Summer fishing on the Truckee River

Avoid fishing when water temperatures are high.

It has been a warm summer and just as the river is beginning to round into shape, water temperatures are beginning to spike on the Truckee River. A busy early season and unusually high early-season flow has meant little early-season river fishing.

My preference is to dry fly-fish. As a result, my first fishing excursion to the river, now that the river has dropped to a more seasonal level, was surprising.

The water temperature was an eye popping 68 degrees F when we arrived at 6:30 p.m. As a result, I decided to fish in another location that provided much more flow. The water temperature there showed 66 degrees F. As the evening progressed, fish began to become active as a hatch of little yellow stoneflies and caddisflies began to occur.

A tired fish in warm water may not be able to be revived once caught.

The flows are key to finding active fish this time of year. Keeping an eye on water temperatures is also critical. With these temperatures, it is doubtful that we will be fishing the river much longer.

As water temperatures increase, the water holds less oxygen. Thus, fish are put into great stress when temperatures reach more than 65 degrees F.

Carry thermometers and give fish a break when temperatures are too high. While there is great debate as to exactly at what temperature one should quit fishing, erring on the conservative side is the best policy for me.

Catch-and-release fishing is predicated on releasing a fish back into the environment to be caught again. This may not be happening when water temperatures are high. A tired fish in warm water may not be able to be revived once caught. Even if the fish appears to be OK, it could die later. Studies have shown that hooking mortality goes up as water temperatures rise.

This is the time of year that many anglers will concentrate on early morning hours or evenings to fish because of cooler water temperatures. Remember water temperatures spike during the day. With a thermometer an angler can always be certain of the water temperature.

After taking the temperature of the water, the angler must make a decision as to whether to fish or not. Being conservative may save a fish or two.

This time of year means that we get to fish for other species such as bass. We have some excellent smallmouth bass fishing opportunities in some of the local lakes and bass readily take flies.

Since being planted illegally in some of the local reservoirs, smallmouth bass have flourished. They provide excellent sport and fill a void during the dog days of summer. It is a great alternative to fishing for trout when our local waters become too warm.


Boca Reservoir | The road over the dam is closed until further notice. Inflow is at 96 cfs and the outflow is 105 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 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 96 cfs. 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 has been fair.

Stampede Reservoir | The road will be closed over the dam for construction this season and next. 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 has slowed. Smallmouth bass fishing has been fair.

Truckee River | The flow out of the dam in Tahoe City is at 86 cfs. The flows through Truckee are at 173 cfs. The flows are now fishable. Fishing has been fair for those working hard. Lots of bugs are appearing: caddis, PMD and little yellow stoneflies. Water temperatures have climbed. Carry a thermometer and do not fish if the water is 66 to 68 degrees F. This water is special regulation, artificial only with barbless hook. 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.