The portion of the river commonly called the Upper Sacramento begins below Lake Siskiyou (near the town of Mt. Shasta) and tumbles downstream for nearly 40 miles through canyons and a terraced, typical freestone setting, eventually dumping into Lake Shasta. Much of the river is within the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and the Upper Sacramento River can reasonably be called one of the best 'roadside' fisheries in the West. Despite having nearly 40 miles of easily accessible water (there are over 15 freeway exits and railroad tracks that parallel the length of the river) the Upper Sacramento River remains surprisingly lightly fished. In fact, anglers willing to hike even a
mere 10 minutes along the railroad tracks from almost any access spot will find themselves fishing water that remains relatively untouched for most of the year.
The river is made up of riffles, runs, pocket water, small holes, huge pools and undercuts, all of which provide anglers with opportunities to fish dry flies, a variety of nymphing techniques, or even streamers, all in a day's fishing. Rainbow trout are the predominate fish in these waters, and most are healthy, wild, and native to the river system. They are full of fight, and often go straight up in the air when they feel the prick of a fly in their lip.
The Fishing on the Upper Sacramento River
The Upper Sacramento River has been a popular destination for recreation in California since the 1800s, and is still one of our favorite local fisheries.
Though the region was recognized for it's great salmon and trout fishing by indigenous groups for centuries, the area that is now the town of Dunsmuir first became recognized as a resort destination for 19th Century health enthusiasts. With many natural mineral springs bubbling up in, near, and around the river's canyons, the headwaters of the Sacramento were believed to help fend off disease as well as rest the mind.
Craig Ballenger writes, in Shasta's Headwaters: An Angler's Guide to the Upper Sacramento and McCloud Rivers: "The Sacramento River canyon, in particular, has been blessed with an abundance of mineral springs, each with variations in the contents of the waters. As early as 1857, the virtues of these waters were being expounded, 'There are numerous soda springs in the country. Most or all of which, we believe, possess valuable medicinal properties...during the present summer, especially the sick season, many of our townsmen, ourselves among the number, have tested the benefits of the water and the unrivaled mountain air, as it floats down, pure and uncontaminated, from the snowy summit of Mount Shasta which overlooks the spot... The active medicinal properties of the water combined with the pure mountain air, the excellent trout fishing in the Sacramento and the small streams putting into it in the neighborhood, and plenty of game in the mountains and hills, make the Soda Springs a very desirable resort during the summer season for invalids and persons of leisure who can afford time for a little healthful recreation." (Sacramento Union 9/24/1857)
Of course, in the 150+ years since much has changed along the Sacramento, but the trout fishing remains spectacular and continues to
draw recreationists to the region.
In 1991, the entire Upper Sacramento River watershed received a deadly shock when a train accident caused a chemical tank car to fall into the river, spilling 19,000 gallons of the herbicide metam sodium and killing nearly every living fish and plant in the river. Fortunately, the Upper Sacramento River – in a true testament to the overwhelming power of nature – has recovered remarkably since the spill. Aquatic insect hatches have returned to pre-spill conditions, and anglers fishing the river today will find the fishing for the river's resident rainbow trout to be as good as ever.
The Upper Sacramento River re-opened to fishing in 1994, and every season since has shown us prolific insect hatches and healthy, hungry rainbow trout in every section of river from Box Canyon downstream to Lake Shasta.
The most distant access points (Upper Ney Springs and Cantara Loop) on the Upper Sacramento are about 50 minutes from our front door, and the great fishing in the popular sections above Lake Shasta are only a half an hour away. When our guide staff isn't working hard on the Lower Sacramento River, this is where they spend their fishing time, and some of our guides specialize in fishing this wonderful river. They know the river well, and have figured out the secrets to success for all the different seasons. Despite the easy river access on the Upper Sacramento, utilizing one of our river guides can dramatically increase the learning curve, saving hours of guesswork and frustrating lost time. Our guides are all excellent instructors, so your day on the river will be a great learning experience, not only about the river itself, but also the various techniques that can be successful there.
Reservations & Rates
Our guide staff is among the best in the industry, and our guide and Private Waters management team will work hard to make sure that you're placed with the right guide for your specific needs. We've been putting together guided fishing trips for three decades, and have the experience to coordinate a memorable day on the water for just about any group. Over the years, we've developed a few guidelines to help ensure that your trip is as successful as possible.
We can work with you to select a guide that's matched to your skills, interests, their
specialty or, perhaps, the equipment involved. Some of our guides are more instruction-oriented than others and are better suited for the novice wanting to combine a day of guided fishing with a learning experience, while others just plain know how to catch fish.
If you have a specific request or have been with us before, we can help reserve guide dates with one of your favorite guides based on that guide's specific availability. If not, we're happy to hook you up with one of several of our guides who specialize on our Northern California freestone streams.
Package Cost: The cost of the full-day Upper Sacramento River guided package is:
• $450 per day (1-2 anglers per guide)
• $500 per day (Package deal, including flies, tackle, & equipment)
Inclusions: Included in your guided angling package on the Upper Sacramento River is 8-10 hours of guided fishing with lunch provided.
Non-Inclusions: Not included in your guided angling package on the Upper Sacramento River are fishing license, waders, rods/reels, and terminal tackle (flies, tippet, etc.)
Package Deals: If you are just getting started in the sport, or will be traveling and don't want to hassle with dragging along all of your gear, you may want to consider our guide trip "Package Deal." This inclusive option is only an additional $50 per day, and with it the guides will provide the necessary rods, reels, flies, tackle and equipment to ensure that you have the right gear and flies for the day. If you're an experienced angler and/or fly tier, call ahead
and we'll let you know exactly what flies are producing so you can be sure to tie them beforehand or bring them along.
We do not recommend it, but we can occasionally accommodate 3 anglers. We never recommend fishing 3 anglers to a guide on wade trips, as there is simply no way that the guide can give 3 different anglers enough time to guarantee a positive experience for all. If everyone in the group is an experienced angler and you're mainly looking for help finding river accesses, it may work. But it is never a good idea for 3 novice anglers. There is an additional $100 fee for a 3rd angler.
The Fly Shop® is not in the insurance business, but we recommend Travel Guard coverage as a service with a desire to see your best interests protected. It is impossible to know when an unfortunate situation (loss of luggage, fly rods, illness in the family, or an accident) may occur. However, such things can and do happen, and this insurance can provide a means of recourse against non-refundable financial losses. Click HERE for Travel Guard's Policies and more information
Seasons of the Upper Sacramento River
Regulations were changed a few years ago to allow year 'round fishing on the main stem of Upper Sacramento River from Box Canyon down to Lake Shasta.
The tributary streams, where virtually all the spawning occurs, continue to follow the General Trout Season (open to fishing only during the last Saturday in April through November 15th). While runoff and weather conditions can impact the river's fishability at times, The Upper Sacramento can provide some great walk and wade, classic freestone fly fishing options through much of the year.
February, March and April:
Late winter and early Spring fishing on the Upper Sacramento, if water conditions and weather cooperate, is terrific. There are hatches of March Brown mayflies and smaller caddisflies that can begin as early as February and run throughout March and April, topped out by PMDs that start in mid-April. Perhaps the biggest draw to this early-season fishery is the huge pteronarcys californica (salmon fly) that begins to hatch as the weather warms in April.
The fishing during these early months is entire dependent upon weather conditions and runoff. During wet winters, the Upper Sacramento can be high and off-color for much of the late winter and spring, making fishing difficult. On dry years, however, the river often remains low and wadeable. It may come up and get off-color after a big storm, but will typically clear with a few days of sunny weather. Those warm, sunny days that mark the start of spring in the North State are also the best for the fishing that time of year. The warm weather gets the bugs moving, and the more bugs are active the more responsive the trout are likely to be.
May and June:
Runoff can impact the Upper Sacramento on most years from the end of April through the start of June. The river remains fishable even in the high-water, with the fish concentrated in the slower moving pockets and pools. This can be a great time of year on the Upper Sac. Wading can be difficult, but anglers generally find masses of fish podded up in certain pools, and some of the most prolific hatches take place this time of year.
Salmonflies, Golden Stoneflies, Little Yellow Stoneflies, PMDs, Green Drakes, and caddisflies make up the major hatches during the early summer months, with dozens of smaller mayflies and caddis making appearances as well. There are epic days when you can cast dry flies to rising trout from dawn till dusk. Even if the fish aren't rising, nymphing the deep pools remains effective throughout the middle of the day and the hatches are predictable every evening.
July and August:
The "dog days" of summer are the best time of year to wet-wade the Upper Sac, and highsticking the pocket water and oxygenated pools of the river will produce nice trout throughout the morning and middle of the day, with hatches of Golden Stoneflies and caddis bringing nearly every fish in the river to the surface in the hour or so just before dark.
By late July or early August the many submerged boulders on the river begin to turn black with midge larva, providing a new delicacy for the trout from late summer through the fall. Angling traffic on the river is light during the summer months, but it is literally one of our favorite times of year on the river. You will rarely see another angler, and it can be a great time of year to join the 20/20 club (20 inch fish on #20 fly).
September and October:
Autumn brings on the giant October Caddis, as well as the nicest weather of the season. The first of the monstrous October Caddis larvae begin to appear on the rocks and boulders near the edge of the river as early as late August, but by mid September there are literally millions of the inch-long cases decorating the river bottom as they prepare to emerge with the cooler nights of fall. The adult insects hatch at dusk throughout October and November, proving brief flurries of dry fly activity every evening and enticing trout to rise to big attractor patterns sometimes even in the middle of the day. Moreover, they'll eat the larvae and pupae of the caddis like trout candy every hour of the day.
On overcast days, there can be some phenomenal blue-winged olive hatches. These tiny mayflies respond to changes in barometric pressure, and hatch whenever a storm front moves through the area, stimulating some great midday dry fly action on all of our regional streams, including the Upper Sacramento, throughout both the fall and winter seasons.
November, December and January:
The Winter Months on the Upper Sac provides some great late-season opportunities for die-hard trout anglers. The mornings and evenings are often cold in the narrow river canyon, but midday sunshine can warm the river up and provide some good action on nymphs and streamers for some of the river's bigger fish holding in the deeper pools. And anglers fishing the Upper Sac in the winter months should always be prepared with a few blue-winged olive dry flies, as overcast afternoons can have some memorable Baetis mayfly hatches.
Lodging for the Upper Sacramento River
The most distant access points (Upper Ney Springs and Cantara Loop) on the Upper Sacramento are about 50 minutes from The Fly Shop® in Redding.
Hotels & Motels:
Cave Springs Motel
4727 Dunsmuir Avenue
Dunsmuir, CA 96025
• Cave Springs Motel is a rustic fisherman's retreat right in the middle of historic downtown Dunsmuir and mere minutes from some great Upper Sacramento River fishing.
Cedar Lodge Motel
4201 Dunsmuir Ave
Dunsmuir, CA 96025
• Cedar Lodge has been a favorite for Upper Sac fly rodders for decades. It's located in the heart of Dunsmuir and just down the road from some great fishing access.
Railroad Park Resort
100 Railroad Park Road
Dunsmuir, CA 96025
• Railroad Park Resort is a unique experience in its own right, and is one of the most centrally located lodging opportunities on the Upper Sacramento River. At the Railroad Park Resort you can stay in beautifully restored historic railway cars. The resort also has a good restaurant and options for RV and tent camping.
Mt Shasta Resort
1000 Siskiyou Lake Blvs
Mt Shasta, CA 96067
• Mt Shasta Resort is nestled in the forest near Lake Siskiyou, and offers privacy and seclusion in their Craftsman-style chalets. Spa and golf course available on-site.
Best Western-Tree House
111 Morgan Way
Mt Shasta, CA 96067
• Cozy, comfortable, convenient location near I-5.
Bed & Breakfasts:
Mt Shasta Ranch Bed and Breakfast
1008 W A Barr Rd
Mt Shasta, CA 96067
• The Mt Shasta Ranch is one of our favorite bed and breakfasts near the Upper Sac. It's great location is close to fishing, with cozy rooms and great views.
Mt. Shasta Luxury Log Home
• Visitors to this property all express the same reaction - of all the destinations they have visited, this Majestic Log Home in the shadow of mightly Mt Shasta is one of the most spectacular spots on earth!
Shasta Lake Properties
P.O. Box 690
Lakehead, CA 96051
• Our two vacation rentals have possibly the world's most amazing scenic vistas. The DreamView and LodgeView rental homes take advantage of Shasta Lake's beautiful surroundings, convenient accessibility and diverse recreational options.
RV Parks and Campgrounds:
• Sims campground is a great location, right on the Upper Sacramento with great river access.
Castle Crags State Park
Castella, CA 96017
• Castle Crags State Park is located six miles south of Dunsmuir, with numerous camp sites available as well as hiking trails and river access.
Booking a Guide for Upper Sacramento River
To make a reservation, please give us a call at 800-669-3474 during business hours any day of the week, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org anytime. We can give you the answers you need, detailed explanations to questions you might have, or check on availability and confirm your reservation in minutes.