Photos: The Varied Fly-Fishing Opportunities of the Bay Area

Written by: Nathan Cook, Fishing Manager of Orvis San Jose


The options within a two-hour drive from San Jose will surprise you.
Photo by Mark Schaller

Over the course of this spring and summer, I’ve had the great pleasure to meet hundreds of fly anglers from San Jose and the Bay Area, ranging in skills from seasoned veterans to “never picked up a fly rod in my life.” The San Francisco Bay Area is hardly a fly-fishing mecca of America, and it always comes as a surprise to most in the sport to hear that so many fly anglers reside here and so many are interested in taking up the sport.


Early season calories for hungry fish.
Photo by Nathan Cook

Shortly after the bustle of the holidays, store manager Steve Slater and I broke out the store calendar and began planning our most comprehensive fly-fishing educational series our store has ever seen. At the heart of our goals for the year is Orvis’ mantra: fly-fishing is “simple, fun, and accessible”. Steve and I share the same belief, and we also believe that so few California anglers know the myriad of great locations within the state to choose from, especially locally.


Bright chrome rainbow trout fight like steelhead.
Photo by Steve Slater

With a light snowpack this year, high water wasn’t much of a problem, and local anglers couldn’t wait to get the season going. We kicked off the fishing year in March on the Yuba River, just north of Sacramento, targeting rainbows that fight like steelhead. Teaching students the secrets and techniques of this great year-round fishery, and how amazing a Skwala stonefly hatch is.


Teaching the basic pick up and lay down cast.
Photo by Steve Slater

At the end of March, Orvis kicks-off the phenomenal Fly Fishing 101 & 201 classes. The classes teach the basics of casting, knots, and equipment in a free, easy-to-digest two-hour class. The 201 classes took our students to a local lake, 30 minutes away, to put their new skills to work on the water, fishing for bass and bluegills.


Guide Brian Slusser teaches techniques for success on the “tricky Truckee”.
Photo by Brian LaRue

Once June was upon us, we began to show students where they can go for a fun weekend trip, new pieces of water near their favorite river, and even where they can go after work. Orvis-endorsed guide Brian Slusser of Four Seasons Fly Fishing led a two-day sampler of the area around Truckee, which took students to various locations on the popular Truckee River, and to stretches of the upper Little Truckee and North Yuba.


Orvis endorsed guide Jimmie Morales teaches small stream techniques in Yosemite.
Photo by Nathan Cook

The focus then turns to small stream skills for two-day sampler-style clinics in Yosemite and two-day clinics in Kings Canyon, Yosemite’s neighbor to the south, with Orvis endorsed Jimmie Morales and guides from Sierra Fly Fisher. It is dry-fly, pool-hopping heaven, targeting rainbows, browns, and brook trout from over 9,000 feet to 3,000 feet.


Marty Mathis learns the techniques for surfcasting.
Photo by Nathan Cook

Classes focusing on local areas and techniques are also popular: bass, carp, surfperch, and stripers to name a few species. It’s amazing how much great water is within even a half-hour from your home.

3 thoughts on “Photos: The Varied Fly-Fishing Opportunities of the Bay Area”

  1. I grew up in San Jose, lived there for 62 years. I was introduced to fly fishing by my late brother-in-law when I was 55. What always frustrated me was the distance from the SF Bay Area to the Sierras and the Eastern Sierras. I now live in New Zealand where the drive to prime fishing water is measured in minutes rather than hours. As we say over here: it’s sweet as, mate.

  2. I interned in the bay area in the summer of 2012. The Orvis Santana Row store fueled my passion for fly fishing through their casting classes and “Yosemite Sampler” trip. Nathan and every other staff member there are fantastic teachers and ambassadors of the sport.

  3. I have shared many a great water with Steve Slater. And although our paths have led 2 different directions .Where ever you are, a river runs through it. And I’ll get to catch up with ya then. Fondly
    Darrell Kelly

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