Fly Fishing The McCloud
The Lower McCloud River, below McCloud Reservoir, is such a storied section of fly fishing history. The McCloud is in large part responsible for all the rainbow trout that populate reservoirs, mid-western rivers, even the rivers and lakes in other countries. Fly fishing can thank the McCloud River! Rainbow trout found in many destinations east of the Rockies or across the globe in New Zealand, Argentina to name just a couple can be associated with McCloud River rainbows. Just about anywhere other than waters that can trace their way to the Pacific, if you find rainbow trout there, they came from the McCloud. Read more about how this great fish came to be the ambassador of wilderness, of water and great times here (Great read!)
The waters below McCloud Reservoir are a pilgrimage for all fly anglers. We just don’t have a more beautiful river in California. I have heard countless anglers, all of whom are well traveled, claim the McCloud is the most beautiful of all the rivers they have fished.
Strewn with boulders, riffles, glides, runs, and pools, there’s fly fishing opportunity everywhere. One of the great features of fishing the McCloud is the trail system that parallels the river. In total, expect about 8 miles of publicly accessible river from the dam at McCloud Reservoir all the way down to the southern end of the Nature Conservancy section. Below that, the river flows through private property. Definitely, do not venture into these private areas past the Nature Conservancy. It’s well known the occupants are hostile to outsiders. The Mcloud river flows another 8 miles until it empties into Lake Shasta.
Some of the most remote water exists between Ash Camp and Ah-Di-Nah (here’s a good link about hiking this section). Anglers will find that most people will fish within close proximity of access areas, i.e. campsites. And that is all good! I have experienced great fishing just a stone’s throw away from my tent at Ah-Di-Nah. But to really experience the McCloud and that sense of reverence only found here, ya gotta walk a while. Get out where only the sound of the river dwells.
All methods of fly fishing are productive on the McCloud River. Sometimes we fish our way downstream using nymphs and then make our way back to the truck for lunch throwing streamers. Dry-dropper technique is productive too! There are big brown trout here. They can be found almost anywhere, but one of the key locations is in the tail-outs of large pools in the late summer. Bring a fast sink tip.
When Is The Best Time?
The fishing season on the McCloud river lasts each year from the last Saturday in April through November 15th. Opening weekend can be super busy! Water conditions may prevent good fishing due to snow runoff. But, most years we have great water conditions through the spring months. Hatches of mayflies, caddisflies, stoneflies, salmon flies keep the fish feeding through early summer! I think some of the best dry fly fishing happens on the McCloud through the spring and into Summer yearly. Consistent hatches keep the fish looking to the surface for food. I routinely experience fun dry fly fishing even when there isn’t a hatch occurring!
Mid Summer is hot! But the waters of the McCloud are cool. Insect hatches have subsided for the time being and nymphing with small black midges in #18 ~ #22 becomes the norm. I still throw dries though. Throw in the flat, slow glides, in the shade.
The end of summer offers good evening dry fly fishing, excellent water conditions. What can I say about autumn? Fall fishing on the McCloud is a symphony of caddis, mayflies, October Caddis, fall colors, brisk mornings. Fall is incredible.
So, there really isn’t a best time for the McCloud. If you can’t get here until Mid-August, no problem. There’s fish to be found all the time!
Many anglers will fish a couple rivers during their visit to this area. The Upper Sacramento is just over the hill and offers 35 miles of accessible trout water. The Lower Sacramento is a great choice also. It’s possible to drive a couple hours over to the Pit River and stay in that area a couple days fishing the Pit and Hat Creek.
A Day On The McCloud
Your guide Travis Ortiz will meet you in the town of McCloud. Before your trip, Travis will help you with preliminary fly selection, which is really important because productive patterns on this river change almost weekly! You will need a fishing license, wading staff, waders in spring and fall, felt-soled wading boots or similar. Wet wading is okay in the mid-summer, but the waters of the Mccloud are really cold. I wear waders on this stream except for the warmest of days in the summer.
Travis will have a streamside lunch prepared for you, water and soda. Bring a water bottle or water dispensing system with you as the fishing typically happens a long stroll from the car/truck. Maybe bring a snack too.
Beginners & Experts
The McCloud is one of the best rivers to learn on. The wading is demanding but not overly difficult (like the Pit). Beginning anglers are presented with many of the challenges fly fishing is known for. From roll-casting indicators to delivering dry flies to rising fish, the McCloud is a perfect classroom. Experienced anglers will no doubt see all the opportunity the McCloud offers and enjoy the diversity of fly fishing techniques, all adaptable at any time, any day.
Guests can stay in the town of McCloud or in Mt. Shasta. A few will base their fishing trips out of Redding, CA, or spend their last day doing a 1/2 day trip on the Lower Sac in order to get back home or to the airport at a decent time. And squeeze just one more cast in!
How To Book
Call Travis at (661) 478-8784
Travis will help you make all necessary arrangements from accommodations to dining recommendations. He will email you a list of items you will need in order to get the most out of your trip from fly selection to clothing so you are best prepared. And if you just need Travis to provide rods, reels and flies? He has you covered!