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Lower Sac & Yuba Fly Fishing Reports & Skwala Rant

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Hogan Brown reports on 2.17.2016 

So our northern california typical february pseudo spring has come and hopefully gone. It seems most years that at some point in February the sun comes out and we get some 70+ degree weather but then it gets cold again and winter continues for another few weeks. Problem with the last few years is that weather came in February and never left…hence the drought. This year as previous the weather has been beautiful and while I have enjoyed it on and off the water it is hard to truelly enjoy it as I know if it stays we are screwed for water…There is rain in the forecast for today and the clouds have rolled in so hopefully we are going to see many more storms role through in the next few months beefing up sierra snow pack and filling valley reservoirs.

Prime Spring Dates Still Open for Lower Sac (trout, stripers, bass, shad), Lower Yuba River, and spring steelhead on the feather.
March 28April 1, 9, 30May 7, 28

Lower Sacramento River

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Spent a few days on the Lower Sac the last week and fishing was fair to good depending on the bug activity. When the caddis were coming off fish were feeding and fishing was good…when they weren’t fishing was not as good. I can’t say why the caddis were hatching or not as the weather was pretty constant from day to day. With the change in the weather and cooling temperatures I am sure the fish will start to key on mayflies again. During this time of year I find that the fish can key on different bugs on a daily basis but usually will key on mayflies when the weather gets colder or overcast and caddis when the sun comes out and the weather warms up above 65. March is usually one of the best months on the Lower Sacramento so if you can get out on the water.

Lower Yuba River

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I got a few days in on the Lower Yuba this last week as well. Fishing was fair to good. Flows are perfect at right around 1200cfs and clarity is about 1’-1.5’ but there is a serious tint to the water as Englebright is blown out. As much as people want to go fish the skwala hatch the conditions and water clarity are not conducive to it. The most skwalas I saw in one day was 2 and the most fish I saw rise in a day was 2…so if you are going to the Yuba to fish dry flies I would be realistic about what to expect. We caught good numbers of fish but only on nymphs and bigger swung flies. Most fish came on Rubber legs, egg patterns, and red copper johns…stuff they can see. Most of the fish came in areas where we could really target the fish, smaller buckets and confined areas against the bank…I struggled to find fish in the bigger runs, they could be there but I think with the clarity you may have to put it right on their noses.

Skwala Stone Rant

So every year hordes of people descend on the Lower Yuba River this time of year chasing the Skwala Stonefly Hatch. The last few years the hatch has been good (but be real “good” is relative with regards to this hatch). With few high water events during the last few years the migration of nymphs to the bank has been uninterrupted and low flows provide good access to wade fishermen as well as good water clarity. This has made “the hatch” VERY POPULAR…meaning the river has been incredibly crowded.

Now here is my two cents…The skwala hatch is the most over ratted hatch I know of…do the bugs hatch and are they there? Yes, but on most years in pretty slim numbers. On a given day I rarely see more then a handful of adults and if I fish a client with dry flies all day raising a few fish I consider that successful. Most years the conditions are VERY poor for dry fly fishing…as they are right now…flows around 1200cfs making wading access a bit challenging, but most importantly the visibility is at best 1-1.5’ with seriously stained water. Not good if you are trying to pull fish up to the surface…they need to see the bug right.

The most skwalas I saw in given day this last week was 2. I did see fish smash the surface about 5-6 times one day but fished skwala dries with no success…here is the point: I don’t consider a few bugs flying around and a handful of fish rising throughout the day a “good hatch”. I get the “I want to fish big dry flies in the winter” attraction, but be real with yourself and don’t let message boards, fishing reports, guides, or fly shops blow smoke up your ass with regards to the skwala hatch…if  you are going to go, go with realistic expectations…AND a nymph rod! Way more fish key on the nymphs and with the off color water are going to eat rubber leg nymphs, attractor eggs, san juan worms, and big attractor nymphs then dry flies…Also if you are a dry fly fishermen save your day! The March Brown hatch is WAY better and the May/June caddis and PED hatches are even BETTER then that! Rant over.

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