies aren't getting down to the fish.

When fishing the redds, stay back and cast above them to give your flies time to get down before drifting through. DO NOT WALK THROUGH THE REDDS. You can kill thousands of unborn salmon with just a couple of steps through a redd. When fishing glo-bugs with a dropper, let the rig swing when it gets to the end of the drift as the Yuba fish are known for taking nymphs on the swing and will also occasionally take a glo-bug on the hang.

The end of fall and beginning of winter bring adult steel head in to take over the spawning grounds. They prefer finer gravel than the salmon but can also be found in the same areas. Higher flows don't mean the fishing shuts off; it only changes to bank fishing. When the flows are in the 2000-4000 cfs, fish the shallows with nymphs, stone flies, and caddis pupas. Stoneflies are a prime source of food this time of year. January is the month when we start to get the smaller squalla stoneflies. These are best imitated with a poxy-back rubber legged stonefly, a large bead-head gold-ribbed hare's ear, or for a dry, a little yellow stimulator dubbed with an olive tinged yellow and hackled with black.

Don’t miss out on the tremendous fall fishing offered by the Lower Yuba. These fish are wild and put up a killer fight; it’s not unusual for a sixteen-inch Yuba trout to take you into your backing! Remember, salmon are spawning during this time and caution should be taken when fishing amongst the redds. Before you go out, stop by my shop in Nevada City for more information and to gear up for a fine fishing day on the Lower Yuba.

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