The McCloud River rainbows (salmo Shasta) may be the most famous strain of trout on the planet Earth.
At the turn of the last century, these were the fish used to first stock most of New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, and other potential trout fisheries all across the western hemisphere. And while the rainbows remain the top target on the McCloud River, they're only part of the attraction of this world famous fishery.
The McCloud itself is a river unlike any other, cascading through sections of boulder-strewn pocket riffles, and one emerald pool after another. The banks of the river are lined with a dense forest of tall evergreens and hardwoods. All of this cool, un-polluted, aerated water creates perfect conditions for caddies flies,
mayflies, and even a variety of different stoneflies including the giant salmon flies, golden stoneflies, and little yellow stones. Fishing on the McCloud River is usually a well-balanced mixture of both nymphing and dry fly fishing, and during certain times of the year streamers can work well, too.
This scenic wonderland is gorgeous and well worth the long drive that is the only price of admission. Anglers on the McCloud River frequently lose their fishing focus and the natural beauty of the river canyon makes an indelible impression as formidable as the fishery itself.
The Fishing on the McCloud River
Trout in the upper McCloud are plentiful, though they rarely grow to trophy size, and they are fond of eating dry flies nearly every day of the season.
The Upper McCloud River's headwaters are about 20 miles east of Interstate 5, and bubble out of walls of springs above and below Fowler Camp (off Highway 89) not too far from the town of McCloud. There are a couple of miles of great pocket water action in the headwaters section of the river that harbor an excellent population of resident trout, and two spectacular water falls (Upper and Lower Falls) in the first few miles of the upper river that prevent the upriver migration of rainbows and browns. Below Fowler Camp, the river becomes progressively more rugged, and terraced, with small pools and pocket water that drops quickly in elevation, eventually flowing through the very private Hearst property before filling McCloud Reservoir.
It's a startling beautiful fishery ideal for the independent, self-reliant, physically fit fly fisherman that measures his day by more than the measurements of the fish caught.
The Lower McCloud River is the section between McCloud Reservoir and Shasta Lake and is the section where guides can be the biggest help. Much of this section of river is dominated by two historic and very private
clubs (Bollibokka and the McCloud River Club). However, there are three rough-and-tumble miles of excellent public access fishing that begins at Ash Camp just below the reservoir and cascades downstream to Ah-Di-Na Camp, and three more excellent miles of McCloud River fishing available in the esteemed Nature Conservancy just downstream from Ah-Di-Nah. Most of the riffles, pockets, and deep pools on this section of river are accessible to physically fit anglers willing to hike. It's rugged, wild terrain, and a truly unique fishery.
Access to The Nature Conservancy portion of the McCloud River is limited to ten anglers each day. Half of those can be reserved in advance through their San Francisco office (415-777-0487) and the other five rods are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
Our guide staff loves fly fishing on the McCloud River and is happy to share the techniques that have proven consistently successful on the river. If you are planning a fly fishing trip to Northern California, our guide staff can turn that average day into a memorable trip.
Reservations & Rates
Our guide staff is among the best in the industry, and our guide and Private Waters management team will work hard to make sure that you're placed with the right guide for your specific needs. We've been putting together guided fishing trips for three decades, and have the experience to coordinate a memorable day on the water for just about any group. Over the years, we've developed a few guidelines to help ensure that your trip is as successful as possible.
We can work with you to select a guide that's matched to your skills, interests, their
specialty or, perhaps, the equipment involved. Some of our guides are more instruction-oriented than others and are better suited for the novice wanting to combine a day of guided fishing with a learning experience, while others just plain know how to catch fish.
If you have a specific request or have been with us before, we can help reserve guide dates with one of your favorite guides based on that guide's specific availability. If not, we're happy to hook you up with one of several of our guides who specialize on our Northern California freestone streams.
Package Cost: The cost of the full-day McCloud River guided package is:
• $450 per day (1-2 anglers per guide)
• $500 per day (Package deal, including flies, tackle, & equipment)
Inclusions: Included in your guided angling package on the McCloud River is 8-10 hours of guided fishing with lunch provided.
Non-Inclusions: Not included in your guided angling package on the McCloud River are fishing license, waders, rods/reels, and terminal tackle (flies, tippet, etc.)
Package Deals: If you are just getting started in the sport, or will be traveling and don't want to hassle with dragging along all of your gear, you may want to consider our guide trip "Package Deal." This inclusive option is only an additional $50 per day, and with it the guides will provide the necessary rods, reels, flies, tackle and equipment to ensure that you have the right gear and flies for the day. If you're an experienced angler and/or fly tier, call ahead
and we'll let you know exactly what flies are producing so you can be sure to tie them beforehand or bring them along.
We do not recommend it, but we can occasionally accommodate 3 anglers. We never recommend fishing 3 anglers to a guide on wade trips, as there is simply no way that the guide can give 3 different anglers enough time to guarantee a positive experience for all. If everyone in the group is an experienced angler and you're mainly looking for help finding river accesses, it may work. But it is never a good idea for 3 novice anglers. There is an additional $100 fee for a 3rd angler.
The Fly Shop® is not in the insurance business, but we recommend Travel Guard coverage as a service with a desire to see your best interests protected. It is impossible to know when an unfortunate situation (loss of luggage, fly rods, illness in the family, or an accident) may occur. However, such things can and do happen, and this insurance can provide a means of recourse against non-refundable financial losses. Click HERE for Travel Guard's Policies and more information
Seasons of the McCloud River
The McCloud River opens to fishing on the last Saturday in April and remains open through November 15. The McCloud is controlled by dam releases from McCloud Reservoir, which generally maintains consistent flows throughout the season, making the McCloud a good option when other local rivers are subject to runoff.
May and June:
May and June are generally considered the "prime time" months on the river. Starting as early as Opening Day (last Saturday in April), myriad insects begin to hatch on the McCloud, creating consistent opportunities throughout each day to catch fish on both nymphs and dry flies.
The most important hatches on the McCloud are from the order Plecoptera: stoneflies. The massive salmon flies are the first of the stoneflies to appear, hatching sporadically throughout the month of May and sometimes into early June. They are followed by numerous Golden Stoneflies and Little Yellow Stoneflies, all of which can get the McCloud River's numerous rainbow and brown trout rising on the surface. And even when the fish aren't focused on the flying adult insects, they'll readily take dead drifted stonefly nymphs in the McCloud's many pockets and deep pools.
In addition to the stoneflies, there are many other insects hatching on the McCloud during this time of year, including several species of caddis, PMD mayflies, and several other varieties and sizes of lesser mayflies. With so many different kinds of insects in the air, there are dry fly opportunities throughout the day, and many different kinds of nymph patterns will also produce strikes from aggressive fish.
July and August:
Summertime on the McCloud River sees the lightest fishing pressure of the season. Though much of Northern California can be baked in sweltering heat, the McCloud remains shaded and cool at the bottom of a deep, heavily forested canyon and can continue to fish well all summer long with both nymphs and dry flies.
There are generally less insects hatching later in the summer, though Golden Stoneflies will still be found throughout much of the summer and caddis continue to come off every evening just before dark. The best dry fly opportunities will come late in the day, though nymphing the pockets and pools remains productive throughout the day. Summertime can be a
great time of year for fishing streamers, too, targeting some of the bigger brown trout that reside in the McCloud's deep pools.
On dry, exceptionally warm summers, melting glaciers on Mount Shasta can pump silt-colored water into the lower McCloud River. Although the off-color water can be disconcerting at first, we've discovered over the years that it's not necessarily bad for the fishing. As long as there's a foot or more of visibility (which there usually is), the fish can still see your flies but they are less spooky and eat with much more confidence. Bigger, darker flies are more successful, and it is primarily a nymphing game. That said, the upper McCloud remains fishable and can be a good nearby option to get your dry fly fix.
September, October, & November:
The Fall Season is a standby favorite for long-time McCloud River fanatics. The cool nights of fall brings out the giant October Caddis hatch, there can be stellar blue-winged olive hatches on overcast days, and the big bad browns begin to migrate upriver from Shasta Lake.
The first of the monstrous October Caddis larvae begin to appear on the rocks and boulders near the edge of the river in mid September, and by October there are literally millions of the inch-long cases decorating the river bottom as they prepare for emergence. The adult insects hatch at dusk throughout October and November, providing brief flurries of dry fly activity every evening and enticing trout to rise to big attractor patterns sometimes even in the middle of the day. Moreover, they'll eat the larvae and pupae of the caddis like trout candy every hour of the day.
On overcast days, there can be some phenomenal blue-winged olive hatches. These tiny mayflies respond to changes in barometric pressure, and hatch whenever a storm front moves through the area, stimulating some great midday dry fly action on all of our regional streams, including the McCloud River.
And one can't forget the big brown trout that migrate upriver from Shasta Lake in the fall. These brutes can be a real adventure, chasing big streamers on sinking lines in the deep pools and often measuring better in pounds than inches. They're not easy to find and take true devotion to catch, but are an exciting option for big fish anglers willing to work hard for quality fish.
Lodging for the McCloud River
Most of the access points on the McCloud are a little over an hour's drive from Redding. As a result, most of our McCloud River anglers prefer to stay in either McCloud or Mt Shasta, or camp near the river at Ah-di-Nah or Ash Camp.
Bollibokka Fly Fishing Club
Website: Bollibokka Club
• Become a member of the Bollibokka Fly Fishing Club and have comfortable lodging and private fishing on the lower McCloud.
Bed & Breakfasts:
408 Main Street
McCloud, CA 96057
• The McCloud Hotel is a 4-Star bed and breakfast in the heart of historic McCloud.
McCloud River Inn
325 Lawndale Court
McCloud, CA 96057
• The McCloud River Inn, located in historic downtown McCloud, is a Nationally Registered Historic Inn, and a great place to stay when fishing the McCloud.
Mt Shasta Ranch Bed and Breakfast
1008 W A Barr Rd
Mt Shasta, CA 96067
• The Mt Shasta Ranch is one of our favorite bed and breakfasts near the Upper Sac, but it's not far from the McCloud and makes for a great home base when targeting both of these freestone rivers.
Campgrounds & RV Parks:
McCloud Ranger Station, McCloud, CA
• Great campsites, outhouse facilities, great river access on the Lower McCloud. 4 Wheel drive vehicles recommended. There are also two unimproved campgrounds located between Ah-di-Na and the Nature Conservancy.
Ash Camp Campground
• Unimproved camp sites near lower McCloud close to McCloud Reservoir, lots of foot traffic at trailhead to Pacific Crest trail and not many sites.
McCloud Dance Country RV Park
McCloud, CA 96057
• RV Sites available near the town of McCloud.
Cattle Camp Campground
McCloud Ranger Station, McCloud, CA
• 29 sites located along the upper McCloud River at an elevation of 3,700 ft. RV Sites, Drinking Water, Restrooms. Notes: Maximum RV length is 12 ft.
Fowlers Camp Campground
McCloud Ranger Station, McCloud, CA
• 39 sites located along the upper McCloud River at an elevation of 3,400 ft. Tent Camping, Drinking Water, RV Sites, Restrooms. Notes: Maximum RV length is 30 ft.
Hotels & Motels:
Mt Shasta Resort
1000 Siskiyou Lake Blvd
Mt Shasta, CA 96067
• Mt Shasta Resort is nestled in the forest near Lake Siskiyou, and offers privacy and seclusion in their Craftsman-style chalets. Spa and golf course available on-site.
Best Western-Tree House
111 Morgan Way
Mt Shasta, CA 96067
• Cozy, comfortable, convenient location near I-5.
Mt. Shasta Luxury Log Home
• Visitors to this property all express the same reaction - of all the destinations they have visited, this Majestic Log Home in the shadow of mighty Mt Shasta is one of the most spectacular spots on earth!
Shasta Rainbow House
• You can enjoy fishing, skiing, hiking, and many other recreational activities in the McCloud and Mt. Shasta area, pets welcome at no additional charge.
McCloud Vacation Home
House - 3 Bedrooms + Convertible bed(s) - 3 Baths - (Sleeps 10)
• Nestled on the southern slopes of beautiful Mt. Shasta this Mt. Shasta McCloud vacation home offers family fun and year-round recreation for everyone!
Booking a Guide for the McCloud River
To make a reservation, please give us a call at 800-669-3474 during business hours any day of the week, or email us at email@example.com anytime. We can give you the answers you need, detailed explanations to questions you might have, or check on availability and confirm your reservation in minutes.