Yuba River

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 "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.