Those fly fishers who seek and thrive on exclusive waters where movie stars, ex presidents and those with coveted access toss flies, look no further! Fall River begins its journey bubbling out of natural springs in an area called Thousand Springs. This water is as clear and healthy as any waters in California. If Dianna the goddess of the hunt, moon and all things wild were to choose a place to build her castle, it would be here!
This spring fed jewel is home to an eclectic mix of migrating ducks, deer, various eagle species, heron, osprey, and many animals. It is difficult to describe how intoxicating this place is and how mesmerizing its many vistas. The one aspect that has kept it almost entirely secret is the privacy and quite limited access. This river meanders down 17 miles into the Pit River all the way down it has carved near perfect deep cuts into banks. Brown Trout love these hiding places and have staked out excellent niches where only experienced fly fishers can entice and disturb. This river has attracted those seeking unmolested wildness and waters of utmost purity! Millionaires and savvy sportsmen have bought up every piece of river frontage creating exclusivity and privacy to be reckoned with. A number of lawsuits have made it a little more accessible, especially the work of Caltrout’s purchase of land near Island Road. It is the waters in the mid section of the river that provide the best fly fishing opportunities both trolling and dry fly action.
Nature lovers, bird watchers, duck hunters and wilderness oriented fly fishers covet this Upper California treasure. Bing Crosby, Clint Eastwood and Walton Powell have navigated and savored this natural spring fed ribbon of glass like waters. It is not easy to get to and not a walk in the park to fish. When hot summer months force fat browns and overfed rainbows deep. Those fly fishers who have mastered deep trolling with various streamers or flashy marabou type deep divers prevail. Early morning and very late afternoon dry fly action can be once in a lifetime. The Big deal in this magic place is the Hexagenia hatch that locals get almost misty eyed over! This insane hatch is unpredictable and famous for wild action on par with any hatch you have experienced.
Those who seek the unique will not be disappointed and those who are used to working for their hookups will fair far better. The clear water translates into serious patience if your going to throw deep diving nymphs such as Pheasant Tails #14-16, Pale Morning Dun’s #14-16, various streamer types weighted. Dry flies can be never fail Mosquito’s, Parachute Adams, #16-22, Quill type Spinners #18-20. In June and July late afternoon Hex explosions get the big fish up and moving and gobbling up hordes of tasty easy meals. This river is conducive to fly fishers using their imaginations in regard to streamer choices. Working deep cut edges and ledges with slow jerky moves can bring heart-stopping results. If you like to tie tiny flies and only throw dries, morning and evening this is the place. You will see many old timers slowly trolling up and down favorite sections. Not much if any shore casting opportunities, unless you own a little piece of this prime frontage.
Fall River is about 70 miles east of Redding California Highway 299 take a left on either McArthur or Glenburn roads. Boats electric or manual only can be used by way of Caltrout access area by taking Hiway 299 all the way through town of Fall River Mills to McArthur, then go left on Glenburn road for almost six miles, go right on island road for almost two miles cross bridge to Caltrout area on right side. Be advised during peak season or for that matter almost anytime during season, get their very early if you want a spot to park! Season runs Last Saturday in April through November 15th. Wise fly fishers always check out special regulations before working this water. The average trout in 13-18 inch zone, a few over twenty can be had and those who know the deep cut edge routine will score monster browns for sure. As mentioned, this water runs for around 17 miles in the shadow of Mt. Lassen. Fly fishers take heed, this place is sacred to locals and those who have tasted these crystal clear waters. You will not be able to get out of your car and throw flies at will. You will be best served to find a guide and get acquainted properly. Locals are not fond of strangers here and unless your handing out bottles of expensive single malt scotch to land owners, don’t be surprised if they look at you like space aliens attacking precious homeland waters!
Campgrounds can be found by going west of Fall River Mills about 4 miles to Pit River Powerhouse Road. The hub city for this area is Fall River Mills a small quiet town that truly covets it’s special fly fishing and will not tolerate disrespectful sportsmen who come into town dragging fifty foot loud jet boats and leaving a wake of empty beer bottles! Walk carefully and smile while in Fall River Mills. U.S. Presidents from Herbert Hoover to Eisenhower have fished here, Hollywood elite and blessed fly fishers have sampled this church of aquatic excellence, be prepared to be humbled.
Fishing the Carson in the Spring
By: Richard Alves
The crystal clear waters of the Fall River originate from snowmelt on the Eastern slopes of Mt. Shasta and springs in its old lava flow. The river slowly meanders through the Fall River Valley, a farming area known for its wild rice. The river channel, cut out of an ancient lava bed, is lined with lush aquatic grasses, the perfect habitat for a plethora of aquatic insects and trout.
The chunky rainbow cleared the water by at least three feet. I tried to strip the slack out of the line. The fish hit the water and took off on another run down river. With the only drag being my finger on the line, I wondered how much tension the 2 pound tippet would stand as I finally slowed and then turned the fish. We soon had it to the boat and went through our C.P.R. program (Catch, Photograph, Release). The fish swam off and hid in the weeds on the river bottom.
Paul Voltura of the Pit River Lodge with another Wild Rainbow The Fall River is renown for its native rainbows, to 24 inches in length, ad its native browns, which can top 6 pounds. In the spring, most of the fish you find will be rainbow because the browns haven’t yet returned from their spawning runs. The clarity of the water combined with the abundant insect population make these fish finicky. If you haven’t got just the right bug, and use just the right approach, your offering will be ignored. It can be really frustrating to place a fly perfectly in front of a rising fish and then watch it swim away!
I was fishing with Paul Voltura, resident fishing guide for the Pit River Lodge. We slowly cruised up river; the speed limit is 5 MPH, until we passed a long slot with numerous fish feeding on the surface. Paul anchored the 14 ‘ Klamath boat just upriver from the action. “I want to make sure we know what they’re hitting before we put the boat in the slot.” He said.
Pale Dunn Fly
Pheasant Tail Fly
So we began the process of determining the “hot” fly. There were hatches of both pale dunns and black caddis happening. Paul tried a floating dunn, and I tied on the caddis. After drifting the flies downstream in front of feeding fish, and not getting any takers, Paul suggested we switch to emerging nymph patterns.
When the fish are so fussy, the presentation has to be perfect. The fly has to be in a dead drift. The technique is to keep feeding line so the fly drifts naturally, but not to have so much line out you can’t set the hook. If the fly makes one unnatural move, you might as well bring it in and start over. With a nymph, things get a little more interesting because you can’t see the bug.
On my second drift with a pheasant tail (small 18-20) I had a taker. My rod tip bent over and I fed the fish line for the first run… That was just the beginning, we had found the “hot bug”. Over the next two hours we boated around 20 fish, I quit counting. The Fall River rainbows we encountered weren’t the biggest the river has to offer, but the fight these fish put up is phenomenal!
The Fall River, located 75 miles East of Redding, CA on Highway 299, is an artificial lure, barbless hook fishery. You are allowed 2 fish, maximum length 14″.
Food And Lodging:
The Pit River Lodge is approx. 10 miles West of Fall River. The lodge is one of the finest examples of early 20th Century Craftsman style architecture in the state, and their rates are reasonable.
The dining room provides outstanding continental cuisine, specializing in fresh seafood. Don’t miss the Scallops and Prawns Linguine, and Chef Bob’s New England Clam Chowder. They’ll gladly cook your catch, if you ask them in the morning before you go fishing. And they can also supply you with lunch.
The lodge will advise you on the hot fishing spots on the area’s many lakes, streams, and rivers, and can help you obtain a guide if you need one.
I know this is a glowing review, but these guys “earned” it. Check them out on the web at