The enchanting McCloud River with its emerald water and lush surroundings will have you planning a return trip before you even set foot in the river to fish… )
One of the hallowed waters of northern California, the McCloud River is spectacularly beautiful and one of the “must visit” walk & wade rivers of our region. It’s iconic emerald waters originate from spring-fed creeks and glacial seepage from under the nearby flanks of mighty 14,000 ft Mt. Shasta. The river presents waterfalls and deep mysterious pools with super fishy pocket water and runs that will tempt you at every vantage point to step off the river trail and enter the water to begin fishing.
The McCloud River is open to fishing during the General Trout Season: last Saturday in April – November 15th. Prime time begins just after runoff and goes through the summer offering great late afternoon and evening fishing and memorable dry fly opportunities. Early summer is perhaps the prime-time with incredible hatches of large salmonflies, golden stones, little yellow stones, along with mayfly species such as drakes and pmd’s. All these bugs offer a smorgasbord of activity and produce awesome dry fly fishing. Late summer fishing can still be good with caddis hatches and terrestrial insects like ants, beetles and hoppers. During the cooler fall season, as nighttime lows drop, we will see a resurgence of baetis mayfly activity and the emergence of the big October caddis.
The McCloud has a rich and interesting history as a fishery. Long before the dams created Lake Shasta and Lake McCloud, the river ran unencumbered for over 70 miles to its confluence with the Pit River and finally the Sacramento River (now part of Lake Shasta). The river once hosted impressive runs of anadromous Chinook (king) salmon and steelhead, both species vital to the areas first inhabitants, the local Wintu Indians. Dolly Vardon (reclassified as bull trout) were native to this drainage and relatively rare in California. The dams were eventually the death knell to the migratory bull trout. This species is extirpated in this river system; the last known bull trout were caught in the late 1970’s.
In the 1800’s, the first national fish hatchery was built on the McCloud River which reared and mixed coastal rainbow trout (O. m. irideus) eggs with local McCloud River redband trout (O. m. stonei), which also thrived in this watershed. The eggs from these native regional rainbows were stocked all over the United States and the world to places like Chile, Argentina and New Zealand.
In addition to the historically important native fish species, you must also consider the resident non-native brown trout that now lurk the depths as well as big migratory browns that come up from Lake Shasta at various times throughout the year. These fish can be large and elusive offering unforgettable moments when you find them.
For more information on fishing the McCloud and accommodations please email me or call and visit my Planning A Trip page. I recommend visitors support one of the local motels or B&B’s in the towns of McCloud (closest) Mt Shasta, or Dunsmuir, or camp right on the river at Ah Di Na or the unimproved sites around Ash Camp, or the two RV Parks in McCloud. Local Fly Shop is the Ted Fay Fly Shop in downtown Dunsmuir; they are a great source of information and gear. I guide the entire McCloud River with special permit with the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.
Reel Adventures Guide Service operates under special use permit with the Shasta-Trinity and Lassen National Forests.
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