My wife and I took a break from the heat last weekend to float the Russian river and chase some smallmouth. We floated the section just below Healdsburg, taking our time floating one of the more remote sections of the river. The fishing was excellent, with endless hookups of smallmouth in addition to the occasional Pikeminnow. We were even surprised by a school of stripers down below in a deeper pool that put a nice bend in our 5wt rods.
Flies were your standard bass fair. Woolly buggers, woolly buggers, and flies that look like woolly buggers. Black and olive seemed to work best, although I’m not sure it mattered much. There is endless structure in the Russian, and any spot deeper than three or four feet usually held a few willing bass. Most fish were in the one to two pound class but fishing deep in the larger pools with sink tips and heavily weighted flies yielded us a few fish double that size. I never got around to fishing poppers on top, mainly because the action was so good below the surface. But that’s definitely something I’m going to try next time, especially early in the morning in those slow pools.
The crowds of inner-tubers and kayaks on the Russian are still there, although less than I’ve seen at other times. Fortunately, most of the kayakers we encountered were grouped up and on a mission to get downstream. We let them pass with a smile as we hooked up with another smalljaw. By 10am, we had the river to ourselves. Definitely a fun time, and an easy day trip from the Bay Area. So bring your buddy or significant other, a kayak (or rent one up there), your swim suit, and a cooler of your beverage of choice and go enjoy a day on the water!