Three Tips to Put Truckee River Brown Trout in the Net

Three Tips to Put Truckee River Brown Trout in the Net

-Matt Needs (@mg_needs), staff at the Reno Fly Shop

In no specific order here’s a quick list of tactics that will improve the odds of getting your hands on a nice brown trout this fall/winter. While it can be hard to ignore the gravitational pull that Pyramid and its monster cutthroat provide, the river in our backyard is fishing well, the big browns are lurking, and yes they do keep eating flies through the late fall and winter.

Fish the big bug

When I say fish the big bug I mean tie on a streamer. And more importantly when I say fish the streamer I mean hunt that fly. The streamer game usually isn’t about numbers. It’s more a quality over quantity type of thing. Have confidence in your technique and in your flies — that’s always key. Know that you probably won’t hook a ton of fish, but that you are truly hunting that one big eat.

Mike Curtis visiting Brown Town

As our beloved Truckee River browns move from spawning season into the post-spawn of early winter we are swiftly approaching a golden window of opportunity. A time when the browns are still aggressive and amped up from the fall mating season, but have moved back into the runs and structure actively looking for a large meal to replenish themselves with before the cold really kicks in.

Jigging, stripping, dead drifting, and swinging all have their place on the Truckee River. My favorite? Has to be swinging and stripping up through the slots in the river. A lot of times streamer fishing is about finding the right fish that’s willing to eat. Swinging is a great way to accomplish this and cover a bunch of water effectively. Nothing like a big grab on the streamer mid-swing.  Plus it doesn’t require too much work from the hands when it’s cold out.

In the net

Have the right gear

Just like anything else, the right gear built for a specific purpose can make all difference. No doubt, the trusty 9’ 5 weight and standard weight forward floating line will get the job done. However, if you’re going to seriously pursue the largest fish in the river system you may reconsider that decision.

Treat yourself and fish a rod that’s going to make it easier on you casting those bigger streamers. Look more towards a 6 or even 7 weight rod. The easier it is to cast, the more time your fly will spend in the water instead of in the air or stuck in a bush.  The more efficient angler you are, the better chances you have to tangle with a big fish. Plain and simple.

The Sage Accel in 6/7 weights has become a favorite for this style of fishing and matched with a Rio Outbound short this setup is extremely versatile and easy to cast. In all honestly, it’s one of the better streamer rods I’ve had the chance to play with recently and if nothing else it’s worth taking a look at. If one things for sure it’s that the fish won’t eat your fly unless you put it down in front of them.

Put in the time

It seems pretty obvious, but you’ve got to be on the water to catch fish; put in the time and you are likely to be rewarded for it. Anyone can get lucky occasionally, but to put a couple of those pumpkin orange Truckee brutes in the net a year you’ve got to be dedicated!

To satisfy your optimistic angling dreams of catching large trout make sure you’re on the river when those fish are most expected to eat. For our browns and regardless of time of year that’s typically early in the morning and late in the afternoon during lowlight conditions. In other words, the early and late bird get the worm or brown trout in this case. These conditions make our fish a little more willing to play along and can also be replicated during storm days or shots of runoff coming down the river.

RFS Head Mike Curtis with a Truckee River Brown

Nonetheless, be methodical in your approach and learn as much as possible every time you’re on the river. Like with anything worth doing it rarely comes easy. Fishing more can only expand your overall understanding of Brown Trout and doing so can only get you that much closer to landing that big fish!

Closing note

So let’s see what we’ve got and put it to use.  Learn as much as you can, fish flies that entice bigger browns, have and correctly use the right equipment, and be on the water at the right time—Do all these things and you’ll be well on your way to improving your success on the often demanding Truckee River.  Stay out there, get after it, and don’t stop until you get that big old fish in the net.

Swing on by to talk some fishing and check out the new gear we have rolling into the shop for the holidays. Reno Fly Shop is open Monday-Saturday at 10 a.m. to answer all your streamer rod, line, and fly questions.


Matt Needs is a new staff member at the Reno Fly Shop.  He is also a student at the Univ. of Nevada studying Geological Engineering. When not in class or the shop Matt is fly fishing all of our local waters and the Steelhead Rivers of western Oregon.  In summer Matt is a fly fishing guide in Montana and will be found most days on the oars of his drift boat with clients throwing dry flies.


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