Fly Fishing Traditions

Fly Fishing Traditions Blog and Website
"It's about Life & Fly Fishing"

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Lower Yuba River in Fall

I created the Fly Fishing Traditions Blog in November of 2009. It's been quite a journey. I've been keeping a journal of my fly fishing adventures for over 4 years. Needless to say there's quite a bit of information packed between those pages. With that said, keeping a fishing journal is the best thing I ever did. I can't tell you how much you can improve your fishing by starting your own journal. Start one the next time you get out there. As they say "Just Do It".

One of the reasons I started the journal was to keep track of how the Northern California rivers I fished progressed through the seasons. What flies worked, what bugs were happening, what techniques and rigging were utilized. What went on with my fishing buddies, my family and especially my son Zack. Notes, photos, video they tell a story about fly fishing and my life.

I'll start here with my other goal which was to share my experiences of fishing through the four seasons on the Lower Yuba. As for people that have spent much time fishing it, the Yuba can be challenging, fickle to down right humbling. My journal has documented these sentiments over the years with some discoveries along the way. I'll start with the Fall season and eventually work my way through the summer. Hopefully the stories will help you gear up for the change of the upcoming seasons.

Fall on the Lower Yuba River

When fall rolls around on the Lower Yuba River, which I will arbitrarily designate as September 1st when the river is closed to fishing above the Parks Bar Bridge, it's a time of reduced flows, salmon and fewer hatches. The river flows have been reduced to the level of about 900 cfs which is mandated by the powers that be to protect the spawning habitat of the chinook salmon. The resident rainbow trout are starting to feel the change of the seasons and their instinct is to eat and get ready for the winter. In the fall this means the egg bite and other large bites will be prime. The rigging for the fall is built around presenting egg patterns. This doesn't mean that the bugs will take a back seat. It just means keep an egg on.

The Egg Bite

In 2009, the salmon were in the system in early September and the egg bite was on from the beginning. This year as of the second week of September the salmon have shown up in small numbers, a few here and there below the bridge, and there are no noticeable redds. This is sort of how it goes, the salmon move into the season once the first big storm comes in and a flush of water goes through the system.

You need to have a good supply of eggs to be ready for this event. My egg pattern of choice is the "Pettis Egg" or the "Unreal Egg" which are basically the same pattern. I carry the "Pettis Eggs" in 4 colors for the Yuba. I also carry a box of "Trout Beads" in two sizes and a variety of colors. I keep them in a separate box, an Ovris M4 compartment box, with beads, toothpicks and egg hooks. The trick is to paint the beads with fingernail polish before you head out as they will take on a more realistic look. I typically rigg up with an egg at the point and then trail 2 nymphs behind the egg. about 12 to 16 inches apart. I'll talk about the nymphs a little later.

One bit of advise is to hit the river early and late for the egg bite and fishing behind spawning salmon. The egg bite changes to more of a bug bite once the sun hits the water in mid morning and through the mid day.

Flies in My Box

Pettis Egg

Unreal Egg


Fox's Fertilizer

The Lower Yuba River Bugs of Fall

The Lower Yuba River supports a lot of bugs, so there are a lot of nymphs for the fish to choose from. There can be afternoon caddis hatches and BWO's coming off on overcast and drizzly days. There is also the Isonychia mayfly that comes into play typically in September.

As far as patterns, I carry a lot of patterns, way too many. I am going to mostly recommend using Hogan Brown's patterns as he is our local boy wonder and I am partial to that. On top of that his patterns work. As for most patterns, almost any pattern will work if you take the time to check that the profiles is correct, the size is right, and the color is reasonably close. This holds to be true whether you tie your own flies or purchase them, Do your streamside sampling and you will be headed in the right direction, before you spend the time or money.

Isonychia Mayfly

Starting in September it is a good idea to pick up some "Hogan's Isonychia nymphs". This hatch starts in early to mid September and peaks at the end of September. They are large nymphs and are a meal for the resident trout. The Nymphs are a blackish/purple color with a long slender swimmer nymph profile and the adult is a dark purplish/gray. When the fish are keyed in on the hatch they will eat the nymph all day and hit the adults when presented. Leading up to and during the hatch fish will key on swung adults in the riffles and runs.

Fish this pattern under an indicator with plenty of split shot and then if you see shucks from the nymphs on the shoreline and anticipate the hatch has been coming off, swing this bug through runs and tail outs prior to the hatch starting. Once a hatch starts, fish a parachute adams to match the size of the adult.

For nymphing, I'll typically use my 9'6 Sage XP or Z-Axis, 6 weight or sometimes I'll string up my 11'6" Sage Z-Axis Switch Rod. I can use the switch rod for fishing under indicator, tight line nymphing, or swinging flies using spey casting techniques. If you haven't tried casting a switch rod, put it on your list.

For dries, I'll have my 9'0" Sage XP, 5 weight ready to go.

Flies I'd Put in My Box

Hogan's Isonychia Nymph - See Photo at Right

Parachute Adams #10


There can be afternoon caddis hatches on the Lower Yuba up until the weather turns colder and we move into the Winter Season. The caddis nymphs are around. Turn over some rocks take some samples and match size and color. Same thing with adults. You can catch a hatch progressing in the afternoons and the trout may look towards an E/C caddis type fly or you may have some fun swimming soft hackles in the runs below the riffles or in the tailouts. Swinging soft hackles is one on my favorites things to do and finding the opportunity to do it in the fall is special.

For nymphing, I'll typically use my 9'6 Sage XP or Z-Axis, 6 weight.

For dries, I'll have my 9'0" Sage XP, 5 weight ready to go.

Flies I'd Put in My Box

Hogan's "Yuba Pupa " Olive - See Photo at Right

Hogan's Chubby Cousin –Peacock

Hogan's Good & Plenty Nymph

Hogan's The Drifter

Hogan's Spring Fling Pupa

Hogan's Yuba Pupa – Dark Olive

Hogan's Last Call Caddis – Olive

Hogan's Yuba Emerger – Tan - See Photo at Right

E/C Caddis

Fox Pupa - Olive, Dark Olive, Cinnamon

Soft Hackles


The fall can turn to a small bug mayfly bite, similar to the Lower Sacramento River where you need small micro mayflies to be effective. The mayfly nymphs are important all year, but the micro-mays really come into play during the fall. Most people just don't go small enough. We're talking 18's and 20's. It becomes a dead drift game. Your favorite indicators, fine tippets shot and fished deep in the slots when necessary.

Developing a tight line deep nymphing technique and rigg can really pay off in the fall. With the river being down to 900 cfs. Fish can hang out in the deep holes and slots for protection, sanctuary and for feeding on bugs, eggs and streamers down deep. Getting your presentation down there is the key. Tight lining with lots of shot is the way to go to access these fish.

When the BWO's are out you can have the opportunity to rigg up a dry rod and cast to rising fish in the flats and back eddies. Fishing cripples in the scum line in the eddies can yield fish on top. If you're in a boat, keep a dry rod strung up and ready to go.

For nymphing, I'll typically use my 9'6 Sage XP or Z-Axis, 6 weight or sometimes I'll string up my 11'6" Sage Z-Axis Switch Rod.

For dries, I'll have my 9'0" Sage XP, 5 weight ready to go.

Flies I'd Put in My Box

Hogan's Tungsten Bead Exploding Baetis

Hogan's Better Baetis

Hogan's Military May - See Photo at Right

Hogan's S&M Nymph

Hogan's Steelie May

Hogan's SIM’s Mayfly Emerger

Hogan's The Sipper – BWO, PMD

Mighty Mites



There are Skawla, Golden and a few Yellow Sally stoneflies in the Lower Yuba River. They can get knocked loose and be in the drift below riffles all year long. A large rubber leg stone pattern can be utilized as a big meal ticket in the fall. I sometimes rigg with a Rubber Legs Stone, an Egg pattern and then trail another nymph of choice. They may not take the stone but I believe that it gets them looking. I fish the rigg with a 9'6" Sage XP or Z-axis, 6 weight.

Flies I'd Put in My Box

Hogan's Rock & Roller – Brown

Hogan'sYuba Rubber Leg Stonefly Nymph - See Photo at Right

Hogan's Chubby Cousin- Golden

Hogan's Good & Plenty Nymph – Brown

Hogan's Rock & Roller – Golden

Hogan's Two Tone Stone

Mercers Poxy Back Stone

Superfloss Rubber Legs

The others - Attractors, Streamers

In the fall some people do nothing but swing flies, olive colored streamers and soft hackles. They target the river for swinging flies and fish the tailouts and runs with the correct current speed to swing their flies at just the right speed. This of course is somewhat of an art form and you've just got to get out there and start trying. This is where a switch rod can really pay off. As I've mentioned before I use a 11'6" Sage Z-Axis Switch Rod which I think is matched perfectly to the Lower Yuba. You can accomplish much of the same thing with a 7 weight. Take a lesson and find out what spey and switch casting is all about. It's fun. When you hook up a Yuba half-pounder on the swing its something you won't forget, even if it leaves you with a limp line instead of a fish in the net.

And lastly, of course there's the attractors that we all carry in our boxes and as long as they match, profile, size and reasonable color they'll work.

Hogan's Red Headed Step Child - See photo at Right

Copper John's

Pheasant Tails

Flashback Pheasant Tails

Birds Nest

Skips Nymph

Hares Ears

San Juan Worm

In Summary, remember, and these points are true for all 4 seasons of the year.

(1) Match the profile of the bug you're imitating. Use a real bug to do so. Do your stream sampling.

(2) Match the size of the bug your imitating. Put the big you've caught in your fly box and compare sizes.

(3) Match the color as close as you can.

Trout Don't Read Latin!

And most of all have some fun out there!!!


The information about the Isonychia Hatch is from

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Have any Questions or Comments? Let me know, Clay.