California Fly Fishing 4 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Truckee River in California

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

May 31, 2020

Truckee River in California

Named after a Native American chief, the Truckee River is a remarkably diverse fishery. Your strategy and overall fishing experience will vary greatly depending on where you choose to tackle these waters.

In addition to stocking the River with brown and rainbow trout, the state has also started to stock the waters with Lahontan Cutthroat trout. You’ll also find wild browns and rainbows, as well as a rich aquatic insect population.

Use this guide to figure out which section you are most interested in taking on and prepare for an unforgettable angling adventure.

About Truckee River

Fly Fishing the Truckee River

The Truckee River is a 121 mile long River that flows through California and Nevada. It is the only outlet of Lake Tahoe and empties into Pyramid Lake. Originally named Salmon Trout River, the Truckee was ultimately renamed after a Paiute chief who guided an emigrant party via the River in 1844. Chief Truckee is a somewhat mystical figure in American lore, and there are many theories about his history.

The River’s source is Lake Tahoe, and it flows northeast through mountains to Truckee, California. From there, the River turns sharply east and flows through Nevada, turning north at Fernley. It then empties into the southern end of Pyramid Lake. The Truckee is fed by numerous tributaries, including Bear Creek, Steamboat Creek, Donner Creek, Martis Creek, and many, many more.

The Truckee is western Nevada’s largest river and is a popular destination for kayaking and white water rafting, with the most popular run being the River Ranch Run. The River is, in general, divided into three sections, each of which provides a distinct angling experience.

Truckee River Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of fishing access site on the Truckee River in California

Get Directions to the Fishing Access Points shown above with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Places to Fish the Truckee River

The section from Lake Tahoe to Trout Creek is heavily stocked by the state and is fed by many tributaries. This section is very popular with white water rafters, so if you are visiting in the summer, you will want to start early in the day to avoid them. You can access this section from Highway 89. This upper section boasts much clearer water than the rest of the River.

The section from Trout Creek to the Boca Reservoir is designated as a Wild Trout stream. This is the most popular section to fly fish, and you will find many rainbow and brown trout here. This is a barbless hook only area, and you are limited to two fish over 15 inches. The water is also cooler in this section, so this is the best section to visit in the summer.

The section from the reservoir to the Nevada state line holds larger trout, but it is much more difficult to fish. The deep water makes wading next to impossible, and access is much harder.

Stream Flow and Current Conditions

Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the Truckee River. The USGS stream gauge near Truckee, CA provides a good indication of current conditions.

The graph below shows the stream flow (discharge) for the past 7-days. If flows are considerably above or below historical norms (yellow triangles on the chart) then fishing conditions ma not be ideal.


  • Streamflow: 310 ft³/s
  • Gage height: 2.36 ft
Streamflow GraphGage height Graph

Best Time to Fish the Truckee River

The trout season for the Truckee River is from the last Saturday of April to November 15. Summertime is the best time to visit, but you can also have luck finding larger brown trout in the fall. 

The most important hatches on the Truckee River are mayflies, caddisflies, and stoneflies.

Starting in May, you’ll begin to see Brown Duns, March Browns, Mahogany Browns, Green Drakes, Dark Red Quills, and Pale Morning Duns. The Blue Winged Olives are also important mayfly hatch in October thru April.

In June and July, you are more likely to see Small Western Drakes, and a variety of caddis. Try using terrestrial imitations in the summer, such as grasshoppers, ants, and beetles.

Scuds, sculpins and crawfish are available for the trout to feed on year round.

Fly Box – What You’ll Need

Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for the Truckee River:

  • Blue Winged Olive (#12-18)
  • March Brown (#12-14)
  • Mahogany Dun (#14-18)
  • Pale Morning Dun (#14-18)
  • Red Quill (#16-18)
  • Slate Drake (#10-12)
  • Green Caddis (#12-18)
  • Green Drake (#10)
  • Grannom (#10-18)
  • Sulphur (#14-18)
  • Scud (#10-16)
  • October Caddis (#6-8)

Gear Recommendations

A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on the Truckee River. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

Truckee River Fishing Report

Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a Truckee River fly fishing report are listed below:

Fishing Regulations

The state of California requires that all people who are 16 years of age and older have a valid fishing license. There are resident and non-resident sport fishing licenses available. You can purchase a one-year, 10-day, two-day, or one-day license. Some areas also require a permit. You can purchase the license and learn about the most current regulations through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Trip Planning Tips

The nearest airport to the Truckee River in California is the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. You can travel to any major or municipal airport in Western Nevada and California and arrive at your destination after a few hours of scenic driving.

If you are looking for camping in the area, check out Donner Memorial State Park. Located in the breathtaking Sierra Nevada region, the park has 154 camping sites and its own Cultural Center, which showcases the area’s rich history. Another nearby option is Lakeside Campground, which boasts magnificent views of the surrounding mountains.

The Truckee River is an excellent fishery that is only to improve with time. Start planning your trip today.

Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to Fly Fishing California

Feature image by Bruce C. Cooper