Truckee River Report - Lost Art of Wet Flies and Patience

Truckee River

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Bearfish Alliance

by Bearfish Alliance Staff

Summer and Fall are a great time to find Brown Trout on Rivers, and most of us go about it looking for them in all the usual locations. Normally this means fishing stretches that find themselves heavily pressured due to their disposition to be a quality trout habitat, AKA “this is where everyone is landing them”. I would argue that this is a very difficult means in which to hunt trouts, especially Browns, but more power to you if you can find something to dangle in front of their face that they haven’t seen before. 

The aforementioned mindset and practice of Brown hunting placed me in a position to try something different, but alas I was unsure of what the “different” would be. Then came the period of discovery, looking for different water, and a new way to engage the trout. The answer came to me when testing out a section of the Truckee River that witnesses it’s fair share of traffic. This sections holds a fairy tale like aura to it as from vantage points you can see Browns cruising, and if you are present at the right time of day you can witness swirls and leaps that get your heart racing. So with all the know how and knowledge I had accumulated over the years I went at it, throwing everything I could think of. First it was streamers ,then indicator nymphing, and since they were surfacing so much I tried hopper droppers, and dry dropper combos…..nothing, nada, zilch!

I did this several times and what I learned is that these Browns spook easy, and are also savvy to everything I threw in front of them. The water in this section is slow, not exceptionally deep, and gin clear, so I was going to have to do something way different to get to them. So one day I was having a conversation with an old, salty Pyramid Lake guide and I brought up my trial and tribulations with these browns and that section of the river. He smiles and said, “Son, this is what you need to do”, this is where the enlightenment came in. He explained to me the approach and tactics needed to play that water, and in the midst of it all he handed me a few wet flies, and in so many words he said, “Do this, and this, and that, and most of all BE PATIENT”. So I did, and a few days later I went racing back to him with the results which out of the dozen 16-18 inch Browns I caught a hefty 5lb brown. 

So that was it, and I was hooked on this method. The simplicity was awesome, and it effectiveness was just amazing. However all this discovery led me to explore more, and discovered that this was a method developed and refined in Scotland and England during the 18th and 19th century. As a matter of fact a piece of literary excellence was published by W.C. Stewart in 1857 titled “The Practical Angler”. This book detailed the art of wet fly fishing, and its teachings hold true to this day.

I often run into anglers who will inquire on how I am catching fish and I will bring up the term “wet fly” and I will get an deer in the headlights look from them. That is understandable, I mean how could something so simple and so old work so well? It does, and it has centuries of play behind it. Give it a try and you may be surprised!

Here are a few of my favorites for the Truckee River, East Walker, and other Eastern Sierra waters: Soft hackle pheasant, black with white soft hackle, yellow with white soft hackle, white with pheasant hackle, orange with pheasant hackle, and the purple haze (all in sz 14-16). I have made several variations of the purple haze from size 14-16 and is one of my favorite go-to patterns to imitate caddis and mayflies. In slow water you fish these right under the film, and another method is to run them through the riffles…..give it a try! 

Remember to carry a thermometer this time of year, and fish the highest and coolest waters you can. 62 degrees is nice, and don’t go past 68. My personal rule of thumb is to walk away once it creeps past 65. We have a podcast on this with Local Legend Matt Koles from Gilligans Guide Service on this. Check it out at 

Tight Lines!

Contact BearFish Alliance at (775) 622-2970 or email [email protected]

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