Fly Fishing Guide Reports: the McCloud, Upper & Lower Sac, Pit, Fall Rivers & Hat Creek

IMGP1846Northern California fly fishing report, September 15, 2014

The weather has been spectacular and we have been enjoying the final days of summer wet wading our local freestones to nymph and cast dry flies and droppers to fat feisty trout, taking a break to gorge on juicy blackberries, and chasing the hatches on Fall River and Hat Creek while anxiously awaiting our favorite color which is Fall.  Flows on local rivers are low but cooled from springs and fishing in the shadow of Shasta has been much better than the remainder of the state suffering from drought.  The leaves are just beginning to show a hint of color in Mount Shasta and the earliest runs of salmon and steelhead on their epic journey to the Klamath, Trinity and Lower Sacramento Rivers are just arriving. Reports of large numbers of fish downstream have us anxiously anticipating a stellar steelhead season. We hope you are able to get away to join us soon to sample the seasons as they unfold.

IMGP1739IMGP1852IMGP1853The Upper Sacramento River has been fishing well top to bottom with a higher percentage of large fish in the lower and middle river but higher numbers of fish upstream.  Early in the day when both air and water temps are cool we have had success nymphing mostly with small and tiny flies.  Later in the day we have switched to dry flies with droppers with satisfying results.  LBT’s (little black things) have been the most productive as fish fill up on black midge larva this time of year but some hatches of small mayflies as well as a few caddis get eaten as well.  We even encountered a sparse hatch of Green Drakes recently which got some fish looking up at our #12 Parachute dry we were using to present small beadhead droppers in some pocket water, runs and riffs.  This is typically a spring hatch so was a very welcome surprise!

IMGP1709IMGP1712IMGP1728Flows on the Upper Sac are as low and clear as we’ve seen them, 157 cfs at Delta,  which makes wading and fishing pocket water as easy as it gets.  Flows out of the bottom of Lake Siskiyou dam and are supplemented by cold springs so upsteam water is cold year round.  Below Simms the hottest days of summer can raise the water temp but currently temps are peaking comfortably in the upper fifties and lower sixties and we expect they will only get lower with the coming of cooler weather this week.  A few October Caddis have popped with the bulk of this hatch scheduled to go off after the first hard frost.  Stay tuned!

IMGP1843The Lower McCloud has had some silting issues of late with the river fluctuating between clear with great fishing and unfishable.  Today the clarity was around two feet, you could not see your feet if you waded above your knees.  The norm when we see these events is for the river to take days or weeks to clear but remain clear rather than fluctuating so much, best to drop us a line to check on conditions before making the drive into the McCloud River canyon.

When the river has cleared our best success has been with small flies hung below droppers and nymphing the bigger water with small mayfly, midge and caddis patterns.  Current conditions are still fishable, though challenging to get around.  The fish are much less wary with the low clarity so large bright indicators, heavier tippets and larger flies do not spook fish making it easier to hook fish (particularly larger ones) for less experienced anglers.  Streamer specialists hope for this kind of bonanza which gives them a chance to target the larger fish, including some sizable Browns though catch rates can be signifcantly reduced.  Flows at Ah Di Na are at 200 cfs which is ideal to access all of the stream crossings and pocket water.

The Upper McCloud is also very low and ultra clear making fish quite vulnerable to catch and keep anglers.  A few fish can still be found in some tucked away places if you search them with a dry or dry dropper, but overall fishing has been fair or poor.

The Pit River continues to fish well for adventurous willing souls.  We have done best nymphing with fish taking a variety of bugs.  We have had success with rubberlegs as well as small and tiny standard beadhead nymph patterns hung below them.  Fishing has been a bit on and off during the day, slow for a run or two but when you find a run when the grab is on it can make your day.  Flows are at the new norm except for this weekend when they will be ramped up to 1200 CFS for one of the annual whitewater weekends.

The fishing on Fall River continues to hold up well with few folks around.   Sparse hatches and fussy fish have made nymphing and swinging the most productive methods.  A few Tricos have shown on the upper river and some Callibaetis in the lower river have brought some heads to the surface but it is 7X season which means getting them to eat is not always the end of your challenges.  Fishing, particularly with dry flies will likely improve with cooling temps and increased mayfly activity over the coming weeks.

IMGP1745IMGP1746The Lower Sacramento River has been fishing fair to good with the fishing improving over the past few weeks as temperatures have moderated from the hundred plus we had a few weeks ago.  Even cooler temps this week will hopefully spark the bite even more.  Fish are podded so searching efficiently and skipping unproductive water to find the pods is key.  Most fish have come on small and tiny mayfly nymphs with a few caddis mixed in.  The bite has been soft, fish are sipping the bugs like a martini rather than guzzling them like a beer.  This can be very frustrating as the fish will often offer a handshake and nothing more, no kiss, dance or picture.  Those with keen eyes and quick hook sets fair a bit better than those of us who enjoyed our athletic prowess decades ago. As salmon move in and drop eggs the bite will become easier and the biggest fish in the river move from their lairs into vulnerable lies downstream from spawning salmon. Flows dropped to 6,000 cfs on September 11th (8,000 is the norm) with no scheduled releases at this time.

One of our guides enjoyed an evening hatch of Tricos on Hat Creek last week where fishing has only been fair otherwise.  As temps cool and fall hatches get started we will be looking for fish to get more active.

Now is the time to plan a trip on the Klamath or Trinity for fall steelhead fishing.  We have guides that swing flies with two handed rods as well as guides who nymph along with those who feature both.  Fall is our busiest season so we recommend you schedule early for the best availability.   We hope to see you soon, drop us a line if you are headed our way, we are always happy to share all we can whether you are seeking guide service or not.

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