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30 Great Places: Lake Tahoe region

Region: West
Activities: Fishing
Species: Lahontan cutthroat, rainbow and brown trout

Where: The crystalline jewel of the northern Sierra Nevadas, Lake Tahoe, is fed by 63 creeks, yet only one river flows out—the Truckee. Leaving the northwest corner of the lake at Tahoe City’s Fanny Bridge (so named for the posteriors of tourists gaping at the huge trout that gather here to be fed), the Truckee flows 120 miles in a northeasterly direction past the town of Truckee, crossing into Nevada and Reno before emptying into Pyramid Lake. Most of the Truckee’s watershed is public land, managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

Why: The quality of the fish and the diversity of habitat.

“The Truckee River watershed offers one of the most diverse fishing experiences in the West,” David Lass, Trout Unlimited’s California Field Director and a former fishing guide enthused. “One can find pure Lahontan cutthroat trout in the Truckee’s pristine protected headwaters perched far above Lake Tahoe, and a world-class wild trout fishery for trophy browns and rainbows extending for 110 miles from Tahoe to Pyramid Lake, where you can cast to native Lahontan cutthroat that now reach close to 30 lbs. In the upper sections, you can feel lost in the mountain wilderness; downstream, you’re in Nevada’s Great Basin. Frankly, I can’t understand why Truckee, CA isn’t more widely considered as a western trout town like Ennis, Montana.”

That being said, it’s not always easy…and that’s part of the attraction.

“When it’s on, it’s as good as it gets,” Lass continued. “You can have an outing with multiple fish over five pounds, and ten pound fish are always a possibility. But when it’s off, even the most talented anglers can get skunked.”

Local Knowledge: The Truckee can get warm in the summer, but there are cooler pockets fed by myriad springs…and that’s where the fish are.

“In the summer, locate the springs and don’t hesitate to fish faster, shallower water than you’d generally be comfortable with,” Lass added. “And lose the indicator and 9’ 5-weight; high-stick short, quick drifts with an 11’ 3-weight, with a large stonefly, crayfish or sculpin as your point fly…and a caddis pupae dropper.”

TU Initiatives: TU is working to protect key headwater areas and restore montane meadow systems that support the recovery of native Lahontan cutthroat trout. In addition, to enhance popular wild trout waters, TU is committed to a multi-year campaign along the Little Truckee River, planning and implementing multiple projects that restore fish habitat and improve public access on the mainstem Truckee River, and setting new instream flow objectives for dam operations to support more vibrant fisheries and better fishing.

Make a Difference: We depend upon the generous financial support of our 300,000 members and supporters to protect places like the Truckee River watershed. Please give today to keep America’s rivers and streams cold, clean and fishable.