California Fly Fishing 3 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing Fall River in California

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

February 19, 2020

Fall River in northern California

When it comes to trout streams, we feel the bigger, the better. And it doesn’t get any bigger than the Fall River in California.

Fall River is the largest spring creek in the United States and is home to sizable wild brown and rainbow trout. Understandably, the River attracts many admirers and wildlife, including deer, ospreys, eagles, and geese.

The River’s clean and crystal clear waters make it a thriving fishery and one that every angler should visit in his lifetime.

But just because the Fall River sounds like a paradise, doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy to fish. The trout in Fall River are wily, so be sure to read our guide to understand your best approach for tackling this stream.

About Fall River

Fly Fishing the Fall River

The Fall River is a 21.3 mile long tributary of the Pit River in northern California. It has been designated as a Heritage and Wild Trout stream. The River starts at Thousand Springs near Dana, California. This is about sixty-five miles east of Redding.

The River is wide and slow-moving, with a slick surface. The stream is not affected by the spring runoff, despite being located near Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen. The River has a plentiful insect population and it is very important to match the hatch closely in order to have success on this stream. You are most likely to find wild rainbow trout and to a lesser extent some brown trout.

Access to the stream is limited, as much of the property the river flows through is privately owned. However, you can access the River from two public entry points and can fish wherever you want. You will want to be careful to pay attention to the posted regulations, as there are some areas motors are not allowed. Additionally, there are other special regulations on this River, so be sure to check out the most recently posted ones before your visit.

On average, the water is over six feet deep, making it impossible to wade in. The water temperature remains cool throughout the year, so you can visit for most of the year.

Fall River Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of fishing access spots on the Fall River in California

Get Directions to the Fishing Access Points shown above with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Places to Fish Fall River

The best place to fly fish Fall River is at CalTrout’s purchase of land near Island Road. This area is located near the middle section of the stream, and you’ll need a boat to access the river. 

The upper reaches of the Fall River doesn’t allow motor boats, but the lower access does. Most anglers use shallow draft john boats and electric motors. The water is much too deep to wade and is very thick with aquatic vegetation.

Best Time to Fish Fall River

The best time to visit Fall River is late spring and early summer, due to the aquatic insect hatches. The biggest hatch of the year is the Pale Morning Dun that runs from mid-April through mid-October. The PMD spinner fall is particularly epic and draws a lot fish to the surface. The Blue-winged Olive hatch is the second most consist hatch on Fall River and comes off mid-June through mid-November.

Through out the summer months you will encounter lesser hatches of caddis, callibaetis, Green Drakes, hexagenia (a gaint mayfly species) and Tricos. Midges are a year-round food item and should not be overlooked.

Given the Fall River meanders through miles of meadows, imitations of terrestrial insects such as grass hoppers are also effective.The season for Fall River is from the last Saturday in April through November 15.

Best Flies for Fall River

Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for Fall River:

  • Green Drake (#8-12)
  • Pale Morning Dun (#14-18)
  • Caddis (various) (#14-20)
  • Trico (#20-24)
  • Blue Winged Olive (#18-22)

Gear Recommendations

A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on Fall River. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

Fall River Fishing Report

Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a Fall River fly fishing report are listed below:

Fishing Regulations

The state of California requires that all people who are 16 years of age and older have a valid fishing license. There are resident and non-resident sport fishing licenses available. You can purchase a one-year, 10-day, two-day, or one-day license. Some areas also require a permit. You can purchase the license and learn about the most current regulations through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Trip Planning Tips

The nearest airport to Fall River is the Redding Municipal Airport. Another nearby option is Crate Lake-Klamath Regional Airport. While it will be a bit of a journey to get there, we promise you’ll know it was worth it as soon as you set eyes on Fall River.

If you are looking for reasonably priced lodging in the area, the Travel Inn Motel is located near Redding. They offer clean rooms and friendly staff. However, if you are looking for outdoor accommodations, you might want to check out Shasta-Trinity National Forest Campground. This campground has beautiful areas that are guaranteed to help you unwind and relax during your fishing weekend.

The next time you are planning a fly fishing trip, you must consider the Fall River, the biggest trout stream in the United States. If you love angling, you’ll need to add this stream to your bucket list.

Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in California

Feature image by UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences