Fishing California’s Lower Sacramento River

The lower Sacramento River is a wide, fast, deep and clear tailwater running from the Keswick Dam in Northern California. In addition to a beautiful river, the lower “Sac” presents the serious fly fishing enthusiast with a variety of fishing opportunities including trout, steelhead and salmon.

As I experienced during a recent trip, it can also provide a very educational opportunity to earn an advanced degree in “The Skill of Fishing with Strike Indicators”. In fact, if you are to be successful in your quest for large Rainbows, then the lower Sac demands that you master the lower Sac techniques for fishing with a strike indicator. Otherwise, you will be the victim of long days …on a fantastic river…. without much to show for your fly fishing efforts.

On the lower sac, strike indicators are more than a fly fishing technique…they are a way of life. So much so, that every guide seems to have developed their own designs. Some guides use very elaborate yarn indicators with an attached center probe (or stick) connected directly to the leader in order to give any indication of the slightest movement of the fly. I have fished many rivers…in many places…and this is the first time I have seen or used this type of indicator.

But they are effective – providing they are used in conjunction with a slight “pile cast” that allows a small curl of fly line to develop just behind the indicator. Of course, the other absolute requirement is a drag free drift. If you can put those two elements together, the lower Sac will provide the trout…and plenty of opportunities to test your strike indicator.

During our two days on the lower Sac, we hooked lots of Rainbows in the 16″-18″‘ range, with several over 20″. In fact, my fishing partner landed a deeply colored Rainbow that pushed 23″. In addition, we broke off several hogs (on 5x an 6x tippet) and I even managed to break the hook (size 14) in very large trout that absolutely refused to come to the surface.

In summary, if you like fly fishing on big water…. with plenty of wild rainbows…then the lower Sacramento is the river for you. However, I definitely wouldn’t classify it as an easy river to fish. It requires patience and ability to learn to develop a casting technique that allows the strike indicator to work effectively. If you can master that technique…then you’ll hook and land more than your share of quality trout.

Travel details: The Sacramento River is located near Redding, California