thousands of homes. At the same time, the Sacramento River Delta began a catastrophic decline, and one of the most formidable runs of Chinook Salmon in the world was decimated.
When we opened The Fly Shop® in 1978, the tail water below the dam, now commonly known as the Lower Sacramento River, could hardly be considered a quality trout fishery. The hatcheries were a failure, and the town of Redding had a population larger than spawning runs of salmon that had once numbered in the millions.
Then the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, in a desperate search for a solution to the decline of the King Salmon hit upon the construction of a Temperature Control Device (TCD) to extract colder water from the depths of Shasta Lake and send it downstream. The logic was that cooler temperatures would enhance successful salmon spawning. In 1992 the TCD was completed, and the Lower Sacramento River near Redding maintains a consistent temperature today of approximately 56 degrees. These colder flows at first appeared to be working, as the salmon runs slowly began making a comeback. But the cooler, more consistent water temperatures have proven to be far more beneficial to the Sacramento River trout population.
Harry Rectenwald, former DF&W Fisheries Biologist for the Sacramento River, has explained that the phenomenal trout fishing that developed on the Lower Sacramento River after the implementation of the TCD is another (albeit unintentional) by-product of the cold water: "The growth cycle of resident trout has been extended by thirty percent." With consistent water temperatures every day of the year, the resident rainbows on the Lower Sacramento are able to continue to feed - and to grow - 100% of the time.
That means the fish can grow fast, sometimes exceeding their length with girth. The average size of the rainbows on the Lower Sacramento is 16 inches, while fish over 20 inches are relatively common, and they are all fat and healthy. These trout are of trophy proportions, and growing up in the haughty currents of the Lower Sacramento River they are strong fish and full of fight.
What's more, cooler water extending further south in the river has created viable trout habitat for an extended 50 miles or so. This means fly fishermen on the Lower Sacramento River are frequently able to spread out and avoid crowds. Even on the busiest of days, it is easy to find yourself catching huge trout on the river, without another soul around.
Our Lower Sacramento guide staff is outstanding! Several have grown up on this river, learning how to fly fish and navigate the river from a young age. If you are planning a fly fishing trip to Northern California, our guide staff can turn that average fishing day into a great trip. These river guides don't just provide the landed fish, they also provide an experience to remember.