Fannies and big browns: the Truckee River from Lake Tahoe to Trout Creek

Mikey Wier hoists a hefty brown from the "New Zealand" reach of the Truckee River.

By Dave Lass


Sixty-three tributaries enter Lake Tahoe and only one flows out - the Truckee River. As the Truckee exits the largest alpine lake in the country, it takes on a much different character.

The first 1,000’ of the Truckee River as it exits Lake Tahoe are off limits to fishing, although many anglers have fantasized about – and a few have likely thrown a line to -- the monster trout that live below “Fanny Bridge.” These browns and rainbows reach 15 pounds and

provide endless entertainment for tourists leaning over the railing of the bridge – thus the locals’ moniker.

But after you have salivated over the hogs under Fanny Bridge, head downstream, because there are fish in the 22”-28” class to be caught in this unique section of the Truckee.

Here, the river resembles a spring creek in many sections, where gin clear water languidly meanders between riffle and pool. Closer to the Town of Truckee the river speeds up as the gradient increases.

Fishing this section of the Truckee is a lot like fishing streams in New Zealand, where you find one big fish occupying a large habitat patch, and you know you’ll only get a few shots at a successful hookup. It helps that carpenter ants and PMDs agree to emerge on the Truckee around the season opener, bringing massive noses to the surface for slow, deliberate takes. It can be magical when it all comes together.

The downside: this section of the Truckee can get busy, with people enjoying all kinds of recreation on and around the river. For a real shot at fish in this section, stick to early mornings and evenings and avoid weekends altogether.

From Lake Tahoe to Trout Creek, the Truckee River is open for angling from the last Saturday in April to November 15th. For many years this reach, unlike most of the Truckee in California (which is managed as wild trout, special regulations water), has been a put-and-take fishery. Local TU staff and Truckee River TU Chapter members are currently helping to craft a fisheries management plan for this reach that will conserve this opportunity using native Lahontan cutthroat trout (stocked well after the opener, to preserve

the “New Zealand experience” described earlier) to provide young anglers and families in particular some easy catch-and-keep fishing.

In addition, TU, along with the Truckee River Watershed Council, is actively working with state water and resource agencies to review flow modeling and produce instream flow recommendations to enhance the biological resources– basically fish and bugs -- of the Truckee River. This exercise has never been completed in this watershed, and TU is excited about the potential for some adjustments in river management to improve habitat and fishing opportunities in this already world class trout stream.


Dave Lass is California Field Director for Trout Unlimited.


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