Pit River – Fly Fishing Guide – Trout and Steelhead – Northern California

Pit River


The Pit River begins as a small river system at its headwaters in the Warner Mountains in the remote northeastern corner of California. The river picks up volume and gains additional flows from the Fall River Valley and spring fed waters of Hat Creek among others. This river becomes an incredibly fertile tailwater fishery in the section below Lake Britton Dam, known as Pit #3.

The river has a thriving population of strong pulling wild rainbow trout famous for their voracious and grabby eating habits.  The Pit is extremely nutrient rich hosting a smorgasbord of aquatic and terrestrial insects, crawdads, and small forage fish.

Anglers can look forward to plenty of solitude and secluded fishing on this river! Most folks exercise respectful etiquette & appreciate the experience as much as you do. Rarely will we share a parking space or pullout with other anglers. Generally, fellow anglers keep on driving and find the next available pullout for parking. Where else does that happen in California on such a productive wild trout river?!

The “catch” is that it’s not a particularly easy river to wade fish and certainly – is not a river for everyone. Anglers have to be able to hike a little, scramble a little, and basically work for it in this rugged canyon fishery in order to gain access to the fishiest places.

Wading staffs are absolutely necessary on all reaches of the Pit River. Studded felt or studded rubber wading boots allow you to get where the fish live. Having a knowledgeable guide at your side, along with some tenacity, will make the difference between loving the Pit River and simply living through it.

The Pit River is the longest river in California and the biggest tributary source (by volume, including the McCloud arm) for the Sacramento River system and Lake Shasta.

For fly fishing reference, the river can be divided into several sections (based on PG&E powerhouses Pit 1, 3, 4, and 5, etc) each uniquely different and worth fishing and exploring for trout.

The Pit 1 reach is the upper section that flows past the Pit 1 Powerhouse and eventually enters Lake Britton many miles down river. This reach is open during General Trout Season and fishes best during the cooler months early in the season and again in the fall. Pit #1 is commonly accessed and fished using inflatable fishing rafts. This unique section of the Pit offers a fun experience for adventurous anglers and there are two different beats for floating.

The most common section for wade anglers is Pit #3, below Lake Britton Dam. This reach is open to fishing all year around with special regs. Access is very good with a paved road that runs it’s entire length all the way to the Pit 4 & 5 reaches. The first few miles of Pit 3 require a short but steep hike to the water, as the road over the dam is still pretty high on the canyon wall. As you drive downriver, descending the canyon wall, the road becomes nearly at waters edge improving access on the lower reaches of Pit #3.

Pit #4, & #5 sections are also open to angling all year long and offer great fishing through out the summer season and during certain times of the winter season. The river channel gets wider here, but flows are also much higher on each of these sections – some water may be inaccessible to wade fishing.

For more information on fishing the Pit River please email or call me and visit my Planning A Trip Page. Nearby streams include: Hat Creek, Burney Creek, Baum Lake, and Fall River. I highly recommend visitors stay at the nearby Clearwater Lodge for the best experience along with wonderful dining.  It’s also doable as a day trip while staying in Redding.

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Dave Neal
PO Box 990496
Redding CA 96099

(760) 914-0465


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