North Fork and Middle Fork Yuba River River

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North Fork Yuba River

Suggested Flies for North Fork Yuba River:
Sierra Tahoe Hatch Selection

Streamer Flies:
Woolly Bugger #4-10
Marabou Muddler #4-10

BH Hares Ear #12-16
Birds Nest #12-16
A.P. Nymph #10-16
Pheasant Tail Nymph #14-16
Little Yellow Stone Nymph
Golden Stone Nymph #8-12
Copper John #12-16

Royal Wulff #14-16
Buzz Hackle #10-16
Yellow Humpy #10-12
Olive Elk Hair Caddis #12-16
Little Yellow Stone #12-16
Gold Stimulator #6-10
Royal Trude (#6-12)

Current River Flows, Yuba River

Click for Downieville, California Forecast

Directions: From Nevada City, on Highway 49, go North 32 miles to the Yuba River crossing; Highway 49 follows the river upstream through Downieville with hike-in access along the road.
Salmon Creek can be reached off Hwy 49. Park at the bridge just before Hwy 49 crosses Salmon Creek.

The headwaters of the NF Yuba starts with two small creeks that converge beneath Yuba Pass. The headwaters are small and brushy for about 6 miles to the community of Bassets. They contain small 6-7 inch brookies and a unique strain of rainbows that have large leopardlike spots and a deep-red stripe beneath it. They also have parr marks and a distinctive white edge on their anal fins. Prior to 1997, this upper section of the area contained beaver ponds which were washed-out and the beavers did not return. Within the lower section, you will find Brown Trout in the undercuts and next to large rocks in the shallow pools and runs. Attractor Dries and Caddis patterns in the size 14-16 is preferred. Below Bassets, Salmon Creek enters adding quite a bit more water to the river and the dominate fish are the Rainbows which have a more silvery appearance. Most of these Rainbows will be less than 10". The river is mostly pocket water with some deep pools. Use attractor dries with a nymph dropper.

The NF Yuba has a "Wild Trout" regulated water between Sierra City and Ladies Canyon. This 4 mile section comprises of deep pools and heavy pocket water. Regulations are single barbless hooks, artificial lures and a take of only 2 trout, 10 inches or greater. Most of this section contains Rainbows in the 10-16" size. Some large Browns up to 4 lbs can also be found here. These browns are probably migrating upstream from Bullard's Bar Reservoir. A number of hatches occur within this section: Golden Stoneflies (May-June), Little Yellow Stones (June-July), and Baetis during the late Summer and Fall within the slower sections. A strong October Caddis hatch occurs in October where many use Orange Stimulators size 6-10. Outside of the hatches, try Elk Hair Caddis, Buzz Hackle, Humpys, Renegades, Pheasant Tail and Hares Ear Nymphs in sizes 12-16 as a attractor dry-nymph dropper combination.

From Ladies Canyon to Downieville, the river is more easily accessed and there is additional fishing pressure. Downstream from Downieville, the river is full-size for the next 14 miles to the Highway 49 bridge. There are turnouts to get access.The elevation is less steep so that the river is more of a pool/riffle type. Try to fish the south side of the river looking for the deeper pools. Muddler Minnows and Woolly Buggers are a good choice. There is a good hiking trail (Yuba River Trail) out of Goodyears Bar going about 6 miles along the river to Rocky Rest campground.

Below Goodyear's Bar, the river continues to be pools and riffles until past the Hwy 49 bridge. During mid-summer, the water warms up quite a bit and the trout will be holding within the deep pools. During this period, it's best to fish this stretch during the evening or early morning. From late October through November, a run of spawning Browns come up from Bullard Bar Reservoir. Some of these browns will holdover until Spring.
Downstream from this, the river goes into a narrow canyon to Bullards Bar Reservoir and then passes through the Colgate Tunnel into Englebright Lake.

Recent regulation changes now allow Winter fishing between Sierra City and Bullard Bar Reservoir. It is catch and release only with single barbless hooks, artificial lures only, from Nov 15th to the last Saturday of April. The fishing is slow during this period, however, as the trout will remain within the deepest pools while their metabolism is quite slow due to the cold water. Flows will also be up during the rainy season making fishing difficult. The fishable flows are usually less than 800 cfs and this might not occur until after Spring runoff in mid-May but the optimum fishing flows will be later in the season at 150 to 300 cfs. Check the link above for Current conditions.

Attractor Dries and nymphs can be used throughout the NF Yuba all season. Traditional Wet-fly fishing will work during the early season and also on the summer evenings of May through September when the caddis hatch. An important hatch of Serratella tibialis occurs on early summer evenings of Mid-June to August. These are a cream-orange mayfly about size 16. A light Cahill or a creamy-orange Sparkle Dun will work well.
Rust-colored mayfly spinners will fall in the summer evenings in size 14-18, in addition to some pale colored duns. The Golden Stoneflies are common in May to Mid-July and a size 6-10 Stimulator will work well. The October Caddis will occur in late season during October and November, generally in the upper regions of the Wild Trout area. The BWO hatch is usually sparse in the upper river but will occur below the Highway 49 bridge around 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm, a size 18 Sparkle Dun works well for this hatch.

Lavezzola Creek is a Spring Creek of pools, runs, and pocket water. It contains 8-12 inch wild Rainbows. It is designated a "Wild Trout" stream with a five fish limit.To reach the creek, take Lavezzola Road out of Downieville and proceed 3 miles where the road crosses the creek. Downie River and Pauley Creek form the triumvate of the streams as they converge together prior to emptying into the Yuba.

Downie River is a Spring Creek with pools, runs, and pocket water. The upper section is composed of slate with tiny pools. The lower section is more rocky but is heavily altered by mining activity. Downie contains rainbows and browns in the 6-11 inch class.

Pauley Creek is a Spring Creek with pools, runs, and pocket water. The flow doubles with the junction of Butcher Ranch Creek. Pauley contains a self-sustaining population of Coastal Rainbows 7-12 inches. Due to this population, the creek was classified as "Wild Trout" in Dec. 2014 by the California Fish and Game commission. It can be reached by trail from Lavezzola Road on the Third Divide Trail. Also try fishing up Butcher Ranch Creek as it has brookies 7-9 inches within plunge pools.

Haypress Creek is a rocky plunge-pool stream when it enters the Yuba River. There is a stretch where it pools by the Wild Plum Campground. The headwaters of Haypress contain brook trout in the 6-8 inch range. About a half mile below Long Valley Creek, a six foot fall occurs beneath which have a number of pools with Rainbows up to 12". DFG had planted trout within the Wild Plum Campground but this has been discontinued until 2010 when a reassessment will be made.

Milton Creek is a tributary to Haypress Creek. It contains small pools and runs and is easily accessed by the Pacific Crest trail. The creek contains Rainbows in the 7-10 inch class.

Salmon Creek is the outflow from the Lakes basin area. It mostly consists of small rocky pools and pocket water. While the flows are good during early and mid-summer, rainbows reside here in the 7-10 inch class. Early in the season you have a chance at catching some Brookies that have washed down from the Lakes Basin during the Spring runoff up to 15 inches. These Brookies will often find protection within the deeper pools. Fish between the Hwy 49 bridge and Packer Creek. Above Packer Creek, the flows are very small.

Lincoln Creek is a small Spring Creek that forms the headwaters of the NF Yuba River. It contains both Rainbows and Browns in the 7-11" class. The stream starts as a meadow stream and becomes pool and pocket water until it meets the North Yuba.

Lakes Basin Recreation Area:
Gold Lake(ele:6,407 feet) is part of the Lakes Basin and is the largest natural Lake in the Plumas National Forest. Flyfishing is best around the shallows of the shoreline. The lake holds large Browns and Rainbows, as well as Brookies and Mackinaw Trout. The natural feed in Gold Lake is Crayfish and red-sided minnows. Mohair Leech and Bugger patterns work well stripped on a sinking line. When the fish are feeding on the surface, try Griffit's Gnat, Parachute Adams, and ant patterns. Below Gold Lake are two smaller lakes, Snag and Haven Lakes. Snag contains some holdover Rainbows and Haven consists of small brookies.
Lower Salmon Lake is ideal for float tubing. It contains rainbows 10-15 inches. Callibaetis, damselflies,caddis, and midges exist within the lakebed. The fish bite is generally slow during the midsummer days but will show rises during the evenings. Access is by way of Gold Lakes Road from Bassetts for 3.9 miles, turn left for Salmon Lakes Lodge. In 0.5 miles a pullout exists with access to the lake.
Long Lake contains Kamloop Rainbows and is ideal for float tubing. Woolly Buggers on a sinking line is your best bet. There are a number of other lakes on a loop trail (3.75 miles) from Gold Lake Lodge. These lakes include Big Bear Lake, Little Bear Lake, Cub Lake, Silver Lake, and Round Lake. All of the lakes contain fish, mostly small rainbows and brookies.
Packer Lake is a small lake (ele:6,245 feet) containing stocked rainbows. The lake is 3 miles on a paved road from Gold Lake Road. Easy access for those with float tubes. Area has numerous campsites and the lake is heavily used.
Sardine Lakes is a very productive lake for brookies with those having a float tube. The upper Sardine Lake is under consideration in the Wild Trout Program as it contains wild Rainbows and hold-over Kamloops. The trout are generally 9-14 inches. Try casting Woolly Buggers on a full sink.

The MF Yuba has difficult access using Henness Pass Road to reach the first impoundment dam at Jackson Meadows Reservoir. Below Jackson Meadow is another impoundment dam, Milton Reservoir. Between Jackson Meadows and Milton reservoirs, the MF Yuba is artificial only with single barbless hooks and zero take. Below Milton, the MF Yuba is rugged canyon water with rainbows 10-14 inches. Box canyons start at an area known as The Gates of the Antipodes and the MF Yuba plunges into steep descents with plunge pools and cascades. Large Browns are known to inhabit the deeper pools.

Milton Reservoir: This is a 27-acre, shallow lake located about 2 miles below Jackson Meadows Reservoir at an elevation of 5690'. It is part of the Wild Trout Program of DFG and is home to trophy-size trout. The lake requires barbless lures or flies and is catch & release only. By adjusting the regulations so that the larger Browns remain within Milton Lake, the trout have been able to outcompete the Bullheads which were feeding upon the smaller trout and keeping the trout populations low during the 1980's. Season is the last Saturday of April to November 15. It can reached by traveling about 17 miles on Henness Pass Road from Hwy 89, north of Lake Tahoe. The lake was drained in 1993 and the bottom was excavated with a 8 to 10 foot deep trench with lateral trenches in a "herringbone" pattern. The trout move into the shallower areas to feed in the early and late parts of the day and retreat to the main trench midday. Numerous substrate improvements were made to provide habitat for native crawdads. The lake was restocked with two different strains of browns which have reached 18" to 22" inches by 1998. Large rainbows also inhabit these waters. These trout use the Middle Fork of the Yuba between Jackson Meadows and Milton to spawn. Usually sometime in June is the best time to start fishing here as the water is near 40 degrees due to the snowmelt prior to June. July and August are excellent times to fish. The lake is best fished from float tubes as large weed beds hug the shores. The south shore is forested up to the shoreline and the north shore is rocky.
There are numerous hatches of midges, caddis, and callibaetis. Chironomid patterns can be used throughout the season. The size decreases from a #12 in the Spring to a #20 by late Summer. The Chironomid patterns that are most effective are in the gray, olive, rust, orange, and black colorations. The Callibaetis hatch starts in June and begins around mid-morning. Use emerging duns, then spinners. A Gray Drake hatch (Adams #10) also occurs in June. Effective patterns are PTN (#12 to 14), Callibaetis emerger, Crippled Mayfly, Adams, and midges(#18 to 22) along the edges of the weed beds. During midday or when no hatch is present, try Brown or Olive Woolly Buggers(#8-10). As on any Sierran Lake, Flying Ant patterns can also be very effective in sizes 12-14. Due to the high Crayfish population along the rock edges on the North Shore, use an Orange-Brown Woolly Bugger.
Suggested tackle is a 3-5 weight rod with a WF Floating Line, a Sink-Tip Line, and a Full Sinking Line. Leaders should be 9 foot with a 5x to 7x tippet.

Jackson Meadows Reservoir: This is a large reservoir with paved road access. The result is 140 campsites and mobs of people. Best fishing occurs in early summer where Pass Creek enters the lake near the Pacific Crest Trail. Submerged weed beds there produce decent hatches. Another good area is where the Middle Fork of the Yuba enters the lake.

Middle Yuba below Milton Lake: The Middle Yuba is drained at Milton Reservoir by an aquaduct moving the water to Bowman Lake and Spaudling Reservoir. It regains water from springs and streams and the fishing picks up below the Box Canyons at East Fork Creek. There are large browns that inhabit this stretch of the Yuba in the 18" size range. Most fishing this area will work downstream with a stay over at East Fork Creek and a climb out at Graniteville or Plumbago further downstream. Downstream near Graniteville, there are mostly rainbows in the 9-12 inch class. Mayflies and Caddis hatches are common during the season. BWO's will show up in the Fall.


© 2018 Steve Schalla
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