Dry flies


This is the time of year that really gets me excited. The abundance of early season aquatic insects hatching on our Truckee River is always a sight to behold. As air and water temperatures rise from early spring into early summer, these insects bring the trout to the surface where anglers can fish for them with dry flies.

Trout can be caught in a variety of ways. Undeniably, the most effective method is to fish for them subsurface where the vast majority of feeding is done. Anglers use the technique called nymphing. This involves fishing a pair of nymphs on a floating line to imitate the immature stages of the various insects present in our waters. Weight, in the form of split shot, is added to the line and it can be fished with or without a strike indicator. The flies are drifted (called dead drifting) in the current to represent the naturals drifting in the current that have become dislodged from the rocks. It is a lot like drifting bait if you were a kid. It is by far one of the most productive methods in which to fish anywhere.

Another form of subsurface fishing is called streamer fishing. The angler fishes flies that imitate small baitfish or immature trout. These can be fished with either a floating line or various density sinking or sink-tip lines. The primary baitfish imitation in the Truckee is the Paiute Sculpin (Cottus beldingi). It represents a large part of the Truckee River biomass.

Streamers may be fished upstream, across stream and downstream. One of the most effective methods is to cast upstream and then swim them downstream along the many undercut banks in the river. This is probably so effective because baitfish will tend to flee downstream when frightened and this looks natural to the fish. Some of the largest trout taken in the Truckee are on streamers.

Personally, I have become a bit of a purist as I have gotten older. I prefer to fish the dry fly. This is the adult form of the insects that are found on the surface. Why?

In the other forms of fishing, you either rely on watching your line, the strike-indicator or feeling the tug. These can all be exciting, but nothing beats a fish coming to the surface where you can see the fly disappear into their mouths.

During this late spring early summer period, even large fish will come to the surface to feed on the abundance of insects readily available to them. The strike from one of these large fish is memorable.

The appearance of Carpenter Ants usually brings the larger fish to the surface with some consistency, followed by the Green Drake Mayfly and then the Little Yellow Stonefly. These fish typically bring the big fish to the surface. In between, there are Baetis, March Brown and Pale Morning Dun Mayflies that also will catch the occasional large-surface feeding fish.


Boca | Inflow is at 215 cfs and the outflow is 195 cfs. Try powerbait or nightcrawlers. Throwing lures from shore also has been working. Fly fishers have been catching some fish near the inlet mostly nymphing.

Donner | Fishing has been good. Nightcrawlers and Powerbait seem to be the bait of choice. Mackinaw and Kokanee fishing has been fair. Fly fishermen are catching some fish with streamers.

Lake Tahoe | (Lake Tahoe Tributaries are closed to all fishing until July 1. The Lake within 300 feet of a tributary also is closed. Tributaries are only from July 1 to Sept. 30.) Fishing has been fair to good for mackinaw. A guide is highly recommended if you are fishing for mackinaw for the first time. Toplining and shore fishing is fair. Most shore fishermen use inflated nightcrawlers.

Little Truckee River | Flowing at 215 cfs This is a much more manageable flow for this water. Small flies are generally the rule on the Little Truckee. Baetis and PMD imitations are doing well. Try PMD, Green Drake and Baetis nymph imitations and midge patterns as trailers. Keep an eye out for surface activity.

Martis Lake | Zero kill. Catch and Release only with barbless artificial lures or flies. Some small cutthroats and an occasional large brown and rainbow may still be caught here. Smallmouth bass have been introduced in this water.

Prosser | The lake is fishing fair to good. Powerbait and nightcrawlers are the best bait. Lure and fly fishermen are taking some fish from shore and near the inlets.

Stampede | Fishing has been fair to good from shore. Kokanee fishing has been fair. Mackinaw fishing has been good. Fly fishermen have been doing well near the inlets with nymphs and streamers.

Truckee River | Flowing out of the lake at 331 cfs. These flows have increased over the past week. The flow through Truckee is at 366 cfs as of June 23. Fish have been caught on nymphs, emergers, dries and streamers. The main hatches now are Caddis, PMD and Little Yellow Stones. Green Drakes are showing, as well. Nymphs and dries imitating these hatches have been the most productive. Streamers also have been good.

Other Waters | Davis and Frenchman have been fair to good. Damselflies are now beginning to show is good numbers with the recent warm weather. Fish also are being caught on blood midge patterns and Callibaetis imitations.

Bruce is a long-time area fly fisherman and past president of Tahoe Truckee Fly Fishers. 


Bruce Ajari
Bruce Ajari is a long-time area fly-fisherman and past president of Tahoe Truckee Fly Fishers.