- This involves presenting an insect-like offering to the trout, either floating above the water surface (dry fly fishing) or in the water (wet fly fishing). In either case, the flies are small and light. Casting the offering is actually made possible by the weight of the fly line. The fly, connected by a light leader to the end of the fly line, gets carried out as the fly line is played out and set on a trajectory. The fly reel simply stores the line that is not being used at the time, and to retrieve line as required.
- Especially for beginners, the emphasis should be on the fly fishing and not the fly casting. Use a short, precise cast to get your fly 10 to 20 feet out to target spots.
- Stream trout feed 90% or more below the surface, so wet fly fishing should be your primary method for catching these trout. However, if there is a good batch of mayflies, caddis, or stoneflies around, the trout will come up to feed and at this time you can employ dry fly fishing.
- Handling fly fishing equipment can get tricky. You may want to consider taking a fly fishing class, or checking out some specialized books and/or videos.
Dry Fly Fishing
- Dry flies are designed to imitate adult insects.
- Dry flies must float. This can be ensured by using floating solution, tapered leaders and good floating fly line.
- Present the dry fly beyond the feeding fish and allow it to float on its own through the feeding area.
- Dry fly fish in the evening. Several hours before dark are the best times.
- Try to match your fly to the actual insects in the area. Some of the most popular flies you should have in your arsenal include: #14 Adams, #16 Yellow Bellied Humpy, #14 Lt. Cahill, #16 Red Quill, #12 Iron Blue Dunn, #14 Quill Grodon, #14 Grey Hackle Peacock, #14 California Mosquito, #12 Dutsy Miller, #16 March Brown, #18 Black Gnat and #14 Irresistible.
Wet Fly Fishing
- In general, wet flies are meant to imitate underwater larva/pupal stage aquatic insects, nymphs, grubs and so on. Winged wet flies are supposed to imitate drowned adult insects. Streamer wet flies try to imitate bait fish.
- The goal is to present the fly and allow the stream current to carry it close to the bottom at the same speed as the surrounding currents.
- Keep the fly line from becoming too slack as the fly drifts back toward you so you can respond to a bite when the line pauses or stops.
- To aid with strike detection, you may want to use a strike indicator (a small, bright color float) to your leader set at the right lenght back to match the water depth.
- You can use two wet flies of various colors to increase your chances. Use a standard 9 foot tapered leader with a dark pattern fly at the end, and then another 12 inches up from the end, use another lighter colored wet fly on a 6 inch dropper leader.
- Minimum wet fly collections should include one each of the following types in lightly weighted size 6 and 8: (i) yellow and black, yellow jacket/bee-type, (ii) light brown with spent wings, (iii) all black with grey hackle spent wings, (iv) cream-colored, caddis larva-type, (v) multi-colored peacock tail, and (vi) green mossy-type.
- Popular streamer wet flies are the olive-colored Matuka, the Marabou, and the Muddler Minnow.
Tackle & Equipment
For basic fly fishing, use a 7 1/2 to 8 1/2 foot fly fishing rod with #6 line. Automatic reels are recommended to make taking up line slack more easily.
- This involves trout fishing using spinning or spin-casting equipment such as light or ultra-light spinning tackle.
- Ultralight tackle is the easiest to handle and can cast even small offerings with a 4 pound test line out to adequate distances.
- You still cast upstream and retrieve with the current.
- Work your lure near the bottom of the water by adjusting your retrieval speed.
- The most popular lures are very small spinners whose blades rotate freely with the slightest speed beyond the prevailing current. This imitates swimming bait fish. Try a #2 Panther Martin 1/16 ounce black-bodied spinner. Spinners with chrome blades are best for sunny conditions, gold blades are best for low light conditions, and copper blades are best for murkier water. Kastmaster or other spoons are possible alternatives to spinners.
- Some lures are best tied directly to your main line. If the lure tends to twist your line too much, then use a good, small snap swivel with the rounded connector at the lure end.
- Can be done using a wide range of bait and either fly fishing or spinning equipment.
- Let your bait drift along with the current near the stream bottom.
- Unweighted drifting is best. If necessary, use slip shots sparingly about 8-10 inches from your hook.
- Use short shank #8 or #10 hooks concealed in your choice of bait: red worms, then bottled salmon eggs are the most popular. Other possibilities include: cheese, marshmellows, and Berkeley Power Bait.
- As usual, keep the line from becoming too slack as the bait drifts back toward you so you can respond to a bite when the line pauses or stops.
- Creel or fishing vest
- Landing net
- Needle-nose pliers or hemostat (hook removing device)
- Sun glasses, waders and wading staff are optional
Regulations and limits vary by season so be sure to check the latest information at California State Fish and Game.
Bay Area: Probably the closest trout stream in the Bay Area is Putah Creek. It is located just below Lake Berryessa a few miles outside of the town of Winters. Access the area from Highway 128. The wide, flat stream is great for fly fishing as well as bait and lure fishing.
Central Valley: Rainbow trout fishing is good all year round on the Sacramento River from Keswick Dam to Balls Ferry, with the best action in April and May when the river isn’t too high or too muddy.
Northeastern California: Although far from the San Francisco Bay Area, some of the best trout fishing in California occurs in the Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen areas.
There is excellent trout fishing on the Pit River between Lake Britton and Lake Shasta. You can park at Lake Britton dam and walk down to the river, or venture down Hat Creek Road to fish further down river for the next several miles.
Fall River nearby Hat Creek also has some of the best trout fishing in America. It is a 21 mile long stream with widths ranging from 150 to 450 feet. Also, Upper Fall River is great for big trout in the 5 to 8 pound range, but since it flows mostly through private property, you will most likely need to fish from a float tube or small electric-powered boat. For more information on fishing in the Fall River area, you might want to contact the Fall River Chamber of Commerce at (916) 336-5840.
The McCloud River between Bartle and Lake McCloud offers a good variety of fly, bait, and spinner/spoon trout fishing by wading for beginner through expert anglers. (Note: Fishing regulations are very different and specific from one section of this river to another.) Good river access is available from Fowlers, Big Springs, Cattle Camp, Algoma and other campgrounds off Highway 89.
The Upper Sacramento River also provides great trout fishing from Box Canyon Dam at Lake Siskiyou all the way down to Lakehead at Lake Shasta. Good river access is available from Dunsmuir, Castella, Flume Creek, Sims Campground, Gibson, La Moine and Delta along I-5.