Fishing California’s Largest Spring Creek: The Fall River

by Dick Reccia

When you are fishing on the Fall River you are constantly treated to a glorious view of Mt Shasta as you float down California’s largest spring creek. That view…coupled with the “gin clear” water and the dancing buffalo grass, combine to create one of Northern California’s finest trout fisheries.

Although the Fall River was first utilized as a main artery for transporting logs, it gradually developed into one of California’s finest fly fishing rivers. However, until the early 1970’s, it basically remained as private water. But, because of the foresight and hard work of a dedicated group of fly fishing enthusiasts, today it is now available as an exceptional spring-fed trout infested river surrounded by beautiful mountains and lush vegetation.

To the fly fishing enthusiast, the Fall River presents a beautiful and challenging opportunity to hook some very “hot” brown and rainbow trout. Most of these trout run from 16-20” with an average weight of 2-3 lbs. However, some of the local guides boast of Fall River “monsters” that hit 6-11 lbs!

During our recent trip, we didn’t hook …or even see…any trout that could be classified as “monsters”. But we did manage to catch our share of some fairly decent trout…all of which provided us with the opportunity to apply an interesting variation to proven fly fishing techniques through the use of the “Fall River twitch”.

The Fall River (designated barbless and artificial fly only) is primarily fished using small nymphs, with the usual patterns including: Oliver Bird’s Nest (12-14), Green Sparkle Pupa (16-18), plus a variety of Scuds. The Fall River “twitch” incorporates a constant down river mend that extends the drift while at the same time providing enough slack to keep the indicator floating drag free.

The successful use of the twitch however incorporates long leaders (usually 11 feet) and light tippets (5X and 6X fluorocarbon are preferred)… combined with a nymph and a “dropper” at about 18″-24″. This setup is “twitched” downstream, using a foam or yarn indicator set at a depth that keeps the dropper slightly above the level of the buffalo grass that covers the river’s bed.

Fall River trout are very “smart” and very quick on the “take” so be prepared to miss a ton of fish. In addition, whenever hooked, they dive immediately for the buffalo grass. This presents another interesting challenge particularly if you happen to be in the middle of a long drift with 30 or 40 feet of line downstream. But that’s just another reason why the Fall River is so appealing.

So, if your travels ever take you to Northern California-specifically to Redding, then, I suggest you take advantage of the opportunity to try your hand at fishing the Fall River. Based upon my own experience, I’m confident you’ll find it both challenging and rewarding.

Travel details: The Fall River is located approximately 50 miles North of Redding, California