Shasta Trout Fly Fishing guides holiday report

Klamath, Trinity, Upper & Lower Sacramento Rivers

November & December 2013

MikebigbuckWith the exception of a short record breaking spell of cold weather last week, fly fishing in Northern California has been outstanding.  This fall has been unseasonably warm and dry except for the bitter cold spell that brought snow to the valley floor and subzero morning temps to Mount Shasta.  As a result the Klamath Trinity, Lower & Upper Sacramento rivers remain low, clear and very fishable. The fishing as well as the catching on the Klamath River has been exceptional with many of our regular guests enjoying their best days ever for both numbers and size of fish.

-2 on the KlamathFishing on the Lower Sac, Trinity, and Upper Sac on the other hand has been more challenging, particularly for less experienced anglers as conditions have been quite technical, with crystal clear water and sparse hatches of small and tiny bugs.  The warmer, fair weather we have been experiencing recently is improving conditions, sparking hatches and has melted the light snow cover and  improved access on the Upper Sac.  With the warm temps and a few brief, light one day storms in the forecast we expect the fishing to be superb through the holidays and beyond.


Flows from Iron Gate on the Klamath have been very low and steady at 950 cfs which is half the norm.  Water clarity has been three to five feet which has created ideal conditions and an exceptional bite.  Flows on the Trinity  have remained at 300 cfs at Lewiston, which is the norm but only 350 cfs at Junction City, so the low, crystal clear water is causing steelhead to sit in tanks with a very soft bite despite good return numbers for Steelhead this season.  With warmer weather on the horizon and hopefully some light precipitation to move some fish, we hope to experience the same kind of epic days several guests enjoyed earlier this fall.

Releases out of Keswick on the Lower Sac have been low and steady at 3,800 cfs with no flow changes scheduled  The mean is 5,540 and the median 8,270 cfs so the fish are packed tight and very wary.    Our guests recently enjoyed some spectacular days fishing egg patterns behind a few remaining spawning salmon we found, otherwise tiny nymphs have been the ticket.  Flows at Delta on the Upper Sac are currently at 210 cfs, which is about as low as they get.  Water temps are in the low forties so the bite has been best midday.  We hope and expect this warm weather and particularly the few small storms passing through to spark the grab particularly for the trophy fish which show this time of year.

Fishing Conditions

Davidbigbuck2Jimbigbuck2IMG_4310On the Klamath, anglers of all levels have been enjoying multiple steelhead days, along with some solitude.    Most adult steelhead have been running 2 to 5 lbs but several fish in the the larger range have shown recently along with a few hearty half pounders each day.   For those nymphing, legs and eggs have been the most consistent producers but later in the day when it warms some fish have been taking small nymphs as well.  Swinging flies has been quite good until last week when air temps dropped below freezing.  Sink tips with small leech and Intruder style patterns have been the top producers, though anglers committed to floating lines are still finding a few!  On more than one occasion jigged or retrieved flies have out fished those swung slow and deep.  For details on tactics, techniques and flies, you might like to check out our post on Fly Fishing the Klamath in Winter, first published in California Fly Fisher magazine.

DSCF3814Fishing this fall on the Trinity was fair to good for the most seasoned anglers, but poor for those less familiar with the river.  With low, cold crystal clear water fish have “tanked” so even when you get the fish to take the bite has been soft.   The biggest problem has not been a lack of fish, but the lack of any rainfall whatsoever so the fish are not moving and stale as a result.  The good news is that with one of the better run in years, and warmer water temps and a few light storms in the forecast 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.

photo3A winter beautyThe Upper Sacramento River has been cold, and due to the low snow level recently, access has limited the bite to a midday affair in a few spots 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 has been key.  With the fair weather and the snow melting off 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.

Val with a true Lower Sac winter porkerSince the peak of the egg bite and Salmon spawning has passed, fishing on the Lower Sac has been a bit of a hit and miss affair with fair days outnumbering the great days.  The great days have been worth waiting for as some of our best fish of the season show this time of year.  We found a few pods of late spawning salmon last week and the fishing was epic.  Otherwise, hatches of mostly Blue Wing Olives have been sparse and unpredictable, if and when you find them they are also a bit technical as the bugs are tiny and the fish just sip them making hooking and landing the trophy trout that eat this time of season a challenge.  For those that can play the game and are in the know,  the dry fly fishing this time of year can also be superb.

For the latest on conditions please drop us a line.  We are always happy to point you in a direction you might enjoy whether you are seeking guide service or not.  Wishing you and yours the very best of holiday seasons, we hope to see you soon!

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