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Fly Fishing The McCloud River

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The Church, The Cathedral, Holy Water, and the Jewel of the West Coast are all names given to the spring fed, McCloud River, over the years. With names like this, you know we are talking about a special place. Many of the rivers in Northern California have been ravaged for gold, timber, and the obvious… water. The McCloud River’s rugged surroundings and lack of gold kept both people and industries at bay. The McCloud Dam, forming Lake McCloud, separates the Upper McCloud River from the Lower McCloud.

The Lower McCloud River fills Lake Shasta with help from the Upper Sacramento River, the Pit River, and various other creeks. Lake Shasta supplies the water for the Lower Sacramento River and most of the power in the Northern CA.  The Upper McCloud River, home to the native McCloud River redband rainbow trout is more of a creek than a river.

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So many words have been written on the blue-green waters and lush, yet treacherous surroundings of Lower McCloud River.  Most of these words were written by much better writers than myself.

The Difficulty Rating of the Lower McCloud River - Advanced
Now, I am not saying that you won’t have a good time if you go, as it is an incredibly beautiful place to spend your time. The McCloud River is not the wading nightmare of the Pit River, but involves quite a bit of hiking and moderately tough wading. The public water is minimal and gets fished often. Great fly choice and presentation is important. As long as you’re in good physical shape the fishing gaps can be bridged with a good guide.

Map of the McCloud RiverTips for Fly Fishing the Lower McCloud River:
  • Fish the soft edges of the river
  • Look out for rattlesnakes on the bank of McCloud. Here is a link on avoiding a rattler bite.
  • Fish dries any time of day in the spring and fall.
  • When nymphing, If you are not snagging bottom you are not fishing a long enough leader or enough weight.
  • Fish smaller flies to catch more fish
  • Cast large streamers quartered up stream near the bank and stripped quickly using the current to form a belly in your line. This is what the big Brown Trout like.
  • Look out for poison oak - it is everywhere. If you think you got it on you (you did), rinse all of your exposed skin with cold river water to help close your pores and rinse the poison off. Heat and sweat open you pours and spread the poison. Bring along a couple packets of Technu, a detergent formulated for poison oak.


Access and Camping on the Lower McCloud River:

Ash Camp on the McCloud River- Click the link to see GPS in Google Maps - In the town of McCloud make a left on Squaw Valley road. You take this for about 10 miles over the dam when the rod comes to a T go to the Right. Drive slow and look on your right for Ash Camp. It can be hard to see, especially at night. Ash Camp provides great access to the river.

AH-Di-Nah Campground on the McCloud River - Click the link to see GPS in Google Maps - In the town of McCloud make a left on Squaw Valley road. You take this for about 10 miles until just before the dam there is a sharp left that takes you to Ah-DI-NAH campground. The 11 mile road is rough… take a sturdy vehicle. This is my favorite place to camp on The McCloud River. There is a trail on the west side (campground side of the river). There are a few primitive campsites in between AH-Di-Nah Campground and the Nature Conservancy Property.

The Nature Conservancy-  Click the link to view their website and book - The preserve allows 10 anglers to fish using catch and release techniques at any one time. Five of these fishing places may be reserved a least a few weeks in advance through the Conservancy’s San Francisco office: phone (415) 777-0487. The remaining five fishing spots are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are held until 10 a.m. of the date reserved.

Hatches on the Lower McCloud River-

  • Blue Winged Olive - Spring and Fall
  • Midge - Year round
  • Golden Stones - May- June
  • Salmonfly - May and June
  • PMD - July - September
  • Little Yellow Stone - June and July
  • Caddis - Spring-Fall
  • October Caddis - Sept- October

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