Best California Fly Fishing Rivers

California has 17 fly fish spots.

  September 14, 2018

Located in the US, the fly fishing in California offers over fifteen scenic trout rivers spots. The best California fly fishing based on popularity are considered to be Piru Creek, Kern River, San Joaquin River, East Fork Carson River, and Merced River. For a detailed fly fishing river description and printable river access map, just select a California fly fishing river or stream below.


Piru Creek

North of Los Angeles and Castaic, Piru Creek is well known for trout fly fishing. One of the best sections is the catch-and-release area below Pyramid Dam. This section runs for three miles down to Frenchmans Flat. There is relatively easy access at Frenchmans Flat on Piru Creek where the rainbow trout is stocked in the late summer.  MORE INFO

San Joaquin River

West of Mammoth Lakes, the middle fork of the San Joaquin River is a very popular area for fly fishing. In other words, if you plan to go, make sure you get there early to stake out a spot. If you arrive after the cutoff time, you will have to take the shuttle bus down into the valley. It is a designated wild trout river and is known for its brown trout, golden trout, rainbow trout and brookies.  MORE INFO

Merced River

East of El Portal near Yosemite, the Merced River is a popular river for big brown trout and rainbow trout. The fast river start high up in Yosemite National Park, and the most popular section is below the park entrance near the small town of El Portal. In spring, this river runs really fast -- wader need to watch their step all season long on the slippery rocks.  MORE INFO

Kern River

Northeast of Bakersfield and north of Kernville, the Kern River offers exciting flyfishing opportunities for trophy trout. The upper Kern River is a 20 mile section north of Lake Isabella and Kernville that is especially popular for its deep pools, long deep runs and short runs. Of special note is the Johnsondale Bridge section which is a 4 mile protected area with special regulations for the rainbow trout.  MORE INFO

Upper Sacramento River

North of Redding and just south of Mount Shasta, the Upper Sacramento River is a 35 mile fly fishing section from Box Canyon Dam of Lake Siskiyou to Lake Shasta. This scenic river is known for its dense population of rainbow trout averaging 12 inches, but up to 20 inches. The river alternates winding through several canyons and widening into narrow valleys. Most of the Upper Sacramento River is catch-and-release for fly fishing.  MORE INFO

Smith River

North of Klamath and Crescent City, the Smith River is a premier chinook salmon fishery and is also known for steelhead. The 175 mile Smith is the longest undammed river in the state. Its headwaters are in the Siskiyou Mountains and it drains all the way down to the Pacific. The main section for fly fishing is the last 15 miles from the confluence of the Middle Fork of the Smith down to the ocean.  MORE INFO

Fall River

Northeast of Redding near Fall River Mills, the 17 mile Fall River is known for fly fishing its 16 inch rainbow trout and a few brown trout. This a spring fed creek that is most fly fisherman float since there are weeds that make wading it difficult at times (also much of the border land is private) and the flow is slow. From its headwaters, the Fall River passes through a broad valley dominated by ranchlands not known for their scenic beauty.  MORE INFO

American River

Northeast of Sacremento, the American River is popular with fly fishermen. The lower section of the American River is a 25 mile stretch below Nimbus Dam downstream to Discovery Park near the Sacramento River confluence. The Nimbus Dam is located on Hazel Avenue just off US50.  MORE INFO