California Fly Fishing 3 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Feather River (Middle Fork) in California

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

April 18, 2020

Feather River (Middle Fork) in California

The Middle Fork of the Feather River in Northern California boasts an excellent population of rainbow and brown trout. Whether you are a seasoned angler or an enthusiastic beginner, you will be able to find success and joy in these waters. The Middle Fork also has a thriving aquatic insect population, so you will need to match the hatch closely in order to fool your prey.

Take a look at our guide before tackling this River, and you will be well-prepared to take on this dynamic and engaging fishery.

About Feather River

Fly Fishing the Feather River (Middle Fork)

The Feather River is the principal tributary of the Sacramento River in Northern California. The Middle Fork refers to the 100 mile long river in Plumas and Butte Counties. The River is recognized by the US Government as a National Wild and Scenic River for its unique wildlife and trout population. 

The Middle Fork rises in Beckwourth and is formed by several streams, with the largest being Little Last Chance Creek. The Middle Fork flows west, then northwest, and enters the Plumas National Forest. In this area, the River collects other tributaries, including Nelson Creek, Onion Valley Creek, Bear Creek, Willow Creek, and the North Fork Middle Feather River. The Middle Fork joins the South Branch Middle Fork after passing through a canyon. The River empties into Lake Oroville, and eventually flows into the Sacramento River.

The Middle Fork of the Feather River has large pools with long runs and riffles. At Feather River you’ll find wild and stocked brown and rainbow trout. But don’t expect it to be easy. The trout of Feather River are known for their tenacity and fighting spirit. You’ll have to be on your toes to outwit the proud denizens of the Middle Fork.

Dry fly fishing can be very productive on this stream, particularly in the spring. This is also a great fishery for beginners to try tight line nymphing, which grants the angler better control over their cast.

Feather River (Middle Fork) Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of fishing access spots on the Middle Fork Feather River in California

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

Best Places to Fish Feather River (Middle Fork)

The Middle Fork of the Feather River is accessible from Highway 89. The best fishing takes place below Sloat, when the River flows into the canyon. Accessing this area requires a long hike, so you will want to make sure you are well prepared for the journey. It’s best to travel with a companion if you are planning on making this trek.

You can also access the Middle Fork from Twin Rivers and Camp Layman, both of which offer parking nearby. Wading is possible in sections, though it is recommended that you use a wading staff as an extra precaution.

Best Time to Fish Feather River (Middle Fork)

The Feather River’s hatch consists of stoneflies, mayflies, and caddisflies. You will also have success using terrestrials in the summer.

The season opens on the first Saturday of April and closes on November 15. During the spring, it can be very difficult because of the runoff. You’ll have better luck fishing the Middle Fork in the summer, typically from June through early July. 

Early fall is also a good time to snag trout in the Middle Fork. 

Fly Box – What You’ll Need

Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for Feather River (Middle Fork)

  • Elk Hair Caddis (#12-16)
  • Blue Winged Olive (#18-22)
  • Pale Morning Dun (#14-16)
  • Royal Wulff (#12-14)
  • Golden Stonefly (#8-10)
  • Orange Stonefly (#6-8)
  • Little Yellow Stonefly (#14-16)
  • Woolly Bugger (#4-6)

Gear Recommendations

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

Feather River (Middle Fork) Fishing Report

Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a Feather River (Middle Fork) 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 airports to the Middle Fork of the Feather River are the Reno-Tahoe International Airport and the Sacramento International Airport. You can travel to any major or municipal airport in Northern California and arrive at your destination after a few scenic hours of driving. This is a particularly memorable journey in the fall, as you will be treated to some beautiful foliage.

Sleepy Pines Motel is a popular choice among outdoor enthusiasts looking for some peace and quiet. If you are craving some serenity, the motel offers clean, non smoking rooms with free WiFi. But if you are feeling a touch more adventurous, head to Grizzly Campground. Located near Lake Davis, the Campground is a family friendly location with excellent fly fishing opportunities of its own.

Feather River is like an Oreo cookie: the best part is the middle. But don’t take our word for it. See for yourself!

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

Feature image by Pacific Southwest Region 5