Gold discovery is widely accepted as one of the most transformative events in our state’s history, abruptly changing a landscape parsed by Spanish land grants and rich in natural resources. Few places have been more transformed by the headlong search for wealth than the Yuba River. The hill-sized rock and gravel piles left by dredges and hydraulic mining are ever present even today. While there is still gold to be found, the best treasure in the river today are the wild trout in its clear, cold waters.
Fishers, both man and beast, know the Yuba River and its forks as one of the best trout streams in the state, boasting rainbow trout, steelhead and even salmon. This is where Ann and I came to float the river for the first time and soak in pre–spring sun.
Easily accessible by foot or drift boat, the river is smaller than the Sacramento and its banks less developed than the urbanized American. Riffles and deep pools are intermixed on a river flowing over the cobbled rocks unearthed centuries ago. Not the only ones looking for fish on the river, we saw rafts of fish-eating mergansers and several ospreys.
The best rivers hold their secrets close, parting with them only after you take the time to know them well. This is certainly the case with the lower Yuba. Stoneflies and mayflies were starting to hatch in the warming weather and a few trout were rising. The best action of the day, as reported by fellow fly fishers, was with nymphs imitating caddis flies. We saw the insects but struggled to get the fish to take a fly.
This first trip down the lower Yuba reinforced my gratitude for the place we live, rife with rivers and creeks and abundant in wildlife. Just an hour from Sacramento, here is a destination sought many for a meaningful outdoor experience. A place where you can drift peacefully down a cottonwood lined river and cast to bright rainbow trout and pull out for a shore lunch and not see a soul. The Yuba River is one of the treasures that makes the Sacramento Valley such a unique area of our state.