Northern California’s Premier Fly Fishing Guide Service

Upper Sacramento Fishing Guide Report: Dry Flies!

USac Brown TroutDry Flies and Big Brown Trout!

I’ve been under the weather for a while so it felt great to finally get out on the river to enjoy some of the showers we have been experiencing the past few weeks. I grabbed a rod that was rigged with a couple nymphs from my last trip and cast them into a deep pool on the Upper Sac and caught a few fish.  It was reassuring to feel some life on the other end.  I then switched to a dry dropper rig to fish some pocket water upstream and over the next hour and a half caught about a dozen, mostly small rainbows on the dropper, but a few decent sized trout also came to my trusty Parachute Adams.

I then took a short walk to a favorite slick and found some rising fish.  A few appeared to be good sized and they we taking hard!  With a number of bugs in the air, Green Drakes, Brown Drakes, Pale Morning Duns, Tibialis (pinks), two sized rusty spinners (12 & 16) as well as at least a couple species of caddis and even a Salmonfly, it was going to be a bit of a crap shoot to figure it out.  I tied on my go to Tibialis (pink) pattern as these bugs seemed to be the most numerous.  The pattern is a rust colored spider (sparsely tied) Humpy and I made what I thought were a few good presentations without a look.  I switched to a rust colored CDC emerger as the fish seemed to be taking something just under the surface and drew a few bumps (or was I just off my game and set too soon?).

The Bonbon, Ameletus Dry Fly?I made a few more passes with the emerger without success and thought perhaps I had put all the fish down.  I gave them a little rest as I switched to a soft hackle emerger and wet it so it would sink a bit. So I could track it, I tied it off the bend of a Brown Drake pattern I had tied up a few seasons ago.  Luckily, a few fish started to rise again so I cast to the closest one which to my amazement ate the large Brown Drake!

The fish turned out to be a wild Brown Trout, a very rare event on the Upper Sac, perhaps 1/500 or 1/1000 fish caught and was also about twenty inches which is also quite rare.  But what really amazed me is what happened after I released this fish.  It swam up against my leg and she rested there for about ten minutes while I untangled my line, stored my flies and took a few pics of her.  Fly fishing can be very nurturing and healing.  Having spent the past few weeks contemplating the possibility of never being able to fly fish again it was a better welcome back than I could ever have hoped for.

Here is the recipe for the “Brown Drake” Bon Bon pictured above should you care to tie one on:  Hook: Tiemco 100 size 10, Thread: Rust 6.0, Tail: 6-8 Dark Moose Hair, Body: Rust Superfine Dubbing, Rib: Yellow Silk Thread, Wing: Dark Dun Deer Hair, Hackle:  Furnace.

PS: My best efforts to key the bug was a reference in Hafele & Hughes, Western Hatches for the Ameletus Mayfly.  The bugs I have captured have two dark brown split tails, 1 1/2 the body length, a rust colored abdomen and thorax with distinct yellowish/tan markings and a variegated dark dun wing.  H & H lists no recommended Dun or Spinner patterns, though they do describe the habitat: “Ameletus are distributed through out the western states, but fishable numbers occur sporadically across the range…nymphs are commonly found in small, rapid streams, near but not in fast water…the same places inhabited by large trout.”  Let me know if you have some thoughts about what species this fly might be representing?

Northern California Fly Fishing Guides Pre-Season Preview

The General Trout Season opens this Saturday, April 25th!

This weekend will be your first opportunity to sample the McBob lands a Trophy 'bow & enters ShastaTrout Hawg of Fame 3/09Cloud, Hat Creek and Fall Rivers this season, while the Upper Sac, Lower Sacramento and Pit Rivers remain open and are fishing well.  We have experienced another low water year, but with nearly three times the precipitation we experienced last year drought conditions are not nearly as extreme as the remainder of the state.  All of the local rivers in the shadow of Shasta derive base flows that come from springs and are in superb shape for the regular trout season opener this weekend.

Contrary to popular belief, these low water years are when the spring fishing and catching are typically at their best and fly fishers have good cause to celebrate as spring is also when our best and biggest hatches of the year peak and the low flow levels make for exceptional accessibility and ease of wading.  The National Weather Service is also forecasting showers this weekend in the northstate, with daytime temps in the 50′s through low 70′s (with clearing early next week) which should also help keep the crowds at bay. Showers can often spark early season mayfly hatches and improve the bite.  Our recommendation is to fish early and often this spring!

Our year round trout rivers including the Upper Sacramento, Lower Sac and Pit Rivers have been fishing exceptionally well, with flows on the Upper Sac and McCloud Rivers near perfect, at levels and clarity we don’t see until late June in average seasons. Fall River and Hat Creek are in great shape as usual and we expect with the mild spring weather we’ve had that hatches will likely come off earlier than usual.   If you are headed to the shadow of Shasta, please drop us a line to schedule a guide or just to check on the latest conditions!

Upper Sacramento River

Upper SacramentoFishing Conditions

For several weeks the fishing has been good to great with most wild Rainbows in the teens and we have even seen a few fish dry fly fishing with March Browns and small Mayflies (Tibialis).  Flows are  low and crystal clear for this time of year, making it very wadeable and fishable, but stealthy approaches and presentations are essential for success.  This spring looks to be similar to last season as conditions will allow us to fish during the biggest and best hatches of the season, including the big Green Drakes, Brown Drakes and of course Golden and Salmonflies.

Hatches appear to be unfolding early this year as we’ve already seen the beginning of the Salmonfly, Goldenstones and March Browns, with the peak of the hatches and the big Mayflies of spring soon to follow. We’ve also be seeing an abundance of smaller bugs, including PMD’s and spring caddis with an increase in their activity expected in the coming weeks.  The bite has been best on small caddis and mayflies nymphs with light midday hatches of March Browns and Brown Drakes getting the fish looking up. Big nymphs in sizes 4 to 10 have been productive particularly for the larger fish, though typically more fish come on the smaller offerings. Again, stealth will be key, do not expect to throw a big bright bobber with wrenching grabs like you would in typical heavy spring flows, as in the low clear water you’ll just frighten fish with them. Small unobtrusive indicators, high stick nymphing and fishing dries with droppers along with stealthy wading and accurate presentations with minimal disturbance will likely offer better success.

There  are  spawning Wild Rainbows this time of year. If you spot fish in shallow water in groups or pairs enjoy the show but please avoid spooking or fishing to them as they are exceptionally vulnerable in the low water we are seeing this season.

Water Conditions

Flows at Delta have daily fluctuations related to air temps and passing storms from 300 to 600 cfs, again ideal for fly fishers.  The norm for this time of year is 2,000 cfs and we typically don’t see flows this low and fishable until the end of June for most seasons.   Water clarity is exceptional and with water temps in the mid to upper forties expect fish to be taking well. With a snow pack well below the average and warm weather in the forecast we expect these great conditions to continue into the coming weeks when our biggest hatches of the year will peak.


Small nymphs produce more fish on average than the larger ones but the trophy fish have been taking the bigger flies. Fish Copper Johns, Micromays, Pheasant Tails, Birdsnests, Iron Sallies and small caddis patterns in 14-18′s in runs, slots, slicks and pocket water. Rubberlegs, Prince Nymphs, dark and golden stone imitations are increasingly finding fish. Expect to see improving hatches of the big bugs and increasing top water action in the weeks to come.

McCloud River

Reopens Saturday, April 25th.

Will Johnson "high sticking" with the new Sage European System Nymphing (ESN) RodFishing Conditions

We could not be more excited about the opener on the McCloud this season as we experienced some outstanding fishing in similar conditions the past two seasons.   The McCloud River below McCloud Reservoir looks to be in superb shape with flows below the reservoir at summer release levels, well below the norm with good clarity.

The McCloud’s sister rivers, the Upper Sac and Pit have been superb lately and we expect much of the same for the opener on the McCloud. Flows on the Upper McCloud above the reservoir are well below the seasonal norm but a tad higher than the trickle we see in summer.  The first couple weeks after the opener can be quite crowded on the Upper McCloud River as folks look to fill their creels with heavy DFW fish plants as well as the wild rainbows that have moved in trying to spawn.

Water Conditions

Flows below McCloud Reservoir have been exceptionally low at 329 cfs at Lake Shasta and are steady at 206 cfs at Ah Di Na with good clarity. With a low water year in store, it is unlikely PG&E will dump water and dampen the opener so we expect fishing to be quite good.  Quite unusual for this time in the year, there will be many places to cross on the Lower McCloud, similar to midsummer conditions with lots of pocket water and many runs that rarely see early season anglers.  With the Upper Sac, Pit River and small creeks running lower that usual, we hope and expect the Lower McCloud will avoid becoming the McCrowded this spring.

Flows on the Upper McCloud above the McCloud Reservoir are also quite low a bit below 600 cfs, well below the norm and will likely remain so for the coming weeks as there is little snow at lower elevations, expect temporary increases during and after rainstorms.


The opening of the season is most often a nymphing affair but look for opportunities for dry fly action midday and towards evening. Big bugs will become increasingly important, a few Salmonflies and Brown Drakes have been spotted, probably a sign that hatches will come off earlier than usual this season? Be prepared with small flies as well as large. We like to offer one of each when nymphing and tie droppers off our big dries. Try Stoneflies in orange or yellow #6-10, or a large Parachute Adams, hanging Copper Johns, Iron Sallies, PT’s, Micromays and your favorite caddis pupa in #14-18 off the bend. Use these small nymphs in combination with Poxyback Goldenstones, Rubberlegs, and Princes when exploring with an indicator or high stick nymphing.

Lower Sacramento River

Becky with her Shasta Trout "Hawg of Fame" trophy Lower Sac Rainbow Fishing Conditions

Recent fishing for trophy Rainbows has been good to great.  Flows have been bumped up a bit each day recently from 4,000 and are scheduled to move to 6,000 cfs on April 24th.  This can often throw the bite off for a few days while fish settle into new lies. Those most familiar with the river will likely have noticeably more success locating fish.  Flows are still a couple thousand below the norm and it will be interesting to see how irrigation flows are managed in the coming months with the state’s water shortage. The Fish and Game commission has instituted a complete fishing closure from Keswick Dam to the Highway 44 bridge from April 27th through July 31st to help protect endangered spring run Chinook Salmon.

Hatches are still sparse with  PMD’s some Pinks, lingering March Browns, and spring caddis to go with some summer caddis beginning to show as the bite has slowly improved. Some Salmonflies are also hatching so the fish have been taking stonefly nymphs as well.  We continue to have great success side drifting small nymphs & rubberlegs while the dry fly fishing has been fair at best as water clarity is still hovering around three feet. Spring showers can still impact clarity down steam when side streams flush during and a few days after storms.

Drop us a line to schedule a friendly local guide during this prime time, most of our guides have grown up on the banks of the Lower Sacramento River and know it intimately having fished it their entire lives.

Water Conditions

Releases at Keswick increased from 3,500 cfs on April 16th and are scheduled to top off at 6,000 cfs on April 24th. which is well below the norm of 7,500 and superb for fly fishing.   Flows at Bend Bridge are at 5,350 cfs, about half of the median for this time of year of 10,000 cfs. Water clarity is fair, roughly three feet or so throughout but can be impacted by showers (a few this weekend in the forecast) on lower stretches below tributaries.  Walk and wade opportunities are exceptional but will be much more limited if and when we see irrigation flow increases later this spring and summer.


Small nymphs patterns are the norm. Your favorite PMD nymphs, various Pheasant tails and Micromays in #14 – 18″s will likely get the most attention but those trying Prince Nymphs, Copper Johns, Ironsallies, Fox Poopahs & Birdsnests are also finding fish. For two and three fly rigs try adding a Super Floss Rubberleg or an egg pattern. There are still some Rainbows on the spawn, please do not target fish podded up in shallow gravel beds.

Pit River

Pit RiverFishing Conditions

The fishing as well as the catching has been outstanding.  Lots of bugs to choose from, nymphing with a large fly and small dropper has been stellar with some opportunities to throw dries as well.   Flows are typical in the 300 cfs range on Pit 3 and 400′s in Pit 4 & 5 making for challenging wading.  We are finding fish nymphing classic runs and slots prospecting with two fly rigs but attractor dries with droppers in pocket water and caddis in the evening have also brought a few fish to hand. Small patterns have been out fishing large ones but the larger specimens have preferred the bigger bites. Might consider taking the indicator off and high sticking or even experimenting with streamers? This is an early season gem as spring hatches are terrific and come off sooner here than local sister rivers.

With the new flow regimen crowds are a thing of the past, but with the limited access, weekdays can fish better.  The Pit is an excellent venue to round out  your opening week successfully!   We recommend scheduling one of our great local guides who know the river intimately.

Water Conditions

Flows are a bit above optimum, low to mid 300′s on Pit 3 and near 500 cfs on Pit 4 and 5, which is the norm for the new flows regimen.  Spring storms can muddy tribs though in these conditions they should clear quickly.  All reaches have been fishing though most anglers who have sampled the Pit recently had their best success on on Pit 3 which has a bit more fishable access.


Standard prospecting with nymphs has produced the best. Prince Nymphs, PT’s, Birdsnests, Rubberleg Stones, Golden Stones, Copper Johns and Yellow Sallies.   Try mixing and matching, one large, one small, one dark, one light. High sticking can outproduce indicator nymphing as fishng pressure increases.  Dry flies and droppers? Try large attractors with droppers fished in runs and slots then switch to small caddis or mayfly dries when the hatches get going and fish show.  Pull a large streamer in olive or black and hang on.  Might be a good plan to start your season here before the weekend opener!

Fall River

Reopens Saturday, April 25th.

DSCF4036Fishing Conditions

Early scouting on the Fall River is finding very similar conditions to last year with very low and clear flows and minimal early season weed growth.   The flow is steady and the river is clear with perfect conditions.   The bugs have been showing and fish have been taking them so the early season dry fly fishing will hopefully be less spotty than the past few years.  Nymphing and pulling streamers will always find fish.  With showers in the forecast and other local streams in great shape we expect the opening weekend to be the usual social event as anglers make their annual pilgrimage but will likely lack the crowds that typical high flow seasons bring. Fishing after opening weekend can be more enjoyable and productive if you are able.   We feature the finest guides on the Fall River including Tom Peppas, George Durand and Scott Saiki.  Their schedules fill early so we recommend reserving a place on their calendars soon!

Expect predominately a mix of Blue Wing Olives and Pale Morning Duns along with some springtime caddis.  Before and after hatches plan on nymphing or swinging flies to fish that are active and willing.   Locating pods of feeders and technical, stealthy presentations is always key.  Flows and clarity are currently ideal, and with little snow at lower elevations, melt from tribs on years like we are having is unlikely to cloud the water and spoil the dry fly fishing.

Water Conditions

The steady primary flows from this giant spring creek bubble out of the ground from the aquifer.  The few small tributaries that contribute flows and can silt the river making fishing less productive, particularly the dry fly fishing are also low and clear so we expect a terrific spring season.  Some adult fish this time of year have moved into tribs and the  upper river preparing to spawn or are spawned out and heading back out.  Please do not actively fish over pods of wild Rainbows on spawning beds.


Small dries are the norm during hatches.  We prefer low floating imitations that provide good profiles such as Parachute PMD’s and BWO’s, Hacklestackers, Sparkle Duns and the like.  Having Emerger and Cripple patterns is always  a good bet as well.  Try nymphing with or without a tiny indicator with small mayfly patterns such as Pheasant Tails, Hunch Back Infrequens, Poxyback PMD’s, and Micromays as well as your favorite caddis pupa patterns.   We most enjoy swinging small streamers and nymphs before and after hatch periods.

Hat Creek

Reopens Saturday, April 25th.

Hat CreekFishing Conditions

The Hat is in good condition and should fish well during the first weeks of the season. The opening weekend on Hat Creek can be a community affair, particularly at the Powerhouse 2 riffle. With other rivers in the area experiencing low water conditions, Hat Creek will likely see less pressure this season but a good many anglers will still make their annual pilgrimage. Spring hatches are the reason. The fish have had a break from angling pressure and larger bugs make it easier on the angler, particularly those of us with aging eyes.

Water Conditions

Hat Creek, being low gradient with spring creek conditions does not receive the runoff other local streams experience. In high water years it is one of the few rivers that fish consistently well early. This year  flows on area streams are currently well below average and will be for the coming weeks.  Still Hat Creek can be a circus at Powerhouse #2 riffle on opening weekend so seek out stretches midriver and below or other area waters for the opener or perhaps give Hat Creek a go midweek when the crowds return home.


The attraction here is the big bugs of spring, Salmonflies, Goldenstones, Green Drakes, Flavs, and Mahoganies but your most likely top water action will come on PMD’s and spring caddis. Nymphing the fast riffles downsteam can provide some relief from the crowds and is generally more productive than prospecting with dries during nonhatch periods. Parachute and Paradun PMD’s, emergers and cripples #14-16, plan on changing flies often for rising fish than can be selective. EC Caddis & Elk Hair Caddis #14-16 consider adding a pupa as a dropper. Not a bad idea to have a few ants and beetles tucked in the box just in case.

Consider this your invitation to get here now and fish it soon and often this spring.  Shasta Trout’s features the finest local guides who have spent as much time on the rivers they guide as anyone.  We believe sharing this intimate knowledge enhances your experience not only during your trip but for seasons after.  Drop us a line so we might help make the most of your time on the water.


Fly Fishing on Upper and Lower Sac is outstanding!

IMGP2176April 7th

As I write much needed snow continues to fall here in Mt. Shasta with about three or four inches on our lawn.  The spring snowstorm is welcome as we experienced another dry winter, the last snow we saw in town was on Christmas eve.  The good news is that the low flows on the Lower Sacramento and Upper Sacramento Rivers have created good to great fishing while the Klamath River still has a few steelhead hanging around for those who want to sneak in their last trip of the season. While Sierra streams will suffer mightily this year from the drought, water for streams in the shadow of Shasta will fare well as our base flows come from springs, water that fell out of the sky more the 30 years ago.  River conditions could not be much better with low and clear flows which should make for another exceptional spring when the opportunity to take advantage of the biggest hatches of the year is best.

IMGP2177IMGP2178Water conditions on the Lower Sacramento River, which just weeks ago were muddy and unfishable, have cleared to about three feet which is ideal for nymphing but poor for dry fly fishing.   Flows from Keswick are currently extremely low at 3330 and are scheduled to drop to 3250 tomorrow.  Hatches have been very sparse with the clouds of spring Brachycentris we typically see this time of year never materializing.  However, the action remains good as there is a smorgasbord of bugs including a few lingering March Browns, a sprinkling of Epeorus Mayflies (Pink Alberts) along with the on and off spring caddis with large Stoneflies and summer caddis starting to show.  Most fish prefer eating the smaller nymphs making for a soft, challenging bite with quick hooksets being key to success most days,  but of course our land rate is higher when they eat our large rubberleg patterns as a good number of the bow’s we’ve seen have been big and hot!

BobUSacUSac 'bowThe Upper Sac has been mostly a midday nymphing affair with a Rubberleg or Goldenstone and small nymph combo as water temps are still in the 40′s.  Similar to the Lower Sac, most fish are eating the small Mayfly and Caddis offerings but our land rate on the bigger bug is better, particularly on the largest fish.  Dry fly fishing is just around the corner, we’ve seen our first Stoneflies of the season and the big Mayfly Drakes are on the way as well.

USac 'bow_1USac 'bow_2Flows at Delta on the Upper Sacramento River have increased from below 400 cfs to just under 700 cfs, with the storm, but we expect levels to drop quickly and clear by the weekend as fair weather is in the forecast making access ideal with most crossings open.  We enjoyed several successful Upper Sac trips in the past few weeks with the vast majority of fish in the teens, real trophies on this river. We hope to find that illusive twenty incher in our net soon as this is the time of year we get a shot at the biggest fish in the river while enjoying some solitude, as there are few if any other anglers around.

IMGP2157IMGP2172The Klamath River has enjoyed an influx of bright spring fish, both half pounders and small adults from two to four pounds.  Some larger winter fish continue to linger but will be spawning soon.  Flows at Irongate are a bit under 1600 and clarity is around three to four feet making conditions ideal to swing up another steelhead to complete your season.

With the low flows, we hope and expect this spring to be outstanding, similar to the past two seasons and recommend scheduling your spring dates on local freestones, the Pit, McCloud and Upper Sacramento River soon!  The Upper Sac and Pit are open year round, McCloud and Fall Rivers as well as Hat Creek open April 25th.  Look for our preseason preview post and newsletter a week or so before the general opener.

Drop us a line if you are headed our way.  We are always pleased to set you up with the finest local guides or send you in a direction you might enjoy on your own.  We hope to see you soon, until then we wish you tight lines and singing reels!

Craig Nielsen presents “Fly Fishing Freestones” at Russian River Fly Fishers

McCloudWednesday, April 8th @ 7:00 – 9:00

Russian River Fly Fishers

Craig Nielsen, owner of Shasta Trout and a fly fishing guide based in Mt. Shasta, will be presenting a program called “Fly Fishing Freestones,”  at the monthly meeting of the Russian River Fly Fishers. The meeting gets started at 7pm at the Lodge Room, Santa Rosa Vet’s Building, 1351 Maple Ave, Santa Rosa with a tying demo at 6pm.

“Fly Fishing Freestones” is a multimedia presentation describing, strategies, tactics and tips refined on the legendary rivers of Northern California  including the McCloud, Upper Sacramento,  and Pit Rivers.  The program is designed for novices and seasoned anglers alike with concepts offered in a light spirited informative manner. Craig typically provides an engaging presentation and encourages participants to provided some tips of their own.  The club members are incredibly friendly and helpful particularly to those just getting started.  If you live in the area we suggest you join us for the festivities, we could not recommend the Russian River Club more highly.

Contact us is if your group or club is looking for a speaker, we have a dozen presentations available.

Fly Fishing the Sacramento River: Tri Valley Club Presentation

Upper Sacramento River McCloud River Craig Nielsen presents @

Tri Valley Club, Thursday, March 5th 7:00 pm

Livermore Pleasanton Rod & Gun Club, 4000 Dagnino Rd Livermore, CA 94551

Craig will be joining the Tri-Valley Fly Fishing Club in Livermore for their monthly meeting and will present a program on “The Upper Sacramento River,” discussing successful techniques, tactics and strategies honed over two decades of guiding this legendary river.   The program is designed to engage the audience with questions and answers including member participation, providing some tips of their own.  This club is incredibly friendly and helpful particularly to those just getting started.  If you live in the area we hope you join us!

Shasta Trout exhibits at Fly Fishing Show in Pleasanton


February 20-22nd, (Fri-Sun)

Alameda County Fairgrounds
4501 Pleasanton Ave. Pleasanton, CA 94566

Shasta Trout will be exhibiting at the 2014 Fly Fishing Show in Pleasanton February 20th through the 22nd. Craig Nielsen will also be giving presentations on “Nymphing Top to Bottom”, discussing successful techniques and tactics, as well as Switchrod & Spey casting demonstrations. If you are in the area, please stop by our booth and say hello, and enter our drawing for our free trip! For more info, check out the event website for the 2015 Fly Fishing Show.

Craig Nielsen presents “Steelhead” at Santa Lucia Fly Fishing Club

Mark with the trophy of the trip Thursday, February 12th @ 6:30 – 8:30, Santa Lucia Fly Fishers

Craig will be presenting a program on fly fishing for steelhead  called ” Steelhead, not just big trout” at a monthly meeting of the Santa Lucia Fly Fishing Club at Margie’s Diner, 1575 Calle Joaquin in San Luis Obispo.  The presentation features proven techniques and strategies for  swinging and nymphing for wild and hatchery steelhead and half-pounders in the fall, concluding with successful approaches for targeting the wild steelhead run in winter.

Salmonfly and Juvenile Steelhead Klamath River Bounty LARGE and small Craig and the great local guides who work with us at ShastaTrout spend as much time fishing for steelhead on the Klamath individually as our competitor’s guides spend collectively.  Discussing this intimate knowledge with a group of fun and seasoned anglers who willingly share their experiences makes for an informative and fun evening.  We are looking forward to hosting a club outing with these great folks this fall and hopefully put to practice what we learn.  We hope you will join us as well!