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.