“I FISH BECAUSE I LOVE TO; BECAUSE I LOVE THE ENVIRONS WHERE THE TROUT ARE FOUND, WHICH ARE INVARIABLY BEAUTIFUL, AND HATE THE ENVIRONS WHERE CROWDS OF PEOPLE ARE FOUND, WHICH ARE INVARIABLY UGLY … BECAUSE TROUT DO NOT LIE OR CHEAT AND CANNOT BE BOUGHT OR BRIBED OR IMPRESSED BY POWER, BUT RESPOND ONLY TO QUIETUDE AND HUMILITY AND ENDLESS PATIENCE; BECAUSE I SUSPECT THAT MEN ARE GOING ALONG THIS WAY FOR THE LAST TIME, AND I FOR ONE DON’T WANT TO WASTE THE TRIP.”
-ROBERT TRAVER, TESTAMENT OF A FLY FISHERMAN
These timeless, lyrical, incomparable words could have been written for the North Yuba River-a true gem of a freestone stream. I have fished this river for forty years, and have guided it for the last twnty of those years. Although it was, until 2009, impacted adversely by excessive suction dredge mining activity, its resilient beauty and wildness keep me going back. In 2009 Governor Schwartzenegger signed a moratorium banning suction dredge mining anywhere in California; Gov. Brown reaffirmed and strengthened that moratorium in 2011. Since the removal of the dredges, this river has rebounded amazingly, in terms of fish count, size, and health. An excellent source of information on the river and its fishing spots is “Fly Fishing California’s North Yuba River,” by Ed Klingelhofer, Salmo Press, 1993, updated in 2004. While the book is out of print now, it is available at the popular on-line buy and sell sites.
As mentioned on the general “Guide Services” page on this site, I will continue to guide this river in the future.
To my way of thinking the river can be divided into three parts: the lower river, extending upstream from the Highway 49 bridge to Downieville; the middle river, extending from Downieville to Sierra City; and the upper river, extending from Sierra City to the headwaters.
Access along the lower river is relatively easy because Highway 49 follows the river’s path for much of the way to Downieville. There are, however, some areas where the river parts ways with the road, necessitating sometimes-adventurous hiking. There is a relatively new trail that extends for about 7.5 miles along the south side of the river, beginning at Rocky Rest Campground, found at mile marker 5.74. The trail provides access to some spots not obvious from the road. Good, fishable water can be found at Convict Flat picnic area; below Ramshorn Campground; near Goodyear’s Bar; and intermittently in the riffles and runs below Downieville. At Goodyear’s Bar there is an old road called the “Toll Bridge Road” that runs upstream for a few miles. This very narrow road provides good access along that side of the river. While there are “no parking” signs along the road, it is likely that no one will bother you as long as you have parked off the road so that cars can pass.
At Downieville, the Downie River and the North Yuba River join, providing the significantly larger flows found in the lower river. This is where the middle river begins. Here the angler can pause for refreshment at one of the several restaurants in town, pick up a deli sandwich at the grocery, or simply stock up on goodies for the day. There are angling options available also. Instead of continuing east on Highway 49, one can fish the Downie River, along with its major tributaries: Pauley Creek; and Lavezzola Creek. There are good trail and local roadway maps of the area, thanks to the mountain biking crowd that now frequents Downieville. One such map is the “Lakes Basin, Sierra Buttes, and Plumas Eurela State Park Map published by the U.S. Forest Service. Also, Ed Klingelhofer, in his excellent book on the river (see above), gives a detailed account of the Downie River and its two major tributaries.
The portion of the middle river (about 7 miles) between Downieville and Ladies Canyon Creek is dead-on next to the river. There can be good evening fishing in some of the more attractive pools and runs near the Shangri-La Lodge up to Union Flat campground, but I tend to confine my time on that water to weekdays-preferably Wednesday or Thursday. At Ladies Canyon Creek, there is a sign that proclaims the river from that point up to the westerly edge of Sierra City to be a wild trout area with special regulations. Sorrowfully, there is no enforcement. That said, there is some very productive water in this area for knowledgeable fly fishers. Notable spots are the Fournier Ranch; Kokanee Cabins; Loganville Campground; and just below Herrington’s Resort, the “meadow” section that winds its way up to the resort. Good, fishable water can also be found at mile marker 26, where there is a good turnout area, and at a spot just past that marker where there is a dirt road that hooks back west.
The upper river begins at Herrington’s Resort; from there upstream it gets smaller as you pass its tributary creeks: Haypress Creek at Sierra City, and Salmon Creek at Bassets Junction. Past Bassets the river is more like a creek, especially as you work your way upward onto the Yuba Pass. About five miles east of Sierra City there is a large, paved turnout on the north side of the road. There is a large spring there. If you park at the spring and walk across the road, you will see a series of inviting small pockets that stretches for about a half mile downstream. This water is excellent for dry fly fishing in the evening. The fish are generally small, but an occasional 12″ “lunker” can be taken here. Beware of rattlesnakes, black flies, and slick rocks.
Effective nymphs for the North Yuba include Mercer’s Poxyback Golden Stonefly in the spring; Prince Nymphs, Hare’s Ear Nymphs, Dark Lord Nymphs, Pheasant Tail Nymphs, and Copper John Nymphs all year long; and Bill’s Stick Caddis Nymph (grey version) in the fall. Productive dry flies include yellow Stimulators, Sallies, King’s River Caddis (parachute version), Parachute Adams, and a Light Cahill pattern tied in the “hackle stacker” style.