Northern California Fly Fishing Guides Season Preview

Upper SacramentoThe General Trout Season opens this Saturday, April 26th!

This weekend will be your first opportunity to sample the McCloud, Hat Creek and Fall Rivers this season.  Backcountry skiers, rafters and kayakers are rightfully bummed with the drought conditions this spring, but fly fishers have good cause to celebrate these rare outstanding conditions when our best hatches of the year peak and flows are at historically low levels making rivers incredibly accessible. With nearly all local rivers in great shape folks will likely be spread out. The National Weather Service is also forecasting showers in the shadow of Shasta with daytime temps in the 50’s and 60’s this weekend (clearing early next week) which should also help keep the crowds at bay, but spark 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 unbelievably low, 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 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 to check on the latest conditions!

Upper Sacramento River

Big and beautiful springtime Rainbow finds the net fly fishing the Upper Sacramento RiverFishing Conditions

The last several weeks the fishing has been outstanding with several fish in the teens and a few over 20″ to hand.  We have seen dry fly fishing with March Browns and Brown Drakes that we usually only dream about. Flows are amazingly low for this time of year, making it very wadeable and fishable, particularly as anglers work upstream. This spring looks to be similar to last season which was our best in many years as conditions will allow us to fish during the biggest hatches of the season.

Hatches appear to be unfolding early this year as we’ve already seen the beginning of the Salmonfly, Goldenstones and March Browns this week, with the peak of the hatches and the big Mayflies of spring soon to follow. We’ll also be seeing an abundance of smaller bugs, including PMD’s and spring caddis 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. 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.

Consider this your invitation to get here now and fish it soon and often this spring.Shasta Trout’s local guides are intimate with the river as we spend more time on the Upper Sac each season individually than all our competitor’s guides combined, just drop us a line so we might help you to enjoy the bounty!

Water Conditions

Flows bumped up to 900 cfs  earlier this week but dropped back down to just above 400 cfs, with daily fluctuations related to air temps and passing storms.  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 outstanding 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, 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 26th.

Patrick McCloud Redband 10/07Fishing Conditions

We could not be more excited about the opener on the McCloud this season as we experienced some outstanding fishing in similar conditions early last season after challenging high water early seasons several prior years during the time hatches on the river were at their best.  The McCloud River below McCloud Reservoir looks to be in superb shape with flows on the lower river at summer release levels, well below the norm with good clarity.

The McCloud’s sister rivers, the Upper Sac and Pit have been excellent 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 bit 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 hatchery fish as well as the wild rainbows trying to spawn.

To enjoy the McCloud’s full splendor we recommend you schedule a day with one of our local guides.  We spend more time on the McCloud River each season individually than our competitor’s guides spend collectively.

Water Conditions

Flows below McCloud Reservoir have been decreasing down to 402 cfs at Lake Shasta and are steady at 184 cfs at Ah Di Na with fair to 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 excellent.  Flows on the Upper McCloud above the McCloud Reservoir are quite low dropping to 650 cfs, well below the norm and will likely remain so for the coming weeks with temporary increases during and after rainstorms.

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.


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 Stonefly dries 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

Lower Sacramento 1/07 Fishing Conditions

Recent fishing for trophy Rainbows has been phenomenal.  This spring has fished as well as we have ever seen it in any season, particularly for larger fish.  Flows have been about half the norm this week, a bit below 4,000, then bumped above 4,000 and now at 4,000 which has concentrated the large trophy ‘bows and provided an opportunity for the fish of a lifetime.  There are no scheduled flows changes but expect some increases  in late May and June as irrigation demands in the central valley grow.  This will spread the fish out a bit and local knowledge will be helpful in locating the fresh lies.

The PMD’s have arrived in full force, with some Pinks, lingering March Browns, Blue Winged Olives, and spring caddis to go with some summer caddis beginning to show as the bite gets grabbier. Some Salmonflies are also hatching on the lower drifts where 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 good but technical if, when, and where you find it.   Water clarity continues to be outstanding with  the river fishing well from the Posse Ground all the way to Bend.  Spring showers can still impact clarity downsteam 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 3,750 cfs on April 18th to 4,250 cfs and then back down to 4,000 on the 23th which is well below the norm of 8,000 and superb for fly fishing.   Flows at Bend Bridge are at 4,710 cfs, less than half of the median for this time of year of 10,000 cfs. Water clarity is excellent through out 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.


Small nymphs below rubberleg 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 Microspawn. There are still some Rainbows on the spawn, please do not target fish podded up in shallow gravel beds.

Pit River

IMGP2822Fishing Conditions

The fishing as well as the catching has been good except on the Pit 3 section which has been high due to some PG&E work.  Flows are high which with the revised flow regime has become the new norm.   Water clarity is fair and improving making dry fly fishing possible. 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 some very fine fish to hand. Small patterns have been out fishing large ones but the larger specimens have preferred the bigger bites. Might consider trying a streamer? This is an early season gem as spring hatches are terrific and come off sooner here than local sister rivers.  Work on Pit 3 is expected to be completed in early May, stay tuned!

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 as they have spent as much time on it as our biggest competitor’s guides spend collectively.

Water Conditions

Flows are a bit above optimum, 420 cfs on Pit 5, 475 cfs on Pit 4, at the norm for the new flows and are reasonably clear.  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 Pit 5 and Pit 4 as flows on Pit 3 have been disturbed due to work by PG&E.


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. 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 26th.

Tom with a big bend and big smile!  Fishing 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 sparse so dry fly fishing will likely be spotty but nymphing and pulling streamers will always find fish.  With rainy weather 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 high water seasons bring. Fishing after opening weekend can be more enjoyable and productive if you are able.  Shasta Trout owners Craig & Jerri Nielsen have been sampling the Fall on or just after opening weekend for over twenty five years and plan to return again this season. We feature half a dozen seasoned guides on the Fall River this season including a few of the finest guides anywhere!

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 will be 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.  We recommend scheduling one of our great local guides,  all of them have been fishing and guiding the Fall River longer than our biggest competitor’s guides have been collectively.

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 26th.

Hat CreekFishing Conditions

The Hat is typically 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.


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.

Klamath River

Fishing Conditions
Flows on the Klamath continue to be exceptionally low, around 1300 cfs with the norm for this time of year is 2,400 cfs.  We expect very fishable flows in the coming weeks in time for the epic Salmonfly hatch which we typically experience in late May and early June.  Drop us a line for the latest on conditions as ShastaTrout guides fish the Upper Klamath more days individually than our competitor’s guides fish it collectively.

Trinity River

Fishing Conditions
Flows on the Trinity were increased to 900 cfs at Lewiston with flows expected to be 1,500 cfs tomorrow making the river very high and a bit dangerous to wade.   We will be returning for steelhead fishing in the fall. The majority of our guests reschedule early as availability for the best steelhead guides fills well before the season peaks.  Drop us a line for the latest on conditions as ShastaTrout guides are locals.

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