Fly Fishing On The Pit River In California
The Pit River has several distinctly different sections. The ones that provide the
best trout fishing and the sections we are focusing on are the ones below Lake
Britton. There are about thirty miles of river that flows through a canyon below
the Reservoir. Included in this area are several dams and powerhouses each of
which create a small lake or reservoir and a tailwater. See the flows for different
The river is very difficult to negotiate in most areas due to the tight canyon, large
boulders and pocket water that is as slick as it can get. That is due to the river's
high PH but the high pH is what provides the large, diverse aquatic insect
population accounting for it large trout.
Most anglers consider the very best fishing to be in the uppermost section below
Lake Britton. It flows down to Pit #3 Powerhouse. It isn't quite as difficult as the
other sections. There are two more similar areas above the Pit #4 and Pit #5
Pit River California
Recommended Tackle & Gear
5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 & 12 ft., 5 or 6X, Nymphing:
71/2 ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rod:
Perfect Fly Superb Five or Ultimate Six
For 5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Loon Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
Copyright 2017 James Marsh
Pit River Fly Fishing Guide:
How you go about fishing the Pit River depends more on the season (time of the
year) and the flows than anything else. It also depends greatly on the hatches
and/or the most plentiful and available food for the trout at the time you are fishing.
The Pit River is a very remote stream and you don't have to deal with the same
things (crowds) you deal with fishing most other northern California trout streams.
The trout are all wild stream-bred trout and range from small to large sizes.
Fly fishing the Pit River below Lake Britton dam provides the most consistent
catch rate of any stream in northern California. Out of the thirty miles of water,
ninety percent of it will go un-fished for many days of the year. Sections of the
river are very easy to access from a road running right a long the water and other
parts of the river requires a tough hike to reach.
Pit River Hatches and Flies:
Our information on aquatic insects is based on our stream samples of larvae and
nymphs, not guess work. We base fly suggestions on imitating the most plentiful
and most available insects and other foods at the particular time you are fishing.
Unlike the generic fly shop trout flies, we have specific imitations of all the
insects in the Pit River and in all stages of life that is applicable to fishing. If you
want to fish better, more realistic trout flies, have a much higher degree of
success, give us a call. We not only will help you with selections, you will learn
why, after trying Perfect Flies, 92% of the thousands of our customers will use
nothing else. 1-800-594-4726
More often than not, nymph fishing will be the way to go on the Pit. This isn't to
say that dry fly fishing cannot be great at times, just to point out nymphs are
more effective day in and day out.
During the winter months of February through the first of April, March Browns,
Little Black caddisflies, and big stoneflies hatch. Some of
the best dry fly fishing takes place in early Spring but it largely depends on the
varying weather conditions of early Spring.
Early season Blue-winged Olive hatches can be great, especially when the
weather is cloudy and stormy. Large hatches of Baetis mayflies can occur.
Some of the best dry fly fishing of the year comes on the Pit in the early spring
months. Huge hatches of blue-winged olives can continue to take place into May
and early June.
Pale Morning Duns start hatching about the middle of April. This is one of the
most consistent hatches that can last on into the Summer.
During the months of May and June, the largest hatches will be stoneflies. Giant
Salmonflies, Golden Stoneflies and Little Yellow Stoneflies are the three most
important ones. The huge salmonflies are the first stoneflies to show up. They
hatch off and on throughout the month of May and into early June during some
years. Before the hatch is over, the Golden Stoneflies will begin to hatch. At
times both of these species will appear at the same time but usually the Goldens
are later than the Salomonflies.
The water is fast and the streambed steep. The rocks and boulders are slick. It
is pocket water fly fishing at its best.
The river's flows are controlled by releases from its many dams and
powerhouses, so even on wet years the Pit usually remains in good condition
through much of the spring season. It can be fished when many other northern
California streams cannot. Runoff can also affect the Pit but not as much as other
rivers in the area.
Little Yellow Stoneflies start showing up in late May and can hatch all the way
through the month of June. Don't think these the surface because the egg laying
event can bring about terrific dry fly action.
The surface action usually slows down during the hot summer days. The high
sticking method of fishing is popular and effective during the summer. The water
warms up enough that you can wet wade most late summer days.
Caddisflies are the main hatches. Spotted Sedges and Little Sister Caddis
represent the majority of the summertime hatches. Green Sedges are also
plentiful. Imitations of the Green Sedge larvae, called Rock Worms, are very
effective on the Pit River. Most of the egg laying activity takes place late in the
afternoons near dark.
Early Fall brings on a new round of aquatic insects with October Caddis being
the highlight. Slate Drake mayflies and second generations of Blue-winged olives
make up the majority of the hatches. The Slate Drakes (Isonychia species)
crawl out of the water to hatch on the boulders and banks.
The BWOs are usually smaller species but on heavily overcast days they can
come off in the form of clouds. Dry fly action can be great and you will usually be
the only one around to witness it.
Wintertime on the Pit River provide some great good fly fishing opportunities for
anglers. On warm sunny days, nymphs and streamers can produce some of the
Pit's largest rainbows. The BWOs will continue to hatch on cloudy, overcast
days and fish can be taken on the surface at times.
|1. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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 (email@example.com)
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 $50 are shipped via Priority Mail.
The river is way down from last week in all pits, but it is still too high to fish in
our opinion. We doubt it will fall down much more. There is rain in the forecast
everyday this coming week and some of it will be heavy. You will just have to
keep checking the levels and our report this coming week.
(See Fishing Report Archive at Bottom of Page)
Map of Pit River
10/14/15 The Pit is still low in all sections but anglers
are still catching trout on a fairly consistent basis.
There are a few aquatic insects hatching. The weather
should get a little cooler later this week. You must use
stealth and light, long leaders to catch trout with the
low water conditions, but it can be done. Little Yellow
stoneflies, and lots of caddisflies are still hatching.
10/21/15 October Caddis are hatching and bringing
the trout to the surface to eat the egg laying females.
Fish the pupa during the hatch and the adult during the
egg laying. Blue-winged olives are continuing to hatch
but it is sparse unless it is cloudy or overcast. The
weather is much cooler than that is helping as well.
We have received some good reports from our
customers this past week.
10/28/15 It is gradually turning a little cooler and that
helps the overall fishing conditions. October Caddis
are hatching good and bringing trout to the surface
ever once in a while to feed on the egg layers. Stream
levels are up just a little and that helps. Customers are
catching most trout high sticking the BWO nymphs.
They are hatching good at times.
11/05/15 The water levels are up and that is really
helping anglers catch trout. It is much easier to high
stick the water without spooking the trout. We
recommend fishing the Blue-winged olive nymphs until
you see something hatching. Some anglers waste a lot
of time fishing dries and hoping. There is nothing
wrong with that, but you will get more takes
subsurface for sure.
11/12/15 The Pit is producing some nice numbers and
sizes of trout for those who know how to fish it. Most
of the time, you need a subsurface fly. Hatches take
place mostly on cloudy overcast days but they are
down to midges and little BWOs mostly. Indicators are
fine but you will do better to keep the nymph on the
bottom and feel/watch the leader. Droppers and
indicators keep the bottom fly to high most of the time.
11/19/15 Finally, the stream levels are back up to a
normal flow for this time of the season. This will make
a big difference in the "catching". You should be able
to get closer to the trout and the faster water keeps
them from getting a good look at your fake fly.
Blue-winged olives and midges are the only insects
hatching but most of your fishing should be done near
to on the bottom with nymphs. High sticking is the best
way to do that.
11/26/15 As pointed out last week, high sticking is the
best method of fishing nymphs on the Pit. The water is
down low again and that does make it tougher to stay
hidden from the trout high sticking. The Brown sculpin
continued to produce some big trout for one of our
local customers this past week. Blue-winged olives
could hatch but midges are likely to hatch.
12/03/15 Those willing to brave the weather and slick
rocks of the Pit River, will have a much better
opportunity to catch trout this coming week than the
last month or so. There is snow or rain and snow
forecast every day for the next week and the low
water levels are likely to come up. Fishing midge larva
and pupa in tandem and little BWO nymphs by high
sticking them, is the best strategy at this time. The
Brown Sculpin streamer should continue to work good.
12/10/15 The Pit river is very high now and in all
sections. There has been a lot of rain and there is a lot
more coming for the next week. It will take a while to
get all the water in the watershed through the system
of reservoirs. Midges will still be the most important
flies to use but notice we added Winter Stoneflies to
the list. They has started hatching. It will probably be
four days or more before the levels are low enough to
12/17/15 Conditions are just fine on the Pit River
although there is a lot of welcome rain and/or snow in
the forecast. The stream levels are still okay to fish at
this time but keep a close check on them. Midges,
fished in tandem with the larva the bottom fly and the
pupa the top fly is a good choice. Winter stonefly
nymphs and our Brown Sculpin streamer is another
good choice. The rain and snow should greatly
improve the conditions. Keep track of the latest info by
clicking the above link to the Pit River fishing report.
12/24/15 The stream levels in all the pits are up high.
We recommend you wait until they fall back near
normal. You cannot wade in most sections. The water
is stained badly as well. Streamers like our Brown
Sculpin should work when the levels drop and it clear
up some. Midges are the main aquatic insect you
should be imitating. The roads are also in bad
condition at this time.
12/31/15 The stream levels in all the pits are back to
normal levels and the water is clear. Anglers are
catching trout mostly by high sticking nymphs. Winter
stonefly nymphs and midge larva/pupa fished in
tandem is also working. There is snow forecast
through the weekend and rain form Monday through
Wednesday. You will need to watch the levels again
this coming week.
01/07/16 The Pit levels are all back near normal but
they will probably be headed back up again. There is
rain or snow in the forecast every day for the next
week. The White Belly sculpin streamer fly will work
good with all the cloud cover. Midges, little Winter
stonefly nymphs and small BWO nymphs are the other
flies you should have with you.
01/14/16 All the pits have high stream levels and
strong flows, too high to safely wade anywhere. There
is rain and snow in the forecast every day for the next
week and these conditions are unlikely to change. You
may high stick from the bank in places or cast
streamer from the bank. You may also have problems
getting to the river depending on the snow.
01/21/16 There certainly isn't anyone sending in fishing
reports that has fished the Pit lately. The stream flows
are extremely high and the river is blown out from top
to bottom. More rain is falling as I write this and
should continue through Saturday. We will just have to
wait and see when Mother Nature decides to let it
settle down. I'm not complaining. I bitched enough
about the drought.
01/28/16 The stream levels have come down from
blown out to a little higher than normal this past week.
They are still too high to safely wade in most places,
but you could pick and choose some spots if your
careful and many places you can fish from the banks.
Midges, winter stonefly nymphs, and the White Sculpin
streamer are the best flies to use right now.
02/04/16 The weather is going to be much warmer
with highs from 48 to 62 degrees. That should raise
the water temperature some, but not as much as you
may think. The water levels are still high and the water
dingy. Little Winter stoneflies are hatching but we thing
Blue-winged olives, size 18 to 20, will also hatch.
Nymphs are still going to be the main flies you need to
02/11/16 The river is high is all sections. It is badly
stained due to runoff from melting snow. The levels will
be dropping this coming week. There is no rain or
snow in the forecast for the next week. The melting
snow adds some to the stream levels. Don't forget
that you will need a 4 wheel drive vehicle to access
02/18/16 The The river is blown out at this time. Flows
are 5950 at 8.29 feet. It will be a few days before the
levels subside enough to fish the river.
02/25/16 The discharges and stream levels are fine
but the tributary streams are dumping some badly
stained water into the river. The clarity changes,
depending on where you are fishing. Streamers, like
the Brown Sculpin and White Belly Sculpin, are
working good for our customers. Blue-winged olive are
hatching in some sections of the river. The water
temperature is about the same but slowly increasing.
03/03/16 The river is in very good shape right now and
anglers have been catching trout. There is a lot of rain
and some rain/snow in the forecast for the coming
week, so the stream levels are likely to go up. You will
just have to watch the levels. Blue-winged olives are
hatching. Fish the nymph until the emergence begins
and then switch to an emerger or dun.
03/10/16 The river is high now, in all sections (pits)
and will likely be much higher before the rain ends.
There are flood warnings every day through the
weekend. I don't see much opportunity for fly fishing
but if you do, streamers would probably be the best
bet for flies. Our White Belly and Brown Sculpin flies
work good under high water conditions.
03/17/16 The river is still high but falling fast. It is still
to high to wade safely, but we think it will be down
near close enough by Friday. Rain starts again on
Sunday but the weekend looks good. Our White Belly
and Brown Sculpin flies work good under high water
conditions. Blue-winged olives and midges are
03/24/16 The discharges and flows are very high but
they are steady and the water has cleared up rather
fast. Anglers are catching trout. The weather is nice
and warm with little rain in the forecast for the coming
03/31/16 The river is mostly in good shape. Some
water still has a good stain but most of it is clear.
Midges are hatching big time, and you probably could
catch some mid afternoons feeding on the surface on
the adult using our dry fly imitation of the Cream
Midge. Several new hatches will be starting soon.
Stream levels are mostly good and should improve as
the days go by.
04/07/16 The stream levels are all a little high. Some
can be fished but mostly not safely waded. There is
rain in the forecast every day for the next week and
I'm sure this situation will not be getting any better.
The water is getting a little warmer and March Browns
and Little Black Caddis will soon begin to hatch.
04/21/16 The stream has fell down into good shape in
all the pits and the water slight warmer and much
clearer. Little Black Caddis, tons of midges, lots of
Blue-winged olives and some March Browns are
hatching. Nymphing is still the best approach until you
see some top water action. We expect the conditions
to remain good this coming week.
05/05/16 The stream level is back low in some pits
and high in the others but in good shape. Some
sections can be waded safely. Two of our customers
reported catching several nice bows this past week on
streamers, the Brown Sculpin and White Belly sculpin
patterns, as well as a couple on top on the
Blue-winged olive hatch. It should get even better this
05/12/16 The stream levels are high in all pits but it
should fall out soon. There is little rain in the forecast
and the lake levels are near normal. Lots of new
hatches are starting up. Salmonflies, Western Green
Drakes, Spotted Sedges, Green Sedges, and soon to
be, Golden Stoneflies. As soon as the levels get
down, the Pit will provide some red hot action.
05/19/16 As predicted, the stream levels dropped in
all the pits and our customers are catching a lot of
trout. Streamers, the Brown and White Belly Sculpin,
and stonefly and mayfly nymphs listed on the attached
report are scoring well. There is a lot of rain in the
forecast and the level may change soon, so you better
go when it is hot.
05/26/16 The water is stained a brownish green again
and the levels up a lot but falling. Our customers were
reporting some very good catches up until the levels
shot up. As of now, in the higher water, you can fish
streamers from the banks and in some cases, high
sticking will work from the banks. The conditions
should improve day to day this week.
06/02/16 The number 3 pit is in decent shape and 4
and 5 with some off color water. All three are
producing trout and in good numbers. Lots of insects
are hatching with the water averaging about 52
degrees. Little Yellow Stones, Golden stones, Spotted
Sedges and Green sedges (caddisflies) and Pale
06/09/16 The stream is still in good shape with lots of
trout being caught. Lots of insects are hatching and
trout are being caught on both dry flies and nymphs.
The weather is going to be just a little colder but that
shouldn't make much difference at all.
06/16/16 Recent rain has brought the stream level up
a little and close to normal for this time of the year.
The weather is returning to a more normal pattern.
There are still a lot of insects hatching and our
customers are reporting that they are catching a lot of
trout. Many are being taken on the duns, or dry fly
imitations. We recommend fishing nymphs up until you
observe them emerging.
06/23/16 The river is in good shape in most all
sections with the number 3 pit still the choice of most
of our customers and other anglers. The stream levels
are down and most section can be waded. Just
remember it is slick and be careful. There are a lot of
insects hatching. Two species of caddis are providing
a lot of action during the late evening egg laying.
PMDs are the main mayfly hatches taking place.
Some trout are being taken on the surface.
06/30/16 The biggest mistake we see anglers making
fishing the pit is to over fish the dry fly, or on the
surface. Trout can be taken on top but only when
something is hatching and there is a lot of food on the
surface. Most always, they are looking for food below
the surface. High sticking nymphs is the most effective
method at this time. Use the Pale Morning dun nymphs
for the most success.
07/07/16 river is in good shape with fairly clear water
and good levels in all sections. There are some good
reports coming in from our customers. They are
catching good numbers of trout, mostly on nymphs but
some on the surface on dry flies. Little Yellow
stoneflies are starting to hatch and that always gets
the trout's attention.
07/14/16 The weather is back to its normal "hot". The
flows are up a little. We didn't receive any reports
from anyone fishing this past week but conditions
should be good. We recommend fishing early and late.
By late, I mean very late. That is when the caddisfly
egg laying reaches its peak. You can catch a lot of
trout in a very short time. PMDs are still hatching
good. Fish the PMD nymph during the morning.
07/21/16 The river is low in all sections. This makes it
easy to wade but easy to spook the trout, so you have
to use a little more caution than you normally do. Late
afternoons, the last two or three hours of daylight, is
the best time to fish. You have egg laying caddis and
little Yellow stoneflies bringing trout to the surface to
08/04/16 The stream levels in all the pits is low. The
water is also very warm. It is best to fish early in the
mornings. You may try fishing the last two hours of the
day. The egg laying caddisflies are bringing a lot of
trout to the surface to feed. It is going to be slightly
cooler this coming week, and that will help a little.
08/11/16 The stream levels are up some in all the pits.
The levels are still low and the water getting warmer.
Fish early and late. It is going to be hot this coming
week. It is easy to spook the trout with the low levels,
so stealth is required. We continue to get some good
reports from customers fishing the river.
08/18/16 The best flows are in pits number 3 and 7.
The weather is going to be as hot as it has been all
year this coming week, but cooling down some near
the end of this next week. The water temperature is
still good in 3 and 7 but warmer in the lower sections
of the river. Fish mornings using Sculpin streamers.
Fish egg laying caddis the last two hours of the day.
08/25/16 Fish the uppermost sections. The water in
the lower sections is warmer. Fish early mornings and
late in the day for the best result. The weather should
be a little cooler this week than it was last week.
Tricos are hatching in some of the sections. Morning
spinner falls and later in the day, hatches are occurring.
08/01/16 The weather is cooler and so is the water
temperature of the pits. That is making a big
difference. Anglers are reporting some good numbers
of trout being caught. High sticking little Blue-winged
olive nymphs is the best strategy. Late afternoon egg
laying caddis are bring some good action as well.
09/08/16 The stream levels are very low in all sections
of the river. You have to stay hidden from the trout as
best you can. Longer, lighter leaders and tippets may
help. Fishing early in the mornings and the last two
hours of the day gives you a little advantage.
09/15/16 Little change is taking place. There is no rain
in the forecast and the days will remain very hot. You
can catch trout under these conditions but the options
on how are limited. Our customers do b best fishing
early mornings with Sculpin pattern streamers and
during the mid day with either PMD or BWO nymphs
fished deep. Hopefully, cooler weather is just around
09/22/16 There is one night the temperature is
predicted to be below freezing, or at 31 degrees. That
is a welcome sign that Fall may not be too far off.
There are still some days it will reach over 90 degrees
as well, so don't get too excited. The water is low in
all sections and that will likely continue to be the case
this coming week.
10/06/16 The weather is nice and cool. There are a lot
of good hatches taking place but as usual they vary
with the section of the stream. The water levels are a
little low in most sections but that makes wading easy.
It is a very good time to fish the river and few anglers
are taking advantage of it. There are October caddis
hatching in some sections but lots of BWOs and
10/13/16 here is a lot of rain in the forecast everyday
for the next week, and although the levels are okay in
some pits now, you can't expect this to last very long.
Get your high sticking gear out. Blue-winged olives
should hatch good with all the cloud cover. Fish the
nymphs until you see them hatching and then switch.
10/20/16 The stream levels are up high in all pits.
Wading would be real tricky and dangerous thanks to
the slick bottom. Watch the stream levels and fish
when they drop down some more. There is some rain
in the forecast for the first of next week but it should
fall down more before then.
10/27/16 High water levels continue to make fishing
unporductive. The river has been high for the past two
weeks and is still running high. It is possible to float it
in a larger drift boat but that's about it. There is still a
chance of rain everyday for the next week. It doesn't
11/10/16 The stream levels are low in all the pits. You
can wade about anywhere but remember the slick
bottom. Our customers have done well fishing the
BWO nymph near the bottom. High sticking is the
best way to do that but you can use an indicator. The
forecast for the coming week looks good.
12/01/16 The conditions are good, with low stream
levels. There are Blue-winged olive hatches taking
place. Midges, creams and reds mostly, are also
hatching. Fish the midge pupa and larva imitations in
tandem with the larva the bottom fly and the pupa up
about 16 inches above it.
12/08/16 The conditions are very good and our
customers are sending in some good reports as to
numbers of trout caught. There is a chance of rain or
snow everyday and the cloud cover is an added plus.
Cream and Red midges, Blue-winged olives and
Winter stoneflies are hatching.
12/15/16 he river is high in all sections. Although it will
be coming down the next four days, there is another
round of heavy rain on the way. You will just have to
watch the weather and stream levels. When it does
clear up some, streamers will be the first choice.
Midges, Winter stoneflies and little BWO's are
12/22/16 Fish Pit # 3 or above. The water is highly
stained below there. High sticking will get you the best
results. Winter stoneflies are hatching along with lots
of Cream and Blood midges (Reds). Fish the larva and
pupa imitations in tandem for the best results. Fish the
winter stonefly nymphs near the banks late in the day.
12/29/16 The discharges and stream levels are okay.
Midges, Creams and Reds, are hatching good along
with some Winter stoneflies and Black Flies. Fish the
cream or red midge pupa and larva in tandem with the
pupa the top fly about 16 inches above the larva.
01/05/17 The levels vary from pit to pit and most of
them are in an okay shape. This is likely to change in
the near future. There is some heavy rain and levels
are likely to change. Small Blue-winged olive nymphs,
size 18 or 20, or Red or Cream Midge larva and pupa
fished in tandem will catch trout. If the water gets
higher or stain, switch to the Black Matuka sculpin
01/23/17 The stream levels are in good shape. The
water is stained in most sections from melting snow
and this will increase as the week goes by. It is going
to be much warmer with no chance of rain or snow for
the coming week. Midges, Winter stoneflies and small
Blue-winged olives are hatching.
Description of Pit River, Continued:
Some areas can be reached from the road, some areas you must hike along the
stream to reach and some have thick brush obstructions along the banks. The Pitt
Canyon Road parallels the river most of the distance but it is very difficult to get
down to the water in many areas.
There are two more Pits, #6 and #7, but they are not fished very much. The
biggest problem is wading the slick rocks. Since the PH is high, algae is very
prevalent and the bottom is very slick.
The water flows very steady from each of the Dams and stays at a fairly stable
temperature. Fly fishing the Pit River depend greatly on the discharges. Since the
flows are totally controlled by dams and power house, the stream remains in good
shape for fly fishing during the Spring.
The spring runoff can affect the fishing but other than that, it provides great pocket
water fishing throughout most of the year.
The Pit continues to provide good fly fishing opportunities during the cold months
of December and January. If you can stand the daily air temperatures, you can
catch trout all winter long because the water temperatures are from bottom
discharges of the reservoirs. Trout can be taken on nymphs all winter long and at
times various species of Blue-winged olives will hatch.
The Pit River if full of large, strong fighting rainbow trout. The average size
rainbow is about twelve inches long but they are regularily taken up to sixteen
inches. There are a few trophies taken each year, or rainbows measuring up to
Be sure you take a wading staff. Although the stream is tough to wade, it can be
safely done provided you pay attention to where you take the next step.