Fly Fishing The Upper Sac
For easy access and an endless supply of new water, the Upper Sacramento River is unequaled upon Northern California Rivers. It’s a boulder-strewn, freestone stream harboring wild rainbow trout. With over 35 miles of river and countless access locations, there’s enough water to go round. Looking for solitude? After parking the car and gearing up, take a stroll down or up river. Even if there are other anglers in the area, it’s easy to spread out and find good water. The Upper Sac is a fly fishing resource located within easy travel distance from Redding, CA, Mt. Shasta and McCloud.
Although the lower half of the river ‘can’ be rafted in wet years, the Upper Sac is best known as a fishery to be waded. Springtime conditions can be out of control and too dangerous to wade, but by mid-summer, at the latest, the river has dropped into shape. Expect the wading to be a challenge. Not as difficult as the Pit, the wading is similar to what is experienced on the McCloud.
Insect hatches are typical of most healthy freestones. Expect mayflies, stoneflies and salmon flies through the spring. Caddis occur all season long with evening and mid-day hatches. Your experience will vary. In the autumn months, October caddis appear and can really drive the evening fly fishing into epic standards!
Fishing tactics run the gamut from slackline indicator presentations along the lower river to high-stick/tight-line technique producing results anywhere there are pockets of frothy water and that’s just about everywhere if not within sight or ear-shot. Dry fly fishing happens mostly in the spring and autumn months, but I have had success mid-summer, during the dog-days, between 10:00 AM and 12:00 PM during sparse caddis hatches that will usually put rainbow trout on the surface. The Upper Sacramento is definitely a nymphing river from a production viewpoint, but anglers who know where to look in the mornings and at sunset will find rising fish.
Sometimes the fish on this river really move around. Sometimes the fish are way upstream or way downstream depending on temperatures, sunlight, and hatches. Hiring a guide who has been on the water regularly can give you the advantage of spending most of your day fly fishing productive water rather than hoping they are in ‘there’.
Equipment And Gear
Most anglers use a 4 wt ~ 5wt fly rod with floating line. Wet wading is the norm during hot summer days. Waders take the edge off in the spring months or during cool autumn mornings and evenings. Wading boots with felt soles or spikes keep your feet under you most of the time. A wading staff is a great tool for improved stability and safety. I recommend wearing a personal inflatable floatation device (PiFD) on the Upper Sac during high water wading in the spring. A hat and polarized sunglasses are key! Don’t forget your fishing license.
Beginners And Experts
Fly fishing the Upper Sac is pretty straightforward. There’s plenty of good water to be found. Beginning anglers will learn how to roll cast and read water that is characteristic of all freestone trout streams worldwide. Expert anglers will enjoy the diversity of the Upper Sac from bigger water along the lower half to finishing the day wading amongst pools, throwing dry-dropper rigs in the town of Dunsmuir.
Best Time To Fish The Upper Sac
Autumn has got to be the most beautiful time offering the best/safest wading conditions. Daytime temperatures can still climb into the 90°F range, but mornings and evenings are cool and crisp.
Midsummer can be very hot during the day. The best fishing is always in the mornings before the sun gets’s high. Be on the water by 8:00 AM and in position! Midsummerr evenings never disappoint! I have had the greatest Upper Sac fishing experiences midsummer during caddis hatches at sunset. Seems like the fish just know to not eat or chase flies during any other time of day.
The spring can be great, but the water conditions are often too high. Look in the town of Dunsmuir or up in Nay Springs for the best water. I recommend fishing the Lower Sac instead during the spring months.
Winter time is the undiscovered season on the Upper Sacramento. While everyone is over on the Trinity there are a select few anglers who know the secrets the Upper Sac reveals to those who take the road less traveled.
A Day On The Upper Sac
You guide Travis Ortiz provides lunch and drinks for your day on the Upper Sac. If you need fly rods, reels, and flies he has you covered. A day on the Upper Sac usually begins upon meeting at Ammirati’s Market or yet to be determined location. Travis can meet you at your hotel, cabin. Or you can carpool out of Redding. Expect to meet at 8:00 AM.