Copyright 2018 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
confluence. The Smith River ends its twenty-mile long
course at the Pacific Ocean. It's the third largest river in

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 in places.  

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. Sea run cutthroat.
The Chinook run last through the Fall months. Sea run
Wintertime is prime steelhead time. The run starts in
December and last through the Winter months. The
Chinook season ends in December.  
Type of Stream

Steelhead (native and hatchery)
Coho Salmon (hatchery and a few
Chinook Salmon


Northwest California

Nearest Towns
Smith River
Crescent City

Species Dependent


Non-Resident License
State of California

National Weather Service Link

Fly Fishing Gear, Tackle and Flies

USGS Real Time Stream Levels
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Smith River California Fly Fishing Report - Archive:
11/22/13 Water has been high and few fish have been caught according to a customer. Water
is now back down to normal flows. He is getting stocked up on our Black Stonefly steelhead
nymph, size 6 he caught fish on consistently last season.
12/26/13 Low flows continue to hamper the winter steelhead opportunities. No reports of fish
01/11/14 The low flows should be ending as rain is falling in the northwestern corner of
California. This should be a big benefit is bringing in some steelhead into the Smith River.
Currently, it is still flowing well below normal so let's hope it doesn't stop raining.
02/06/14 Not many fish have been caught due to the drought situation. Help is on the way with
plenty of rain and snow in the forecast.
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.  
06/01/14 Sorry for the lack of reports. We will be resuming the reports soon.
12/18/14 Sorry for the lack of reports. The river was very low for a long time but things have
changed and winter steelhead are moving in big time. The water is again on the rise and from
the forecast may not be fishable long but it is now. A customer reported catching two on our
Johney Cash Spey fly three days ago.
01/12/15 Customers have been reporting some nice catches of steelhead. The clear water is
causing some anglers problems but levels are good.
02/01/15 The catching has slowed down due to low water levels and very clear water but a few
fish are still being hooked.
Fishing Report 02/16/19
(Bottom of Page)
Smith River California Fly Fishing Reports:
11/29/15 There's not much to report in the way of steelhead yet, but we will get started. Stream
levels are very low. Rain is needed to bring some fish in and it usually happens in December.
January really kicks off the season.
01/16/16 The Smith River has been high and muddy since last weekend. The Smith has topped
out at 24.5 feet or 69,000 cfs. There is more rain expected through the end of this week.
12/28/15 The river is getting full of steelhead, so fishing should be great very soon. The stream
levels are dropping every day and you should be able to fish very soon. Swinging should be
working at first with the water still at a higher leve.
02/20/16 The river is down at a normal level for this time of the year, and steelhead are being
caught from top to bottom. Swinging and nymphing are both working.
04/16/16 Steelhead are being caught in good numbers in the upper river including the North
Fork and Middle Fork. Swinging has worked when the water is up but go to nymphs if it gets
below normal.
11/12/16 The stream levels are up a little above normal and lots of fish are entering the
river. Some big king salmon are being caught. So far, no reports of any steelhead but they
should be coming in soon.
01/12/17 The stream flows are about 10,000 cfs, or far to high to wade. It is possible it
may get down to a safe wading level by the weekend, but doubtful. Drift boats should be
able to do okay by this weekend.
01/26/17 The stream levels are back down to near normal and angler are catching
steelhead throughout the entire system. Swinging, nymphing and egg flies are working.
Perfect Fly steelhead flies
02/11/17 Good numbers of steelhead were being caught on our Spey, streamer, egg and
steelhead nympsh, but the river is again very high. You will have to watch the levels and
fish when it falls back down low enough.
0729/17 Sea run cutts are coming into the lower river. Fish the first few miles upstream from
the mouth. Send us an email and we will send a list of the flies that work for them.
10/19/17 There are lots of salmon in the lower river. Some are being taken on the fly.
Steelhead should be arriving in the near future. Send us an email for a fly list.
12/02/17 Stream levels are near normal levels and we are getting reports of steelhead
entering the river. We received one good report from a customer catching his first one this
past week. Send us an email for a recommended fly list.
10/14/18 Sorry for the missed reports. We have a new local contact. It is time for the
Chinook salmon to start showing up but no reports on the yet. Trout fishing the middle and
upper sections remains good.
10/20/18 Report of salmon being spotted but so far, no reports of any catches. Most
anglers are fishing for trout.
11/13/18 There are salmon being caught in good numbers in the lower river. Send us an
email for a fly list
11/22/18 We received more good reports of salmon being caught. There is rain in the
forecast and that should help the overall situation a lot. Send us an email for a fly list.
12/06/18 The salmon reports keep coming in. We are expecting steelhead to begin to
show up in good numbers very good.
12/13/18 We are still getting some good reports and more steelhead are in the river.
Swinging, nymphs and eggs are working.
12/20/18 Now is the time to be here. Stream levels are a little high but fish aare coming in
big time. Swinging is getting most of them.
01/05/19 Stream levels are low but there is rain and snow in the forecast everyday for the
coming week, so they should come up and bring more fresh steelhead into the river.
01/26/19 The river is getting into good shape and new fresh wild steelhead are coming in.
Now is the time to get to the river. Send us an email for a list of the top flies to use.
02/09/19 The flows are down below normal but still in good shape for catching steelhead.
There's some stain from runoff but it is mostly clear. Swinging and nymphing are both
working good and good numbers of steelhead are being caught.
02/16/19 The river is flowing at 12,600 cfs at 12.78 ft, or very high. Fish when it falls back
out some.