May 16th, 2005

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Little Truckee
By Mike Mead

Having to spend the occasional workweek in Reno on business, I had long promised myself to stay over an extra day or two and fish the Truckee. This river runs right through the heart of downtown Reno and in current years has seen somewhat of a revival in it's usefulness to the city. With an eye to attracting more than just your stereotypical Nevada gambler, the city of Reno transformed its once polluted and unsavory Downtown River walk into an attractive storefront and kayak play park. At first impression the sight of well-to-do neatly dressed shoppers browsing windows as some guy busts rolls in his play boat not twenty feet away leaves the outdoorsman in me with a shudder. But as the play generations are now fast becoming the lots of disposable income crowd, city planners are realizing their towns need more than coffee shops and bookstores to bring the woodsy outdoors type in from the cold.

Fortunately for me my fishing destination was well away from the cities charms and into a more traditional recreation location. Heading west out of Reno I-80 takes you to the California state line in around 20 minutes. Another 10-15 up Truckee river canyon and you reach the town of Truckee itself. It was here that I planned to do a little up front Q and A with the local experts, Sierra Anglers Guide (530) 582-5689. As I drove up the canyon following the path of the river it was plainly evident that the water was high with spring runoff, but I hoped the guys at the store would be able to put me onto the right fly and a possible fishable location. Their advice - don't bother! Not what I wanted to hear. For the next couple of weeks at least the Truckee would be a hit and miss affair at best with lots of high strong flow to contend with. "Way to go," I muse to myself, "nice plan and prep."

You should fish the Little Truckee; it's fishing well right now."

Really? The Little Truckee is a small tail water roughly 3 miles long that flows out of Stampede reservoir and into Boca Dam reservoir. I had passed the turnoff a couple of miles back down the hill. "Should take you around 15 minutes, just park at one of the Angler parking areas and head through the woods." I thanked the guys at the store for their tip and headed out, taking a quick look at their fly selection on the way out, more out of guilt than need. As the river was mountain tail water I felt pretty confident that my own flies would suffice. So, having procured valuable information from one local Truckee business at no cost I decided to get breakfast at the Wagon Train coffee shop on Donner Pass road. This turned out to be an excellent choice as the service was fast; my order was back to the table in minutes and the food was plentiful and tasty. Lumberjack - ham and eggs over easy, a side of country mash potatoes - mmmhh.

As I tied on my flies at the side of the road a local California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) warden pulled alongside to check my particulars. He was fine with the smashed barb on my hooks, checking them very carefully. He informed me that my license should be visible at all times whilst fishing. My day ticket of $10.75 value was currently residing inside my wallet. After checking it out, once again very carefully, he conceded that the local wardens are not too concerned with day ticket holders displaying their license. They are card paper and the holders to keep them dry can cost a couple of bucks. So I slipped it back into my wallet. I ask what a mountain lions tracks would look like as I had come across what I thought might be one earlier. From his crude rendering in the dirt I was none the wiser but grateful for his knowledge of their behavior. He explained that this range was full of cats; it was quite possible the track I found was a lion but not to worry as human feline interactions were quite rare. We exchanged a couple of pleasantries then each headed out to our next locations.

The river itself, at least the spot I had chosen, was roughly a half-mile walk across open sage and then tall grass. This suited me fine as leaving the road out of ear shot while fishing only adds to my desired experience. As I hiked the open trail I thought of how it would be to fish for trout in a downtown setting. How long it would take the local PETA crowd to become vocal and active toward such a scene. No, trout fishing below the glare of neon signs would not be for me. At the river I paused to survey the water, it was gin clear and narrow. The sun was high and bright and there was little cover. If the fishing was going to be good then it would have to be stealthy and quiet. I unsuccessfully cast to a few small holes while working my way upstream then to my great surprise, as I had not seen another vehicle in the parking area, came across a couple and their dog quietly enjoying the river. Not wanting to disturb them and also not wanting to engage in a conversation at this time and as yet no fish. So I left the water and walked downstream. This turned out to be a fortunate decision, my style of fishing and move upstream on unfamiliar waters would have taken me away from what turned out to be a fantastically productive pool.

Farther downstream, beyond the point I had first met the river, was a very large fallen Ponderosa, it and the hole created from where its roots once resided formed water that screamed of big fish opportunity. Passing behind the tree and crossing the river below I note farther downstream another angler pitching his game to the river gods in hope of a successful return.

As noted earlier I was quite confident with the flies in my box. Being primarily a tail water fisherman I have fine-tuned these to a very small selection and rarely venture away from them. This to many would probably be undesirable, as time spent at the tying bench becomes uneventful and without diversity. For me this works fine. I tie my own flies because I enjoy the mechanics of doing so and get a kick out of catching fish with simple easy patterns. You don't get simpler than the ones I tie!

Easing quietly into the bottom of the pool I start striping line and short casting to the right edge. Once I have enough line out to cover its full length I place a cast directly upstream and keep the line straight as possible as my indicator drifts directly back toward me. Not a particularly stealthy style of fishing, but as this pool was the deepest by far that I had come across, I was more interested in getting a good, deep drift. Inches before I was about to lift my line and cast once again the indicator pause/twitches and I set the hook. For a split second I get a good solid run to the head of the pool, left turn and he's off. First interaction with a fish for the day and I'm smiling.

With the tension of a no fish day passed, confident I will now catch, I relax and proceed to fish in the same manner. A couple of casts later and I set the hook on a fish that feels like a monster, only to realize, without evidence of actually seeing the fish that he's tail hooked. Sure enough he is, I land him remove the hook and take a brief look at the fish. He's a healthy looking 16" rainbow with great color. A few casts after his release I fair hook a fat 11" hen. That feeling of a good days fishing ahead is creeping up on me fast. As the afternoon drifts by I steadily catch and release my way to seven fish with a few hooked and lost along the way for good measure.

Having taken a brief break to straighten out a wind knot, complete re-tie from my split shot down I make a couple more casts up the pool and do the same thing all over again! This is not uncommon for me when the wind picks up slightly. I have a self-taught lazy style of cast that often gets me into such trouble when conditions are not favorable. So I tie it all up, again! This time I try to concentrate on opening up my cast to help with wind and successfully line out a couple of good drifts. Smack! I get a good, very solid take. This guy heads straight for the shallow riffles below the pool and before he can reach the fast channel below I lug him as fast as I can to the slower side water before he is gone forever. He's big, ugly and beat to hell with various scars along his flank and a healed gash down his belly, he looks like he's been through a couple of wars. At 19" it's my biggest fish of the day and I'm pleased to see him swim away strongly.

The angler I had spotted earlier wanders down the opposite bank; funny I didn't see him pass me? He's holding up his hand silently counting off with his fingers to me, 3, 4, 5...? I wander over and we start a brief conversation. He had apparently watched me catch three fish and was curious as to what fly I was using. Feeling a little stupid, as usual when asked this question I'm glad we are side by side as I can show him the fly as opposed to shouting across the river "It's a beadhead wormy looking thing." I'm sure all of the flies I tie and make up as I do so already have names, being tied by others before me. But I really don't keep track of that stuff too much, I just fish what works for me. He say's he hasn't had a fish all day just a brief hookup in the run below my productive hole. I'm to the point of satisfaction so ask if he would like to try this pool. I leave him in peace tying on a couple of my beadyworms and head to a run farther up.

Feeling all good about myself having given up a prime spot to a fellow flyfisher I start lazily casting upriver while occasionally glancing over my shoulder to see his first hookup. Catching me completely off guard I get a solid take on my fly. In an instant my rod is bent way over, but I have far too much line out and the fish heads directly downstream. I hooked him in strong current and he has a good head start on me, all I see is a flash of silver as he passes going hell for leather straight toward cover. It's all over in a matter of seconds I get a brief chance of resistance as he's below me but a second later I'm waving goodbye to him with a two handed "get outa' here" gesture. Crap! Venturing farther upstream I unsuccessfully try a couple more pools and decide to call it a day.

Before leaving I wander back down to say goodbye to the friendly Environmental Engineer from LA. He's caught 4 fish and we both agree it's been a great day. On my way out I hit the road about 500 yards below my car and wander along its side kicking the huge Ponderosa pine cones as I do. Back at the car I wave goodbye to the DFG warden one last time as he drives by and head out myself back to Reno. As I drive the canyon down and catch sight of the main Truckee with its high murky water I realize that I'm glad it is. It's still there, and I will come back another time when conditions are more preferable. That is, if I don't head straight to the Little instead. ~ Michael Mead


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