Chasing Skwala’s on the Yuba or “How I learned to hate the cobble”
February 28, 2020
A third trip to the Yuba east of Marysville in the last two months chasing those hatching Skwala flies, again. If it’s not Steelhead on the Feather, this is the big game in Northern Cal right now unless you want to make the long hike to Pyramid for Lahontans, or maybe a guide trip down the lower Sac. So off I went after being well armed from a discussion I had with Jon Baiocchi at the Pleasanton show on where the fish were in the system this week.
Jon had directed me far downstream from Hammond Grove Park where I geared up. That meant crossing the river and hiking a substantial distance down the obnoxious cobble from the gold mining tailings. This stuff is hard to walk; like walking on bowling balls and softballs but I expected a workout and got all I bargained for.
The hatch was awesome for a mid-winter hatch. They say that this is best year in the last 4-5 years for Skwala’s, and if you know where to look for them you will see hundred’s of them during the day sunning on the rocks, or even crawling on you. They don’t spend much time on the water, so the fish are looking for those that fall in due to wind near shore, and cautiously avoiding potential predators.
The river is gin clear, as they say, and the fish can see you coming from a long way off. So once on the stream, I was employing all the stealth my knees could manage to kneel down and out of sight while fishing a key run about 125 yards long multiple times. Which is to say that I really exercised all my casting abilities as well with the required downstream presentations with 14 foot leaders from said sore knees. But at least it was warm in the high 70’s, with water temperature from 50-52 degrees over the day.
The real attraction is top water dry fly action but I only saw four rises all day in the main current seam. Other guys on the river were remarking that “you should have been here Saturday” with the river alive all day long with rises everywhere. Of course; story of my life to have to do things the hard way and one day late. Nevertheless, I pitched four different Skwala dry fly patterns (Bullet, Double Dutch, Unit, and a Skwalameister)to no avail in all the current seams and soft water, and then sunk a tungsten Skwala nymph four feet beneath a Unit Skwala as an indicator. And the result was a nice 16” fat and feisty Yuba River rainbow. The Yuba is known for these fighters that have Steelhead genes with broad tails and this fish didn’t disappoint. Aside from Steelhead I rate these rainbows as the best fighting in California. They are fast with broad shoulders, head downstream quickly, tire slowly, and always take 3 or 4 runs before being landed.
As exciting as that fish was, it was my only during the day with only one more quick grab. So I fished dries, dry droppers, high stick/Euro style, and even an indicator with a good deal of weight for the fast current spots. The Yuba is not known as a high fish count experience, but the strength of these fish is awesome and will likely bring me back one more time before the end of the Skwala season this month.