Little Truckee River
A tailwater fishery that thrives despite the best we can do to screw it up
The Little Truckee River originates from the snowmelt of Mt. Lola. It meanders through Perazzo Meadows, underneath highway 89, and ultimately pours into the Stampede Reservoir impoundment. The upper reaches of the "Little T" flow into and out of private property and US Forest Service Lands. The boundaries are well marked and users are encouraged to respect private property rights.
The meadow reaches of the Upper Little Truckee fish well in early summer as soon as run off subsides. Rainbow trout from Stampede move into the gravel bars to spawn and many remain in the system as the water level drops. Catch and kill angler impact is severe and and usually by then end of July the fishery is largely gone. The relatively few trout that remain are wary and spend daylight hours tucked deep inside cover. Riparian habitat has been largely destroyed by over grazing and river side banks have collapsed due to pounding by cattle and loss of vegetation. This stretch of river has tremendous potential to harbor a healthy ecosystem, but it will take a concerted effort to restore the watershed.
Much of the Little Truckee is diverted to Sierra Valley farmers at Hennese Pass and between the diversion and Stampede Reservoir the river is unable to support much trout life during the hot summer months. In the fall, releases from Independence Lake allow large numbers of kokanee salmon to run into the Little Truckee to spawn. Lack of juvenile nursery area precludes successful recruitment of the kokanee but the large numbers of easily harvested fish attract bears, mountain lions, bald eagles, golden eagles and a host of other opportunistic carnivores. The salmon that aren't eaten by predators die and their carcasses return vital nutrient to the ecosystem.
The water stored in Stampede Reservoir is primarily controlled by the Pyramid Lake Indian tribe and to a lesser degree by agricultural, municipal and industrial users in the Truckee Meadows of Nevada. Water releases are dictated by decrees and contracts that date back over 100 years. The Little Truckee below Stampede is frequently in flood one week and almost dried up the next. Directly related to these unmitigated flows, loss of aquatic invertebrates is annually measured in the many millions of lives. Despite the flow related carnage, the insect life in the Little Truckee is still amazing. Strong hatches of mayflies, caddisflies, stoneflies, craneflies and midges occur throughout the season.
In the spring when snowmelt is being released from Stampede, the Little Truckee roars over the small dam at the historic Boyington Mills site. Most of the season this dam is an unbreachable barrier to upstream fish migration out of Boca Reservoir. During spring flood flows, rainbow and brown trout breach the barrier and infiltrate the Little Truckee up to the base of Stampede Reservoir. As the flows subside, these trout are trapped in the river system. Through 1999 catch and kill anglers would harvest the fish out of the Little Truckee and destroy the fishery resource by mid summer. Due to tremendous pressure from catch and release anglers, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to manage the Little Truckee as a self sustaining wild trout fishery.
Current regulations state that the Little Truckee River between Stampede and Boca Reservoirs be open to angling from the last Saturday in April through November 15. Only two fish may be harvested and to protect spawning adults, they can only be a MAXIMUM of 14" long. To lessen the hooking mortality associated with bait, only artificial lures and flies with barbless hooks may be used. Historically catch and release regulations would stipulate SINGLE barbless hooks; however, research has shown little if any mortality difference between barbless treble hooks and single barbless hooks, and that regulation has been changed.
Flows largely dictate success on the Little Truckee so be certain to check Stampede discharge before making the trip. Best flows are around 100cfs. Over the past twenty five years we have charted the insect hatches off the Little Truckee and surrounding waters. To get a general idea of when to anticipate certain hatches and what flies to use, go to our Sierra hatch chart. For updated conditions check out our fishing reports.