Copyright 2013 James Marsh
Fly Fishing Smith River California
The Smith River drains the Pacific Coast Ranges just
west of the Siskiyou Mountains just south of the Oregon
border in extreme Northern California. The main stem of
the river is formed by the confluence of its North and
Middle Forks. The South Fork Smith River also joins in
on the flow just below the North and Middle Fork. The
Smith River ends its twenty-mile long course to the
Pacific Ocean. It's the third largest river in California.
This Smith River flows through Siskiyou National Forest.
Much of the river is followed by State Route #199. It has
crystal clear water that flows through deep canyons
shadowed by tall redwood trees. Its flows depend on the
Fall and Winter rains that start in November. The river is
best fished from a drift boat but can also be waded and
fished from its banks.
Salmon show up in the middle of October and finish their
spawning activity by the first week or two of January. The
Chinook Salmon average from sixteen to twenty-five
pounds but get much larger. The pride of the Smith
River are its special steelhead. These fish run large and
attract anglers from across the nation. These large fish
show up from January through March. Rowdy Creek fish
hatchery is located on the river and raises on 100,000
steelhead per year. Most all the fish that return to the
Smith River are either native or from the Rowdy Creek
hatchery. The river holds the record for the largest
steelhead caught in California.
Fly fishing the Smith River is a wonderful experience
irregardless of the catch. It is strikingly beautiful and
rated the 3rd cleanest river in the World. It's located in
the heart of the Redwood National Forest.
Wild steelhead with the adipose fin intact or trout may be
retained. You can only use barbless hooks. Anglers can
keep two hatchery trout or steelhead per day with four in
possession. There's an annual limit for wild Chinook
salmon of five fish.
The lower river sees plenty of drift boats during the
season and can be crowded. It should be pointed out
that fly fishing the Smith River can be a demanding and
rough ordeal. The river is strong, swift and full of
surprises. Water levels are very important.
The season is species dependent
Winter run steelhead season last into the month of April
Fall Chinook run starts in August
The Chinook run last through the Fall months
Wintertime is prime steelhead time. The run starts in
December and last through the Winter months. The
Chinook season ends in December.
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