Big Truckee


The Nature Conservancy recently completed a 4-year project to restore native plant and animal habitat along five miles of the Truckee River at McCarran Ranch, which was purchased in 2002. Now that the property’s ecology is at a state where it can withstand the pressures of public use, the Conservancy opened it to the public last spring. McCarran Ranch will provide the first legitimate public access to the lower Truckee River in more than a century, while offering one-of-a-kind recreational and educational experiences.
Additional videos, photos and audios about the project can be found here.

Well, the stones were in effect, both mature nymphs on about every third rock I flipped and a few adults floating down the river. A large fish was even seen gulping an adult on the surface. This was one of those trips where half the fish didn't make it to the net, but the good news, they're now honing in on Skwalas (aka Spring Stoneflies)! In addition, we saw a decent number of adult Strophopteryx Fasciata (Early Brown Stoneflies).

In the canyon I lost about a 2-foot brown who came unbuttoned within 10 seconds, but not before flashing me his size. Later I turned a heavy rainbow. Closer to town, Jackpot had battle-royale for around 8 minutes or better with a fish that never showed itself in the off-colored water. The guess is its was a really big brown. It eventually came unglued and unfortunately, our buddy from Sacramento who was filming forgot to press record, though he did remember how to set the hook and land his first fish on the truckee (a brown). The only other thing that made it to the net was a fat fiesty rainbow hen featured in the film. The common theme...they all wanted Stoneflies.


I make it a habit to check the flows before I head out for a session. Occasionally (like today), it prevents me from taking a day off work when the river is practically unfishable. What a difference a day can make, yesterday we hit the canyon below Hirschdale (350cfs and perfect), the trophy section in Reno (100cfs and way too low), and west of downtown Reno (475cfs, a bit off colored but fishable). Today, the river blew out cresting at nearly 1,000cfs, too dangerous and too fast to effectively fish. A warm storm and an above average snow pack were the culprits.

Flows change where fish will hold, in cold water, fish prefer softer deeper runs and generally stay out of fast moving riffles. They tend to be concentrated and are often found stacked up on top of each other, holding tight to the seems. In the warmer summer months, they're looking for oxygenated water and ofter hold in heavier water such as the heads of pools or in riffles where they can enjoy both oxygen-rich and food-rich waters.

From February through June, water flows can be especially volatile on the Truckee. Material changes occur daily as well as intraday (between morning and night as the sun melts the snow pack). When cold snaps occur and flows drop, new waters open up. Conversely, when flows increase, fail safe holes can be blown out. The entire Truckee system is an awesome fishery, but depending on flows and seasons, certain sections fish better than others. Don't be afraid to hike or drive in search of good water, and always remember, don't be discourage by off-colored water; according to Ralph Cutter, this is one of the best opportunities to hook a big brown with something big and bright, like a goblin.

If you are curious where the gage stations are located, click on this map link. Generally speaking, as you head up river, the water gets lower and clearer, but beware, several creeks run through the canyon including Juniper, Grey and Bronco, all of which can flow high and be choked up with silt when storms come through. Also, on the NV side, flows can swing wildly for other reasons. Several diversions and weirs siphon off water from the river into ditches for irrigation and hydro power, some dump the water back in the river, others don't. Verdi and Mogul flows can be substantially lowered by these diversions.

Flows are everything on the special regulations section of the Little Truckee. Above Boca, the LT is a tail water fishery which flows at a constant 45 degrees year round as it's released out of the bottom of Stampede reservoir which is over 300ft deep. It's subject to some of the most significant changes in flows which can dramatically change the fishing conditions in an instant. Combine a water master who doesn't care and a minimum required flow of 32cfs and what do you get? You get flows that often change by 200% or 300% overnight. I've even been on the river a couple times when the water literally got shutoff for 10 or 20 minutes. Not only do rapid drops in flows kill insects vital to the fishery, but low flows (70cfs and below) often concentrate fish in a handful of deeper pools and runs which anglers mercilessly pound throughout the summer. I try to avoid the LT during these times. Generally speaking, when flows are above 100cfs, fish can be found fairly evenly distributed throughout most of the 3+ miles between Boca and Stampede. In case you're wondering, as of Sunday, the LT still couldn't be accessed by truck, at least, not unless you like digging.

January and February were awesome on the Truckee and March is off to a good start, despite fluctuating river levels. We haven't had to leave the comforts of town yet, too many hungry NV fish to go to CA. Lots of bugs out there, midges have been blanketing the water most of the days and trout have been honed in on them for months now, however, BWOs are in good numbers between 1 and 3 and are quickly becoming a preference. A few sippers have seen sucking down cripples. There are good numbers of Skwala's on the rocks, but I've yet to see an adult. I've been prospecting with a Skwala nymph at the top of my stack for 4 weeks w/o a take on it. A few caddis were present but not enough for fish to key in on.

Watch the water flows before you head out and fish, head up river if the water is too high where you are. Don't be discouraged if the water muddies up, throw a slighly larger partern with a bit of bling on it and two BB's. All the fish need to gulp a #22 midge is 1-2 feet of visibility. If we get a cold snap and the water drops below 200cfs, go to the fast runs and heavy water you'd otherwise not fish in the winter, you can get a nymph down on the bottom and may be surprised at what you pull up.


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and we aren't talking about this


This video was really to test out a new HD video camera. This particular day, caddis adults were so thick that I inhaled about half a dozen throughout our session. Despite the prolific hatch and hundreds of adults depositing eggs as they smacked the surface, the trout were only looking for pupae. I know caddises are some of the best dry fly hatches, even so, I often run an emerger/cripple or an un-weighted caddis pupae in the film vs. an elk hair on top, even when the fish are breaking the surface. This tactic works at the head of a hole where a long riffle of fast water dumps into a slow run. That's because towards the middle and end of the run, the adults are generally able to fly. Try watching rising fish closely, if you see them expel an air bubble from their gills, it means that their mouth broke the surface and they're sipping items on top of the water. If an air bubble isn't present after a rise, they're likely sipping subsurface. I read this years ago, and I've found it incredibly useful in practice, especially in technical waters like the LT.


The little furry guy in the video is a mink, not a river otter or a muskrat. They're incredibly agile underwater and can prey on trout much larger than themselves. Take a look at this amazing video. I corresponded with its owner and learned that the mink ended up killing this MASSIVE fanny bridge brown trout. I have mixed feelings when I come across these little guys. Part of me says find another place to fish, the mink has spooked everything. But then again, the mink is hunting your hole precisely because it contains fish. Try standing on an elevated vantage point next time one of these predators prowls your pool. You’re likely to see it push out some big fish. When they do, the fish may not bite that day, but at least you’ll learn their holds.