Two states, one day

Truckee RiverOne of the advantages of being unattached is the opportunity to set my own schedule. A side-effect is that I don’t always plan really well, so Friday morning when I woke up and decided to go fishing, I ended up going north on Highway 99 unsure of where I’d end up. The Lower Sacramento seemed logical, maybe the Upper, but I merged onto I-80 east and realized I was taking myself to the Truckee River. Cool.

I’d never fished the Truckee on either the California or Nevada side, but for the past few years have been itching to get on it. It’s usually the topic of a lecture at fishing expos I frequent, and everyone says the same thing: big fish potential, lots of access. Around the town of Truckee the river pretty much parallels I-80 so I chose the first pull off I saw and parked next to a car owned by another angler.
So there I was, standing near a river I hadn’t planned on visiting, wearing shorts and it was 38 degrees. I warmed up once I had the waders on and considered patterns. What I did recall from my expo note-taking was that the rainbows and browns can be a little fussy and leader shy. The only leader I had was 4X (6-pound test), which is much thicker than 6X (3.5-pound test) and sometimes looks like a cable wire to snooty trout that get a lot of fake flies floated in front of them. But it’s what I had.
I tied on a No. 18 black birds nest and dropped a No. 20 RS2 about a foot behind it. The birds nest has always been a favorite pattern of mine, and the tiny RS2 has saved me on days when the trout are fussy. A little fly fishing tangent: An RS2 is a Mayfly emerger pattern which under the right conditions even careful trout can’t resist so I make sure I have a couple in yellow, olive and grey. It is very easy to tie, as long as you don’t mind working with a hook smaller than a pinky fingernail clipping.
Anyway, I felt like a genius (which doesn’t happen often) when I hooked up with a hefty trout within a half hour. I let the fish have the slack line and put it on the reel. Fly fishing tangent #2: After stripping in line while your nymph drifts or fly swings, you end up with loose line hanging from the reel. You use your right hand to hold the rod and keep tension on the line by clamping the fly line to the handle with your finger. When a fish takes, your finger becomes the drag. If the fish runs, you let line slide between your finger and the cork handle. Retrieving the fish becomes as simple as stripping the line in with the left hand and cinching down with the right finger when needed. So, putting the fish “on the reel” is allowing it to take the slack line (without losing tension) until there is none left and you can reel in the fish. Of course you don’t have to put a fish on the reel. Stripping in line is quicker and easier in many situations.

So the fish, which looked like a brown from what I saw, put itself on the reel, fussed around, then shot off down river. I hadn’t checked my drag and once the fish was on the reel, the overly taught drag didn’t give when the fish wanted to run and after a couple rolls just before I was about to bring it to hand, it came off.
So much for feeling like a genius. I fished for another hour at that pullout, drove to Nevada, bought a day license, caught a rainbow at a city park, drove around the high desert a little more then drove home as the sun went down.
I slept in Saturday because a two-state day trip really takes a lot out of you, but I can’t wait to do it again.

See column at:

Leave a Reply