Fly Fishing Northern California in the Wettest Winter in 5 Years

Recent downpours of heavy rain for the month of March so far have sent lake levels in the Northstate through the roof and still we are not done yet.  Will Shasta Lake overflow?  There is a good chance if we can keep pace.  Officials said it would take at least three years to fill up California’s largest reservoir but it’s happening at a much quicker rate than expected.

rainbow trout on Sacramento River during rain

We endured monsoon like conditions during the storm events and even found some nice trout and solitude.

Early Monday morning, Shasta Lake was at 79% of capacity and 103% of historical average for this time of year which puts us on a good path towards reaching peak levels and possibly over flowing it’s spillways with future storms and snow melt.

reservoir conditions for Shasta Lake graph and historic levels

Since December 8th Lake Shasta has risen 117 feet!


Shasta Dam and Shasta Lake overview

As of Monday the water coming out of Shasta Dam is green and highly fishable.  Keswick on the other hand is a different story.  What does this mean for the Lower Sac?


Whiskeytown Lake overflow

Whiskeytown Lake is full and over flowing into the Glory Hole.



Lake Oroville is at 71% of capacity and 97% of historical average.

Folsom Lake is at 69% of capacity and 116% of historical average.

Trinity Lake is at 45% of capacity and 59% of historical average.  We still need some help over here but there is snow in the mountains.  Trinity Lake receives about 10% of rain to fill the lake but the remaining 90% is from snow melt.  Do we have enough snow yet?


California reservoir conditions and lake levels on a graph
Highway 299 Road Conditions:

Monday morning, a mudslide was blocking the westbound lane of Highway 299W near Buckhorn Summit. One-way traffic controls were being used to allow traffic through the area.

California’s Snowpack:




FORECAST : Looking Ahead

These next few weeks look like prime time to get out there and enjoy the 70 degree temperatures.  Some rivers will be high but some tailwaters should fall into shape quickly.


Western Map of US and Sacramento Valley forecast





Lower Sacramento River Fly Fishing:

Despite massive amounts of rainfall we’ve still been out on the river. Go figure right? And it probably goes without saying but we had the place to ourselves and we didn’t see another angler. We had some kind folks come all the way out from Colorado to fish with us in Northern California so we made it happen. Thanks for coming out guys and thanks for brining the rain! Hopefully next time it won’t be an atmospheric river blasting us.


Female angler with trout under the Sundial Bridge in Redding, Ca.

There is no such thing as bad fishing conditions, just bad gear. Check out this smile even in the monsoon like conditions.

angler kissing fish on sacramento river

Appreciating every moment of the hunt despite the wicked weather.

We are looking at 70 degree temps this week so as things settle down look for the Lower Sac to fish well for the remainder of the season!  This is one of our favorite times of year out here, come check it out!  But hopefully the mess coming down the river clears fast.  Only time will tell.

This week we caught fish on black rubber legs, black PT’s, large prince nymph’s, eggs and alevins.  If you didn’t hit the fish on the head there wasn’t much love.  But it was amazing how aggressive the takes were.  Those fish are hungry and will crush anything they can find.  We even caught fish stripping streamers slow and erratic through soft current seams.  The main hatch this week was without question PMD’s and midges.  With warmer weather expect to see more caddis action.  Let’s just pray for some better water quality.

Where is the color coming from?

Below Keswick Dam and Sacramento River dirty water

This image from March 14th captures the turbid, greenish/brown water coming out of Keswick Reservoir with less than 10″ of visibility.  If water coming out of Shasta Dam is clean why are the Keswick releases dirty?

The Culprit: Iron Mountain Mine- Superfund Site

Spring Creek road sign near Keswick reservoir

Spring Creek that flows out of Iron Mountain contains the most acidic water found on the planet and is America’s most toxic waste site.  It was designated a Superfund site in 1983.


Spring Creek outflow out of dam, superfund site

Spring Creek Dam:The Bureau of Reclamation periodically releases the stored acid mine drainage into Keswick Reservoir. Planned releases are timed to coincide with the presence of diluting releases of water from Shasta Dam. On occasion, uncontrolled spills and excessive waste releases have occurred when Spring Creek Reservoir reached capacity. Without sufficient dilution, this results in the release of harmful quantities of heavy metals into the Sacramento River. Approximately 70,000 people use surface water within 3 miles as their source of drinking water. The low pH level and the heavy metal contamination from the mine have caused the virtual elimination of aquatic life in sections of Slickrock Creek, Boulder Creek, and Spring Creek.


Spring Creek flowing towards Keswick Reservoir

Don’t be fooled by the name, this creek is bad news for all things living downstream and also endangers fish, including winter-run Chinook salmon, a federally listed endangered species that spawns in the Sacramento River. Salmon kills have been noted since 1899.  As if Shasta Dam wasn’t enough.


We will update the river conditions in coming days so please check back in for updates.  Thanks, Kennedy Brothers


Trinity River Fly Fishing:

Some photo’s from our last day out on the Trinity River before the storms took over.  The Trinity is not done yet but many of the fish have entered the tributaries to spawn which is awesome.  There still will be smaller pods moving up into the system but will be difficult to fish until flows come down a bit.  Also the fly water will be opening April 1st on April Fools Day.


We earned this one.  This wild hen took off and cart wheeled across the river and then put us at the end of the fly line.  With a little patience and prayer we were rewarded.



Gotta love steelhead and smiles!


These boys look down right giddy.  Nice fish!


Fish Kennedy Brothers

Professional Fly Fishing Guides

Trout Steelhead Salmon and Bass

One thought on “Fly Fishing Northern California in the Wettest Winter in 5 Years

  1. Pingback: Spring is here, fish you must | Fish Kennedy Brothers

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s