High Water Fishing (Part 1: Putah Creek)

10,000 cubes of water is a massive amount of whater. But it is all relative to the system. For example if the Yuba went to 10k I’d hardly be concerned. When little Putah Creek gets that big, the only word to describe it is: impressive. In perspective the river was running at 100 cfs before the glory hole spilled. Think of it this way, there are 100 more Putah Creeks coming out of the lake at that point.

This is nothing new but not something that happens that frequently. The glory hole in my lifetime has spilled four times. Two in the last three years, so it is rare. For those you who do not know what the glory hole is, its not a dirty porn term here. Be careful with your google searches. The top of the Monticello Dam is around 460 ft. high. The opening of the top of the glory hole sits at 440 ft high. So if the lake ever get so high where it could breach the the top of the dam, the glory hole will empty the water before it has a chance. Imagine a 440 ft boot, that paints a better picture of the shape of it. The impressive thing is when it spills it takes with it a powerful wind. Gravity pushes air down it along with the water. I know birds have been seen sucked down it. Don’t fly your drone too close, you will struggle to gain altitude if you get too close. I’ve fished where it spills out in 2017 and it produces about a 40 mph wind. It is probably even higher when the flows are higher.

When we flooded out in 2017, everyone was in panic mode. Most of us had never seen the rivers do what they did. We were aware that they can do what they did, but they were just stories told to us from older anglers. We had no idea about how long it would last and at what point could we try fishing it again. It was a big year of learning for us. I didn’t have many answers for what to do and where to go. I had no previous experience fishing in these conditions. Through some R&D with my guide buddies we figured it out. And what we figured out is it make fishing really good.

I was able to sneak in a do some floats in my raft in the floods of 2017. I have the perfect boat to do it. The Outcast Striker is a two man frame-less raft. It is very lightweight and extremely maneuverable on the water. The big thing is that it weighs 102lbs. I do not need a trailer to move it around, it easily fits in my truck bed. This means I do not need a boat launch, I can drop it in and pull it almost anywhere. We were able to spot float certain key sections of Putah Creek. This gave us a chance to cast streamers from the boat and get to some spots where we could get out of the boat and nymph on foot. Crossing the river at this point was hopeless, so we were the only ones fishing most spots.

The Striker from Outcast is an incredible little raft.  It’s light weight, versatile, and only needs a truck bed.

The Striker from Outcast is an incredible little raft. It’s light weight, versatile, and only needs a truck bed.

I remember the first time I ran it, the flows were just over 3 grand. That was pretty puckering to be honest. Ideally we want the flows to be below 2000. Before you run out and try to float the creek on your own seek professional advice first. It can be very dangerous if you do not know what you’re doing. There are several kayaks that don’t make it home every summer, and that is just from a small 800cfs. There have also been a few deaths that have occurred out there. So look before you leap, do your research.

The nice thing is that the clarity will be there before the flows get in shape. The lake settles a ton of the silt and even know its high it is still pretty clear. When Putah Creek floods it gets dirty because of all the bank erosion that occurs along the shoreline, not because of the lake. Once the river drops back to the main channel it will start to clear up again.

Now with all I said I am still learning high flow fishing out there. I have one season with it and was pretty successful. I am excited to see what I can drum up this year. When things like this happen it gives me a chance to keep learning and growing as a guide. Anyone can figure it out when it’s “normal.” You get a lot more days to practice. It’s when the shit hits the fan how succeed through it.

I will have some openings to get you out there. Probably by mid March it should be in shape unless we get a few more crazy storms. This a great way to see the river from a different perspective. The streamer junkie will be thrilled with it. Also, it might be the only thing to do for a while.

An absolute “Walerus” taken on an olive Sculpzilla out of the Outcast Striker in 2017.

An absolute “Walerus” taken on an olive Sculpzilla out of the Outcast Striker in 2017.

Stay tuned for part 2 of high water fishing where we discuss the Truckee at these stages. If you like what you are reading, share it with your friends and become an RSS subscriber.

My Piece On Etiquette

There has been a lot going around lately regarding practices and behaviors of anglers.  My goal here is to help shed some education and advice on the issues. We’ve been seeing an increase of bad etiquette on the rivers and social media.  Keep in mind that I know I do not make the rules and do not think I have any type of ownage on the river. This is a way to help the new anglesr or to help the existing ones think a little differently on ethics.  

Let’s discuss the redd, spawning fish issue.  First of all if you’re targeting spawning fish, please STOP.  Those fish you see spawning only got that way because their parents successfully spawned.  It seems pretty reasonable to understand that fish you catch next year were the offspring of successful spawn from the previous years.  

Spawning Fish and Their “O” Face

Spawning Fish and Their “O” Face

There are two types of people who target actively spawning fish.  Those who dont know, and those who do not give a shit. Let’s break down both perspectives.

See the obvious clear rocks. Do not fish or walk, “No Tread On The Redd”

See the obvious clear rocks. Do not fish or walk, “No Tread On The Redd”

It’s understandable that new anglers might not be able to recognize spawning fish or identify redds.  I think every angler may have been guilty of this at some point. Along the way they learned more and decided to leave them alone.  I think for what is at stake here that anglers need to take more initiative in educating themselves before they tread. The state requires hunters to have a really good understanding about the animal they are pursuit.  Duck hunters must be able to identify the type of duck and the sex before they shoot. That is knowledge that is required from day 1. I think we can do better requiring anglers to have more knowlege before they go fishing.

Here are some ways to identify spawning fish and redds.  First is being able to see the fish. If you see a big fish or multiple in shallow water chances are they are spawning.  They did not get big by being dumb. If you can see them easily in water less than 2 ft. deep they are not there to feed, they are there to reproduce.  Think about it, if they lived in shallow water like that they would have been eaten by an otter or an osprey. A fish isn’t going to make big movements that leave them exposed.  They know big movements give away their position. So when you see fish in shallow water moving around a lot, they are spawning. There is a protocol while they spawn where the female protects her nest and eggs.  She is going to chase the males around leaving only the most dominant fish to get in to fertilize. The dominate males will chase the other males around too. This is what creates the chaos you see when fish spawn.

We have the opportunity to sight fish on a few rivers.  One of the things that I have learned is that you do not get many shots at those fish.  If you’re able to see a fish and make multiple casts at it and it doesn’t spook, chances are it’s spawning.  If you continue to cast to that fish it isn’t feeding on your fly it’s protecting the nest or itself. You are force feeding that fish at that point.  Remember they do not have hands, they cannot bat things away. There only defense mechanism is to bite. They only have a finite amount of energy. That energy is better used procreating then fighting you on a fly rod.  Plus it adds stress on them, they secrete eggs or sperm in the fight and not on the beds.

If the fish’s activity doesn't’ tip you off that they are spawning, the habitat might.  They look for a certain depth, and speed of water. Generally this is a shallow riffle less than 2 ft deep.  They also want a certain diameter of gravel to dig a nest in. They find this on the sides of the river and at the tailouts.  The females will dig out the redd, this can sometimes be observed by them “fanning” which means turning on here side and shaking her body.  Take a look at the bottom of the river, you’ll notice a certain color of the rocks with slime, and silt on them. The areas that they dig will be clear or clean rocks.  They generally stick out pretty well if you take the time to be observant.

Let’s address the angler that knows that the fish are spawning and doesn’t care.  I guess at the end of the day there will always be “that guy.” We should really push to be more progressive and outlaw fishing to spawning fish.  If this were to be on the ballot for a regulation change I would be the first to sign.

People who are target spawners really should know better.  I guess we have to except everyone has a different tolerance of ethics.  I assume anglers decide to fly fish because of the challenge. Simply, there are easier ways to fish.  Fly fishing is all about learned and testing yourself. Pulling a fish off a redd is an embarrassment not an accomplishment.  If you want some perspective, I know a 5 year old kid who casted, hooked, and landed a 10lb steelhead all on his own on the American a few years back.  He was fishing in a side spawning channel near sailor bar. I’ve seen the video to prove it. Now, I do not have it in me to ever shame a child but think about that next time you decide to target the redds.  You are not being challenged, a 5 year old can do it. Your fish picture with a beat up dark fish, eggs or sperm falling out of it is shameful. It is bad for the sport.

Let’s discuss river etiquette.  It seems as the sport is slowly growing the conduct on the rivers is dwindling. Remember that we have a lot of people in this State so our waters are going to have crowds.  If you're creative and willing to venture you can get out and find some great water. If you follow the herds do not be disappointed when it is crowded. You are part of the crowds too, and so am I.  Since I spent a lot of time on the water guided and personally fishing I am around bad practices more than the general angler.  When I see bad manners I try to stay calm and remind myself that most people simply do not know the unwritten rules of angling. I think the golden rule applies here.  Try and think how you want to be treated and reciprocate to others. If someone tresspasses on your standard stay polite. Try the nice guy approach first. Don’t go in guns blazing.  

The easiest thing that you can do is communicate.  Politely talk to other anglers when you see them. It creates a happier place.  I have seen anglers literally sprint to the water to get there before I do. Realistically, had they stopped and chatted we both could have made a plan as to who goes where.  Maybe we could have swapped some intel or traded some flies, we will never know. If you are first to the run enjoy it, fish it well but do not be a hole hog. If you are Johnny Come Lately talk to the anglers who are fishing.  Ask them “which way are you working?” If you desperately have to fish near someone, ask first. On a busy days at Putah Creek if someone asks if they can fish near us I have never said no. It’s when someone jumps in too close to us without asking that I first address with a polite conversation.  


Social media is here to stay.  It is a fun useful way for us to communicate and show off a part of our life.  It’s a double edged sword though. Sometimes the wrong message, info, or tone can leak.  I think there is a responsible and polite way to share info online. If you look at my reports, posts, blogs etc you will see that I never give up exact locations.  This is out of respect for the local anglers who are more protective to me about hot spotting. Spots are sacred and should be discovered through trial and error. It’s not fair to the angler that explores and finds a gem to leak spots to the lazy anglers.  

Fish with water drops down next to the water make much better photos

Fish with water drops down next to the water make much better photos

Keep em wet.  The hero shot is done, I know if you look through my photos you will see some grip and grin photos of me.  I’ve changed my practices when learning more about fish handling. The biggie is the fish flop. Bend down and make that fall shorter.  The new practice is to crouch down and just life the fish so the camera can see the fish. My anglers have to hold their breath when handling the fish.  If it is hard for my client to breath it is definitely hard for the fish to breath. One set of quick photos and the fish goes back. We do not need evidence of every fish caught.  Shoot your first fish and a good fish and that’s it.

Take a listen to my latest podcast with the guys over at Barbless…

Yuba Winter Report

Yuba Fish 1.JPG

I think anglers have been sleeping under the rocks lately because we have had the river to ourselves.  Winter is here, and it is starting out with a bang.  I’ve been rather pleased with the fishing on the Yuba the last few weeks.  The fish are healthy as can be and the numbers of fish is back to normal.  The size of the fish is still a bit smaller the we had pre-2017 flood.  However, I have seen some true Yubacorns caught.  Each trip I’ve had anglers are really happy with the action.  Plus, I’ve seen at least one big fish hooked every time (not always landed).  There are even a few half pound steelhead around.

There is still an egg bite going on.  The salmon run this year is very strong, it might be the best or equal to the best numbers I’ve seen in 10 years of guiding.  There are still fish moving in and I foresee the egg bite lasting a few more weeks. 

The nymph game is strong, it has been pretty straight foreward.  We’ve managed to get really grabby fish on flashy nymphs.  I am shocked how well the red Copper John has been fishing.  I have a real love hate relationship with that fly.  We also have been picking fish up on Sloan’s Micro Mighty May.  Don’t be surprised, that fly was invented for the Yuba.


The real impressive feature is how good the dry fly fishing is right now.  I said good, not easy.  In the slow tail outs and pools we’ve been working fish all through out the day on the dry.  With a lot of patience and technique we are managing some really good numbers.  I think this is the best dry fly action I have seen in a winter in years. 

The moral of the story is there is a lot to do out there right now.  We can get fish on the egg, we can nymph fish from the boat in the fast water and throw dries in the tail out.  I guarantee you won’t find better winter dry fly fishing anywhere in the State.   Pretty soon the Alevins will start to hatch which will add another option.  Streamer fishing the Yuba or swinging two handed options will start to develop in the weeks to come. 


It looks like off and on wet days through the month of December.  Don’t fret the fish are already wet and can handle it.  Can you?  I find it funny that anglers who have $400 Simms Jackets are afraid to fish in the rain.  Those are the best days out there.   

Yuba "Newba" Update


The Yuba seemed to be everyone’s favorite valley trout stream.  With the devastation of the flood this past spring it has been somewhat forgotten.  The word on the street has really put a bad taste in the mouth for anglers.

Reports have told the story that the fishery is ruined.


I have a different opinion for what the you may have heard.  Rather I have a different outlook on it.  First of all, let’s be thankful there are still fish in the river.  We are fortunate that somehow the resilient fish found a way to make it through armageddon.  Second, the bug life is back.  The floods may have washed a bunch of the food down to the delta.  Life found a way to return to the upper trout waters.  This fall we saw a mix of good caddis hatches, mayflies, and plenty of midges.  The good news is that the fish have something to eat.


The next rumor out there is that all the fish are small.  For a while that has definitely been the case.  It was unusual, we have been finding good numbers of fish.  No one can complain about the numbers and the action.  However, the sizable 16” average turned to about 10”.  Lately, we have been seeing and hearing about some bigger fish being caught.  Still the average size fish is a bit smaller but signs of life has proven there are still some better fish in there.  


The real saving grace to the fishing has been the dry fly action.  The bwos have been out in big numbers and the fish are responding to them.  I went out for about two hours yesterday and saw fish chowing on the surface.  In total I raised 6 fish to a Film Critic.  When the hatch petered out I nymphed through a run and hooked two.  I missed the first, but hooked the second.  The second was an 18” fish that I lost at my feet.  


This is a good time to get out and work on your dry fly game.  A soft 4wt like a Scott G2 is such a beautiful way to spend a day dry fly fishing.  I spent so much time on rivers with limited dry fly action that when I get a chance I get giddy.  Think about it, when you test or buy a new rod from a shop you think about it in terms of how it will cast a dry fly.  You test it with false casts.  Rarely do you pick out a rod and imagine how well it will throw a bobber.  



To conclude my report.  I think we should be thankful we still have fish to catch.  I think the Yuba is a great option right now.  I’ll be pushing trips that way and personally fishing there myself.



If your planning a trip up to the Yuba over the next few months leave the boat at home.  Sycamore Ranch will be closed for maintenance.  This includes access for walk and wade anglers. 

Recaping Summer and Looking Ahead

In one word to describe my summer...NUTS.  I do not think I could have done anymore guide trips and classes.  Throw in a wedding, mini honey moon and random camping trips I haven't had much time to update the blog.  I gave myself a much needed day off today to get back to normal.  

So how was the fishing?  I would sum it up with average.  I spent almost everyday in the Truckee area.  The "Big T" fished well early on and became tough after the 4th of July.  The water predictions were way off.  The river dropped tremendously and the weather got hot.  We had some good days and bad days.  Most mornings were good and evening fishing was inconsistent.  Afternoons were a bust.  

I met a bunch of really good anglers from all over the country this year.  Summer time we get a lot of new anglers or part time anglers.  I enjoyed teaching and getting anglers up to speed on ability this summer.  Watching a newbie or kid land their first fish is entertaining to say the least.  

As of late, the weather has cooled off, especially over night.  The river has cooled down a bit and fishing for a full day is getting a lot better.  Look for this trend to continue to get better, unless we get a warm spell.  Put it this way, if fishing requires a sweatshirt or light jacket at any point of the day things are going to be pretty good.

We are on the brink of fall.  The leaves are about to change color.  Fall is a great time to fish for several reasons.  The first is fishing pressure.  Anglers spread out more during autumn.  The Trinity will start fishing, the lower sac and yuba egg bite takes off, Putah Creek flows drop, the Feather will fill up with steelhead, and the Truckee streamer fishing will get insane.  With many options for fishing anglers will spread out.

Let's talk Yuba or "Newba".  Big changes to the river from the floods last spring will peak your interest.  Fishing runs that you used know by heart that have now rerouted different paths is like learning a whole new river.  I have heard rumors that the flows will be down to 1000 by the end of August.  With the changes to the river I would expect to see a good run of salmon this year.  From the reports I have been hearing lately there are a lot of small fish thriving right now.  The bigger fish have been hard to find.  This is either a result in the big flows all summer making them harder to find.  It also could mean that the floods harmed those fish.  We really wont know until the egg bite.

The Feather was another river with major changes.  If you have been living under a rock you may not have known about the Oroville Dam Spillway malfunction.  When the spillway failed a giant torrent of water came screaming down the Feather.  This has made a huge impact on the river bed.  From what I have seen there is a lot less water to fish in the low flow sections.  Especially for walk and wade anglers.  It may be even more important to be in a drift boat now on the Feather.  However, I was impressed with the amount of fish that were in the river all summer.  Not a lot of big fish but lots of numbers of 14-16" scrappy fish.  The big fish will be here soon.

Putah Creek.  Not a lot of new things to consider here.  The biggy is that the flows have already dropped.  I've heard fishing has been really good as of late.  Generally the fishing gets really good after labor day.  When the flows are between 100-400 it is game on for being able to fish the creek entirely.  

Truckee.  I am most excited about fishing the Truckee this fall.  It has been years since we have had enough water in the river come fall due to the drought.  Typically fall fishing is awesome out there.  The water temps are perfect for fishing all day.  The fish are getting desperate for some protein before the cold winter.  They need to pack on some extra pounds.  I absolutely love streamer fishing out there during this time.  Another thing to look for is a good October Caddis hatch.  From the bug samples we have been doing all summer have shown and great number of them. 

Top 10 Reasons To Hire A Guide This Summer

If the hot weather this week hasn't clued you in, summer is here.  Finally, after the winter that seemed like it would never end we have the chance to get out and fish.  Here are the top 10 reason to go guided this summer.

10.  Expand your knowledge locally.  Guides are experts on their local water sheds.  They know the ins and outs of everything in the area from where the best local lunch spot is to where to go when the river drops significantly over night.  There really is no comparison for having local home grown advice. 

9.  Fix your bad habits.  Every self taught angler has developed really bad mechanics that need attention.  Sure you may fish a bit and catch fish but fixing your mechanics will only lead to better results.  A good guide can identify flaws in mechanics in an instant and offer different suggestions for fixing them.

8.  Increase your skill set.  It doesn't matter if you have been fishing your entire life or it's your first day, you will always be learning in this sport.  A seasoned full time guide never stops teaching. It is the only thing we can guarantee and control during a trip.  I always guarantee an angler will learn more in a day with me then a year on their own. 

7.  Catch fish.  Hopefully we nail them.  It is really a game of going.  Don't wait for perfect conditions.  By the time things get perfect, you've missed it.  If you want good fishing, you need to go fishing.  We never guarantee how many fish a client is going to catch.  We can't even guarantee that they will catch a fish at all.  We can guarantee that you will leave being a better angler.  Which in the long run will lead to more fish.

6.  More time fishing.  Count how many times you tangle in a day and think about how much time it takes to re-rig.  Most anglers are going to have around 5 tangles in a day that range from simple to severe.  If you add up the time it takes to get going again you are wasting a lot of time with your flies out of the water.  A guide can get you going much faster.  Fish eat flies in the water not out of it.

5.  Test gear.  With the pro pricing guides get we usually have the latest and greatest.  This is an easy way to try out some new stuff without committing to the purchase.  Whether it is a new rod or line, ask your guide what he/she uses and why.  

4.  Thinking outside of the box.  This is anything but a normal year we are having.  The snow pack pushing 200% has made for interesting conditions.  To get good fishing in this year is going to take some extra thinking.  If your normal river fishes at 700 during the summer and is now at 5000 what should you do?  When you finally figure it out, we are already doing it.  

3.  We need it.  This year was an extreme example with how volatile conditions can be.  Most guides didn't work for 3 months while the rivers were flooding.  We are just getting caught up with all the rescheduled trips and lost income.

2.  You can bring a buddy.  Guide rates are based on two anglers.  Maybe you have a friend or family member that you want to get into the sport.  We are the link to dialing them into the skills to catching fish.  Trust me when I say they will listen to us much better then they will listen to you.  Leave the teaching to professionals.

1.  We are fun.  We love fishing, so much so we made a career out of it.  To keep our sanity we have to keep the days fun.  Some guides have some amazing jokes.  We want the day to be memorable, relaxed, and fun.  Did you hear the one about the skunk?

2017 Tahoe Guide School "UPDATE"

Truckee Tahoe Guide School

2017 Tahoe Guide School is nearly sold out.  We currently have two open spots.  This is an opportunity for aspiring guides to get a leg up in a guide career.  This years team comes with some real heavy hitters.  Myself and Matt Heron will be back as instructors.  Adding to the team in more defined roles are Jay Schwartley and Chuck Ragan.  Both helped out last year but will have bigger roles this year.  We have taken over a wheel run machine from the previous instructors and are starting to put our flavor on it.  

First and foremost, I am a product of a guide school.  Honestly, I wouldn’t be here today had I not gone that route.  The tools and information I received helped edge me into the guide I am today.  A guide school gives you the opportunity to fast forward as ahead of the competition.  

We teach this class as if the student wants to be a career fly fishing guide.  This is not a learn how to fly fish course.  If you are seriously considering signing up for the course you are expected come with intermediate to advanced skills.  We expect the students to take this very serious and to be professional.  

The skills you will walk away with will be the invaluable ones that will make a or break a career guide.  We are not going to sugar coat anything.  At this school you will learn how to run a business.  A few key focuses are marketing, taxes, permits, and licenses.  The others will be how to teach someone to fly fish and how to conduct yourself on the water.  How to read your clients and make adjustments based on their personalities and skill sets.  Put it this way, a new guide signing up for this guide school will have the honest picture of what it takes to be a guide.  They will have more to offer and a bigger piece to their resume than a new guide who has not taken a guide school.

Dates May 1-6

Price: $1600

Availability: 2 Spots Open

Package: 6 Day Course, Plus 2 Shadow Days

Time To "Switch" It Up

I can't believe I am about to say this but mama nature, can you turn the faucet off?  It's been a wet 2017 to say the least.  We cannot even keep track of the canceled trips and clinics so far year.  Slowly but surely we are finding more days to get out and fish.  Those days have been very productive too.

The current guides in California are probably the most dynamic class yet.  We learned how to be successful in a major drought, now we are going to become experts on how to fish a flood. 

Before the drought when we were fishing in a "normal" year, switch rods were just starting to take off.  We dialed them in for both single hand casting and two handed casting.  We tried many combinations of lines and sink tips.  We finally had the system dialed but then the drought hit.  With the low water levels distance took a back seat.  Covering every part of the water wasn't as essential.  Switch rods weren't as needed as they will be this year.

This is going to be a major high water year.  Get used to it.  The fishing is already good in certain places and is going to get better.  We will have to change our approach.  This is going to be a very good year for switch rods.  It will give you the opportunity to cover more water and get more distance. 

Morgan Thalken swinging trout water.

Morgan Thalken swinging trout water.

The idea of switch meaning you can single hand cast or spey cast doesn't really work because you are talking two very different fly lines.  Single hand approaches need a specific line to be most effective while spey casting needs a completely different line.  If you are going to single hand cast or indicator fish try and oversized weight forward line.  I like the Trout/Steelhead/Indicator line from Rio.  If you are going to spey cast and swing flies the Switch Chucker from Rio or a Skagit Head is perfect.  The problem here is there isn't really one line that does it all.

Using a switch rod for single hand fishing in high water gives you a leg up.  The length of a switch rod helps with bigger casts.  It also helps with bigger mends and lifting a lot of excess line off the water.  The disadvantage is that single hand lines do not spey cast.   

Swinging flies on a switch rod can be an extremely beneficial way of covering water.  You will be able to get good distance and put your fly in front of more fish.  Using a skagit short head with a running line gives you the flexibility of adding tips and varying your fly size.  Big ugly streamers on the Truckee will be a good way to get into a trophy size fish this year.  You may need a pretty heavy skagit head to handle the sink tip and fly. 

For more general purposes Rio's Switch Chucker line can be the closest solve all issues fly line on a switch rod.  You can single hand cast or spey cast with it.  The downside is that you limit yourself because this line does not handle heavy tips and bigger flies all that well.  While single hand fishing with it once you get into the running line it becomes hard to mend and control.  

My rod of choice here is an 11' 6wt.  This is kind of do it all size rod for all situations.  I've played around with micro speys and trout speys and they are wonderful for light tips and light flies.  They have their purpose but aren't as universal as the switch rods. 

If you have more questions email me or give Fly Fishing Specialties a call 916.722.1055.


See you on the water!

The Last Frontier

This is a blog post I wrote a while back after my first season guiding in Alaska. 

Alaska Wilderness Outpost

Alaska Wilderness Outpost June/July

Alaska Wilderness Outpost June/July

Where to begin?  If you haven't seen Alaska in your life you haven't seen shit.  I have always had my eye on guiding in AK and when I saw how bad the drought was getting here it was time to make it happen.  Getting a guide job in Alaska is not the easiest and through a few connections I was put in touch with an outfit called Epic Angling and Adventure (www.epicaaa.com).  Epic is a smaller operation that truly shows guests a very different remote side of Alaska.  We offer two different camps which have two different options in terms of accommodations and fisheries. Both camps are on the Alaska Peninsula and there the adventure begins.

Chum Salmon.  Alaska's most underrated rod breaking fish.

Chum Salmon.  Alaska's most underrated rod breaking fish.

My journey started with running a jet boat 180 river miles in two days with the owner Rus Schwausch.  Luckily he was an awesome mentor and trained me well on how to run it.  The weather was crummy with low visibility in a glacial river with thousands of braids to navigate.  We finally made it to our location and spent three days just the two of us setting up the camp. We refer to this camp as the “beer and beef jerky” camp because the accommodations are very basic compared to the second camp we operate.  After we set up we spent two days fishing and getting me up to speed to the fishing and access points.  

Chinook or "King Salmon" show up in July

Chinook or "King Salmon" show up in July

In all my years of fishing I haven’t seen anything like this, the numbers of happy fish that wanting to eat your fly is unlike any fishery in my experience. The diversity was a shock too.  We used a lot of top water flies mainly mouse to tease up grayling, rainbow trout, and dolly varden.  When that wasn’t working which was rare we would switch to streamers and get the same results.  I do not like to qualify fish numbers for a good day of fishing but you do not go to Alaska to work hard for fish.  

Alaska Rainbow Release

Alaska Rainbow Release

Our guests showed up about the same time the chums entered the river and they showed up in numbers.  I really hate the poor names given to these fish.  Anyone who has fished for them knows what an awesome sport fish they are.  They are big, slam a fly, and will kick your ass on a 7 or 8 weight.  

It was shocking to see the chinook salmon show up in such large numbers.  Like a light switch from one day to another the river was empty of them and then full.  Since we were pretty far up in the river at that point the kings were showing a lot of color.  We had some really fun days sight fishing for them in clear water.  They are the color of a fire engine so they stick out like a sore thumb.  Some days were tricky though to get them to take a fly but if you were persistent you were probably going to catch a few in the 20-30lb class.  

Grayling Fishing Is Good For The Sole.  Bring A 4WT

Grayling Fishing Is Good For The Sole.  Bring A 4WT

The good thing about the camp is that it is small.  It maxes out at 5 anglers which makes for a real personally experience with the groups.  My disclaimer is that you need to be in good shape because you will be doing a lot of walking across the tundra which can be draining if you are not up for it.  

Flora and Fauna Everywhere

Flora and Fauna Everywhere

Not Bad For The Middle Of No Where

Not Bad For The Middle Of No Where


Alaska Wilderness Safari July-October


Vista From Camp

Vista From Camp


The “steak and lobster” camp.  In the middle of some of the toughest remote Alaskan terrain on the Pacific side of the Peninsula lies a fly fishing camp unlike any other.  This is the most beautiful place on earth where the wild life is as stunning as the scenery.  The only way in and out is by a fixed wing plane or helicopter.  Your cell phone has no use here and do not even ask about wifi. 

You Can't Have It Any Fresher Then This!

You Can't Have It Any Fresher Then This!

We start setting up camp in mid july just as the chums and pinks start making there way into our tidal estuary.  We have a much bigger staff here plus a chef that can make anything taste good.  It takes our staff of 6 12 days to set up camp.  There is much to do in getting ready for our guests.  We must build all of the structures including guest/staff tents, outhouse, shower tent, and cook/dinning tent.  In the mean time we have to set up a full stainless steel commercial grade kitchen all ran of propane and solar power.  There are pontoon boats to build, water systems to set up and a washer pit to get ready.  Plus we have to fish and learn the lay of the land.  

Dolly Fishing Can Be Lights Out

Dolly Fishing Can Be Lights Out

The fishing is very diverse here in terms of types of water to go after them.  There is a river valley all fed by a glacier where the dolly’s are as plentiful as you can want them.  We do catch a lot of salmon up here but try not to target them here.  Right in front of camp is a tidal estuary.  The estuary looks like a giant lake at high tide or a manageable river at low tide.  One of the daily challenges is to figure out your day on where to be at the right time.  When the flat is channelized the salmon fishing is as good as it gets.  Being that you are less than a quarter mile from the ocean these fish are fresh and powerful.  We have options to walk a sandy beach and fish for salmon in the ocean which was one of my favorite things to do but the winds had to be in our favor.  Another thing just to show you how diverse this place is would be the bay fishing out of the pontoon boat.  There were places to fish for rock fish on the fly or jigs and even halibut.  There are times when you could fish for halibut on the fly but I didn’t really get to do much of that.  Maybe next year.

Enough Said

Enough Said

Around mid August is when the real fun began.  The coho (silver salmon) start showing up in our estuary and if the tide was right and the you stay ahead of the seals the fishing was really good.  When the silvers showed up the structure of the week changed.  We would fish around camp for five days and the last two days of the week we would heli fish.  The helicopter would fly us out to other bays and river systems where we would chase silvers in the 8-15lb range with occasional bigger fish.  Just the flight alone in the helicopter with Sam Egli (Egli Air Haul) is worth the experience.  

I cannot rave the experience of this camp enough.  You get to see the real deal of Alaska.  There is many things  to do here other than fishing too.  We feel that if you do not take a least a half day to hike you are really not getting the whole experience.  There are waterfalls to check out, tide pools to explore, and vistas with unforgettable views to hike.  The wildlife is abundant with coastal brown bears eating fish right in front of your eyes.  We see numerous bald eagles, seals, ravens, and foxes.  This year was light for some of the other animals but we did see some caribou, moose, and wolves.  

The bears are plentiful.  This is an area in Alaska where you will see several in a day if not in the double digits.  We are the only human contact these bears have so they act like the wild animals they are and are far less interested in what we are doing then some of the other more traveled areas in Alaska.  That being said, all of the guides get a lot of training around the bears and know how to conduct themselves in bear country.

The views from camp are unbelievable.  The food is fantastic, our chef cooks very hardy angler style meals.  We eat a ton of fresh fish and get fresh shipments of produce and other goods weekly.  If you want any other info on the camp.  Shoot me an email driftonthefly@gmail.com

Tahoe Guide School 2017

Guide School 2017 dates announced!

Matt Heron teaching future guides how to be future guides. 

Matt Heron teaching future guides how to be future guides. 

2017 Guide School is a go.  Dates are May 1-6 plus add two additional guide shadow days.  This school will fast forward into a career as a guide.  We are brutally honest about what it takes to be a full time guide.  This is not a fly fishing class.  This is for serious anglers who want to turn their passion into a career. 

By Rick McGuire

We are extremely excited to have set the dates for our 6th annual Guide School.  School this year will be May 1st to May 6th.  You then add 2 shadow days with any of our instructors or Tahoe Fly Fishing Outfitters guides to complete your 8 day experience.  The price this year is $1600.  We are excited to have back Matt Heron, Jordan Romney, Jay Swartley, and Chuck Ragan as our instructors.  You cannot match a line up like this in any fly fishing guide school in the country.  Water will certainly not be an issue this year as all of you know we are experiencing a historic winter this year.  Healthy for our fisheries and the people who fish them.  We have had a tremendous amount of interest this year so if you are considering joining us this year call Tahoe Fly Fishing Outfitters and put down a deposit to hold down your spot.  If you have any questions about the school or just want to talk fishing feel free to give me a call.  Stay tuned for additional posts as the dates approach.

Rick McGuire-  Guide School Director, Instructor TFFO, rickemcguire@yahoo.com, 530-318-5694


Last year’s crew, final day on the American.  End of a great week with a fantastic group of guys!

Drift Boat Rowing Day on the Lower American.

Drift Boat Rowing Day on the Lower American.

Technical Nymphing Clinic

Mega rainbows swim around in Putah Creek.  They are not easily fooled.  Learn how to be a technical angler and you will be rewarded here. 

Mega rainbows swim around in Putah Creek.  They are not easily fooled.  Learn how to be a technical angler and you will be rewarded here. 

Putah Creek

Let’s face it, California is a nymphing state when it comes to trout fishing. While we all prefer those great days of dry fly fishing when it comes to fishing day in and day out we need to get those flies down to the bottom of the river.

We are offering a technical nymphing class to help get you dial into everything right for those picky fish. We will spend about two hours in the classroom going over rigging, casting, mending, reading water, dead drifting, hook sets, and fighting the fish. The next four hours will be spent on the water getting you in tune to technical fishing. This class will be held on Putah Creek, one of the most technical rivers in the state. You will come away with the confidence that you are presenting your flies to the fish the way they want it. The knowledge you will gain in this class will take you to the next step in your fishing career. Watch your success rate increase with all the tips you get from the class, you will be out fishing your buddies in no time.

Reading water, water speed, seems, holding areas, approach, advanced mending are all things needed to fish Putah Creek

Reading water, water speed, seems, holding areas, approach, advanced mending are all things needed to fish Putah Creek

If you cannot make this date, ask about setting up a private clinic for you.  All we need is two anglers to put this together.  Special discounted rates if you bring a group of 3 or more.

Location: Putah Creek near Winters, CA

Date: March 4, 2017.  6 Hour Class

Cost: $150 per angler

Required Gear: Valid California Fishing License, 9’ - 11’ 4wt or 5wt, Reel with floating line, Waders and wading boots, General Fishing Tackle, Note pad and writing utensil

A Reason to Swing

It appears we are having a legit winter again.  I am sure you all have been following the heavy storms smacking north state sending us tremendous amounts of water.  Our rivers are swollen, muddy, and unfishable for the moment. Give mother a nature a chance to catch her breath and calm down a bit.  The rivers may be fishable in a few weeks.  When they drop and clear you’ll be dying to get back out there and when you do, I hope it is with a two-handed rod.  

The two-handed game has blown up in Northern California and I could not be happier about it.  We all know how heavily the indicator is fished in our state, and we all know how productive it can be, but now  is the time to give a chance to a new tactic, (actually a far older tactic than an indicator).

Stop staring at the bobber!  Ask any trout or steelhead guide worth a damn how much they enjoy staring at an indicator.  Their response, I am sure, will not surprise you.  I spend so much time staring at floats, that any opportunity I get to fish a different tactic I jump on it.  Fishing the indicator is a very involved method.  It requires constant concentration and frequent adjustments.  It becomes more of a chore than an enjoyment.  Swinging flies simplifies the method.  You cast (and that is the essence of fly fishing)  maybe add a mend, stick one hand in your pocket and watch the line flutter across the run.  You end up looking around more at the setting you're in, you become more connected to the art of fly fishing rather than just the production value.  My message to anglers getting into swinging flies is that you have to be in love with the idea of fly fishing to get the enjoyment the technique.  

My favorite part of swinging flies is the not knowing where or when the grab is going to come.  Anglers who are experienced in swinging flies identify with good swing runs just because they swing well rather than their catch totals.  I like to swing certain runs just because of the shape of water.  Sure, there may be areas that have higher concentration of fish but if it doesn’t swing well I am not that interested in fishing it.  I guarantee you will start to look at river in much different way.   

The myth that spey casting is hard if completely false: Spey casting is not hard, it is hard to be an expert at it.  Realistically a beginner angler has a better chance getting grabbed swinging a fly then the getting a fish under an indicator on some of our technical streams.  With the advances in fly lines designs a roll cast at 50 ft. is very obtainable.  Casting at the right angle and swinging through a run confidently is an easier task than roll casting a big thing-a-ma-bobber with split shot and two flies mended 5 times to get a perfect dead drift.  Easier that is if you can make the cast in the first place.    

The numbers is an interesting topic when it comes to fly fishing.  Take the Trinity for an example.  An accomplished guide friend of mine up on the Trinity said on average each angler is going to get 3 attempts on steelhead out of the drift boat fishing an indicator.  That's still a pretty low number.  I would say that if you swing a fly on the Trinity you will average at least 1 good grab a day.  I’ll take 1 good swinging grab versus three take downs nymphing on any stream.  I have never qualified a good day of fishing based on how many fish were caught but how many were caught artfully.  If for you fly fishing is a numbers game then the swinging art may not be for you.  Hell, maybe this sport isn’t for you either.   

You will remember every fish that you connect with on the swing.  This perfect Trinity River steelhead chased down a "Brother In Law."

You will remember every fish that you connect with on the swing.  This perfect Trinity River steelhead chased down a "Brother In Law."

The Yuba and Feather are great Valley rivers to swing.  You just have to know what to look for in a swing run.  The Yuba River rainbows are a lot more agressive than you may think.  Ask guide Chuck Ragan, who absolutely loves the streamer fishing out there.  Sure those fish eat aquatic insects but there is a ton of bait in that river.  With the size of the salmon runs out there, and the amount of eggs that eventually hatch, those fish look for the fry.  January through March, swinging an alevin pattern gets grabbed often.  There are a lot of sculpins and little leeches out there too.  I’ve had good results swinging flesh flies, it's a no brainer that with all the dead salmon out there that the fish will eat flesh floating down the river.  A swung soft hackle will get eaten too.  When the bugs start working the fish will chase down emergers in the middle to top water column, giving you an excellent opportunity to hook an eater.

Morgan Thalken ties mean flies for swinging.  A mixed box of sizes and colors.  Potential options for trout or steelhead. 

Morgan Thalken ties mean flies for swinging.  A mixed box of sizes and colors.  Potential options for trout or steelhead. 

The tools you’ll need are very simple: rod, reel, shooting head, tips, tippet, and some flies.  For the single hand rods, Rio’s Single Hand Spey line solves all issues.  This is a beautifully constructed line that I wish more anglers were using.  It is very easy to cast, and is a great distance line.  Swinging on a single hand rod will improve your line control.  The-two hander is a different ball game.  It can improve your distances and with the right line give you options on size and weight of a fly to try.  At the fly shop, see customers in a state of confusion over all the options for swinging.  It really is a lot of info to juggle, the best way to figuring it out what is the right gear for you is to talk with someone at the shop and tell them what you are looking to do, what rivers you want to swing, and what species you’re targeting.  The new wave of Trout Spey has offered a really nice tool for trout lovers.

Email us if you are interested in our swinging flies class this spring.  jordanromney@gmail.com

Well It's About Time

Well, after years of avoiding it I finally caved and made a website.  This will be a good way for you to keep better track of what we have been up to.  We have water again in California and a bit too much at once.   The fishing as of lately has been non existent.  While things may be on a hold for a bit there are still several things you can be doing to help increase your success in 2017.  Who knows how long the rain will continue.  The fish will be thankful come August.

One of the things you can work on is your geography of California.  Google Earth can be a great tool while scoping topographies.  Study main stems of the rivers and feeder creeks that surround it.  Make a list of places you will check out this year.  You may need to put in a lot of miles on your vehicles this year and actually use your 4 wheel drive.  There is so much good water that is untouched in California.  You just need to have a bit of a wild side to you to attain it.  That's where we can help. 

There are many things to look forward to this year.  One of the big ones is our overnight camp out trips.  Stay tuned for more information on this.  New float trips, new species, and new techniques.  With the raft we now have the ability to drop in to some places that were impossible before.  If you are a minimalist we may even have an overnight trip for you.  Smallmouth fishing on the fly can be a real kick.  They attack, pull hard, and eat top water.  We are still wondering what took us so long to start guiding for them.  We will continuously keep you up in the loop with new info to help increase your enjoyment on water. 

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