Fall Fly Fishing in Truckee

Fall Fly Fishing in Truckee

October 28, 2023

By Austin Zimmerman

From the Fall 2023 Issue of Truckee.com: An Insider’s Guide

CORRECTION TO THE PRINTED ISSUE. OUR APOLOGIES: Miles Zimmerman and Scott Ferguson opened the doors to Truckee’s only dedicated fly shop, Trout Creek Outfitters, in June, 2020 – no small feat during a pandemic. Austin (Miles’s brother) joined TCO in 2022, as did local guides Michael Doubek and Nate Cutler. Finn Loper, another local guide, started with them in 2021. Long time local, business professional, and avid fly fisherman Scott Keith has been instrumental in advising TCO since 2020. Along with all of the gear that you need to fish in Truckee, they provide daily fishing reports in the shop, sell fishing licenses, and publish a comprehensive weekly fishing report every Friday. Sign up for the Friday fishing report/newsletter on their website: www.troutcreekoutfitters.com

Envision yourself hiking through a grove of aspens as the fall colors settle in. A subtle breeze flickers through the leaves, carrying with it a warm earthy smell rising from the soil beneath your feet. As you crest over a smooth slab of granite, you catch the first glimpse of clear blue waters. You’ve made it to the alpine lake you are soon to be fishing. In the lake, there are fish as bright and colorful as the leaves of autumn and as round as a pumpkin.

Fall of 2023 is going to be an exceptional season for fly fishing. The nearly record-breaking snowpack continues to bring cold water to the Sierra. Incredible wildflower blooms and clear skies cling to the twilight of summer. Soon, the leaves will turn from green to gold, orange, and red. The shoulder seasons are a favorite time among locals due to the light crowds and mild weather. It is the time for peace, solitude, and exploring the incredible Tahoe backcountry. Now is the perfect time for fly fishing!

Autumn offers some of the finest fly fishing of the year. Veteran anglers are gearing up for the season ahead at Pyramid Lake, home to the world record Cutthroat Trout. Fall is also the best time to pursue trophy browns on the Truckee River. If you like to hike, you will find that our high alpine lakes are loaded with brook trout, a voracious fish with vibrant vermiculation in mosaic colors: white-tipped fins with fiery orange bellies, halos of blue encircling punctions of bright red, and deep waves of black and forest green descending into golden hues reminiscent of the sunrise. The beauty of both the setting and the fish coalesces into a moment of fleeting perfection—this is fall fly-fishing on the Tahoe Rim.

More Opportunities Than Days in the Season

For the avid fly fisher, fall is possibly the most anticipated season of all. The water begins to cool in mountain lakes and the fish emerge from beneath the thermocline. They can be seen eagerly feeding along the shoreline. Everything from Mackinaw to large lake dwelling Rainbow Trout, Kokanee Salmon, Brown Trout, Lahonton Cutthroat, Brook Trout, Tiger Trout, Golden Trout, and even Smallmouth Bass are available to the Truckee fly fisherman within a brief window of time. The options are endless this time of year and the fishing is excellent!

Truckee River Trophy Browns

It is no secret that the Truckee River is home to browns of trophy proportions. While they can be found year-round, September is the prime time to track down these hard-fighting and savvy wild fish. The Truckee River boasts fantastic public access via the Legacy Trail and several exits along the I-80 corridor. From the Town of Truckee, one can easily access the river along Glenshire Drive by way of several pullouts just off the side of the road. The Hirschdale, Floriston, and Farad exits all provide additional access to prime trout fishing waters. Trophy browns are often caught using streamers, crawdad patterns, and nymphs such as a Pat’s Rubber Legs, Pheasant Tail, or other mayfly imitations.

Back Country Brook Trout

If you want to find a little solitude, take a hike into the backcountry. Lakes such as Upper Velma, Fontanillis, and Aloha all provide excellent angling opportunities for those willing to make the hike. The fish in these lakes are some of the most beautiful you will find anywhere in the Sierra. Brook trout are often eager to take anything from a foam grasshopper pattern off the surface, to a damsel fly nymph stripped along the bottom. If you’re learning how to fly fish, fishing a backcountry lake is a great way to increase your chances of catching a quality fish. Lakes are beginner friendly and a safe place to bring the quality outdoor time to the family.

The World’s Largest Cutthroat Trout

If catching a trout over twenty pounds sounds exciting, consider checking out Pyramid Lake. This is a world-renowned, destination fishery, and it’s right in your backyard. Most days you’ll have to go early for the best chance at landing a trophy. However, the uniquely lunar landscape is worth the trip all on its own. The opportunity to witness the pastel sunrises of pink, red and orange reflected off deep blue alkaline waters and other-worldly white tufa rock is enough to draw anglers back year after year. Add the potential for world-class fly fishing, easy access and camping to the mix and it is easy to see why this lake is so popular among locals. 

Most anglers fish Pyramid Lake from the shore with a “switch” rod for an easier roll-cast. The most common set up is an 11’6” six weight rod, with a twelve-foot tapered leader down to 1x tippet. Most fishermen prefer to suspend a midge or a balanced leech under an indicator. Leeches in a “Midnight Cowboy” color, or large red or black midges with silver or copper wire and a white bead, are popular choices for Pyramid Lake. Catching upwards of twenty fish a day ranging from five to twenty pounds is possible at Pyramid Lake.