Fly fishing guide report: Klamath, Trinity & Sacramento Rivers

Lower Sacramento River fly fishing guide Anthony Carruesco poses a trophy Lower Sacramento River RainbowShasta Trout Fly Fishing guides winter report

December 2012, January 2013

For those willing to brave the elements, fly fishing in Northern California has been fair to good.  A series of cold storms blew through over the last month bringing frigid temperatures and ample precipitation.  While the fishing on the Klamath River remained consistently good, finding a window to fish on the Lower Sac, Trinity, Upper Sac and Pit Rivers has been more challenging.  Runoff and high flows have been the biggest issues until recently with access points snowed in at higher elevations on the Upper Sac and Pit also limiting options.

The warmer, fair weather we have been experiencing recently is improving conditions and access. Exceptionally low water temps (as low as 35 degrees) has hampered the bite for steelhead on the Klamath and Trinity though we have been seeing good numbers of fish this year.   Flows from Iron Gate on the Klamath have been low and steady at 1130 cfs (the 52 year recorded mean is 2790 and the median 1840 cfs).  Flows on the Trinity  have remained at 300 cfs at Lewiston and between 400 & 500 cfs at Douglas City with the cold temps causing a very soft bite despite one of the best returns of Steelhead in many years.  With warmer weather on the horizon we hope to experience the same kind of epic days several guests enjoyed this fall.

Another beauty on a magical winter day fishing the Klamath RiverSteve pleased with a bright winter run steelhead swung up with a spey rodBright day and Klamath River winter chromeOn the Klamath, anglers are finding a mix of juveniles, half pounders and adult steelhead with mostly wild adults running 2 to 5 lbs with several fish in the  larger range this year and a few fish even bigger yet.  For those nymphing, legs and eggs have been the most consistent producers but around mid afternoon some fish have been taking small nymphs as well.  Swinging flies has been quite good until last week when water temps dropped below 38 degrees.  Sink tips with small leech and Intruder style patterns have been the top producers.  On more than one occasion jigged or retrieved flies have out fished those swung slow and deep.

Guide Jeremy Baker poses Winter Chrome on the Trinity RiverFishing this fall on the Trinity was good to great for the most seasoned anglers.  With unstable weather and changing conditions a good part of the time it has been technical so less experienced anglers are not finding as many fish.  The fish have also been spread out rather than “tanked” in runs so those most in the know have found fish while those familiar with only the most popular runs have not fared as well.  The biggest problem has not been a lack of fish, though during the heavy storms fishable water was limited to the upper reaches.  Getting over the pass on Highway 299 was also difficult or impossible for a few days as well.  The good news is that with the best run in years, stable flows and warmer water temps the fish should get back on the grab and we could be seeing some great days coming this winter as well.   Eggs, stonefly nymphs, PT’s and Copper Johns have all found fish.  Swinging successfully for fish recently has been difficult at best.

Lower Sacramento River fly fishing guide Jeremy Baker poses a trophy Lower Sacramento River RainbowReleases out of Keswick on the Lower Sac have been low and steady at 4500 cfs with no flow changes scheduled  The norm is 6,000 cfs but the issue has been water clarity which dropped for a while to less than a foot.  It is back up to two to three feet with turbidity decreasing downstream and a much improved bite in the last week particularly for those who enjoy boat access as the fish seem to be podded.  Bright big egg patterns and rubberlegs have been the ticket until the last few days when small nymphs started to find fish with the warm weather sparking hatches.

A winter beautyWinter snow shoesThe Upper Sac and Pit Rivers were blown out with very narrow bands of opportunity until just recently.  Cold weather and access has limited the bite to a midday affair primarily with hatches of Blue Winged Olives.  Nymphing the slow water in the biggest runs has been the most productive.  Finding accessible and productive runs is key.  With the fair weather we are hoping to find some dry fly fishing opportunities utilizing our favorite dry dropper rig.  For more on fishing the Upper Sac in Winter check out our articles first published in California Fly Fisher, Winter Angling on the Upper Sac Year Round Angling on the Upper Sac.

For the most recent conditions please drop us a line, we are happy to point you in a direction you might enjoy whether you are seeking guide service or not.

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