California Fly Fishing 4 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Lower Sacramento River in California

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

March 21, 2020

Lower Sacramento River in California

The Lower Sacramento River is a great destination for any eager angler. The River not only provides year round fishing, but also holds a wide variety of species, including steelhead, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, chinook salmon, strippers, and rainbow trout.

With plenty of food available, the fish of the Lower Sacramento River grow big, and they grow fast. You’ll need to keep your wits about you in order to outsmart the inhabitants of this River.

If you’re stealthy enough, you will be rewarded with an excellent fishing experience. Treat yourself by planning your trip to the Lower Sacramento River today.

About Lower Sacramento River

AC Fly Fishing provides a spring fly fishing report for the Lower Sac and other Northern California trout streams.

The Sacramento River is the largest river in California and rises in the Klamath Mountains. It runs for about 400 miles. The Lower Sacramento River flows out of Shasta lake and then on down to Keswick Dam, which is located about three miles north of Redding.

Shasta Lake not only receives the water from the Upper Sacramento River, it receives the water from the McCloud River, Pit River, Fall River, Hat Creek and Squaw Creeks, all excellent trout streams.

The Lower Sacramento River is a big tailwater stream with many smooth areas of water, broken up occasionally by riffles and long, deep pools. It can be difficult to fish the smooth areas, as the trout can see your presentation clearly. 

In addition to the plentiful trout population, this River also boasts an excellent aquatic insect population. Of course, there are some downsides to fishing this river as well. It is difficult to predict the flow level and fishing conditions, as the Lower Sacramento River receives water from numerous powerful creeks nearby. These discharges depend heavily on the current agricultural needs of Central Valley, California.

As you venture downstream, the water becomes warmer and more hospitable to warm water species. Be sure to check on current river conditions and flow levels before making your trip. Use caution and try to match the current hatch when tackling these waters.

Lower Sacramento River Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of fishing access spots on the Lower Sacramento River in California

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

Best Places to Fish Lower Sacramento River

Access to the Lower Sacramento River is excellent. There are six boat launches for drift boats along the River and the River closely parallels Highway 5. Wading can be done in low flows during the spring and the fall. Do not attempt to wade before you have checked the flow levels.

The best way to tackle this River is using a drift boat. If you are looking for rainbow trout, you’ll find excellent fishing between the Sun Dial Bridge and Anderson River Park. If you would rather take on the mighty steelhead, you’ll want to venture to the area between Anderson River Park and Los Molinos.

Stream Flow and Current Conditions

Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish Lower Sacramento River. The USGS stream gauge near Keswick, CA provides a good indication of current conditions.

The graph below shows the stream flow (discharge) for the past 7-days. If flows are considerably above or below historical norms (yellow triangles on the chart) then fishing conditions ma not be ideal.


  • Streamflow: 9760 ft³/s
  • Gage height: 12.98 ft
Streamflow GraphGage height Graph

Best Time to Fish Lower Sacramento River

Because the water remains cool throughout the year, fishing is excellent during every season. Spring is a great time to visit for trout fishing. The most important hatches are the Blue-Winged Olives and March Browns that come off in March and April. Pale Morning Duns emerge in May and June. Golden stoneflies, Salmonflies and Little Yellow Stones begin to crawl to shore and hatch in April through June.

Summertime also provides good fishing, due to the cool water discharges the Sac receives. In the summer, terrestrials become very important, with beetles and grasshoppers becoming particularly useful in the warmest months.

When tackling the River, you’ll quickly realize that streamers are very important. Try using  imitations of sculpin, minnows and baitfish.

Fly Fishing for striped bass in Lower Sacramento River

In the fall, the chinook salmon and steelhead take over the waters. During this time, egg patterns are highly effective along with standard nymphs and heavily-weighted articulated leeches or Woolly Bugger patterns. Steelhead fishing continues into the winter when the big fish come out to play.

Fly Box – What You’ll Need

Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for Lower Sacramento River:

  • Blue Winged Olive
  • March Brown
  • Pale Morning Dun
  • Golden Stone
  • Salmonflies
  • Little Yellow Stones
  • Lincoln’s TS Bugger
  • Willie Nelson
  • CG’s Red Headed Leech
  • Prince Nymph
  • Copper John
  • Glo Bug

Gear Recommendations

A 9-foot 5-wt or 6-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and nymphs on the Lower Sac for trout. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

For steelhead and salmon a single-handed 9-foot six- to 8-weight rod with either a sink tip or shooting head works well. For two-handed rods, a Scandi tip on a floating line is recommended for swinging flies on the Lower Sac.

Lower Sacramento River Fishing Report

Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide Lower Sacramento 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 the Lower Sacramento River is Redding Airport. Another nearby option would be the Sacramento International Airport. You can travel to any major or municipal airport in Northern California and arrive at your destination after a few hours of scenic driving.

The Stardust Motel in Redding is a great choice of accommodation for the budget-minded fishermen. They offer reasonable rates, clean rooms, and free WiFi. But when you are visiting a state as beautiful as California, however, we recommend that you take advantage of the great outdoors. Try Redding RV Park. This campground is situated south of Shasta Lake, and they offer easy access to local attractions.

The Lower Sacramento River is a true pleasure to explore and fish. If you take the time to properly prepare yourself, we guarantee you’ll enjoy this fishery.

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

Feature image by worldislandinfo