The Best Fly Fishing Spots in California

A waterfall on a sunny day.

Frank Kovalchek / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

With its mild climate and diverse geography, the Golden State is blessed with dozens of fine fisheries. Here’s a look at some of the best.

Northern California Fly Fishing

Northern California has so many legendary trout, steelhead and salmon waters it’s tough to know where to start, but as Redding is known as one of the best fly fishing towns not only in the state but in the country, you might as well start your trip there.

If you’re looking to do more than fly fish, trying your hand at whitewater rafting at a world-class rafting destination like the American River.

Other fine Northern California fisheries to add to your to-do list include McCloud River, Fall River, Hot Creek, and Yuba River.

California Mountains and High Sierra Fly Fishing

Up in the mountains and the High Sierra, there are blue-ribbon trout waters like the Owens River, which can be broken up into three unique sections—the Upper, Middle and Lower Owens.

Also in the Eastern Sierra, is the legendary East Walker River, where you might see some of the biggest brown trout of your life.

There are also plenty of fly fishing opportunities near Lake Tahoe, including the Truckee River, Prosser Creek, Boca Reservoir and Stampede Reservoir.

The Golden Trout Wilderness gives anglers a rare show at a golden trout, the state’s freshwater fish. Fly Fishing Cottonwood Lakes gives anglers a great opportunity to catch a golden trout.

If you’re looking for the most beautiful fishing destination in the state, it’s hard to argue with the Merced River in Yosemite. They don’t call El Portal “Montana in your own backyard” for nothing.

On the Western slope of the Sierra, the Kern River—just minutes away from Bakersfield and the parched Central Valley if you can believe that—breaks up into a trio of outstanding fisheries much like the East Walker. The South Fork and Lower Kern River give anglers a chance at a rare grand slam, while the North Fork Kern River gives anglers a shot at whopper rainbows above Kernville.

Similar to the Kern, the Kings River is located just outside of a major Central Valley city in Fresno. And like the Kern, the Kings River offers stellar trout fishing opportunities.

Central Coast and Southern California Fly Fishing

Closer to the Coast, fly fishers get the best of both worlds with plenty of saltwater and freshwater opportunities within casting range.

Santa Paula Creek gives Ventura and Southern California anglers a nice getaway, while the Central Coast is blessed with a handful of reservoirs and small creeks such as the Carmel River and San Lorenzo River.

Farther south, anglers have a rash of options from the lakes and reservoirs to the warm saltwater species that provide plenty of nearshore opportunities.

And if you have the time, heading south to Baja California can be one of the more rewarding trips a saltwater fly fisher can take.

Was this page helpful?