Lower Yuba River Hatch Chart –
Or A Hatch Chart for Most Rivers Where You May Roam
Updated November, 2015 – For most of us fly fishers that have attempted to figure out the Lower Yuba River, it’s seasons, it’s bugs, and how to catch the resident rainbows, winter and summer steelhead, I have put together the information that I have gained by many years of fishing the Lower Yuba to create this Lower Yuba River Hatch Chart.
This “Match the Hatch” information, also lists recommended “Flies” to match the bugs found on the river. This will help you solve the many mysteries of the Lower Yuba River. Most of the recommended flies include “Fly Pattern Recipes” so you can tie them yourself.
This hatch chart works for most Northern California river’s and streams. In fact it works for most of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming rivers and streams. Just match the bug, what stage you’re imitating and select the fly and you’re good to go.
So, do your homework, learn to identify the various bugs found on the river, learn to match them with the right flies, and lastly learn when these bugs are available as food for the resident trout and steelhead. You will become a more knowledgeable and successful fly fisher.
Good luck, Clay
Hatch Volume Key
Includes Pattern Recipe.
The Fly Pattern Index is a complete list of all the recommended flies listed on the Hatch Chart, categorized by Dry Flys, Duns, Emergers/Cripples, Nymphs, Terrestrials, and Other.
American Grannom is the common name for the Brachycentridae family of caddisfly. I often hear this bug referred to as the “Mothers Day Caddis” and the “Spring Caddis”. It is a hatch that is a welcome fishing opportunity on the Lower Sacramento River typically is late May and April.
The larvae, though cased, often become available to trout due to their common occurrence in stream drift and an unusual rappelling behavior. They drift in large numbers during the day. This activity makes them readily available to feeding trout.
- Hogan’s Spring Fling Pupa
- Hogan’s Yuba Emerger – Dark Olive
- Hogan’s Yuba Pupa – Dark Olive
- LaFontaine Caddis Sparkle Pupa
- Partridge and Peacock Soft Hackle
On the Lower Sacramento River the bug takes on a brown or cinnamon cast. On the Lower Yuba River the bugs tend to have a green cast.
The summer evenings will find active feeding fish willing to take caddis emergers and soft hackles.
It is my favorite hatch of the year.
- Brooks Hot Creek Caddis
- CDC Low Profile Caddis – Tan
- Cutter’s EC Caddis – Summer
- Fertile Caddis
- Henry’s Fork Caddis
- Mercer’s Missing Link Caddis
- X-Caddis – Green
- X-Caddis – Olive
- X-Caddis – Tan
- Antron Caddis Pupa
- Emergent Caddis Pupa
- Hogan’s Yuba Emerger
- Hogan’s Yuba Pupa
- Iris Caddis
- Nick’s Soft Hackle
- Translucent Caddis Emerger
The two larval species most imitated by anglers are Rhyacophila (green caddis or green rockworms) and Dicosmoecus (October caddis). However, the effort may be misplaced because these are not the caddis larvae most consumed by trout.
Rhyacophila are common in extremely fast riffles on medium-sized streams, and while trout sometimes feed heavily on the larvae, it’s usually during the low light conditions near dawn and dusk. Most anglers cast imitatations in water that is too slow or during the wrong times of the day.
The last few times that I’ve fished the Lower Yuba River I have run into a fairly strong hatch of Blue Wing Olives or BWO’s as we affectionately call them, most of the time I call them “those darned BWO’s”. I’ve seen them coming off, but can I catch one of the fish that are eating them. Forget-about-it. I’m usually rigged up with my 6 weight and nymphs, shot and all when I run into a hatch. So I’m not really set up right to start casting dries, emergers, cripples, or soft hackles like I should be. I usually just stand on the banks and give my buddies a hard time about not being able to hook something. A single person peanut gallery so to speak.
Anyway, this brings me to thinking about what I should be attempting to do when the BWO’s start coming off and start catching some fish instead of laughing at my buddies.
- Baetis Soft Hackle Emerger
- Barr Emerger
- BWO CDC Cripple
- CDC Baetis Emerger
- Drymerger – Baetis
- Harrop’s Last Chance Cripple – Baetis
- Hogan’s Sipper – BWO
- Quigley’s Film Critic
- Quigley’s Loopy Emerger
- Quigley’s Marabou Cripple – BWO
- RS2 – Olive
- Baetis Nymph
- Bubbleback Emerger – BWO
- Flatulator – Baetis
- Hogan’s Little Amigo – Olive
- Hogan’s Military May
- Hogan’s S&M Nymph – Olive
- Hogan’s Spring Creek – BWO
- Pheasant Tail Nymph – Baetis
- Sloan’s Mighty May
Even though the bugs often hatch in godawful weather and us fly fishers have spent many a March afternoon shivering, fishing a run as droplets of cold rain run down the sleeve of our casting arms, we would do it again tomorrow. We’d rather be there suffering and attempting to catch fish. As the month of March begins to wind down the hatches of Blue Wing Olives, “Baetis” and Skwala Stones, “Perlodidae,” have been going on steadily since February a new player shows up. As late March and April arrives the days will typically start warming and the water temperatures will also go up which triggers the March Brown mayfly to start hatching. They can hatch in just about any weather. This is the “Rithrogenia Morrisoni” hatch. This large mayfly is typically an afternoon hatch and once it starts happening you can almost set your watch from it.
When the PMDs are out and about on the Lower Yuba River there, a pattern that is often mentioned to imitate the duns are “Pinkies”. They work. But the pattern is really a pattern designed to imitate the “Epeorus” mayflies.
These yellow mayflies are important on many streams throughout the West. Here on the Lower Yuba they are around but not in great numbers. Even though it is not a well known insect, the hatches are not prolific and typically don’t occur on flat “technical” water. However, The Epeorus will be found in the swiftest portion of the river, and trout see enough of them to recognize them as food.
On the Lower Yuba River we have been seeing glimpses of what is coming as the season progresses and the temperatures start to warm up. On warmer days there have been PMD’s floating on down the river. It seems to me that in the last couple of years that they are coming earlier in the season then I remember from years ago. Here’s some stuff to get you prepared. Start cleaning those dry lines and organize your fly boxes.
There is a PMD hatch that starts in early spring sometimes as early as February if the weather warms up. This is one of the better hatches on the Lower Yuba. Pale morning duns have everything going for them, large numbers that trigger aggressive surface feeding, fussy enough to offer a challenge, but not so difficult as to be too frustrating.
- Bubbleback Bead Head Emerger – PMD
- Harrop’s CDC Biot Emerger
- Harrop’s Last Chance Cripple – PMD
- Hogans Sipper – PMD
- PMD CDC Emerger
- PMD Floating Nymph
- Pale Morning Dun Cripple – PMD
- Quigley’s Cripple – PMD
- Quigley’s Film Critic – PMD
- Quigley’s CDC Floating Nymph – PMD
- Quigley’s Half Dun – PMD
- Quigley’s Marabou Cripple – PMD
- Burk’s Crystal HBI Nymph
- Burk’s HBI Nymph
- Crackback PMD Nymph
- Hogan’s Little Amigo – Brown
- Hogan’s Military May – PMD
- Hogan’s Spring Creek Geek – PMD
- Hogan’s Red Headed Step Child
- Hogan’s S&M Nymph – PMD/Brown
- Morrish’s Anato-May – PMD
- PMD Nymph
- Pheasant Tail Nymph – PMD
- Price’s Nosepicker – PMD
- Skips Nymph – PMD
Each summer I would fish a run on the Lower Yuba River with caddis emergers and soft hackles in the evenings. We had many days with plenty of fish up in the water column and taking our presentations and running up and down the river. About 45 minutes until dusk we would say “Let’s head for the honey hole”. This was a big back eddy on the way back to the truck. It was a large reversing eddy and each evening right at dusk the PED’s would start coming off. You could tie on a soft hackle and cast it into the main flow headed downstream and it would work its way into the eddy water. Trout would just sit there waiting for the PEDs. You just had to let them take it and lift your rod slowly but deliberately and fish-on. This would go on even after dark and we would be landing fish by headlamp. This became a regular routine. If you haven’t tried this you should.
There seems to be some debate as to what genus that the larger Gray or Slate colored mayflies we come across on the Lower Yuba really are. The concensus is that they are Drakes. Are they the genus Siphlonurus or are they the genus Isonychia? I’m not an entomologist so the best I can do is research.
According to the information in the book “Flyfishers Guide to Northern California” put together by Seth Norman, the chapter authored by our local Ralph Wood, states that they are Gray Drakes or Siphlonurus occidentalis.
Tricorythodes or Tricos are members of the crawler group of mayflies. There are nine species of Tricorythodes found in the western states. Only one Tricorythodes minutus is of importance to fly fishers. Tricos are the smallest mayflies in North America, but their hatches and spinner falls are so heavy that the largest trout in the stream will move up to feed on the surface.
Their principal importance is in the spinner stage, when they can coat the surface and get trout to start feeding heavily. The duns, especially the females, can be important during early morning hatches. If you don’t get out early you may be missing the most fishable part of the hatch. The Tricos males and females are slightly different in size and quite different in color.
It’s late January and the word on the streets is that the Skwalas are out. It’s time to tie up some big bugs and get ready. The last time I fished the Yuba I picked up a couple of nice fish with a Mercer’s Skwala Nymph. It’s a good one.
The Skwala activity on the Lower Yuba River can start as early as late December and then transitions to “strong” activity beginning mid February and generally lasting until mid April. The Skwala is a very important hatch in that it is the first big meal of the season. Regardless of how many adults there are, the fish know they are there. Fish make their living on eating the predominant insects and food sources of the season.
The Lower Yuba River has what I would classify as a minor population of little yellow stoneflies. The Upper Yuba River and the Truckee River has a major population. For this reason getting to know the The Little Yellow Stonefly is a good idea. The “Isoperla” nymphs live in riffles and rocky runs with moderate to fast flows. They are sometimes knocked loose and drift in the current, so a nymph imitation can be sometimes be productive when dead-drifted through riffles and runs.
Nymphs are large and live in riffles and rocky, bouldery areas with moderate to fast current. They often lose their grip and are taken all year by trout. An appropriate pattern dead-drifted near the bottom is effective. Choose your imitation carefully, however. Many fly shops sell a golden stonefly nymph that is golden in color, but the actual nymph is mottled shades of tan, black, and brown. However, when golden stonefly nymph molt, the new instar can briefly be a much brighter color. It’s possible that trout key in on that brighter shade, which would explain why an imitation works when it seems to be unlike the color of the vast majority of the natural insects.
When summer rolls around it is time to try a Terrestrial fly pattern. A hopper, beetle, ant or bee. These bugs often get blown into the river and are a big meal for the trout and steelhead. We are indeed in the midst of a terrestrial revolution. Going back to fly fishing’s earliest days, the main attraction has been matching aquatic insect hatches—mayflies, caddis flies, and stoneflies. While never entirely ignored, terrestrials were often an afterthought—something to tie on if nothing else was happening. The reality is that even on great trout streams, fishable hatches aren’t occurring most of the time—especially during the summer. Terrestrials, on the other hand, blunder into streams throughout most of the prime angling season. While hoppers are usually associated with late summer and fall, ants and beetles are active whenever temperatures are warm enough to stoke their metabolism.
Roe or Eggs
For those of us that live near and fish the Lower Yuba River, we are fortunate to have a run of Chinook Salmon that run up our river to spawn. This typically happens in late August through November or December. This is the fall run. When the salmon start moving up the system the trout and steelhead are right behind them.
They are hungry for the salmon eggs that are being laid in the shallow runs where the salmon dig their redds. When this happens using egg imitations are the best choice for the fly fishers. Using plastic beads or “Troutbeads” are the best.
- Boles Bazooka
- Glow Roe (Troutbeads)
- Micro Spawn – Oregon Chesse (or Sucker Spawn)
- Natural Roe (Troutbeads)
- Peach Pearl (Troutbeads)
- Salmon (Troutbeads)
- Surreal Egg – Peachy King
- Surreal Egg – Pink Lady
- Surreal Egg – Salmon Egg
- Surreal Egg – Shrimp Pink
- Surreal Egg – Steelhead Orange