Best Fly Fishing in California

A man enjoying fly fishing in a sunny California river, surrounded by scenic beauty and tranquil waters.
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California, a state renowned for its varied landscapes and diverse ecosystems, offers an exceptional array of destinations for fly fishing enthusiasts. With its extensive coastline, numerous streams, lakes, and rivers, the state is home to a wide range of fish species, making it a sought-after location for avid anglers. Whether you’re casting your line in the serene Sierra Nevada streams or the rugged northern rivers, the opportunities for an unforgettable fly fishing adventure are plentiful. As you explore the best fly fishing spots in California, you’ll encounter pristine environments that not only challenge your angling skills but also immerse you in the natural beauty of the Golden State.



Hat Creek

When you seek the prime spots for fly fishing in California, Hat Creek is a name that frequently surfaces. As a 48.7-mile-long tributary nestled in Shasta County, Hat Creek’s origins lie in the Lassen Volcanic National Park and flows through the Lassen National Forest before joining the Pit River. Known for its clear spring-fed waters, it is a haven for anglers aiming for rainbow and brown trout.

Best Seasons

  • Spring: The season of renewal offers escalating bug hatches enticing eager trout.
  • Summer: Despite rising temperatures, the water remains cool, and you may witness good hatches.
  • Fall: With fewer crowds, you stand a superb chance to snag some trout.

Fly Fishing Essentials

  • Fly Line: Consider a 4, 5, or 6 weight line for versatility.
  • Leaders:
    • Dry fly: 9 to 12 ft., 5 or 6X
    • Nymphing: Customize based on conditions

Hat Creek is not only a premium location for those passionate about fly fishing, but also a successful conservation story, showcasing exemplary wild trout restoration efforts. The stream segments between Powerhouse #2 and Lake Britton are often highlighted for abundant riffles and serene flats conducive to fly fishing.

For the uninitiated, fly fishing in Hat Creek can be an enriching experience against the backdrop of Northern California’s verdant mountains and flowing streams such as the nearby Upper Sacramento, Fall River, and McCloud River. If you’re searching for a scenic and abundant trout stream with deep roots in conservation, Hat Creek is where you should cast your fly line.

Upper Sacramento River

When you seek premier fly fishing locations in California, the Upper Sacramento River is a top contender. Spanning about 40 miles, this stretch of river offers year-round opportunities to catch trout amidst stunning scenery. The river meanders along Interstate 5, flanked by tall forests and rugged landscapes.

Fly Fishing Conditions:

  • Season: Open all year
  • Access: Easy, via I-5 and nearby trails
  • Techniques: Wet and dry fly fishing

Trout Species:

  • Common: Rainbow Trout
  • Also Present: Brown Trout

Average Size: Trout typically range from 14-16 inches, with opportunities to land larger fish in certain areas. The Upper Sacramento River is noted for its abundant freestone stream characteristics, producing healthy sized fish.

Recommended Gear:

  • Rods: 5/6 weight fly rods
  • Reels: Matched to rod weight
  • Flies: Variety based on season; caddisflies, mayflies, and stoneflies are effective

Nearby facilities and guided tour services are available to provide you with equipment and insight. Remember to check the most recent regulations and obtain the required fishing permits before your trip.

For a more in depth guide to fly fishing this river, including specific access points and flies to use, visit the Upper Sacramento River Fly Fishing Guide by The Fly Shop.

By respecting the environment and practicing catch and release, you’ll help preserve this fantastic fishery for years to come. Enjoy wading into the fast-moving riffles or casting in the quiet pockets of water, and be ready for a memorable fly fishing experience.

McCloud River

When you’re searching for a premier fly fishing experience in California, the McCloud River should be at the top of your list. This river, originating southeast of Mount Shasta, is celebrated for its stunning scenery and abundant fish populations, particularly the native McCloud River Redbands.

Prime Locations

  • McCloud River Falls: Renowned for a series of picturesque waterfalls, this area offers you more than just an opportunity to fish in a beautiful setting.
  • Kerry Landreth Preserve: Limited to ten rods per day, you’ll need to reserve a spot for catch-and-release fishing for a tranquil, uncrowded experience.

Regulations and Access

  • Upper Preserve Access: Contact via email or phone to book your fishing day.
  • Private Water: Much of the McCloud below the preserve is privately owned, so be sure to respect property boundaries.

Fly Fishing Notes

  • Insect Population: With water sources from underground springs, expect higher pH levels conducive to a large variety of aquatic insects.
  • Catch Highlights: While targeting the native Redbands, it’s a possibility that a rainbow trout you hook could have genetic ties across the globe due to historical stocking from the McCloud.

Remember, the experience on the McCloud isn’t just about the catch; it’s about immersing yourself in the unspoiled environments that make this river an angler’s paradise. For detailed fishing conditions and recommendations, check the latest fly fishing report on the McCloud River. Make sure to follow local regulations and secure necessary permits, and you’re set for an unforgettable fly fishing adventure.

Truckee River

When you’re fly fishing in California, the Truckee River is a premier destination you shouldn’t miss. Originating from the pristine Lake Tahoe, this river is 121 miles long and provides a diverse fly fishing experience as it flows through both California and Nevada, finally emptying into Pyramid Lake.

Notable Sections of the Truckee River:

  • Upper: From Lake Tahoe to Trout Creek, known for hatchery fish.
  • Middle: Below Trout Creek to the lower end of Truckee town, predominantly wild trout regulations.
  • Lower: Through the High Sierra Nevada to Pyramid Lake.

For a fulfilling experience, your approach should vary with the section of the river you are on. The upper section offers easier access and is great for anyone new to fly fishing. In contrast, the lower section presents more challenging terrain but promises bigger rewards with a healthy population of bug life and the excitement of matching the hatch.

Remember that conditions fluctuate through the year. Mid-winter can be icy, and parts of the late-summer may grow too warm for optimal fishing. You’ll find more forgiving wading conditions near towns, while the canyon areas present a steeper challenge.

Your gear and strategy must adapt to these diverse conditions. If you’re looking for details on fly fishing strategies that are effective on the Truckee River based on river sections, check out this comprehensive fly fishing report. The Truckee River is respected for its complex fishery and the quality of its trout, making it a top-notch fly fishing destination in California.

Owens River

The Owens River offers a distinctive fly fishing experience set against the backdrop of California’s rugged landscapes. Renowned for its populations of rainbow and brown trout, the Owens River is a fly fishing destination that presents both challenge and reward.

Accessing the Owens River

  • Upper Owens: Accessible via numerous public points along Benton Crossing Road.
  • Lower Owens: Reached by following the Owens River Road out of Bishop, CA.

Fishing Seasons

  • The fall typically yields higher catch rates.
  • Winter into spring is ideal for larger trophy trout.
  • Summer offers opportunities but can be warm; lower flows are recommended.

River Sections

  • Upper Owens: Known for large trout migrating from Crowley Lake.
  • Lower Owens: Offers consistent year-round flows and diverse fishing conditions.

When fishing the Owens River, tailor your approach to the river’s varying conditions. Light tippets and smaller flies are often necessary in clearer waters, while larger patterns and heavier tippets may be required when the water is off-color or flowing more heavily.

For detailed insight, consider a guide from the Owens Valley area, who can provide up-to-date information on river conditions and hatches. Such expertise can significantly enhance your fishing excursion. To understand more about the essentials of fishing the Owens River, you may wish to explore the tips and techniques detailed at Owens River Fishing – Best Fishing in America and the DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Lower Owens River in California.

Pit River

The Pit River casts a challenge aspiring fly fishers might eagerly accept. With its origins in northeastern California, the river flows through rugged canyons and provides an exciting, albeit demanding, experience for anglers. Your quest for trophy-size trout could very well culminate here, amidst its swift currents and boulder-strewn banks.

What You Should Know:

  • Current Conditions: As of February 2024, the river’s flow is above normal. Midge hatches are reported, a sign of healthy aquatic life.
  • Fishing Techniques: Successful fishing on the Pit demands stealth and precision. Your approach should be well-considered due to the river’s clear waters and wary fish.

Prime Locations:

  • Pit Powerhouse Three
  • Powerhouse Four and Five
  • Pit Canyon
  • Vicinity of Big Bend

Here are some quick facts to bear in mind before you set out:

  • Accessibility: Some stretches require a hike in, so be prepared for a physical workout to reach the best spots.
  • Best Times to Visit: Spring and fall typically offer the most favorable conditions.
  • Gear Recommendations: Durable waders and boots are essential due to the rocky riverbed and strong currents.

Refer to the Pit River in California fishing report for real-time stream flow data and other key details to plan your trip.

When fly fishing the Pit River, the challenges you overcome will be as rewarding as the fish you catch. Your technique, determination, and respect for this powerful waterway are the components of a successful endeavor in these waters.

Lower Sacramento River

When you’re looking to experience some of the best fly fishing in California, the Lower Sacramento River is a destination that stands out. It’s renowned for its abundant population of wild rainbow trout and is situated in the heart of Northern California. The river has indeed seen better fishing in the past 35 years due to healthy trout populations.

  • Rod Recommendations:
    • Dry Flies and Nymphs: A 9-foot 5-wt or 6-wt fly rod with floating line.
    • Steelhead and Salmon: 9-foot six- to 8-weight rod with either a sink tip or shooting head.

Gear Up: Equip yourself with a tapered 9-foot leader, and select a tippet size between 3X to 5X, matching the flies you intend to use.

Given the size of the watershed, the Sacramento River also presents a phenomenal chance to find solitude, with more than 40 miles of trout water to explore. The average size of trout here is impressive, with many catches measuring around 16 inches.

Stream ConditionsDetails
Rate37900 cfs
Level24.53 ft
Afternoon Water Temperature44℉

As you plan your trip, check the current conditions – a high flow rate and stained water can impact your experience. For example, as of February 22, 2024, the river was flowing above normal with highly stained water, requiring some time to clear and drop to ideal levels. Prep accordingly and you’re all set for a memorable fly fishing experience on the Lower Sacramento River.

Fall River

Fall River is renowned for being a premier destination for fly fishing in California. As you approach this 21.3-mile long stream, you are exploring what has been designated as a Heritage and Wild Trout watercourse. The river’s source is the impressive Thousand Springs, located near Dana, and from there, it snakes its way towards a confluence with the Pit River, about sixty-five miles east of Redding.

When you fish at Fall River, you’re engaging with the largest spring creek in the nation. Unique to this ecosystem are the giant Hexagenia mayflies, which offer some of the most exciting hatch-based fishing, especially during the evening hours. The water itself is crystalline, spring-fed, and maintains a constant temperature, fostering a thriving aquatic environment that supports not only mayflies but also midges and Blue-Winged Olives (BWOs).

Here’s a quick glance at what you can expect:

  • Target Species: Primarily Rainbow Trout
  • Best Seasons: The season typically peaks from late May through November.
  • Access Points: Public access is limited, making boats often necessary.

Before planning your trip, consider arranging a local guide to maximize your experience. Guides can provide access to private waters, offer insights into fly selection, and help navigate the special regulations this area carries. Remember, as a catch-and-release fishery with specific gear restrictions, familiarize yourself with the latest California Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations to protect this unique fishery.

Be prepared to drift along silently in a boat, casting to rising fish and enjoying the serene beauty of Fall River, a true gem in California’s fly fishing scene.

Klamath River

When you’re in pursuit of an exceptional fly fishing experience, the Klamath River is a destination that commands your attention. Renowned for its steelhead and salmon runs, this river offers a robust fishing adventure throughout its extensive stretch in California.

  • Steelhead Fishing: If targeting steelhead, you should consider using a 9-foot 5-wt to 6-wt fly rod with floating line, ideal for half-pounders. Fishing during the winter months may require upgrading to a 7-wt or 8-wt for the larger steelhead.
  • Salmon Runs: You’ll find that the Klamath River supports a generous population of Chinook salmon, with significant returns every year. The timing of their migration varies, with one wave entering in mid-August and another in early to mid-September, heading towards the tributaries like the Trinity River.
  • Trout Fishing: Besides steelhead and salmon, the Klamath River is home to abundant wild trout populations, providing a year-round fishing opportunity.

Gear Tips:

  • Fly Rod: 5-wt to 6-wt (steelhead), 7-wt to 8-wt (winter steelhead)
  • Leader: 12-foot tapered to 8-lb test
  • Flies: Nymphs and small streamers

Remember, the Klamath River is your chance to fish in waters that are as storied as they are bountiful. Whether new to fly fishing or seasoned with experience, this river delivers an environment that is both challenging and rewarding.

Hot Creek

Nestled in the scenic Inyo National Forest, Hot Creek offers a premium fly fishing experience. The landscape around the creek is not only stunning but also houses one of California’s most challenging and rewarding trout fisheries. It begins at the Hot Creek State Fish Hatchery, merging with Mammoth Creek, and gracefully flows through Hot Creek Gorge, located just miles east of Mammoth Lakes.

When you’re planning your visit, keep in mind that the trout in Hot Creek are notably cautious due to frequent fishing pressure. For the best chance of success, you’ll want to bring your ‘A’ game and refine those delicate presentations. Stealth and accuracy can greatly improve your chances of hooking into Hot Creek’s wily inhabitants.

Recommended Gear:

  • Rods: Light to mid-weight (4-6 wt)
  • Flies: Mayflies, caddis, and midges perform well
  • Techniques: Dry fly fishing, nymphing, and careful line management

If you’re looking for local insights and up-to-date conditions, explore the fly fishing report for Hot Creek. The creek’s dynamic nature means that staying informed will greatly enhance your outing.

Important to Note: The stream poses certain hazards, particularly in the gorge area. Pay attention to the varying discharge rates which can impact both the fishing conditions and your safety.

Given its reputation among enthusiasts, Hot Creek is a must-visit destination for serious fly fishers in California. Proper preparation and respect for the creek’s delicate ecosystem will make for an unforgettable fly fishing adventure.

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