May 29, 2021
One of the most popular fly fishing destinations in the country is definitely the Yuba River. Nestled in the heart of the North Californian wilderness, the river’s clear emerald green water flows southwest from the eastern border of the Tahoe National Forest until it splits into three forks (the North, Middle, and South Forks) with the North and Middle forks re-joining to form the main stem of the river. From there, the river widens at the Sierra Nevada foothills into the upper Englebright Lake then narrows again, flowing southwest until it reaches the Sacramento Valley. It passes through an irrigated farmland until it finally drains to the Feather River south of the city of Marysville.
Imagine the scenic route the Yuba River has taken, passing through forested foothills and farmlands as it gives life to several creeks and other smaller tributaries. There are also parts of the long and winding river that feature large polished granite boulders along its shores, adding to that natural charm true outdoor enthusiasts love. Given its beauty and the abundance of various types of game fish in its waters, it’s really not surprising that the Yuba River is an excellent fly fishing spot.
Okay, we already know how beautiful the river is and why it’s a favorite among fly fishers. So you’re probably asking now when’s the best time to plan a fishing trip there. Well, the good news is whenever you’re ready to go. Yes, Yuba River fishing is an all-year-round affair, and it all just boils down to when you’re going to be free to make that trip.
If you’re planning to go in spring and summer, fly fishing may be a bit slow as popular game fish such as rainbow trout, salmon and steelhead can be a bit finicky when the waters are warm; but yes, if you want some challenge, these seasons are the best time to go. The best flies to use during spring and summer are pale morning duns, spotted sedges, green sedges, and short-horned sedges, as these resemble some of the fish’s favorite morsels during this time of the year.
Now, if you’re looking to tick off a trophy fish from your bucket list, the best time to go is during fall and winter when the water cools down. It’s because most fish species (including favorite targets like striped bass, rainbow trout, and steelhead) in the river get bigger and a lot more aggressive—although, of course, you would have to deal with some rainfall and the cold climate. But weather permitting, you can really chance upon, say, a 40-pounder trout while fly fishing on the waters of the river during these cold seasons. We highly recommend skwala stoneflies and blue-winged olives for a higher chance of catching a large fish for cold weather fly fishing. You may also try midge, egg, and worm patterns.
There are literally dozens of opportunities to fly fish in the Yuba River. You can do so while drifting on a boat along the wider part of the river, or just stay in banks, or, if you don’t mind getting a little wet, you can wade through the shallow parts. And it really doesn’t matter whether you are already a skilled fly caster or you’re just learning the exciting sport. You just have to have the right equipment and know where exactly to best cast your line. Knowing the best spot to fly fish is just a matter of hiring a seasoned local fishing guide as he or she definitely knows the river like the back of his or her hand. As for the right equipment to bring, we recommend a 9-foot 5WT or a 6WT fly rod paired with a floating line with a 3X to 5X tapered leader. Yes, it’s pretty standard, but fly fishing in the Yuba River doesn’t really require anything fancy.
As for the tackle box, we’ve mentioned some of the most effective fly patterns for every season a couple of paragraphs above. But of course, you can also use other fly patterns, including elk hair caddis, October caddis, pheasant tail nymph, bird’s nest nymph, golden stonefly, and various types of streamers.
Most targeted fish species in the Yuba River tend to stay close to the bank, specifically in seams, breaks, and under the willows. That’s why we suggest trying your hand on tight line nymphing as it provides better control, and it will also help you focus more on these areas along the bank. You can also work your way slowly downstream or upstream to cover more of these holding areas, thus, providing you with a better chance of catching your intended target.
Other fly fishing techniques worth mentioning are dry fly fishing, stripping streamers, and swinging a fly across the river. These techniques have been proven time and again to be quite effective in catching different types of fish species—although they can be a bit challenging, especially if your fly’s presentation isn’t exactly what the fish expects in that given time of the year. That’s why it all still goes back to learning first the fish’s diet, specifically the insects and their stages that the fish is usually preying upon in each specific season.