Saturday, May 12, 2018

Northern California Fly Fishing Report May 11, 2018

Things are really jumping off right now throughout the Golden State for those of us who love to pursue fish with a fly. A myriad of exciting species are coming into range. Options include shad and striper which are entering the rivers to spawn, trout fishing is beginning to open up at the higher elevations and continued success on many central valley rivers. Largemouth and smallmouth fishing is taking off in our beloved Delta and Sierra Foothill Lakes and there are a few more days of swinging for Spring run steelhead to be had. There is something out there for everyone right now. From dries, nymphs and streamers to poppers and swung flies what ever your pleasure it's go time!
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Best Bets: Lower Sacramento, Upper Sacramento, McCloud River,  Putah Creek - Trout, Yuba River -Shad and Striper, American River - Striper, Sierra foothill Lakes - Bass, Lake Almanor - Trout and Bass, 


American River Striper - Good to Great. Steelhead -  Poor. Shad - Fair to Good. Flows - 3,500 cfs at Natomas. Water Temps - Mid 50's Clarity - 5 to 6 ft. visibility.



Flows are back up to 3,500 as of May 10 and should remain around this level throughout the Summer. A few straggler Spring run steelhead and half pounders are around and are being taken on the swing as well as nymphing but our attention is now shifted to two perennial returnees to the American. 

Striper and Shad. Striper or Morone Saxatilis are in the process of working up out of the San Joaquin River Delta and are returning to the River to spawn. As opportunists and ambush predators they are more than happy to pounce on smaller baitfish that happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Subsequently they will also waylay a well positioned fly. Right now we are experiencing 8 to 15 fish per trip and all have been keeper size or better. Quite a few in the 5 to 6 lb range and a few to 8 lbs, but the best is still to come. Striper can be targeted on foot, however it is best done from a boat especially in the deeper sections of the lower river where they are now. If you are interested in giving this a try now is the time to book as we are all but full for the next two months!

Another yearly favorite which has developed a fervent following is the Alosa sapidisima or American Shad. Also referred to as the "poor mans Tarpon" because of their tendency to jump when hooked they along with the silver king are both members of the Herring family of fishes. An anadromous species, they spend a bit of time out in the salty Pacific before migrating back to propagate in fresh water. They tend to pod up into schools and at the height of the run can be seen as clouds in many areas in the river.  Shad will readily take a myriad of gaudy colored small flies and are a lot of fun on a single or two handed rod. Swing a fly through a school of shad and you are going to get hit! Whats more during the height of the run 50 to 60 or even 100 shad are possible. Fish are already in the system and we caught our first shad of the year on the American this week. (they were probably here already but we were catching them elsewhere. 



Shad can be caught just fine while wading or when accessed by a boat. Currently fish are scattered and milling about in small groups but are not yet podded up. They should be in in enough numbers to start their schooling phenomenon and when that happens it will be all systems go.  

Stop by the shop to pick up some flies and intel or book a guided trip to learn how to have success and then go back and fish on your own. For Shad fishing too IT IS GO TIME!

Steehead Nymphs: Birds Nests 10 -14, Copper Johns, Black or Olive Poopahs and Princes 14 -16. Micro Mays 14 to 18, Brown or Black Rubber Legs 6 - 10 and eggs ( Peachy King, Roe and Tangerine)

Swinging: Silver Hiltons, Anderson's Classic, Fly Fishing Specialties Alevin, Anderson Euphoria, Heisenberg, Green Butt Skunk, Falken's Tiny Dancer, Hartwick's Purple Hilton, Hobo Spey, Intruders, Perpetrators, Beach Bums, and Blood Sucking Leaches. 

Striper Flies: Stay Hungry Streamers Byng's Baitfish, Angel's Chartreuse and White, Angels Delta Danger and Angel's Smolt, Toby's Rainbow Clouser 4/0, Toby's A.R. Rainbow 4/0, American River Special 3/0

Shad Flies: Bloody Marias! (Stop by the shop to pick up the hot ones. Anything orange, pink, white or bright red or some combination there of will work) 

Give us a ring at (707)287-2939 or (916)722-1055 to give the American a whirl.


Delta Striper - Fair. Largemouth - Fair Smallmouth - Poor Water temp 60 to 70 degrees. Clarity - Good

Striper use nerves in their lateral line to detect prey in cloudy water.
Warm weather here in Northern California has brought a fair amount of windy days and the challenge has been to find protected areas that also have feeding fish. Striper are ambush predators and opportunists. They often use the tides and currents to bring hapless bait fish to them. The challenge is they are very much migratory and along that migration they mill about searching for ideal conditions to hunt. They can be in one spot one day thick as thieves, and then be nowhere to be found there the next day. So anglers and guides must run and gun in an effort to search them out each day. Fortunately once you find one you find several and boy do they pull! 

Recently the fishing has been hot and cold. Some days have been quite productive while others we have had to work hard for the ones we're getting. We have been using both a mix of rattle Clousers Minnows and traditional clousers in 4-6" lengths. Various colors have been effective however chartreuse/white have been tough to beat! With diligent guests willing to put in the work we have been averaging 10 to 15 fish to 5 lbs with an occasional 7 or 8 lb'er for the lucky (and skilled) ones on most days. Things will be slowing down here by the end of May as striper begin to head up into the rivers to spawn.



Along with striper fishing there has been good action for largemouth which has helped to keep things interesting on days when the striper fishing has slowed. Plan for things to really heat up after we get a few more days of 80 degree weather. We have had some nice bucket mouths on the boats recently so definitely keep them in mind. Try slowing your striper retrieve down a bit when targeting bass but generally you don't have to change flies. Shad patterns are working well for post spawn fish. Clousers on an intermediate lines have also been working for our Kayak guide trips too.

When targeting largemouth vs striper the right retrieve can be the difference maker.
One lesser known species on the Delta are smallmouth. "Smallies" love 70 degree water. Once this temp is reached they also like to take surface poppers twitched and retrieved in the likely spots. Right now their habitat is hovering at about 65 degrees so they are about to kick it into gear as well. Good smallmouth fishing usually starts in June and runs all the way through late September. When conditions are ideal 30 to 60 fish are possible This is a great Summer option once the kids get out of school due to the numbers of fish and ease of casting. Even big kids enjoy like the visual of seeing a smallmouth come up from the depths to smack a popper. 


A typical fish from a couple seasons back.

Smallmouth fishing is one option that is fun for the whole family. Reserve your summer fun soon. Dates with our guides are filling fast. (707)287-2939 (916)722-1055

Striper Streamers:  Byng's Baitfish - 1/0, Angel's Chartreuse and White, Angels Delta Danger and Angel's Smolt.

Largemouth Streamers: Stay Hungry Streamer - Chartreuse, Perch or Shiner colors, #2  Byng's Baitfish, 1/0 Angel's Chartreuse and White, Angels Delta Danger and Angel's Smolt, Angel's Bluegill - 4/0.

Smallmouth Flies: Small poppers in a variety of colors such as green, white, yellow, brown etc. #2 - 4 Pultz Poppers Brown, black or Olive Wolly Buggers.

Guide Tip: "In dirty water we have been using 3 - 5" 1-3/0 Rattle Clousers in various colors such as chartreuse over white or Black/Purple over Chartreuse.



Feather River - Fair to Good  Flows -  840 cfs from Lake Oroville. 1,050 through high flow. Temperature - Mid  50's. Clarity - Clear.

Fishing on the Feather has been decent for Spring steelhead both for nymphing and swinging. Conditions are pretty ideal right now although we are on the tail end of the run. Wind and barometric pressure has fluctuated a bit and affecting the fishing on day to another. Time to go before they're gone. Caddis, Princes, Sucker Spawns and standard Mayflies continue to work along with flies on the swinging list below. Steelhead should last 2 to 3 weeks more before we switch gears to other things.

Speaking of striper and Shad are also in the Feather and numbers are increasing daily. Stay tuned for updates soon. 

Salmon fishing will open up on the Feather in July 15. This river offers one of the best chances to hook and land a salmon on a fly rod in California. If you are interested give us a ring. (707)287-2939 or (916)722-1055.

The Feather provides great chances at hooking and landing a salmon in California on the fly.
Steelhead Nymphs: San Juan Worms, Prince Nymphs 8 to 10, Birds Nests and Copper Johns 10 -14. Black, Green, and Tan B.H. Caddis Poopahs 14-16, Red Headed Step Child, Tungsten Salvation 14-16 and Micro Mays 14-16, Brown or Black Rubber Legs 6-10, Cheese Micro Spawn and Sucker Spawn and eggs ( Peachy King, Roe and Tangerine )

Salmon and Steelhead Swinging Flies: Silver Hiltons, Anderson's Classic, Fly Fishing Specialties Alevin, Anderson Euphoria, Heisenberg, Green Butt Skunk, Falken's Tiny Dancer, Hartwick's Purple Hilton, Hobo Spey in black/blue and Black/Chart, Intruders, Perpetrators, Beach Bums, Olive Sculpins, Cream Soft Hackles and Blood Sucking Leaches.

Striper Streamers:  Byng's Baitfish - 1/0, Angel's Chartreuse and White, Angels Delta Danger and Angel's Smolt.



Napa River - Fair. Water Temps - 60 to 67 degrees. Water Clarity - stained.

Fishing has begun to pick up a bit in conjunction with warmer weather and a few more days of warmth will probably help. Most fish have been fairly small recently but adult fish will begin to spawn in the upper river shortly bring up the average size significantly. May is traditionally a great month on the Napa and the rest of the San Francisco Bay Delta. Best bets will be heavy sinking lines (T - 11 to T - 14) with 1 to 2/0 dark patterns with rattles. 

Sunrise over the Napa Valley at Kennedy Park.
Streamers: Black/gray/white Flash Tail Whistler - 1/0 to 2/0, Chart/white and gray/white Stay Hungry Streamers - 1/0, Angel's Sexy Shad and  Angel's chart/white - 1/0, Gray/white Flash Tail Whistler - 1/0.

Putah Creek - Good to Great. Flows - 440 cfs. Clarity - Good (6+ feet). Water temps - 50's
Guest Dr. Eric D. with a nice Putah Creek specimen.
Putah continues to fish well again this week. Flows have climbed this week and then dropped back down to 440 as of today. Fishing takes a day or so to stabilize after a flow hike or drop. Wading is tougher now than earlier this Spring however guides and guests continue to find some really handsome fish on this local treasure. Fishing the small stuff continues to pay off. High sticking and euro nymphing has been the ticket. BWO's and midges are the go to's, but some solid fish have been after caddis recently as well. The tight line has produced better than indicators recently. If you see fish rising try fishing a caddis soft hackle or even a dry. You may be surprised at what comes knocking...

If you live in San Francisco, the Bay Area or Sacramento and if you like catching big wild fish then this is one fishery you need to learn. Fishing is prime and will continue to fish well prior to the big Summer flow hike sometime in May when flows will be over 800 cfs. Its time to go now. 

Guide Tip: Allow your flies to swing up at the end of the drift. This has produced some grabs. Give streamers a go right now too. You may land the fish of a lifetime.


Redding Area trout - Fair (Upper Sac, McCloud, Pit, Hat Creek, Fall River) Water - high


The Redding area boasts some of the oldest and best catch an release rivers in the United states. Many of which are set open recently (April 28). Flows are still a bit high on some of them however given the rain we have received this year we are looking forward to a great season. The McCloud and Upper Sac have fished best recently. If you have specific interest in one or more of these rivers give us a ring for current conditions. (707)287-2939 (916)722-1055




Russian River Steelhead - Poor. Smallmouth - Soon. Shad - Soon. Flows - 305- at Healdsburg, 425 cfs at Guernville. Temps - 60's. Water clarity - Fair.

The Russian River Winter Steelhead run is in the books. It was nice to get out a bit on this storied water and hook some fish and even see our guests have success. We will be looking forward to next year. 

Many folks don't know how much fun it is to throw clousers during the Summer on the Russian for smallmouth. Consider yourselves warned!
For now on the Russian it is time to turn your attention to smallmouth bass and Shad. 
We target smallies on a variety of lines using streamers and occasionally there can be some topwater action first thing in the morning as well. It is important to keep an eye on water temps as smalleys like 70 degree water. Once water temps approach their preferred level begin hunting for them along rocky ledges, or pools. Fish clousers and craw dad patterns on the bottom. Do this and wade and approach "fishy water" cautiously and you will likely be rewarded.

The shad have arrived! If you live in San Francisco or Sonoma county and you want to catch good numbers of fish that fight hard and are known for their aerial antics then grab a rod and get in our boats. The run is just getting started but this coming week it will get crazy good. 
Give us a ring to target theses Shad, Spring smalleys or get on the call list for steelhead for next year. (707)287-2939.

Smallmouth Flies: Small poppers in a variety of colors such as green, white, yellow, brown etc.such as  #2 - 4 Pultz Poppers,  Brown Wolly Buggers, Clouser Minnows #2-6.

Smallmouth Flies: Small poppers in a variety of colors such as green, white, yellow, brown etc. #2 - 4 Pultz Poppers Brown, black or Olive Wolly Buggers.


San Francisco Bay Striper - Good Water temps high 55 deg's

Strip! Strip! BOOM!
We continue find decent numbers of fish in the San Francisco Bay. Striper and halibut are showing up. The challenge is to find a day to get out there on them where the wind isn't howling. Water flows and healthy bait population are providing a fantastic environment throughout this fishery. Fly fishing here is a great option for guests in the city. No need to rent a car or drive far to experience good fishing. Fishing the Bay and near shore on a fly rod can be challenging due to tide and wind conditions and uber migratory species like striper. Anglers with a modicum of casting ability tend to do best however our guides are good at setting up even first time striper anglers for success. Besides there is something inherently cool about fly fishing within sight of the Golden Gate Bridge!

We will say that having a competent captain is even more imperative here than some of the other fisheries in California. We happen to know one or two!

If you will be in San Francisco Bay Area or live close and want to get out and give this a try give us a jungle at (530)242-4122(O) (707)287-2939 (C)

For more on fly fishing the San Francisco Bay click here...



Lower Sacramento Trout - Good. Flows 8,500 cfs out of Keswick. Water Temps - Lower 50's. Clarity - Clear (7 to 8 feet visibility)


Things are still good on the Sac. Water is up to 8,500 cfs. Fishing has been good one day and great the next. Caddis and PMD's continue to hatch sporadically. Regardless this is a great time to be on the river. We have not seen the summer heat yet however temps are warm increasing bug activity. Best action continues to be from noon to 3 p.m. and there are still dry fly opportunities with PMD's and Caddis in the afternoon so watch for that.


Nymphs: Best flies have been Birds Nests (beaded and non) 14-16. Peaches and Cream 14-16, X Mays, Hogans S&M and Mercers Micro May in 16 to 18 (black and olive producing best). Copper Johns 16-18 Black and Brown Rubber legs 6-10, Amber Wing Prince - 16, 

Dries: Light Cahill 14 - 16, Parachute Light Cahill 14 to 16, Elk Hair Caddis, 14 to 16, Hackle Stacker PMD 14 - 16, Lawson's PMD 14 to 16

Guide tip: Lower Sac fish are notorious for the lightest of takes. Fish will mouth small flies and spit them out without any visible hints transferred up the line to the indicator. Often guests will turn and look at the guide and ask "was that a fish?" after a slight pause or just the lightest of "tick" visible on the indicator. Set on everything! We recommend you set first ask questions later.

Give us a ring to get out for a memorable trip by calling (707)287-2939 or emailing us at info@offthehookflyfishing.com


Trinity River Steelhead - Poor. Flows - 1,000 cfs out of Lewiston, Clarity - clear to cloudy

Steelhead fishing on the Trinity is all done for the season. It has been a decent year all things considered. We had to work a bit for our fish this year at times, but some quality angling was had and some good memories were tucked away in our minds. A big thank you to those who fished with us this season up here this year. Looking forward to next year already.

We book up a year in advance for prime dates on the Trinity and hotel accommodations also book up quickly. Give us a call to reserve your 2018/2019 dates today. 


Truckee River - Fair to Good. Flows 400 cfs in Town,  Water Temps - 50s. Water Clarity - Clear
Truckee is fishing fairly good for some not so much for others. Some donkeys being hooked right now but success on the larger fish has been limited to competent anglers. Water is cold and has a nice steelhead green color. Typical high water patterns are working, stones, San Juans, eggs and there has been a killer baetis hatch. 

Nymphs: Specific patterns include Golden Stones 10 to 14, San Juan worms, 16 or 18 Ju Ju Baetis, Hogan's Military May and S&M in 16 to 18 and size 10 Rubber Legs, Skwala Stone - 16, Speroni's Skwala - 16

Dries: Bullet Head Skwala, 8 -10 Foam Dead Stone, Speronis Skwala Dry, and Skwala Stone Seducer - 8-10. Extended body BWO 18-22, Adam's Parachute 16 to 20, Christian's GT Adult 18-20, Missing Link 14 - 18, Quiggly's Hackle Stacker 14 - 16, CDC Thorax 14 - 18,BWO Parachutes -18, PMD Hackle Stacker -16, March Brown Sparkle Dun -14, Double Dutch Bug and the Unit Skwala -10.

Give us a ring at (707)287-2939 or at the shop (916)722-1055 to get out and make it happen. 


Yuba River Trout - Fair to Good. Striper - Fair (but improving) Shad - Good with great coming just around the corner! Flows 2,300 cfs . Water Temps - Mid 50's. Water Clarity - clear.


The Yuba is back into shape. It can be a challenging river to figure out at times however we love that #1 it is home to trout that like eating dries. # 2 They fight beyond their weight class and #3 Did we mention there are shad in the Yuba. In fact at times can be as productive targeting trout with dries as nymphs which is not the case in all rivers and streams. There has been some dry action recently as well as nymphing and swinging opportunities. A soft hackle or wooly bugger swung through a likely run will almost always get a grab. Right now most fish are small 10 to 16" range but they are still fighting hard when hooked. The Yuba has been through two horrendously high water years that have been hard on bug life and on the trout population. It may take a while for it to get back to "normal" but even on an off year we still love the Yuba.

Many folks are unaware of the Shad and striper fishing below Daguerre Dam. (See Delta and American for info on them) We have exclusive access to this are to drift this area as well as maneuver up to fish via jet boats. This can be some very productive fishing. We have days with up to 100 fish with shad, striper and trout all finding the net and guests leaving with big smiles and sore arms and backs. Things are just about to GO OFF!!! Call now as we have very limited calendars and the phone seems to be ringing off the hook right now. Do not delay...call (707)287-2939 direct or at the shop(916)722-1055 for more info or to reserve some red hot fishing right around the corner.

The "poor man's tarpon".
Trout Nymphs: Rubber Legs in brown and yellow, 8 to 12, CDC Prince Nymph, Fox's Poopah, 14 to 16 Speroni's Baetis 16 - 20, Hogan's S&M and Micro May Olive, Brown, Black 16 - 20, Squirmy Worms in red and natural -12, Hogan’s S&M nymph (olive, brown) -18, and Copper Johns (red, olive, copper) 14-18.  


Trout Dries: Parachute Adams, Light Cahill, Parachute Light Cahill 14 to 16, Elk Hair Caddis, 14 to 16, Hackle Stacker PMD 14 - 16, Lawson's PMD 14 to 16

Striper Flies: Stay Hungry Streamers Byng's Baitfish, Angel's Chartreuse and White, Angels Delta Danger and Angel's Smolt, Toby's Rainbow Clouser 4/0, Toby's A.R. Rainbow 4/0, American River Special 3/0

Shad Flies - Any small bright colored shad fly in orange, pink, white or red such as the Bloody Maria will work. Swing by the shop to pick up some shad candy.

Our groups often have the river to ourselves!
For more on the Yuba click here...


Yosemite Trout - Poor. Flows - Too high. Water Clarity - Not good



Flows are still very high on all the Yosemite waters. We have been getting some really good size fish on the lower reaches of our larger rivers, but there is still too much snow in the high country to get out and fish most of the smaller tribs. With the good precip' that we received this Winter and Spring however we are confident that it will be a good season in our favorite local National Park. Expect fishing to commence in June and continue well into the Fall.

Stay tuned for more intel soon!



Almanor Trout - Fair to Good. Lake is full! Surface temps. 60 deg's. Water clarity - clear (15 ft visibility)


Fishing has been fair to good on Almanor recently. Fishing has been hit or miss due to erratic weather and barometric pressure. Bass are on the spawn on their beds. The midge hatch has slowed down so fishing for rainbows and browns has slowed too. Fish are still eating Smelt and midges throughout the lake.

Fishing can still be productive and the species vary as do the techniques to get them.

Guide Tip : Fish Slow and try Balanced fly patterns.  Smelt are moving into the edges and fish have responded. Both bass and browns are targeting them and crawdads along rock edges and drop offs. Rainbows are also eating smelt and midges in shallows amid stumps. 

Nymphs : Zebra Midges, Yakee Buzzer and Olive Buzzer - 16

Streamers : Clousers, shiner patterns, balance minnows and crawdad patterns are the best #6 to 14.

If you would like to get out and give Almanor this a try call (530)242-4122 or (916)722-1055. 


Sierra Foothill Bass (Oroville, Englebright etc.) - Fair to Great!  Water Temps - 65 - 72 degrees. Water clarity- Clear to slight color



The float and fly fishing continues to produce incredibly well on Sierra foothill lakes but recently top water has started to go off too. Warm weather has arrived and bass are on the prowl for food and mates. Good fishing will continue from now on all the way to Fall.

Yesterday on one of our many options we encountered some of the best fishing you could imagine. Bass had herded shad into the shallows and were busting them up on points and along the shore. Action was intense with fish on every cast for quite a while. 

Guide Tip: Small balanced pond smelt patterns or craws fished 4 to 8 ft deep under a post indicator. Work 30-70 degree slopes walls until you find Fish. Keep an eye out for fish busting too. If you see it, put a clouser on and hang on!

Streamers: Float and Fly shad patterns 



Pyramid Lake NV* Cutthroat - Good to Great. Surface Temps - perfect in the shallows and drop offs.


Not much has changed here since last report. Spring run off is positively affecting the fishing at Pyramid. The influx of cold water has fish up in the shallows seeking food and warmer water. Cruisers are becoming a frequent afternoon occurrence. Many of the fish we are catching are just out of sight yet still in the shallows and there are both feeding fish and "zombie cruisers" that don't seem to care about anything unfortunately including eating.

The good news is we are still finding the best number of the year right now. What's more it is looking like the season will be prolonged again this year as we still have water 4 to 6 degrees cooler than normal for the end of April. One interesting phenomenon is that we are seeing pods of pale males while the females tend to be chrome bright. This indicates that fish have spend a lot of time in the sun in the shallows. This warming in the shallows is probably why the fishing was tough earlier when even the shallows weren't warm.

For this time of year and new high water levels be adaptable to new conditions such as algae growth, new ledges, muddy water etc. This is a very productive time of year for shore antlers and the flies you need are as follows. 

For floating lines and indicators, midges and nymphs are hard to beat. The size can vary dramatically but body colors include red, black, wine and brown. Experiment with different sizes to find out what they prefer on any given day. Balanced leeches have started to really pull numbers in as well and great colors for these are olive, black, white and brown. Stripping is a great way to get into some fish especially in lower light situations. Contrasting colors on a two fly setup is a great way to start. Stripping patterns include popcorn beetles and boobies paired with a wooly bugger or clouser or other streamer. Follow these suggestions and keep at it and you will be rewarded!




* Yes were aware that Pyramid Lake is in Nevada not California, but it is close and such a great fishery that we included it in our report for your benefit.


If you enjoyed this report please like and share it. If you have comments or to share your own personal fishing report email me at mike@offthehookflyfishing.com. (707)287-2939 C (530)242-4122 O.