Fishing the Lower Sacramento River from shore with a fly rod can be and intimidating endeavor for anglers.
Last spring was the first time I ever challenged the 4,900 cfs flows and after an hour I wasn’t sure I should have left the more sedate and peaceful reaches of the Upper Sacramento.
Drift boats were motoring up and down seams and hooking up again and again - just beyond my cast. Finally, just before I started my three hour drive home, I hooked up with an 18-inch rainbow. Needless to say with big fish potential, the Lower gets as much attention as the Upper now, well, almost.
First, success on the Lower Sac is relative. Anglers in boats clean up because their nymphs stay in the strike zone. When fishing from shore, your nymph reaches the sweet spot for a matter of seconds before it starts to swing out. There are a lot of fish on the lower, but many are simply out of reach of waders. Guides say catching two fish from shore is a quality day. I’ve have days of many more, I’ve had days of none.
The key is to shrink the river, but most of this depends on the flow. When the river is flowing between 3,500 to 5,000 cfs, there is a lot of water within casting range and you have to see it for what it is and don’t look beyond it.
What’s the point in staring out at the middle where you can’t fish anyway? The riffle just above the Sundial bridge is an obvious spot, but Caldwell Park when the boards are out and all the way down past Cypress Ave. provide nice access and fishy seams. Use up to four pieces of split shot (depending on depth and water speed) to get the nymph rigs down quickly to the fish. This will mean that you might have to frequently remove moss, slime and other debris from your hooks, but the next thing on your hook could have a tail.
Cover the water well and work the edges just like you would if the river were a third of the size. Shore fishermen don’t have access to the deepest parts of the river like the boat anglers, so standard 9-foot leader lengths are fine with a large indicator. This time of year rubber legs, egg patterns and micro may flies are pretty effective.