North Yuba River

“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

North Yuba River - Downieville

City of Downieville

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.

Convict Flat Sign

Convict Flat Sign

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.

North Fork Yuba River Experimental Trout Management Area

North Fork Yuba River Experimental Trout Management Area

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.

Fishing on the North Yuba

Fishing on the North Yuba

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.

North Yuba River Map

North Yuba River Map

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.

McCloud River

As of 2012, I will no longer be guiding on the McCloud River (See discussion on the main “Guide Services” page). However, the following information on this magnificent river is useful and up to date so I am keeping it posted here for interested anglers to read.

The beautiful, Wild Trout Stream-designated McCloud River originates south east of Mount Shasta, and flows westward toward the town of McCloud for about 15 miles from its headwaters. The Upper, Lower, and Middle Falls, near Fowler’s Camp (about 5 miles east of McCloud), provide visitors with spectacular photo opportunities and anglers with some special opportunities during certain times of the year. Below Lower Falls, the river flows into a canyon characterized by volcanic formations, into a deep volcanic ravine. Big Springs, famous for its photo opportunities (located about one mile below Lower Falls) adds about 800 c.f.s. of sparkling 44° water, which increases the flow to over 1100 c.f.s. at certain times of the year. From Big Springs, the river passes through eight miles of private land on its way to its terminus at McCloud Reservoir where the water is held pending transfer to the Pit River. The river below the reservoir is a classic tailwater fishery, which flows through mostly private land for thirty miles before it hits Shasta Lake. For an excellent article on the McCloud see: http://flyfisherman.com/dgmccloud/ . Also, for some interesting historical information on the McCloud (and the Upper Sacramento) see “Shasta Headwaters,” by Craig Ballenger, Frank Amato Publications, Inc., 1998.

The Upper McCloud

Often misconceived as a “windshield” fishery, the Upper McCloud is a mystery to many anglers. Consequently, it often gets passed over in favor of the lower river, where indeed there are larger fish. However, guides and anglers familiar with the Upper McCloud and how and when to fish it consider it an interesting and challenging fishery. Personally, I consider it to be a wonderful resource for teaching newer fly fishers how to catch fish on nymphs and dry flies. There are a few “secrets” to this part of the river that, for those who unlock those secrets, can produce excellent angling for large, brilliant McCloud River rainbows.

 

McCloud River

Access to this part of the river is relatively easy. Beginning at Cattle Camp, about 15 miles east of McCloud, there is a loop road off of Highway 89 that follows the river downstream to Fowler’s Camp. At Fowler’s Camp, which is a large public campground, there is some excellent pocket water between Middle Falls and Lower Falls. Below Lower Falls, there are a series of islands and a lot of excellent pocket water riffles and runs. The resident fish are mostly McCloud Redband rainbows, which have been stocked worldwide since the 1880s because of their hardiness and beautiful, vibrant colors. There are a few Brown trout to be found in deep holes-and sometimes these can be brutes. Although most of the fish are 4 to 10 inches, experienced anglers have taken larger specimens.

The Lower McCloud

The Lower McCloud is one long series of magnificent emerald pools, riffles, runs and pocket water. The fish here are Shasta Rainbows from 6 to 20 inches in size. There is also a healthy population of wild Brown Trout that can reach ten pounds; most specimens, however, are much smaller than that. Great care must be taken in wading the lower river; the rocks are large and sharp, due to their relatively young age and volcanic origin. A wading staff is essential.

To get to the lower river, take Squaw Valley Road at the McCloud city intersection of Highway 89. This road takes you in a southerly direction, ending up at the reservoir. Once you reach the reservoir, follow the road that follows the lake shore around to the right, and leads to the dam. This classic tailwater fishery begins at the base of the dam, where there is a misty pool (euphemistically called the “blow hole”) full of fat fish. The next four miles, access to which is via the road crossing the dam, are open to the public.

 

After the big pool at the base of the dam, there is a long stretch of tricky but productive pocket water down to Ash Camp, a rugged and very basic campground. Parking is available near the base of the dam; however, if you wish to fish the Ash Camp area, simply follow the road for about a half mile down to the camp and park there. At Ash Camp, Hawkins Creek adds significant flow to the McCloud from the Grizzly Peak drainage. In some respects, the river segment from the dam to Ash Camp can be considered a “low flow” section. You can fish right around the campground, or cross the foot bridge which is just above camp, and follow the long trail downstream. From the trail there are a number of access points. The trail extends to Ah Di Nah, several miles downstream.

There are two other areas open to the public along the lower river. The first of these is the popular Ah Di Nah campground, and the other is the Nature Conservancy McCloud River Preserve. To reach these areas, take a well marked dirt road that T’s into the road around the lake about midway between the head of the lake and the dam. The road is bumpy and dusty, but you will soon come to the well marked campground where you can park. The Ah Di Nah stretch has special regulations for wild trout (single barbless hook).

To get to the Conservancy water, simply bypass the Ah Di Nah campground and go to the end of the road. Park there and take the trail for 1/3 mile into the preserve, where you’ll have to sign in. The preserve is limited to 10 anglers at a time, with barbless catch and release regulations. You can reserve one of five spots daily by calling the preserve office ahead of time. For information: http://catalog.co.siskiyou.ca.us/community/10000221aa.html

The river below Ah Di Nah and the Conservancy section is private and closed to public. From there to Shasta Lake the land is owned by the McCloud River and Bollibokka clubs.

McCloud River Hatches

May generally produces mayfly, midge and stonefly hatches. June is best for dry fly action, especially in the late afternoon when the mayfly and stonefly hatches peak. Later in June caddis are abundant. By mid-July the mayfly hatches are late in the evenings, with heavy midge and caddis activity.

Nymph fishing is usually more productive than dry flies. For those who like to swing flies, there is some streamer fishing in August and September. You have a chance of a jolt from a large Brown Trout or Rainbow using this method. Fall marks the beginning of the October Caddis time, although larval imitations such as Bill’s Stick Caddis will work during the entire season. Blue winged olives also hatch during this time. Late in the season large stimulators will work for the adult October Caddis, but before then the larva and emerger should be used.