California Fly Fishing 4 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Upper Sacramento River in California

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

February 13, 2020

The Upper Sacramento River in California

Gorgeous waterfalls, breathtaking scenery, and an abundance of trout! Sound like heaven? Not quite! It’s the Upper Sacramento River. Located North of Redding, the Upper Sacramento River is a fly fisherman’s paradise.

The Upper Sacramento River offers varying levels of difficulty depending on where you choose to fish and when you choose to visit.

The challenge, combined with the beautiful and diverse features, is guaranteed to thrill even the most seasoned angler.

So grab your waders and prepare for the adventure of a lifetime. Just watch out for rattlesnakes!

About Upper Sacramento River

Fly fishing The Upper Sacramento River

The Upper Sacramento River begins near Mount Shasta, in the Trinity Mountains of Siskiyou County. The River flows east into a small reservoir, Lake Siskiyou, and then veers south, running through several towns, including Gibson, Dunsmuir, and Castella. Then, the River runs through Box Canyon before emptying into Shasta Lake in Shasta County. The Upper Sac provides about 40 miles worth of trout-filled water. The River is open year round, so you are guaranteed good fishing no matter when you choose to visit. The River flows alongside Interstate 5 and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.

The Upper Sac boasts gorgeous scenery that you won’t soon forget. You’ll see waterfalls, crystal clear pools, riffles, runs, and pocket water. Many of the areas the River runs through are thickly forested and offer diverse populations of fish and aquatic insects. The most common fish you will catch in this River are rainbow and brown trout.

Anybody who enjoys spending time outdoors will fall in love with the Upper Sacramento River. Anglers are able to enjoy a fantastic view of Mount Shasta and Castle Crags, two famous landmarks in the area, as they cast their lines. With the easy wading conditions and the plethora of trout, the hardest part of fishing the Upper Sacramento River might just be saying goodbye at the end of the day.

Upper Sacramento River Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of fishing access spots on the Upper Sacramento River in Califormia

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

Best Places to Fish Upper Sacramento River

One of the best places to fish the Upper Sac for stocked trout is near the town of Dunsmuir. For wild trout much of the best water is accessible via the many off-ramps on Interstate 5 between Shasta Lake and Dunsmuir (see map).

Most of the Upper Sac is catch and release, except for the area between Soda Creek and Scarlett Way Bridge. The wading conditions are excellent, especially in the lower reaches.

A note of caution: you will want to be careful to avoid rattlesnakes if you are walking the Southern Pacific railroad train tracks that parallel and provide access to much of the River. They like to sun themselves and hunt along the track bed in the late afternoon.

Stream Flow and Current Conditions

Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the Upper Sacramento River. The USGS stream gauge near Delta, 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.


  • Streamflow: 552 ft³/s
  • Gage height: 4.66 ft
Streamflow GraphGage height Graph

Best Time to Fish Upper Sacramento River

The best time to fish the Upper Sacramento River is in between late April and early November. However, fishing is available year round, so you are welcome any time of the year. If you are visiting during the warmer summer months, try fishing during the mornings and evenings. 

The Upper Sacramento River has a great aquatic insect population. The most common hatches include a variety of mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies.

For mayflies, Blue-winged Olives kick-off the action in April-May and then again in October-November. As spring progresses you will see March Browns, Green Drakes, Pale Morning Duns and Pale Evening Duns.

A variety of caddis emerge throughout the summery, accompanied by Golden Stones, Salmonflies and Little Yellow Stones. Ironically, the October Caddis makes its debut in September. You can expect to see Midges year round. 

During hot days, you will have luck using terrestrials. You will want to use smaller flies and a light tippet to maximize the amount of trout you catch.

Fly Box – What You’ll Need

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

  • Caddis (various) (#14-18)
  • Golden Stonefly (#6-10)
  • Salmon Fly (#4-6)
  • Ants (#14-16)
  • Beetles (#12-14)
  • Blue Winged Olive (#18-22)
  • Midges (various) (#18-22)
  • Little Yellow Stonefly (#14-16)
  • Grasshoppers (#10-12)
  • October Caddis (#8-10)

Gear Recommendations

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

Upper Sacramento River Fishing Report

Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide an Upper 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 major airport to The Upper Sacramento River is Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport, but you could also travel to Redding Municipal Airport, which is located in Oregon, for a shorter car journey. You can expect to have to do a decent amount of driving if you land in a major airport in California, but we promise you that it is a scenic journey.

There are plenty of great lodging options for anglers in Dunsmuir, California. Lake Siskiyou Camp Resort is open from April 1st to November 1st. The campground offers a majestic view of Mt. Shasta and is an excellent choice if you are traveling with family members. 

If you are really looking for a unique experience, look no further than Railroad Park Resort. The rooms will make you feel like you are staying on a train – a train that offers modern luxuries, of course. They also have their own Dining Car Restaurant, which will feel much more like a museum than the eateries you are used to.

Start planning your trip to the Upper Sacramento River today, and get ready to be swept off your feet.

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

Feature image by Nathan Jongewaard