Fly Fishing Northern California’s small streams
Fly Fishing Northern California’s Small Streams
While Northern California is known for its fantastic trout fishing on the Lower Sacramento River and its headwaters, the Upper Sac, Pit River, Fall River, Hat Creek and McCloud River, to name a few. The headwaters of those rivers and streams often provide some equally enthralling, yet secluded, fishing opportunities. Within a few hours of Redding small streams abound, providing countless opportunities for intimate, and sometimes surprisingly technical shots at wary, though abundant, wild trout. I’ve heard somewhere that if you can effectively fish small streams you have a leg up on applying those same skills, albeit on an expanded scale, to larger streams and rivers. I couldn’t agree more. Small streams play by the same rules as their larger siblings, though in a highly focused yet approachable scenario. Where fish hold, how they act, hydrodynamic influences on drifting insects (and your presentation), the value of stealth and so many other lessons are encountered with a frequency and observability that your learning curve can’t help but skyrocket.
Fly selection is often, though not always simple, reducing one of the sometimes more frustrating aspects of fly fishing. Often times you’re only casting a rod or two length of fly line, that alone helps keep you out of trouble but also encourages solid casting mechanics as a rod doesn’t load as easily with a small amount of line out the tip, forcing a high backcast to allow your line to unfurl at its lower forward trajectory, even if you don’t understand exactly (or at all) how that works the sheer frequency of casts is a magnificent teacher. And the fish are often quite willing! Frequently small streams aren’t as rich aquatically, meaning the fish need to be less selective and positively reinforce good drifts at a much higher rate. Being that you are so up close an personal with a small stream you also notice how easy it is to spook fish, stealth is a hugely underrated factor in upping your catch rate.
Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of Fly Fishing Northern California’s small streams is the exploration involved. I love pouring over maps and trying to find areas that look like they should hold fish yet aren’t easy to get to. The Warner Mountains in Northeastern California are tailor made for the small stream fisherman with beautiful scenery, few people and an abundance of small streams to explore. All you need is a map and a full tank of gas.