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Basic Dry Flies for Fly Fishing the Truckee River and Tahoe Streams

Updated on January 26, 2012
A brown trout caught in the Truckee River with a size 14 Elk Hair Caddis (black bodied) - [click to enlarge] -
A brown trout caught in the Truckee River with a size 14 Elk Hair Caddis (black bodied) - [click to enlarge] -

Fishing the Truckee

Trout can be very selective when it comes to hitting on dry flies. Any good fly fisherman will tell you that having a well-rounded selection of dry and wet flies in your bag is key to matching a hatch. But there are so many other factors to consider when going fly fishing in the Sierras. There are various conditions that an angler has to consider - water flows, temperature, season, what hatch is in what stage, etc. The more wild a trout, the more selective it will be in taking your flies, sometimes a size 20 midge is the only thing a wild rainbow will take. There is also the element of casting and your line presentation - casting your line just right so that your fly drifts by the fish in the right way, looking tempting and not scary. And of course, there is the question of where to fish and whether you should throw nymphs with droppers or dry flies.

Putting ALL of that aside, if you are thinking about fishing the Truckee River or any streams surrounding the Lake Tahoe area and you want to use dry flies, start with the basics. The streams are stocked with Browns and Rainbow trout, Lahontan cutthroats and brook trout (really a char). There are five basic flies that you should take with you ranging from size 12 to 18. If you are a beginner or someone new to the area, start with these five, selecting them based on what you can think best matches the bugs that you see on the water.  As you get to know the Tahoe and Truckee river systems better, you can start testing out more specific Truckee river flies and patterns.  But start with these five flies.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
a Brown trout - that went for both a hopper pattern and an Adams! [click to enlarge]Yellow bodied Caddis
a Brown trout - that went for both a hopper pattern and an Adams! [click to enlarge]
a Brown trout - that went for both a hopper pattern and an Adams! [click to enlarge]
Yellow bodied Caddis
Yellow bodied Caddis
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Adams Dry FlyCaddis fly patternBlue Winged Olive
Adams Dry Fly
Adams Dry Fly
Caddis fly pattern
Caddis fly pattern
Blue Winged Olive
Blue Winged Olive

The Five Must-Have Dry Flies for the Truckee

These five flies are some of the most universal flies in any tackle box and can be purchased at retailers like Orivs or Cabellas or at a local fly shop (local shops tend to have their own local twist on the flies).

1) Elk Hair Caddis - a classic American dry fly - it mimics a natural caddis and can be fished in so many different ways. Drift it like a regular dry fly, or if you dare, you can try skating a Caddis gently across the water surface to attract feeding trout. Be sure to have a couple of variants - in addition to a brown body, also have both a yellow and a black body caddis in your fly box.

2) Adams - this classic American fly pattern matches so many different mayfly patterns. It's a must have.

3) Blue Winged Olive - otherwise referred to as BWO, this fly imitates baetis mayflies. It has an olive brown body and dark-blue hackle. A favorite fly to drift across stream pools and back eddies.

4) Pale Morning Dun - otherwise referred to as PMD, this yellowish mayfly pattern can be a very hot fly - if you see aggressive surface feeding on a cluster of small mayflies, odds are that a PMD will match the hatch. Throughout the summer and into early fall, this fly can be effective on slow runs on drifts under low hanging branches and back eddies. Smaller sizes on light tippet are the best way to present these flies.

5) Mosquito Dry Fly - if you are getting swarmed by mosquitoes, there is a good chance that trout are looking to gobble them up. A size 14 is usually plenty big, size 18 is great if you are using light tippet.

Other Dry Flies To Consider - March Brown, Iron Sally, Carpenter Ant

Fly Fishing the Truckee River

Truckee River:

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    • Stoneriver profile image


      8 years ago

      Im getting that fish itch antisipation.

    • Ren Chin profile imageAUTHOR

      Ren Chin 

      8 years ago

      the 'best' time to fish it in terms of fun surface feeding tends to be late summer into the fall.

      But it's very fishable from early spring through december - just be sure to work those nymphs and streamers!

    • Paul Edmondson profile image

      Paul Edmondson 

      8 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      I can't wait to go fishing on the truckee river. What's the best time of year to go?

    • s.carver profile image


      8 years ago from San Francisco

      Great hub!

      Lots of useful information here. I have tried to learn to flyfish, but I had no ideas the flies had names... Next up I guess I'll have to learn to put my own fly on the line!


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