Nearly 170 years ago in the Sierra foothills, hordes of immigrants flooded to the famed gold fields and rich mineral deposits nestled near the Yuba River and its hills in hopes of striking it rich. The gold dust has settled and the scurry for its bounty has busted. Dusty and unwashed gold miners are nowadays traded for often dread locked and tie dyed marijuana cultivators and trimmigrants. But that misleading cliche is not exactly the truth currently, even by a long shot. Tourists, retirees and residents dominate and roam the quaint downtown streets. The gold rush has been replaced by the pot industry’s green rush. And even that entity is fading with changes in legalization and stricter regulation. The renewable resource that has taken a stronghold on the area and isn’t going away anytime soon is tourism and it’s a flourishing enterprise. This doesn’t come close to painting the entire picture, but this is a hasty slice of the post California Gold Rush-era town of Grass Valley and surrounding Nevada County.
The town is a modern hodgepodge affair and supports a wide assortment of locals and visitors alike, boasting a variety of businesses and events, acclaimed festivals, restaurants and boutiques. Some visitors come for the historic downtown accoutrements and fabled celebrations vigorously touted by the likes of Sunset Magazine. Some come to the area for an entire different reason.
Grass Valley is situated only 56 miles from Sacramento and approximately 88 miles from Reno which makes it the prime jumping off point for the Yuba River watershed and various other fly fishing locations full of hungry trout and bass.
Looking down, approximately 2,500 feet to the Central Valley floor from the vast pine forests and outdoor enthusiast haven, there is one other critical element besides the gold laden hills that brought people to this area and still continues to do so. Water! The area is surrounded by rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs. Some are easy to get to and many lay hidden off of the numerous dirt roads and old trails that riddle the mountainous terrain in the adjacent vicinity. If you’re looking for a basecamp to go get lost from, this just might be the right area to commence your fishing or outdoor adventure.
Late in July, my girlfriend Chelsea and I had a trip planned to take her mother fly fishing for the first time. Looking at 108 degree temperatures on the Lower Sac in Redding, we opted for a closer option and possibly a shorter day from her mothers residence. The weeks prior we had been bouncing all around the West doing overnight float trips with friends on rivers that weren’t typically doable this time of year thanks to a monstrous winter season which left the Sierra loaded with a colossal snowpack. We definitely didn’t have a recent finger on the pulse of a particular section of river in the area so we made a quick call to the local fly shop in Grass Valley, the only one in the county. The owner, Tom Page answered the Reel Anglers line, a friend I’ve known for a while from industry events and outings but somehow had never been into his shop to visit. He gladly gave us the low down on the current conditions over the phone that he and his guides had been recently experiencing. His willingness to share and assure our trip was successful was unparalleled and a throwback to what use to be standard for fly shops of the past. After giving us the skinny, he recommended some specific flies. I had most in my umpteen boxes with me. But the hopper patterns I knew I didn’t have. When I asked him if he had some of those patterns in his shop he simply replied, “Nope, I am all out.”
When I asked him if he had some of those patterns in his shop he simply replied, “Nope, I am all out.”
We arrived the next morning with all the hopper and dry fly imitations we could muster, from fly patches on the boat and random ones we had put away into the wrong fly box. Many had been clearly abused and probably put away wet at the end of a day some time back. Neither of us could remember for sure but the tooth markings on the foam from some of the flies indicated a past story of trout hammering dries on a summer day, somewhere West of the Mississippi and East of the Pacific. Most were faded, mangled, missing legs and had old pieces of tippet still attached. Upon entering the shop we were immediately greeted and Tom had something in his hand. He rolled them out onto the fly shop counter and said, “These should work.” They were flies he just custom tied the night before for our trip!
Neither of us could remember for sure but the tooth markings on the foam from some of the flies indicated a past story of trout hammering dries on a summer day, somewhere West of the Mississippi and East of the Pacific.
I’ll be honest, it doesn’t always work out this way. Growing up in a fly shop since I was a kid and working in the industry for over 30 years, this is above and beyond. Most of the time, on such short notice, fly shops or owners, can’t just whip up some technical flies. But this is a testimony to the Reel Anglers Fly shop and owner Tom. A good fly shop will do anything they can to get you what you need or improvise. If you are able to give plenty of lead-way before your trip, whether it be a fly that is out of stock or a specific product they don’t carry on hand. These guys can probably take care of it for you. Just let them know ahead of time and they will try and accommodate your needs.
760 South Auburn Street
Grass Valley, CA
Local fly shops are a critical resource for the fly angler and if we want them around in the future, we have to support them in any possible way we can. Wherever your travels take you, always make it a point to stop in the local fly shop and show your support, even if that means buying a few flies to add to your fly box or replacing a spool of tippet. The first hand information you find here is irreplaceable and cannot be replicated, period.
Wherever your travels take you, always make it a point to stop in the local fly shop and show your support, even if that means buying a few flies to add to your fly box or replacing a spool of tippet.
So we loaded the boat with tasty bites, cold beverages and some custom tied flies and took off for a float on the Yuba River starting out near the famed Highway 20 bridge. We had a little bit of a breeze with some summer heat, which proved to be a perfect combination for hopper fishing up on the flats and in close to the graveled banks. Unfortunately, Chelsea’s mother wasn’t feeling well so it was just us on the float. We had the river to ourselves, minus a few kayaks and a couple of families visiting a local swimming hole.
Although this section of the Yuba is easily accessed from rutted roads paralleling the river on the south side, hiring a guide to learn this section can help tremendously and be invaluable to the first time visitor or the returning angler. The Yuba can be a tricky river for the wading fly angler as seasons and river conditions change. Like most places, a local expert like the Reel Anglers Fly Shop or hiring a guide can save many frustrating outings and give you information that may take numerous visits to acquire.
Although this section of the Yuba is easily accessed from rutted roads paralleling the river on the south side, hiring a guide to learn this section can help tremendously and be invaluable to the first time visitor or the returning angler.
When I decided to learn how to fly fish a few years ago, Tom’s shop (Reel Anglers) was right down the street. I took a casting class and a few float trips later was all she wrote. The addiction began…Chelsea Baum, fly fishing enthusiast
Unfortunately, it’s been a bit of a reprieve from our blog as much of our engagement has flocked towards other forms of social media. But there is something more inviting and intimate with this format here in our opinion. We are not waiting for likes or comparing how our post does in relation to others. It’s also not just a trophy shot with a few words typed in to add to the hype filled with hashtags etc.. Although places like Instagram, Facebook and others all have their place. We feel we can present information via Fish Kennedy Brother’s blog in a more useful way that is more authentic and informative. One thing is for sure, although it is significantly more laborious, there is some personal enjoyment in showcasing photography from the rivers edge, sharing local information and tips and telling stories. What happened to story telling? When we are guiding full time, seven days a week and don’t have the time, others social media sites definitely make it easy and quick to share but not devote as much time as a blog post requires. We can’t promise or guarantee but we are going to try and dedicate some more time and energy here. We are always open to suggestions and want to know what stuff interests you. Love it, hate it? Want to see more of this and less of that? Please let us know, we always enjoy hearing from our loyal clients, occasional cruisers and the random reader. Whether it be your first time visiting or hundredth. Wishing everyone an awesome summer!
Warm Summer Floats Trips and Rising Rainbows,
The Kennedy Brothers
For those who still want the snapshot or from our adventures or highlight reel, if you will. You can still find us on Instagram: @FishKennedyBrothers