Column: A road trip to Downieville |

Column: A road trip to Downieville

My annual trip to the town of Downieville and the surrounding area this year took on a new twist. Because of a change in my work schedule, I was not able to get the time off that I had hoped for and I had to make some last minute arrangements to go. In addition, my mother decided that she would like to tag along with my son and I for a mini-vacation.

Instead of the usual camping trip, I hastily booked a room on the day of departure because of another mix-up on a reservation at another location. With the challenge of booking a room behind us, we headed for Downieville and were there in just over an hour from Truckee.

The drive itself is beautiful. The contrast of the Sierraville valley and the mountains as you wind your way up Highway 49 to the top of Yuba Pass is impressive. Starting down from Yuba Pass, you follow the headwaters of the North Fork of the Yuba River downstream to the town of Sierra City and on to Downieville.

The region is known for its gold mining heritage. There are still operating mines in the region as well as many individual claims. Along the river, many people can be seen running dredges or panning for gold. The water downstream from these operations tends to be slightly off color. This is something that concerns fishermen. The silt created by dredging is thought to cover habitat for spawning fish in the river.

In my experience with this river, I have not seen as many fry as I did in the past. Both last year and this year, very few were seen in the areas that we frequented. Perhaps this could be due to dredging.

Fishing was also much tougher than it has been in the past. Even my son outfished me the first two days that we were there. The last morning, I had the right fly and managed to catch about four fish in about an hour of fishing. None of the fish were large, but all were beautiful. The fish seemed to be extra selective this trip.

I had to tie the flies that I used since I did not have any of the particular pattern in my fly boxes. Ironically, the way that I typically tie this pattern, I use a tan colored marabou of which I had none. Therefore, I improvised with some Zelon, tan dubbing, and a CDC feather for a wing. I had a real basic emerger pattern in minutes.

Downieville itself is a great place to spend a little vacation time. We stayed at Dewart’s Riverside Inn. It is a rustic motel right on the banks of the Downie River where it meets the North Fork of the Yuba River. Joanne Dewart is a wonderful lady who runs the motel with help from her two sons.

What a terrific location for a motel. My son loved the place because it was within walking or skateboarding distance to downtown, and the “swimming hole.” This is a place that I frequented when I was his age, and little has changed. It is still a terrific place to enjoy swimming in the river.

The inn is currently for sale. Asking price is $585,000 according to their website It is an eleven-unit motel that has been remodeled in stages since 1994.

My mother found it so relaxing she wants to go back next year for at least a week. She particularly enjoyed the deck overlooking the Downie River where she enjoyed the scenery while reading.

She also enjoyed the Downieville Bakery and Cafe. The baked treats are wonderful and they serve a pretty good breakfast in the morning as well.

The town itself is so small that it was also very easy for her to get around from our location. The only drawback was that during mid-week there are very few people around and businesses tend to close during this timeframe. Since we were not roughing it we found that we had to travel a bit to get a meal on one night of our stay.

The room that we stayed in had a full kitchen with a small gas range and oven, small refrigerator and a microwave oven. At night the sounds of the river serenaded us to sleep.

Two other restaurants to note during our stay were Riverview Pizza in Downieville and the Buckhorn Lodge in Sierra City. On different ends of the price spectrum, both are great restaurants.

While the fishing was not too great this time, I will keep going back to this terrific town. There is much better fishing in some of the smaller waters such as Pauley and Lavezzola Creeks, but we did not make it to those this time.


Boca – (34,089 ac. ft.) Boca has been fishing fair to good. Anglers fishing from shore near the inlet are still having success. The area near the dam is also fishing well. Most anglers use nightcrawlers or Powerbait. Some anglers throwing lures along the shoreline have been productive as well. Boaters are having fair-to- good results. Most were using a combination of flashers and a nightcrawler or minnow-imitating lure. Kokanee fishing remains good. Fly-fishermen near the inlet should have fair-to-good action using a variety of nymphs, streamers and emergers.

Donner – Fishing has been good. Most anglers fishing for rainbows on the west end and near the launch ramp have had fair- to-good action. Mackinaw fishing has been fair. Nightcrawlers and Powerbait seem to be the main bait. Trollers using minnow-imitating lures have had fair-to-good results.

Lake Tahoe – (Elevation 6,228.29) Fishing has been good for Mackinaw. A guide is highly recommended if you are fishing for Mackinaw for the first time. Toplining and shore fishing is fair.

Martis Lake – (Martis is restricted to artificial lures with barbless hooks. Zero fish may be bagged or possessed.) Fishing is fair. Callibaetis, damsels and midges are showing. Try using nymphs such as the Hares Ear, Pheasant Tail, damselfly imitations or the A.P. Streamers that imitate small fish, and woolly buggers are also good choices. For surface activity, patterns such as the Quigley Cripple, Martis Midge, Parachute Adams and Griffith’s Gnat are good choices.

Little Truckee River – (This area between Stampede Reservoir downstream to Boca Reservoir is now subject to artificial barbless lures with a two-fish bag limit of fish 14 inches maximum.) The river flow is at a rate of 117 cubic feet per second. The fishing has improved in this stretch, but has been very crowded. Fly-fishermen fishing this section are concentrating on a mix of nymphs, emergers, dries and streamers.

Prosser – (20,150 ac. ft.) Prosser fishing has been fishing fair to good. Fishing here is mostly with nightcrawlers or Powerbait. Trolling has been mostly with flashers and nightcrawlers. Fly-fishermen near the inlets are fishing primarily with midges, nymphs and streamers.

Stampede – (212,850 ac. ft.) Stampede is rated as fair to good. Shore anglers are catching some fish, mostly near the dam. Most use the typical baits, nightcrawlers or Powerbait. Trollers are having good results for kokanee salmon. Most used a flasher of some sort and a kokanee bug or wedding ring with a piece of white corn.

Truckee River – The release is now 314 cfs from the dam at Tahoe City. In the Truckee area the river is running at around 320 cfs. Fishing in the upper section between Tahoe City and Truckee has improved with increased flows. Seasoned anglers are doing well on the Truckee. Most fish being caught in the special regulation areas are being caught on nymphs, emergers, dries or streamers. Hoppers are showing. Caddis and yellow stones are still good choices.

Other Waters – Jackson Meadows reservoir is fair overall. Davis and Frenchman lakes fished fair this past week as well.

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