Lower Sac – Fly Fishing Guide – Trout and Steelhead – Northern California

Lower Sac


The Lower Sacramento River is one of the most prolific wild trout rivers in the country and is one of the most popular rivers in California with fly fishers. The river is open to fishing all year around and due to its low elevation and temperate climate – the Lower Sac will produce fantastic fishing each month of the year! The river flows right through the middle Redding on it’s 160 mile journey south into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and eventually into San Francisco Bay.

The Lower Sac harbors an impressive number of large rainbow trout along with seasonal runs of steelhead and Chinook (king) salmon. Historically, the river saw one of the largest runs of salmon in the world.  It was the only river known to have 4 distinct runs of Chinook salmon each year. Though the salmon and steelhead numbers are just a sliver of what they once were, these fish still return in respectable numbers each season providing awesome opportunities for sport fishing and add a unique element to the productive trout fishery.

Before the construction of Shasta Dam, the Lower Sac was an enormous free-flowing freestone drainage as the confluence of three huge riversheds (Pit River, McCloud and Upper Sac rivers) along with dozens of smaller tributaries, joined forces to form the mighty Sacramento River.

In our modern day, 75 years after the completion of Shasta Dam, the river is now a very large tailwater fishery created below the enormous Lake Shasta and smaller Keswick Reservoir. The Shasta Dam backs up the largest reservoir in California and is the 8th tallest concrete dam in the United States. These two dams began the slow demise of the great salmon and steelhead fishery that once existed throughout the Sacramento drainage.

In the late 1990’s a Temperature Control Device (TCD) was installed on Shasta Dam. The TCD retrofitting was put in place in order to improve habitat and mitigate damages resulting from the two dams (Shasta and Keswick) blocking upstream migration of native anadromous fish species. This adjustable release modification allows water to be drawn at various depths in the lake ensuring consistent cold water averaging 55 degrees all year around. Despite Redding’s very hot and dry summers, the river remains cold and clean for many more miles downriver – further improving and expanding the world-class trout fishery. The river is slowly undergoing an evolution of sorts, with many new and diverse aquatic insects beginning to flourish in the colder and nutrient rich habitat. It’s an exciting time to experience the Lower Sac and it’s transformation sustaining one of the most productive tailwater fisheries for trout in the country.

Depending on the time of year, flows can be between 3,000cfs to 15,000cfs or more. We primarily fish this river from drift boats in order to access the prime areas and cover many miles of river. We often get out of the boat and wade shallow riffles when conditions are suitable. Although mostly a nymph fishing river, excellent dry fly fishing opportunities do happen under certain conditions at various times of the year.

I recommend staying in Redding or nearby Anderson when booking trips on the Lower Sac; however, it’s possible to travel from other destinations nearby. Visit my Planning A Trip page for more info or just call me or email. Local fly shop is The Fly Shop, close to the river off Churn Creek Rd and Bonneyview Rd in Redding.

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Dave Neal
PO Box 990496
Redding CA 96099

(760) 914-0465


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