Putah Creek in California

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing Putah Creek in California

Putah Creek has a fascinating history.

In the early 1900s, Putah Creek was a thriving stream that was teeming with steelhead. But by the late 1980s, extended drought caused the Creek to go dry.

A subsequent controversial lawsuit was resolved with the signing of the Putah Creek Accord in 2000. This resulted in the construction of Monticello Dam, and the releases from the dam have helped restore Putah Creek to its former glory, albeit it is now tailwater trout fishery.

Now, the fishery is once again a great destination for fly fishermen looking for that perfect catch. You can find plenty of wild rainbow and the occasional brown trout in these waters.

We are grateful for all the effort put into restoring this Creek and, if you visit, we guarantee you will be too. 

Fly Fishing in Putah Creek in California

Putah Creek is a 85 mile long stream located in Northern California. It is a tributary of the Yolo Bypass and, eventually, the Sacramento River. The name “Putah” comes from the Lake Miwok language. The original name for the Creek was “puta wuwwe” meaning “grassy creek.” The United States Board on Geographic Names rejected the name “Puta Creek” due to its resemblance to an offensive term in Spanish.

Putah Creek rises on the east side of Cobb Mountain, and flows to Lake Berryessa and the Monticello Dam. Near the southeast corner of the lake, the Creek leaves Napa County and forms the boundary between Yolo and Solano Counties, for about 8.1 miles before emptying into the Putah Diversion Dam. Below Lake Solano, the Creek travels for 23 miles and then meets the Yolo Bypass. Putah Creek is fed by its tributaries Dry Creek and McCune Creek.

At Putah Creek, you will see rainbow and brown trout. The Creek is known by its nickname the “Green River” due to its rich aquatic vegetation, and was even the subject of a Creedence Clearwater Revival song, “Green River.” The band’s lead singer, John Fogerty, often visited the Creek on vacation as a child.

The Creek is also in close proximity to the Bay Area and Sacramento, so you can enjoy exploring plenty of other attractions in the area as well. As Creedence Clearwater Revival puts it, “If you get lost come on home to Green River.”

Putah Creek Map and Fishing Access Sites

DIY Fly Fishing Map

Click map icons to get directions to fishing spots, boat ramps and USGS stream flow data

Best Places to Fish Putah Creek

The best trout fishing occurs below Monticello Dam. Because the discharges keep the water cool throughout the year, you can visit during any season and still have success catching trout. Trout as large as twenty inches have been caught in this section.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations dictate that you must use artificial lures with barbless hooks. Additionally, the Creek is catch and release only from November 16 to the last Saturday of April. Keep in mind that these regulations are subject to change, and be sure to get the latest information before making your visit. 

Access to the stream is excellent, as the Creek parallels Highway 128. There are five county fishing accesses, which are ideal entry points for anglers. You must pay to park in these areas, but you can also park alongside the road. 

While you can wade in some areas, the high volume discharges make this dangerous in sections, particularly in the summer. It’s best to fish from the banks.

Stream Flow and Current Conditions

Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish Putah Creek. The USGS stream gauge near Winters, California 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.

PUTAH C NR WINTERS CA

  • Flow: 480 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 7.59 ft
.
USGS

Best Time to Fish Putah Creek

Putah Creek offers year round fly fishing opportunities. The most common hatches you will see on this stream are Blue Winged Olives and ever present midges. The Creek also has its share of Caddisflies, most notably Spotted Sedges. You can also have luck using terrestrial imitations in the summer. Streamers are also effective to mimic sculpin and other baitfish present in the Creek.

Fishing is productive all year, although you will want to avoid the Creek on the coldest days of winter. The best time to visit is probably early spring or late fall.

Fly Box – What You’ll Need

Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for Putah Creek:

  • Pheasant Tail (#16-18)
  • S&M Nymph (#16-18)
  • Zebra Midge (#18-20)
  • Juju Baetis (#18)
  • Juju Midge (#18)
  • Micro May (#18)
  • Brassie (#16-18)
  • Serendipity (#18)
  • San Juan Worm (#6-8)
  • Adams (#18)
  • EH Caddis (#18)
  • 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 Putah Creek. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

Putah Creek Fishing Report

Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide an Putah Creek 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 Putah Creek is Sacramento International Airport, which is located about 30 miles away from Dixon, California. Another option is to travel to Oakland International Airport. Keep in mind that you can travel to any major or municipal airport in Northern California and arrive at your destination after a few hours of scenic driving.

Our musical recommendation for the road trip? CCR, of course, to get you properly in the mood for your fishery.

If you are looking for reasonably priced accommodations in the area, check out ​Motel 6​ in Dixon. They offer neat and unpretentious rooms, and a seasonal outdoor pool. With so many fascinating sites to see in California, you will want to stay somewhere close to all the activities. Vineyard RV Park​ is close to Napa Valley and San Francisco. When you’re not busy angling, you can enjoy a delicious glass of wine in Napa Valley, or head out to see Alcatraz in San Francisco.

Putah Creek is an inspiration to musicians, artists, and anglers alike. Start planning your trip so you can see exactly why.

Feature image by Anthonysthwd

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


About the Author Ken Sperry

Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and find new places to fish. He created DIY Fly Fishing to help you do the same.