Fly Fishing Report | Truckee River and Heenan Lake | early September 2023

Sep 7, 2023 | FISHING REPORT, Reno Fly Shop, Stillwater, Truckee River

September is here!

With the cooler weather, many fisheries in the region are taking shape and are primed for a fantastic fall season. While fall does not technically start until September 23, change is in the air and trout feel it! The Truckee River is in great shape and should continue to be productive for the foreseeable future. Additionally, September marks the annual opening of Heenan Lake. Heenan is known locally for stellar chironomid fishing with slip indicator techniques. With multiple months to fish Heenan, now is a great time to get dialed in on the slip indicator technique. Swing by the shop and we’d love to help. Have a great week!

Truckee River

The Truckee River has fished very well through the first week of September as a result of consistent flows and low water temperatures. At the time of this writing, the USGS Gauge in Reno shows just over 400 cfs. This is great news and we hope to see stable conditions continue  through the fall. Insect life on the Truckee River continues to consist of mayflies, caddis, and stoneflies.

While many of the mayflies active in the river are smaller sizes (#16-20), stoneflies are large and the same can be said for caddis. Our nocturnal stonefly hatch is in full swing upstream of Reno to the town of Truckee, CA. The nocturnal stone hatches at night- meaning you will likely not see adults during the day. Upstream of Reno, you may see stonefly shucks on rocks along the river bank. These stoneflies crawl to the bank and find a dry rock to hatch from. Areas with these shucks are great places to fish large stonefly nymphs. Typically, this will be in moderately fast water with quick access to a deep pool or pocket. Stoneflies fish best in these heavy flow areas and may not be as effective in slower water. Stoneflies like the Double Bead Stone and the Tunghead Stone are bulky and do a great job imitating these stoneflies.

Mayflies and caddis continue to be an important food source on the Truckee. Mayflies currency range between a size 14 and 20. As late summer takes hold, we typically see smaller and smaller mayflies. While you don’t have to be too specific on matching exact types of mayflies during this time of the year, you want to match general size and color. Many mayflies will be either a brown or black color on top with a lightly colored underbody. Spanish Bullets, Jig TNT’s, and Psycho Mays all do a great job representing these bugs. 

For those wanting to target Brown Trout, mouse fishing and streamer fishing have been productive when timed right. Brown Trout in the Truckee River are fish eaters. These trout may not feed throughout the day- only feeding in short windows convenient for them. Most often, streamer fishing is best with low light conditions. Rain storms, morning/evenings, and the dead of night can all be productive. Fishing a mouse like the Hair Mouse in the dark is a thrilling and exciting experience if you haven’t tried it! Some nights can be very productive while others are void of encounters. I prefer as little light as possible- meaning moon phases early in the cycle tend to fish best. A full moon is much brighter on the water than you might think; leading to spooky fish and difficult conditions. 

Streamer fishing has been great in the aforementioned conditions. This is the time of year to break out the obnoxious and outlandish streamer patterns. While smaller, non-articulated flies can see some success, large articulated baitfish can do some serious work on Truckee River trout. Shop favorites include the Bangtail, D&D, Barely Legal or Cheech Leech for this time of year. Given the current water clarity, color combinations of olive/white, olive,yellow, and all white have worked well. The two-tone presentation seems to work well during late summer.

Flies we Suggest: Double Bead Stone ,Tunghead Stone ,Mini Crayfish JigSpanish Bullet, Jig TNT’s, Psycho May, The Ticket, OCD CaddisHair Mouse, D&D, Barely Legal, Cheech Leech

Heenan Lake 

As Heenan Lake opened September 1st, many local anglers headed south to catch Lahontan Cutthroat Trout (LCT). There was mixed success in the first few days given the large storm that hovered over the region on opening weekend. The first portion of the season is best fished with slip indicator setups. By using a slip indicator, you can present chironomids at depths of 15-25’. LCT gorge on chironomids, callibaetis, daphnia, and small leeches in September. Determining depth can be done in a few different ways- most often with either a fish finder unit or aweight connected to the fly. The Micro Holographic Midge has been a great pattern at Heenan Lake, while the standard size Holo Midge has worked well in Albino WIno or 49er to represent the blood midges in Heenan. Cycle through colors and sizes on a consistent basis if your depth is set correctly. LCT tend to bite a certain presentation and then cycle to other colors/ sizes throughout the day. Callibaetis are forgotten about frequently but can fish incredibly well during an emergence. The Assassin is an easy choice when presenting a callibaetis nymph.

 In determining the depth below you, set the indicator to present the fly only a half foot to a foot off the bottom. These fish are notorious for selectively feeding only within the first foot of bottom. Setting up a slip indicator is actually quite simple when using a Jaydactor. We don’t sell a slip indicator leader, but would be happy to show you how it works. 

Sink line techniques also work at Heenan, but tend to be more productive in low light periods. A Type III Sink Line gets the fly into the zone and keeps it there. An intermediate doesn’t tend to work well at Heenan since the fish are most often on the bottom. 

As the season progresses, LCT will be seen just under the surface and frequently cruise right by you! When water temperatures drop and fish come up shallow, a dry-dropper rig can be extremely productive. Terrestrials such as ants work well, along with callibaetis mayfly dries when fishing the surface. Droppers can consist of a few different bugs; with chrionomid pupae and callibaetis working best.

Flies we Suggest: Micro Holo Midge, Holo Midge, AssassinHale Bopp Leech, Thin Mint Bugger, Balanced Leech

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