How to Fly Fish Sacramento River in Redding, CA

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How to fish like a pro on the lower Sacramento River

We’ve all seen the movie A River Runs Through It with Brad Pitt looking rugged and handsome as he skillfully casts his line into the clear and icy waters of Montana. If you are interested in learning how to fly fish like a pro in Northern California, you’ll want to go on a guided fishing trip with The Fly Shop in Redding, California.

Why should you consider a guided fishing trip? A local guide knows the river like the back of his (or her) hand. He knows where to fish and where to target the fly line. A professional guide knows what fishing tackle and gear to use and, most important, how to tie a fly. A local guide also comes with his own boat; a key piece of equipment, unless you intend to fish from the river bank.

nala, labrador retriever, yeti camino carryall, boat, lower sacramento river, redding, california
The Fly Shop offers The Package Deal, including all fishing gear; our dog and Yeti Camino Carryall not included. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

Why visit Redding

Within an hour of Redding, California we are lucky to have literally hundreds of miles of trout streams and many lakes to choose from. These streams are some of the most beautiful places you could fish. A lot of these streams are open year round, while some of the more storied locations such as The McCloud River and Hat Creek are open from the last Saturday in April until November 15.

On this fishing trip, we stayed at The Sheraton Redding Hotel at the Sundial Bridge, right next to the Sacramento River. An easy 15 minute drive to The Fly Shop, the store is the largest retail fly fishing business in the world – and the staff is friendly and professional.

We bought our California fishing licenses at The Fly Shop (for an additional fee), met our guide Shane Kohlbeck and followed him with our truck to the Bonnyview boat launch. We would float the Lower Sacramento River at our leisure, eventually taking out at Anderson River Park in the afternoon.

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The Fly Shop, in Redding, is an angler’s best friend. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

The art of fly fishing

In spending a day on the Sacramento River with Shane, I learned that slack in your line is critical for a natural presentation. I learned that it’s easy to catch trout on nymphs and that dry fly fishing is a real challenge. On our particular day on the water, the fish were rising to PMD (pale morning dun mayflies.) I now understand that the whole point of fly fishing is to “match the hatch.”

In fly fishing, a straight, lose line is much preferred over a taught fly line. I learned how to mend the line and strip line off like a pro – although Shane might not agree with my assessment of my fishing abilities.

I also learned the difference between sport fishing and fishing for meat. “This is not the place to fill your fish box,” notes guide Shane Kohlbeck. “It’s all catch and release. We want everyone to enjoy the experience of catching a beautiful 17-20 inch native trout. A trout can lay 1,000 eggs each spring,” adds Kohlbeck. “We want them to keep coming back.”

the fly shop, match the hatch, fly fishing, redding, california
Match the hatch! Photo © Nancy D. Brown

Think like a trout

We had an opportunity to witness the fish rising to dry flies; this is a rare occurrence on the Lower Sacramento River. We’d been catching and releasing 20 inch trout all morning long. I had a huge trout on the end of four pound test line, but I pulled too hard, reeling it in and broke off Shane’s line. He was polite about my rookie mistake, adding “if you were my fishing buddy, I would have made you take me to dinner.” Instead, he shrugged it off and tied another fly on the line.

“This is not the place to fill your fish box. It’s all catch and release. We want everyone to enjoy the experience of catching a beautiful 17-20 inch native trout.” Guide Shane Kohlbeck

sacramento river rainbow trout, fly fishing, catch and release, redding, california
Wild Sacramento River rainbow trout; big, bold and beautiful. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

The Fly Shop – fly fishing resource for anglers

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The Fly Shop also has many private ranches with exclusive access to streams and lakes. I’d be keen to visit Antelope Creek Lodge, where you can stay in comfort, eat home cooked meals and enjoy private access to two miles of trout filled creek and two trophy trout lakes. Other locations like Battle Creek Ranch are rugged, wild places chock full of native trout that rarely see a fly their entire lives.

They also offer formal fly fishing schools and fish camps for kids and families. These are typically held at Antelope Creek Ranch – another reason I need to go there. Rumor has it that many of their Fish Camp kids have gone on to become champion fly casters (Maxine McCormick) and guides/fly shop owners like George Revell, to name a few.

At The Fly Shop they pride themselves on their ability to outfit anyone with anything they need to be successful on the water. The Redding company excels in arranging guided fishing trips and fly fishing instruction that cater to every skill level from beginner (that would be me) to advanced.

nancy d brown, nancy brown, shane kohlbeck, fly fising, sacramento river, redding, california
Nancy Brown and guide Shane Kohlbeck with a double hook up while fly fishing as Nala looks on.

Need to know:
For a half day, one or two anglers, the price is $320, which includes 4 – 5 hours of fishing.
For a full day, one or two anglers, anywhere The Fly Shop guides is $450, which includes 8 hours of fishing and lunch.

For anglers who don’t have gear (that would be me) The Fly Shop offers the Package Deal for an additional $50, that’s per couple, NOT per person. The guide provides all gear including fly rod, tippet, sinkers and flies, in addition to a comfortable boat. It’s as simple as showing up, purchasing a California fishing license (one day or multi-day) and getting out on the water.

Insider Tip: If you are used to spincasting, you’ll want to abandon your casting techniques and listen to your guide on the subtle art of fly casting. For additional insider tips follow luxury travel writer @Nancydbrown on Twitter or Instagram @Nancydbrown and The Fly Shop on Instagram and @TheFlyShopTFS on Twitter.

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If You Go:
The Fly Shop (800) 669-3474
4140 Churn Creek Road
Redding, California 96002

How to fly fish on the Sacramento River review, video and all photography by travel writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Visit Redding while on assignment for another publication. All opinions on how to fly fish like a pro are my own. No fish were harmed in the making of this blog post.