Copyright 2018 James Marsh
Fly Fishing The Lower American River
The American River begins at the west slope of the
Sierras and flows down through the foothills, first into
Folsom Lake, and then into Lake Natomas. The
American River is covered in a separate section of this
website. The last stretch of river, called the Lower
American River, flows out of Nimbus Dam to its
confluence with the Sacramento River right in the center
of downtown Sacramento. Fly fishing the Lower
American River can be great throughout the year thanks
to its various species. Of course, as with most tailwaters,
water levels are very important.

The main species are all migratory fish - American Shad,
Steelhead, Stripped Bass and King Salmon. Of course,
the most popular for fly fishing is the steelhead. The
steelhead consist of half pounders that run both in the
Spring and Fall, and the larger Winter run steelhead.
The Spring run half-pounders are a little smaller than the
Fall run, averaging about 14 inches. The slightly larger
Fall run steelhead average about 16 inches but get
larger. They are in the river during September and
October. The Winter run steelhead range from six to ten
pounds but go upwards to as large as twenty pounds.
They start arriving the first of December and stay in the
river through March.

King Salmon (Chinook Salmon) show up as early as
September with October being the peak month of the
fishing season for the big salmon. They range from ten
to twenty pounds and larger.

Fly fishing the American River for American Shad
(Herring) is also very popular. They are mostly fished for
during May and June although they are in the river much
longer. Stripped Bass are fished for mostly in the
summer months but are in the river year-round.

Access points along the river are plentiful from Hazel
Ave. near the dam to Discovery Park at the confluence
of the American River with the Sacramento River. Access
is mostly off highway #50.

The stream can be waded or fished from a boat but
water levels must be taken into consideration. This is a
big river and it can be dangerous if caution isn't
exercised. Flows are best in the 1500 cfs range for

The season varies with the species
Springtime is usually good. March and April is spring run
half-pounder time. Late Spring is good for shad.
Summertime is prime for stripped bass.
Fly fishing the American River during the Fall is great.
October is prime time for King Salmon and September
and October is prime for fall run half-pounders.
Winter is the time for the larger steelhead which arrive in
December and are present through March.
Type of Stream

King Salmon
American Shad
Stripped Bass

Large - 23 miles long


Nearest Towns

Last Sat. of April through Nov. 15

Special Regulations:
Some areas set aside at times for
spawning - check current regulations


Non-Resident License
State of California

Weather Link

Fly Fishing Gear, Tackle and Flies

USGS Realtime Streamflow Data:
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Lower American River Fly Fishing
Report - Archive:
11/24/13 Customer reporting half pounders
only so far. Ordered some Perfect Fly Estaz
eggs in various colors. Water below normal at
1350 cfs.
12/31/13 River is flowing below normal
levels at 1100 cfs and 4.9 feet. Some half
pounders are being caught but that's about
it. Water temperature is about 49 degrees.
01/28/14 Customer ordering our Perfect fly
Spey flies reporting a few fish has been
caught in spite of the low water levels. He
is mostly using our Spotted Sedge larva
under an indicator. The river above Ancil
Hoffman opened on January 1.
03/12/14 The river is again on the low side.
Anglers are still picking up a few steelhead.
03/21/14 One customer reporting catching
two steelhead on our Giant Black Stonefly
Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.

2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.

3. Email us (
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.

All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $100 are shipped via
Priority Mail.  
10/18/14 We haven't had a report in a long
time due to the drought and low water
levels. There are lots of steelhead being
caught. Our customers are using
egg flies.
11/09/14 Much better conditions exist
although the water levels are still lower
than ideal.
Steelhead are being caught on
eggs and swinging flies.
12/04/14 There is still low water conditions.
We don't have any good reports yet.
12/15/14 From low to blown out.
01/13/15 Better stream levels have increased
the catching. Three good steelhead reports
the past two weeks.
02/94/15 Customers have reported slow
fishing this past month but they are picking
up a few steelhead.
05/20/15 Done except for shad and stripers.
Check back in the Fall.
10/28/15 There are a few steelhead in the
river and some are being caught. Flows are
low about 900 cfs.
Lower American River Fly Fishing
10/26/17 Good number of salmon are in the river. Stream levels are running at a normal
level. Steelhead are starting to enter the river.
Lower American River Fishing Report:

(see at bottom of page)