Fly Fishing the Sierra

North Fork Yuba River (Downieville)

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North Fork Yuba River

Suggested Flies for North Fork Yuba River:
Sierra Tahoe Hatch Selection

Streamer Flies:
Woolly Bugger #4-10
Marabou Muddler #4-10

BH Hares Ear #12-16
Birds Nest #12-16
A.P. Nymph #10-16
Pheasant Tail Nymph #14-16
Little Yellow Stone Nymph
Golden Stone Nymph #8-12
Copper John #12-16

Royal Wulff #14-16
Buzz Hackle #10-16
Yellow Humpy #10-12
Olive Elk Hair Caddis #12-16
Little Yellow Stone #12-16
Gold Stimulator #6-10
Royal Trude (#6-12)


North Fork Feather River Directions

From Nevada City, on Highway 49, go north 32 miles to the Yuba River crossing; Highway 49 follows the river upstream through Downieville with hike-in access along the road.

Notes:North Fork Yuba
The NF Yuba has a "Wild Trout" regulated water between Sierra City and Ladies Canyon. This 4 mile section comprises of deep pools and heavy pocket water. Regulations are single barbless hooks, artificial lures and a take of only 2 trout, 10 inches or greater. Most of this section contains Rainbows in the 10-16" size. Some large Browns up to 4 lbs can also be found here. These browns are probably migrating upstream from Bullard's Bar Reservoir. A number of hatches occur within this section: Golden Stoneflies (May-June), Little Yellow Stones (June-July), and Baetis during the late Summer and Fall within the slower sections. A strong October Caddis hatch occurs in October where many use Orange Stimulators size 6-10. Outside of the hatches, try Elk Hair Caddis, Buzz Hackle, Humpys, Renegades, Pheasant Tail and Hares Ear Nymphs in sizes 12-16 as a attractor dry-nymph dropper combination.

From Ladies Canyon to Downieville, the river is more easily accessed and there is additional fishing pressure. Downstream from Downieville, the river is full-size for the next 14 miles to the Highway 49 bridge. There are turnouts to get access.The elevation is less steep so that the river is more of a pool/riffle type. Try to fish the south side of the river looking for the deeper pools. Muddler Minnows and Woolly Buggers are a good choice. There is a good hiking trail (Yuba River Trail) out of Goodyears Bar going about 6 miles along the river to Rocky Rest campground.

Below Goodyear's Bar, the river continues to be pools and riffles until past the Hwy 49 bridge. A river trail extends from Goodyear Bar to Indian Valley Campground on the south side of the river. During mid-summer, the water warms up quite a bit and the trout will be holding within the deep pools. During this period, it's best to fish this stretch during the evening or early morning. From late October through November, a run of spawning Browns come up from Bullard Bar Reservoir. Some of these browns will holdover until Spring.
Downstream from this, the river goes into a narrow canyon to Bullards Bar Reservoir and then passes through the Colgate Tunnel into Englebright Lake.

Recent regulation changes now allow Winter fishing between Sierra City and Bullard Bar Reservoir. It is catch and release only with single barbless hooks, artificial lures only, from Nov 15th to the last Saturday of April. The fishing is slow during this period, however, as the trout will remain within the deepest pools while their metabolism is quite slow due to the cold water. Flows will also be up during the rainy season making fishing difficult. The fishable flows are usually less than 800 cfs and this might not occur until after Spring runoff in mid-May but the optimum fishing flows will be later in the season at 150 to 300 cfs. Check the link above for Current conditions.

Attractor Dries and nymphs can be used throughout the NF Yuba all season. Traditional Wet-fly fishing will work during the early season and also on the summer evenings of May through September when the caddis hatch. An important hatch of Serratella tibialis occurs on early summer evenings of Mid-June to August. These are a cream-orange mayfly about size 16. A light Cahill or a creamy-orange Sparkle Dun will work well.
Rust-colored mayfly spinners will fall in the summer evenings in size 14-18, in addition to some pale colored duns. The Golden Stoneflies are common in May to Mid-July and a size 6-10 Stimulator will work well. The October Caddis will occur in late season during October and November, generally in the upper regions of the Wild Trout area. The BWO hatch is usually sparse in the upper river but will occur below the Highway 49 bridge around 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm, a size 18 Sparkle Dun works well for this hatch.

Lavezzola Creek is a Spring Creek of pools, runs, and pocket water. It contains 8-12 inch wild Rainbows. It is designated a "Wild Trout" stream with a five fish limit.To reach the creek, take Lavezzola Road out of Downieville and proceed 3 miles where the road crosses the creek. Downie River and Pauley Creek form the triumvate of the streams as they converge together prior to emptying into the Yuba. Dave Patterson provided this underwater video. Lots of happy trout!

Downie River is a Spring Creek with pools, runs, and pocket water. Named for William Downie who mined this area in 1849. By April 1850, there were over 5,000 people mining within the Downie vicinity. The upper section is composed of slate with tiny pools. The lower section is more rocky but is heavily altered by mining activity. No suction dredging has been allowed in California since 2009 but other types of placer mining continues. Downie contains rainbows and browns in the 6-11 inch class.

Pauley Creek is a Spring Creek with pools, runs, and pocket water. It is about 24 feet wide with an average depth of 1.8 feet. Most of the creek is shaded by high bedrock walls and riparian vegetation. The stream bed is cobble and boulders with some gravel. The flow doubles with the junction of Butcher Ranch Creek. Pauley contains a self-sustaining population of Coastal Rainbows 7-12 inches. Surveys showed that the creek had about 1300 rainbows per mile with about half of the fish less than 7 inches. Due to this population, the creek was classified as "Wild Trout" in Dec. 2014 by the California Fish and Game commission. It can be reached by trail from Lavezzola Road on the Third Divide Trail. Also try fishing up Butcher Ranch Creek as it has brookies 7-9 inches within plunge pools.

Goodyears Creek is a small creek that empties in to the NF Yuba at Goodyears Bar. This area has a rich history in gold mining starting in 1849 when Miles and Andrew Goodyear settled the area. Gold mining has been active in the area until 1980. Much of this area was logged in the 1850's for construction of the towns and mines. Logging was intensified in the 1950's and 60's with the removal of most of the large old growth trees. Today, the area is developing it's recreational opportunities. The creek has small rainbows.

Little Grass Valley Reservoir: (1600 acres at 5,050' elevation) This lake was created in 1961 when a 210' rock filled dam was built on the South Fork Feather River. The lake has an average depth of 64 feet. Mainly stocked with Rainbows, in the 12" class, and some Browns. Stocking can exceed 35,000 fish annually. Popular with those that troll for Kokanee and the trout that go deep to about 35' during the summer. Spring and Fall are the best times for fly fishing while the trout are feeding within the shallows during the early morning and evening hours. The trout can get large here with 4-5 lb. Rainbows and Browns up to 10-15 Lbs reported, but often you will catch 12" size fish. The Kokanee can also get to 15-17 inches but you usually catch them in the 12" range. There are 8 campgrounds with over 300 campsites around the reservoir.

Fiddle Creek is a small tributary to the NF Yuba. It is about 9 miles long with an elevation drop of 3,000 feet. Small Rainbows are in it's lower sections.

Slate Creek and Canyon Creek are major tributaries of the NF Yuba. The steep canyon walls make these creeks difficult to access. There has also been considerable gold mining within the Slate Creek watershed over the last 100 years. This has left considerable amounts of sediment on the lower reaches of Slate creek and has reduced trout habitat. Mercury residue is also a concern. The upper reaches of Slate Creek have small rainbows and browns. Canyon Creek is relatively pristine with high water quality and no dams. Contains a healthy population of Rainbows.


Fishing Regulations (Effective March 1st, 2021)

North Fork Yuba River:

From Ladies Canyon Creek downstream to New Bullards Bar Reservoir. : From the last Saturday in April through November 15, five trout daily bag limit, 10 trout in possession; and, from November 16 through the Friday preceding the last Saturday in April, 0 trout bag limit, artificial lures with barbless hooks only and trout must be released unharmed and not removed from the water.

All other Tributaries:

Last Saturday in Apr. through Nov. 15. No restrictions. 5 trout limit. Ten trout in Possession

Little Grass Valley Reservoir:

Open all Year. No restrictions. 5 trout per day. 10 trout in possession.


© 2021 Steve Schalla
This page is not to be copied without my explicit permission.
Little Beaver Campgound, Little Grass Valley Reservoir Slate Creek North Fork Yuba Nf Yuba Fiddle Creek Goodyears Bar First Divide Trail Upper MF Feather Upper NF Yuba South Fork Feather Upper MF Feather South Fork Yuba Downie river confluence NF Yuba Pauley Creek 2nd Divide Lavezzola Creek