Arguably The Worlds Most Iconic Trout Stream

The mountains are stacked and packed in resplendent white and the lower valley’s are tasting the first flavors of spring as Northern California slowly inches out of the clenches of a truly heavy and wild winter.  Many rivers are still high or too muddy to fish.  But in the months to come that will all change as the weather settles down.  The parched State of California has water for the first time in five years which should make for great fishing and adventures through summer and into the fall season.  With the massive onslaught of precipitation, we have lost the old reliable Lower Sacramento River in Redding to dirty water as Lake Shasta is filled to the brim with muddy water.  It may be a while before it gets back some of its clarity.  When that happens is anybody’s guess, even though the Bureau of Reclamation reports that the water releases out of Keswick Dam will be reduced to 13,900 cfs by Saturday, March 11th.

Our mainstay for guide trips the last month or so, has been the Trinity River.  Although, overall fish numbers have been down compared to previous years, it has been a godsend and has produced fantastic days for our guests.  If we had to choose a bunch of fish with a bunch of fisherman or fewer fish with fewer anglers, we choose the latter.  To be honest, fishing has been challenging on the Trinity some days, but its been real steelhead fishing, giving us opportunity to teach our craft and do things differently. It has been a welcomed change.  The Trinity River looks to be the best option for float trips this March, which is one of our favorite months over there.  It is truly a magic time as insect hatches increase and spring starts to pop.  Grab you’re favorite guide this month and book a trip with them.  This winter has been rough for the guide community and we know a trip with their favorite clients can help tremendously.  Get outside and put in some river time, you’re soul will thank you.

Middle Falls on the McCloud River Painting by Janet Franco Velez

The point of this post wasn’t intended as a fish report but it was about the famous McCloud River, America’s iconic trout stream.  This time of year as seasons change, more rivers open and become viable opportunities.  This is when we start dreaming about the change in venues.  Currently we are planning excursions for our own adventures.  The Green River float/camp trip, the Owyhee River 6 day upper float and a multi-day whitewater adventure on Oregon’s Illinois River are in the crosshairs.  It also includes floats on the rivers flowing into Lake Shasta as they typically have a short window for being floatable and prime for fishing conditions (click for a closer look at the Upper Sac Float Trip).

Mt. Shasta, from McCloud River Painting by Thomas Hill

One river that never seems to go away is the McCloud.  Imagine what it might have looked like before the dams changed the river forever. Imagine an Alaska type scene being played out, a river teeming with thousands of salmon and steelhead, swimming and spawning in its mint Listerine colored water. Doesn’t that sounds like a special kind of heaven?  We didn’t know the river as it used to be, in fact very few are alive today to share the first hand stories about what the river used to be.  Recently we lost one of our clients and good friend Peter, who shared stories about fishing the McCloud River in the pre-dam era.  Young Peter would take a train up the valley from the city and spend 2 weeks every year exploring the untamed McCloud River canyon with a fly rod.  They would go up and fish the Sacramento River and at Simms they would take a pack train of mules and horses and tote their gear over the mountain into the mysterious waters of the mighty McCloud.  His stories were something out of a dream and they captivated us beyond explanation.  But the sadness in his eyes of watching a wild river shrivel up and change forever was painful.  You could feel the enormous weight of loss as he told his stories about one of the most magical rivers of the world.  Take a minute and watch the video below from CalTrout that shares the story of the McCould River today and what it used to be.  There is currently a big movement to deregulate the laws in place to protect many of our rivers and the clean water that ensures their existence.  When is enough, enough?


How Can I Get Involved?

-Join CalTrout and help produce more awareness and protection for our rivers in California like the McCloud River  CalTrout.Org

-Join Trout Unlimited. We currently have a new chapter in Northern California: Shasta Trinity Cascades.  We need your help.

Fish Kennedy Brothers

Northern California Fly Fishing Guides


Lower Sacramento River Goes Huge!

After a five year drought for much of the West, we have finally received copious amounts of precipitation in Northern California. Is it time to start building an ark? Perhaps. We have been getting hammered with more water than we know what to do with.  The reservoirs are filling faster then they can let water out.  So in order to meet flood space regulatory requirements in Shasta Lake, flow releases will be increasing to extraordinary high levels.


*These flows will make the Lower Sacramento River below Keswick Dam through Redding to to the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta extremely dangerous!!*

“People recreating in or along the lower American River downstream of Folsom Dam to the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers can expect river levels to increase and should take appropriate safety precautions,” the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said in a news release.

Releases to the Sacramento River have ranged from approximately 3,300 cfs (DWR, 2011) during drought periods and 79,000 cfs during flood events (DWR,1974) so this a major event we have not seen too often.

The Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled flow increases ramping up from today, February 9th, through this Sunday.

Scheduled Releases out of Keswick Dam near Redding, CA.

-Friday:               50,000 CFS

-Saturday:          60,000 CFS

-Sunday:             70,000CFS!


*Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko has closed the Sacramento River to boating and other recreation due to higher than normal water releases from Shasta and Keswick dams.  The closure does not  apply to lakes and will be rescinded once conditions are safe.  

Fish Kennedy Brothers

Northern California Fly Fishing Guides


State of Jefferson Steelhead and Trout Outlook

We hope everybody had a safe holidays and enjoyed Christmas and the seasons celebrations.  Maybe some received new fly fishing gear or had the chance to wet a line.  We didn’t fish for a few days but spent our time with family and friends in a well needed break from the winter season.  But just as quickly as it started it has come to an end and we creep into the wee hours of 2016.  So whats happening and what does the near future look like?  It’s looking pretty good overall and the break in heavy precipitation has brought many rivers into or close to go time.  Here is a quick peek:


Light rain and high elevation snow is expected across our northern counties today, including Del Norte, Humboldt, and northern Trinity counties. Other than being mildly inconvenient for outdoor activities, minimal impacts are expected. Dry weather is expected Wednesday and Thursday.

 Lower Sacramento River

Our staple river for guide trips and life source for the state of California overall has been fishing well as we transfer into the winter season.  The major change as detailed in the graph below occurred on December 20th by doubling the flows overnight from about 5,000 to 10,000 CFS.  The biggest obstacle for these flows is going to be for wade anglers.  Not only does this highly limit the areas accessible via wading boot but it poses a serious threat if you were to fall in.  There are still some wade spots available but use caution.


Notice the flow increase on the 20th and then notice the stable flows.  The Lower Sac is always a good bet this time of year and is best approached with a drift boat at these flows.

Eggs, alevins and small mayfly patterns have produced the best in the last few weeks.  If you don’t feel like braving the higher flows this is a great time to use your favorite guide with a drift boat as these next few months are some of the best and lightest in traffic.  Need a guide? We can help.


Shannon’s first day in a drift boat and fly fishing stayed into the fish all day!

The Coast

Although some rivers have remained high and off color there are some sections falling into shape in both Oregon and California.  These next storms don’t look like much at this point but keep an eye out as forecasts become more detailed.  There looks to be some good to excellent fishing conditions for some of the rivers in the State of Jefferson.  Take a look at the Smith River below:

The Smith River is typically the first to provide fishable conditions and right now she is looking pretty good!

The Smith River is typically the first to provide fishable conditions and right now she is looking pretty good!  Have you ever visited the Smith in the winter?  You should, its magical.

Although the next storms don’t look like they are going to bring much in precipitation at this point but definitely be prepared for cold conditions.  Always bring an extra change of clothes and have a way to warm up in case of a spill.   Also be careful on the roadways as cooler conditions like this also create black ice, which the only way to combat is by driving way slower than normal.


Reservoir Storage Compared to Last Year


Fish Kennedy Brothers

Northern California Fly Fishing Guides


Nor Cal Fish Report October 2016

There is no question that fall in Northern California has settled and taken up residence while overtaking the higher elevations and slowly infiltrating the parched valleys below.  Temperatures have cooled the mornings and evenings.  The heat of summer has left us basking in the glorious season of seasons.  Plus a heavy weather system is en route.  We are excited, are you?

sunset over Redding, CA

The weather, fishing opportunities, fall colors, cool mornings and spectacular sunsets are all great in October.  The list of greatness in this month is longer than a California Steelhead Report Card.  If we became President we would make October three to four months longer for all to enjoy.  Vote for Kennedy! Ha, yeah right.  This may not mean as much to others as it does to us, but with October also comes postseason major league baseball.  San Francisco Giants Baseball!  San Francisco Giants logoIt’s often asked in the North state whats the difference between Giants hotdogs and others teams hotdogs? Giants hotdogs are available in October!  There is still a long rough road to the World Series and first we have to get through the plagued Chicago Cubs, the team that is most synonymous with losing.  Sounds easy right?  The Cubs haven’t won a World Season since 1908 and haven’t even played in one since 1945.  Despite the final outcome, we still relish in the Giants making it in 2016.  This years Cubs have proved to be a formidable force to be reckoned with, and their talent is stacked deep. They are one of the most complete teams to come through baseball in quite a while.  We kind of have a soft spot with the Cubs as we grew up listening to Harry Carary and the famous seventh stretch rendition of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.”  *The Chicago Cubs beat the San Francisco Giants in the 9th inning of game four. Uggg.  Well, at least we still have steelhead.



Weather: There is a storm a brewing!

We’ve enjoyed a ridiculously amazing fall season so far, and we have even been blessed by a decent rain storm earlier in the month which helped kick off the celebrations and the coming of the steelhead. We are as giddy as schoolboys as we head straight into our super busy season.  There is a major system brewing in the Pacific, and the forecast confidence is HIGH.  As with the San Francisco Giants, we are going to have to wait to see what really happens as the storm approaches Northern California.  One thing is for sure though: this baby is opening up the storm door leaving the opportunity for an early onset of precipitation far after the first front hits.  cloud with rain icon

National Weather Service Weather Summary



Lower Sacramento River:

Just as the Cubs are synonymous to losing in October, the Lower Sac is synonymous with the salmon egg bite this month.  Yeah, it can be a good time to fish the river but it’s also the most popular time and the river is commonly overrun with every guide and fly angler within driving distance.  It’s not nearly as good it used to be.  It wasn’t that long ago the river was quiet and the community was small.  But all things change, and one thing is for sure, we are fortunate to have this impressive year round trout factory.  If we all take care of it maybe it will survive the current wave of pressure it’s been receiving and continue to produce memories and enjoyment for the generations to come.

chinook salmon eggs

Overall the river has been fishing good to great with some inconsistency throughout the week.  Fishing suffered to a degree on days where the water flows were not steady or dropping.  Also the aquatic weed hatch will continue to increase which isn’t a major problem but be sure to check your flies and remove all debris.  On days where an abnormal amount of weeds are cut loose it seems to effect the overall bite.   Caddis have still been pumping particularly well on the warmer days and seem to be more prolific on most sections of the river after noon.  Although in some stretches they are available almost all day especially near heavily oxygenated water.  fish don't drive posterSmall mayfly and decent midge hatches have littered the river sporadically these past few weeks.  One point of interest this last week which we don’t remember encountering this time of year was a flying ant hatch.  Although it didn’t bring the monsters up it did provide some excellent dry fly opportunities in the shallows and flats particularly near the edges.  Not sure if anyone looked up from the indicators and noticed but hopefully some got in on the action.  Getting away from the old bobbers and cannon balls is always a sweet treat.

The egg bite and the amount of salmon above the Barge Hole has been light although gradually increasing.  Not to say it isn’t happening here and there but its definitely worth noting the lack of salmon in the upper system.  Typically by this time we have more established salmon redd’s and more active chinook spawning.  The salmon are far and few between but there should be more coming up the system.  Expect this year to be especially light compared to previous years.  After talking with several sources with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife it looks like many of the chinook salmon destined for the cool riffles of the upper section near Redding appeared to have taken a detour.  It is suspected that the trucking of fish down river in previous years, attempting to increase salmon survival rates numbers, may have caused the fish to imprint on rivers further down in the system like the Feather and the American rivers.


Chinook salmon and fly fishing

So there might not be as many salmon in the Sacramento River spawning this October but they are still around. Check out this fly caught chinook from down river!



Trinity River

The Trinity has fish!  Although conditions are not currently prime, pressure from anglers seeking steelhead has been light.  Most of the salmon guys these last few weeks have been out on the river by day break and haven’t been a factor.  Nymphing, swinging and dry fly fishing fishing have been productive for anglers and guides able to find fish.  There have been pods of both wild and hatchery fish moving up through the system with some large fish showing.  One hatchery fished that reached the hatchery earlier was taped at a whopping 43 inches!  That’s one big fish and one helluva bbq!  The best success for swinging has been below Junction City with the best results coming from below the gorge.  There are fish spread out from the top of the system all the way down to the confluence with the Klamath.

The Trinity is low and clear.  Stealth, long leaders and smaller flies come to mind.  For boaters, be aware of new obstacles.  The river has changed in a few spots and could pose serious threats to anglers not ready for the changes.  Look for conditions to improve after this next storm system and for fish to head into river.  There are also a ton of smolt balls around so be prepared to deal with the little guys, they are voracious and attack.  Take the time to treat them correctly and ensure their survival.  The best part of October on the Trinity? Shorts, sandals and swinging for steelhead!

fly fishing guide with steelhead

Shorts, sandals and swinging for steelhead!




caddis-october-caddis-larva_fotor caddisfly-october-caddis-pupa_fotor

Like to fish big dries? Now through mid-November can be a great time on the Upper Sac, McCloud and other rivers in Northern California to throw the big bug.  Target late evenings and hitch a dropper off the back for a deadly little twist.


Fish Kennedy Brothers

Fly Fishing Guides in Redding , CA



Upper Sacramento River: Whitewater and Trout

Set on the southern skirts of Mount Shasta the Sacramento River is California’s largest river.  It has been touted as the Nile of the West.  It flows for about 445 miles from Shasta to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.  For this adventure float trip  we are focusing on the Upper Sacramento River above Lake Shasta.  We started our adventure float trip below the town of Dunsmuir and ended near Lakehead.  The Upper Sac is a deceptive river and loaded with tons of class 3 and 4 rapids.  We recommend using one of the outfitters for whitewater trips.  Combine it with some of the best fly fishing and it makes this trip one of our favorites!


How did the Sacramento River get its name?

Gabriel Moraga a Spanish explorer in 1808 was searching for locations to setup missions and was likely the first foreigner to visit the river.  Judging its immense size and power he named it Rio de los Sacramentos, or “River of the Blessed Sacrament.”

How long is the Sacramento River?

445 miles (716 km)

When is the best time for whitewater trips?

Typically April through mid-June but every year is different based weather conditions from the the previous winter.

When can you fish the Upper Sacramento?

The Sacramento River from Shasta Lake to Lake Siskiyou is open 365 days a year.




Fish Kennedy Brothers

Fly Fishing Guide Trips on the Upper Sacramento River

Whitewater Adventure Fly Fishing

The Sacramento River is Closed to Fishing?

Don’t believe the headlines, because just like that, shear terror is unleashed and countless dollars in revenue are lost and never recovered as fraudulent stories circulate.  It’s not just fishing guides who miss out on their prime time to make ends meet, but the trickle down economic factor sends shock waves all the way through the communities and tourism based businesses that thrive on this ridiculously rich and renewable resource of catch and release fishing that the City of Redding has become home to.  “Redding has some of the best fishing I’ve seen anywhere in the world, and I use to live in Montana and Alaska,” Robert Bailey remarked, as we strolled down the Sundial Bridge snapping photo’s of the drift boats hooked up on wild rainbow trout under our feet.

Don’t believe the headlines, the media is going to try to shove this one down your news feeds, but don’t buy it.  Is it true there is a fishing closure? Yes, there will be a temporary emergency closure for a very small section of the river and we’ll give you the details below, straight from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).  Is this going to effect my fishing trip on the Sacramento River?  Absolutely not.  In fact, after a prosperous wet season with many of our drainages receiving above average rainfall and snow pack totals, this is going to be one of the years fishing in Northern California that you will not want to miss out on.

winter run chinook salmon i

Plagued by years of abuse from dams, mining, agriculture, drought, commercial fishing, hatcheries, extreme habitat loss and poor ocean conditions the Sacramento River winter-run chinook salmon face extinction.  Chinook salmon, also known as “king salmon,” are without question the undisputed royalty of California waters.

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Spring is here, fish you must

It’s no longer getting close, spring is here.  To put it in Yoda terms, “Spring is here, fish you must!”  It’s been a wild and wet winter and for the first time in five years the State of Jefferson has received above average water.  El Niño may not have lived entirely up to it’s ominous reputation, but it has brought life back to the parched landscapes of Northern California.  The temperature outlook has indicated an increased probability of above-normal temperatures across much of the United States in the coming months.  In fact, the chance is highest for the West, exceeding 50 percent.Image of Yoda saying go fishing you must  The weather outlook notes that while the El Niño event is weakening daily, the important question going forward is how quickly its impacts dissipate and what the likelihood is of a transition to a La Niña event.  The weather service says La Niña is characterized by anomalously cool water in the central and eastcentral Pacific (thus the reason the La Niña phenomenon is sometimes referred to as a “Pacific cold episode”).  It’s overall effects also tend to be less predictable than those for El Niño, with seasonal precipitation impacts generally opposite as well.  But women, weather and fish kind of do what they want and right about the time you think you have them figured out…well you know.  Don’t even try.

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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.

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Nor Cal’s Weather and River Update: March 6th 2016

Nothing haunts me more than the beasts that live in the emerald green waters.  But the hunt is going to have to wait.  At least for now.


The mysterious unicorn.

Much of the West Coast has received copious amount of rainfall in the past 48 hours.  Currently, most rivers are high and not fishable, except for a small handful of tailwaters fisheries up near the dam. Oh and lakes too.  There are a few dandies out there right now if you’re willing to partake in the changing weather conditions.  The Trinity was hardly fishable at the top end of the drainage above Rush Creek and the Lower Sac was fishable today but saw severe winds which made boat accessibility down right dangerous.  Brutal beyond belief.  The Lower Sac had fishable water down to I-5 but saw extremely dirty water from the mouth of Churn Creek down.  More moisture is on the way and it will determine the outlook for this next week.  So far it’s looking like a great week for more rain which we still need.

It might be a good time to find a great book and sit by a warm fire!  Has anybody read these?

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Got Trout and Steelhead?

The two weeks of delightful hiatus free from the wicked clenches of El Niño’s wet spell was an unspeakable dream, but we are ecstatic to report he’s back again and hopefully with a vengeance.  For those of you who joined us on the rivers during the short sleeve section of February, you lucked out, and we hope you appreciated the fantabulous fishing and the warmest winter steelhead fishing known to man.  The surplus of both vitamin D and chrome unicorns was truly a special event.  We apologize for having you bring all that Gore-tex and quality Simms gear, but maybe next time we’ll have to use it.  It’s common for El Niño years to harbor warmer weather in the Winter months; it doesn’t always translate for the hardcore weather sessions that we envision.  You never know, so always be prepared for any weather condition Mother Nature can wheel at you when you are outdoors this time of year, regardless of the forecast.  Speaking of water, how much do we have?



In this report we are going to be looking at current conditions for fly fishing Northern California, including the Lower Sacramento River and Trinity River for both trout and steelhead.  We’ll also take a peek at drought stats, road conditions, river flows, fish hatcheries and at an exciting new chapter of Trout Unlimited starting in Redding. There’s some river news and a little something addressing  “on the water” ethics as well.

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