Copyright 2011 James Marsh
Fly Fishing The Smith River California
The Smith River is the northermost major river that begins
in the state of California. It starts in the extreme northern
part of the state from the confluence of its Middle and
South Forks. They both begin about twenty-five to thirty
miles from Crescent City, California. The Middle fork flows
for about thirty miles and the South about twenty miles
before joining to form the main river. The main river
enters the Pacific Ocean about ten miles north of
Crescent City at the little town of Smith River. The mouth
of the river is about five miles from the Oregon border.

The Smith River is the largest, free-flowing (no dams)
river in the state of California. It also has some of the
largest Steelhead and Chinook Salmon in the state. It
holds the state record for both of these species.
Steelhead weighing about twenty pounds are commonly
caught. Chinook Salmon probably average twenty five
pounds. Fly fishing the Smith River can be a thrill of a

The Smith River is also known for its scenery. It flows
through Jedediah State Park and Six Rivers National
Forest. The Smith River flows through forest that consist
of spruce, redwoods, rhododendron and ferns. Rowdy
Creek Fish Hatchery is located in the community of Smith
River near its mouth.

One of the big advantages anglers have fishing this river
is the fact it clears up fast. The stream clears within a
couple of days of heavy rainfall in its headwaters. In
addition to the Steelhead and Chinook Salmon the Smith
River is known for, it also has migrations of Silver Salmon,
Coho Salmon and sea-run Cutthroat Trout.

The Chinook Salmon runs begins in late August and
continues through December. It peaks in the month of
November. The Smith River Steelhead run starts the first
of December and continues through March. It peaks in
January. The sea-run cutthroats run from late Spring
through the Summer.

The river can be fished from a drift boat from the forks of
the river to its mouth.

The season is species dependent
Late Spring is the best time to start catching sea-run
The sea-run cutthroat fishing continues into the Summer
Fly fishing the Smith River is best during late Fall because
of the Chinook Salmon runs.
The winter months are prime months for Steelhead fishing.
Type of Stream

Chinook Salmon
Silver Salmon
Coho Salmon
Sea-run Cutthroat


Northern California

Nearest Towns
Crescent City

Species dependent


Non-Resident License
State of California

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