Fishing tips for the first timer

Fishing at Pyramid Lake at Blockhouse. | Bruce Ajari

Each year the state of California has two free fishing days. On these days an individual may fish without a license. There is typically one in the spring and another in the fall. The fall date for this year is coming up on Sept. 2.

This is a great time to get that person who has shown an interest in the sport but has never tried it out fishing.

While you can fish without a license on this day, the law still requires you to possess report cards if you fish for certain species. Abalone, steelhead, sturgeon or salmon in the Smith or Trinity River systems require these report cards.

It also requires you to obey all other regulations in the waters in which you fish. Many of local waters require special regulations. While there is no requirement that you go with a licensed angler, it is highly recommended to have someone show you what is required to legally fish in local waters.

Fishing with friends is also a highly enjoyable way to fish. We have met some of the most amazing people while fishing and have made long-lasting friendships.

Experienced anglers will also have the equipment you need. Rather than spend money initially on a sport you may be uncertain about, you can try fishing first with his or her equipment. Once you determine fishing is something that you would like to pursue, and then you can shop for equipment.

As many of my angler friends say, “Trout do not live in ugly places.” The great outdoor surroundings, friends and the sport itself will make for a memorable outing.

Fishing for the first time will most likely be done with a spinning reel spooled with monofilament line, a 6- to 7-foot rod and some sort of bait. If you are going with an experienced angler, he or she will know how to rig the outfit properly. Should you choose to go alone, stop by local hardware stores with a knowledgeable fishing department.

Pick a body of water that has been recently planted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife by going to

Donner Lake is a good choice for first timers. It is planted on a fairly regular basis and there is easy access on one of the many public piers, the public launch area or West End Beach.

Free fishing day is a great day for new anglers. For experienced anglers, it is an opportunity to take a friend fishing.


Boca Reservoir | The road over the dam is closed until further notice. Inflow is at 94 cfs and the outflow is 110 cfs. Powerbait, nightcrawlers and lures are all working. Fly-fishers have been catching some fish near the inlet with nymphs, streamers and dries.

Donner Lake | Fishing has been fair to good. Kokanee fishing has been fair to good. Nightcrawlers and Powerbait seem to be the main bait. Mackinaw fishing has been good. Fly-fishers are catching some fish with streamers.

Lake Tahoe | All tributaries are open to all fishing until 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 anglers use inflated nightcrawlers.

Little Truckee River | The flow is at 94 cfs. This flow is up slightly from last week. Nymphing and dries should both work at this level. Dry dropper rigs are also recommended. Hatches are similar to the main Truckee.

Martis Lake | Zero kill. Catch and release only with barbless artificial lures or flies. Fishing is best early in the season and the fall. Smallmouth bass are part of the fishery.

Prosser Reservoir | Fishing has been fair. Anglers using bait, lures and flies have all caught fish. Fly-fishers have done well near the inlet areas. Bass fishing should improve as waters warm.

Stampede Reservoir | The road is closed through 2018. Access to the boat ramp will be through the Hobart Mills side. Fishing has been fair from shore. Nightcrawlers, Powerbait and lures have all produced from shore. Fly-fishers have been doing well near the inlets with nymphs and streamers. The kokanee fishing is still producing for those in the know. Smallmouth bass fishing should improve as waters warm.

Truckee River | The flow out of the dam in Tahoe City is at 201 cfs. The flows through Truckee are at 231 cfs. Fishing has been fair for those working hard. Best area to target is below where Prosser Creek comes into the Truckee River downstream to the state line. Lots of bugs are appearing. Caddis, PMD and Little Yellow stones and grasshoppers Crayfish imitations and streamers are working. Water temperatures are up. Carry a thermometer and quit fishing if water temps get more than 66 to 68 degrees F. Catch-and-release fishing is encouraged, but an angler may keep two fish with a minimum size of 14 inches during the regular trout season.

Davis and Frenchman lakes | Both are full. Boat, shore and fly anglers are catching fish. Reports from Davis are only fair at best. I suggest not fishing at either until the waters cool.


Bruce Ajari

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