The Lower Sacramento or “Lower Sac” starts at the base of Shasta Dam, a 602′ high retainer, holding back up to 4,500,000 acre-feet of cold, nutrient-rich water. The kind of water that has produced the healthiest, strongest, best-looking Rainbow, the kind of Rainbow Trout that’s an example for all Rainbow Trout. Water temperatures stay at a perfect 55°F all year along over 40 miles of the Lower Sacramento running south of Anderson CA all the way through Red Bluff and beyond. That translates into oxygen-rich, insect-rich water extending far, far south of Redding California. You can expect to find great fly fishing for Rainbow Trout as far south as Red Bluff. All of it is accessible via a drift boat or jet boat.

The Lower Sacramento Rainbow Trout

The Lower Sacramento River Rainbow is the base standard of what a wild Rainbow Tout is. The Lower Sacramento River is cold and pure, full of insects. No stressful winters reducing insect hatches to nil. Nope. There are insect hatches all spring, summer, and fall. And in the winter, the Rainbows of the Lower Sacramento eat BWO’s, Salmonfly Nymphs, Eggs, Salmon Fry, and the large volume of midges this river doles out. If you are having a tough fly fishing day on the Lower Sacramento, it’s probably because your flies or lures aren’t in the water long enough or the river flows have come up as they do in the spring (typically June).

The King Salmon Of The Lower Sacramento

Did you know the Lower Sacramento River was the only river in the world to have, at one time, 4 massive runs of King Salmon? Image the river as it once exited where Shasta Lake is now, over flowing with Salmon all year long.

The King Salmon of the Lower Sacramento still exists and are very much worth learning about.

King Salmon can be found in the Lower Sacramento all year. But regulations allow us to fish for the fall run fish that are predominantly returning to the Coleman Fish Hatchery. It’s below the town of Anderson, Deschutes Bridge to be exact, where we can hunt for these incredible native Californians. I use a Jet Boat for the Salmon Trips. The goal is to get on the river before sun-up, limit out and head back to the boat launch.

For the Rainbow Trout angler… it’s not that we won’t catch any during a Salmon trip, but our chances are not all that great as we are targeting King Salmon that really don’t hold in the best water for finding Rainbows. The Lower Sacramento has an incredible diversity of water favoring a list of species not limited to Rainbow Trout and King Salmon. The Lower Sacramento is also an amazing Striper and Bass fishery. Ask me about it!

Salmon do move up above the Deschutes Bridge on the Lower Sacramento River. We can expect large numbers for the Fall/Autumn run. The autumn run of Salmon produces some amazing fly fishing for Rainbow Trout averaging 16″. Bigger rainbows and even Steelhead going over 28″ are common. We can’t fish for King Salmon above Deschutes Bridge.

The Spring and Winter run of Kings is off-limits on the Lower Sacramento River. The main reason the waters upriver of HWY 44 are off-limits to anglers from late April through July is due to spring run King Salmon spawning in this area of the Lower Sacramento. They are an endangered run, protected.

Come see me in late summer through September to get into Lower Sacramento Kings.

Guided Fly Fishing Is A Best Option On The Lower Sacramento River

To really get the most out of a day fly fishing the Lower Sacramento, it’s a huge advantage to have a fly fishing guide show you around. Most guides work the rivers riffles, tailouts, and edges for wild Lower Sacramento Rainbow Trout from a drift boat. Wading is possible but given the length of any float from put in to take out, spending time in one spot can come at the cost of better water downstream.

Some of the best water on the Lower Sacramento River can’t be effectively fished from a wading position. The exceptions are when we can experience dry fly fly fishing which often occurs, but you really have to be in the right place at the right time. Late August and February through June have plenty of good sessions where 16″+ rainbows peel line off your reel after eating a Cutters E/C Caddis placed a mere 20′ form your position.

The Seasons On The Lower Sacramento River

The Lower Sacramento River is open all year long with the exception of the very upper portion above HWY 44 which is closed from the last Saturday in April through July 31st. No big deal. Hardly puts a dent on the great fly fishing found downstream for another 30 miles.

The most overlooked time of year that produces some of the most talked about fly fishing is the Winter. It’s easy to escape crowds on this river even during the busiest season, but Winter ensures you’ll have vast sections all to yourself. Winter provides the safest and really the best opportunities to wade the river, moving from location to location via a drift boat.

It’s common to find some of the hardiest Rainbows the river knows, laying in shallow transitions, just off a riffle or rocky drop. They are wary of the boats that become an all-day broken up procession during other months. But in the winter, these beasts move into the water at your feet only to break your fly off after tearing into the center depths of the powerful river current. 25″ to 28″ rainbows are out there. Dress warm and bring rain gear.

Springtime on the Lower Sacramento River never disappoints. Days can be sunny, partly cloudy to downright windy, cold, rainy. Insect hatches of PMD’s, Little Yellow Stones, Springtime Caddis. Switching flies during the day is the key to staying tight to fish. Springtime tends to begin based on insect activity, about mid-February, and is in full swing by April. March has historically been one of the premiere months as rainbows seem to migrate up into the waters around Redding possibly heading to what is simply “better water” as conditions below Anderson, CA. change due to run-off, longer days, and insect hatches becoming more and more prevalent in the Redding area of the Lower Sacramento. All I can tell you is March is a month you must experience.

The summer means long days and guaranteed favorable weather. No hurry to get on the water as the bite typically kicks off around 11:00 AM during the dog days of summer on the Lower Sacramento River. Fly Fishing can be good through sundown. June can be the only month that can shut the good fly fishing we expect down. When releases into the Lower Sacramento River are increased out of Shasta Dam, the river becomes stratified with debris and fish become displaced due to pressure changes and increased water force. The fish move to better holding lies. It’s unlikely a productive day of fly fishing will be the result once flows bump up. The good news is the bite goes off for about 24 hours. It doesn’t take long for the Rainbow Trout to settle back in. We don’t always know when the flows will come up. Sometimes we get a notice 10 days in advance, other times there’s a small increase during our day that is unexpected. It’s always the same thing… one minute we are into fish and then it’s over. June fly fishing on the Lower Sacramento is always good until those few days when the flows come up.

July and August are reliable and probably the warmest months on the Lower Sacramento River for anglers. It gets hot here in NorCal. Expect to fish in daytime temps over 100°F, but the river keeps the edge off often with a 10° variance. We jump into the river!! The hottest part of the day is after 3:00 PM. The best fly fishing hands down occurs in those golden 4 hours leading up to sunset. Getting tight to Rainbows in the late morning through the early afternoon is always an option and for some who don’t care for a hot day, we can be off the river by 2:00 PM after starting at 7:00 AM.

King Salmon start to arrive in July and I prefer to do a dedicated guided trip for the Salmon using my Jet Boat. The Lower Sacramento River is perfectly suited for fly fishing out of a Jet Boat. The river is wide, often flowing at or above 20k CFS (Cubic Feet per Second) through the summer. There’s a lot of really good holding water for King Salmon below Anderson. Large, cold, and deep pools where the salmon hold, getting ready to move into Battle Creek or further upstream. We start early, aim to limit out fast, and be back at the boat ramp in time for you to get home a grill’m up.

October is the busiest month of the year on the Lower Sacramento in Redding, CA. Great fall weather coupled with great Trout fly fishing is what October delivers. In better years, King Salmon show up in Redding. The numbers can be impressive. The salmon arrive to spawn and the byproduct of spawning is the eggs the Salmon lays in a “Redd” which is a fishes version of a nest. We do not fish for the Salmon. No, no. We aim for Rainbow Trout who are keying on the stray eggs that bounce out of the Redd and tumble downstream into a pod of hold Rainbows. The feeding is very aggressive! It is madness throwing egg patterns to rainbows holding just below the massive Kings. You can expect large to very large Rainbows to inhale your fly/egg in no more than 3 seconds of it hitting the water, delivered just below the tails of the spawning salmon. But not all years produce the experience I describe though. Some years we see a very small number of Salmon arrive in the upper reaches of the Lower Sacramento in the Redding, CA. area. And if the experience I describe happens, it’s very short-lived, maybe a day or two and those salmon are done. Ideally, we hope for a revolving experience where salmon continue to show up, dig redds, spawn, and then new fish arrive and repeat.

Either way, the Rainbows are still in the river and there’s more water to fish, more sections of the Lower Sacramento to explore than can be imagined. The Rainbow Trout don’t really care if the big Salmon Spawn occurs or not. They eat and eat aggressively during the autumn months. I think October is the best time of year to come for multiple days. Some of the lower reaches of the Sacramento, below Anderson, CA. are worth a day just to see a more wild side of the Lower Sacramento. We commonly see dear, eagles, otters, bobcats, osprey, and no shortage of geese and ducks.

I guide the Lower Sacramento River. All year long. From Redding down below Anderson. I know all the seams, riffles, rocks, transitions. I am exceptionally good at being in the right place at the right time.

To book a date with me on the Lower Sacramento River, simply give me a call or fill out my form below. I respond the same day and no later than the next day.