Northern California Fly Fishing Guides Pre-Season Preview

The General Trout Season opens this Saturday, April 29th!

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 Sacramento, Lower Sac, Klamath and Pit Rivers remain open.  As you are likely aware we have experienced a very high water winter, so your options for the opener and early season will be limited.  After being cooped up all winter I think we are all anxious for warm weather and  some invigorating days on the river chasing trout.

These high water years are when local knowledge really comes into play. Familiarity with the best highwater spots on the river that fish well is key to avoiding wasted time searching for fishable water.  Spring is also when our best and biggest hatches of the year peak and understaing the hatches and their timing rather than trying to decode them during your visit can be essential to success.  With the cold, wet weather we’ve experienced expect hatches to be well behind schedule this spring. If you are planning a trip, consider hiring a guide for perhaps a day or two to help get dialed in.

The National Weather Service is forecasting sunshine (yippee!) this weekend in the Northstate, with daytime temps in the high 60’s in the mountains and low 80’s in the valley which should make for very pleasant days on the water after a very wet winter.  With an exceptionally heavy snowpack (still 10′ at the ski resort) plan on high water well into May and perhaps even early June.

Our year round trout rivers including the Upper Sacramento, Klamath, Lower Sac and Pit Rivers have been very high and off color. Flows on the Upper Sac have cleared and come down significantly and if you can find productive water, it has fished fair to good.  The Klamath River and Lower Sacramento remain high and off color.  In addition the trout and steelhead are in the midst of their spawn and should be left alone to replenish their own.  Anglers and guides who are targeting spawning fish with egg patterns deserve to be shunned by the angling community as it is unsporting and unethical.

The McCloud River will be fishable at these flows, (currently 1322 cfs, 300 is ideal) but it will be a very long walk indeed between productive runs.  In addition, the roads into Ash Camp and Ah Di Na washed out this winter and the Forest Service is in the process of repairing them.  This is the latest statement from the Mt. Shasta Forest Service I received yesterday, “We will try to do a temporary fix this week to get the road at least open with a more permanent fix next week (unless the government is shut down for budget reasons).  The rain and some equipment breakdowns have created delays. We may need to have the road closed for a day next week to replace the culverts.”

Fall River and Hat Creek which are spring creeks, are effected much less by high flows and are in fair shape,  though with most other rivers being unfishable, plan on even larger crowds than usual for the opener. Water on the Pit River is exceptionally high and dirty and access roads have been washed out.  It might be quite a while before the Pit comes in shape, check back in a month or two.  You might also consider a day or two on Lake Siskiyou, which has had some decent trout fishing along with incredible views of snow capped Mt Shasta.  If you are headed to the shadow of Shasta, please drop me a line to schedule a trip or to just chat and check on the latest conditions!

Upper Sacramento River

Upper SacramentoFishing Conditions

Flows are high but clear making the Upper Sac fishable, but local knowledge is key to targeting the most productive water.  Plan on nymphing the bulk of your day but look for hatches and dry fly opportunities midday.  Spring is when we have the biggest and best hatches of the season, including Green Drakes, Brown Drakes and of course Goldenstones and Salmonflies.

I’ve been on the river a few days in recent weeks and am finding fish podded up.  My strategy is to cover as much water as possible until I find fish, then I slow down and fish through a run systematically.  Hatches are very sparse and dry fly fishing has been spotty as a result.

There are  spawning Wild Rainbows this time of year. If you site fish in tailouts or riffs, especially in groups or pairs, enjoy the show but please avoid spooking or fishing to them as they are exceptionally vulnerable and we need them to reproduce for upcoming seasons.

McCloud River

Reopens Saturday, April 29th.

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

I could not be more bummed about the opener on the McCloud this season. Flows on the Upper McCloud above the reservoir are well above the seasonal norm and the river is unfishable.  Flows below McCloud Reservoir have been exceptionally high and do not appear to be dropping anytime soon.  Parking and walking the trails to find fishable water in these conditions turns out to be a long hike interrupted by a few casts rather than a fishing trip.

The good news is that fishing in late June, July and through summer when flows drop should be good as fish with be undisturbed this spring and hatches will be delayed.  Stay tuned.

Lower Sacramento River

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

Flows have been exceptionally high (30,000 cfs) the water is off color (2′ of vis) and fishing is very marginal.  Some folks have been out and touting the fishing, but truth be told most have been targeting the trophy Rainbows primarily with egg patterns as hatches have been very sparse.  These fish are trying to spawn and this type of behavior, which has been increasing over the years, needs to be shunned by the angling community.  At a minimum this activity is unsporting and unethical.  I have lobbied for a seasonal closure on this river to protect these fish for decades to no avail (enough said).  I am planning to return to fishing for trophy Rainbows on this gem when flows drop and hatches develop, hopefully later in May when peak spawning has concluded.

Hat Creek

Reopens Saturday, April 29th.

Hat CreekFishing Conditions

The Hat is in fair condition and should be one of the few fishable waters for the opener.  This weekend on Hat Creek will be a community affair, plan on a circus at the Powerhouse 2 riffle for the opener. 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.  Hat Creek will likely see even more pressure this season and spring hatches are the reason. The fish have enjoyed a break from angling pressure and the larger bugs that hatch in spring make it easier on the angler, particularly those of us with aging eyes. Weather has been cold and wet so expect hatches to be delayed.

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 can provide some relief from the crowds and is generally more productive than prospecting with dries during nonhatch periods. Try high sticking with stones and small beadhead droppers. For dries, Parachute and Paradun PMD’s and BWO’s, emergers and cripples #14-18, plan on changing flies often for rising fish than can be selective. For caddis try an EC Caddis or Mercer’s Missing Link #14-18, 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.

I hope this report helps you plan your early season trout trip, if you are looking for a guide,  I still have some availability.  I have spent as many days on the rivers I guide as nearly anyone and many more than most. I believe this intimate knowledge enhances your experience not only during your trip but for seasons after.  Drop me a line so I might help make your time on the water as productive and pleasurable as possible.

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