Copyright 2014 James Marsh
Fly Fishing The Upper American River
The headwaters of the American River consist of
approximately 150 miles of water upstream of Folsom
Dam. It originates in the high Sierra Nevada just west of
Lake Tahoe, in the Tahoe and El Dorado National
Forests. The upper section is not nearly as well known
as the Lower American River, covered in this website
separately. Unlike the steelhead and salmon of the
Lower American River, the upper section is trout water.
Some of the river is easily accessed but there's also
plenty of water in deep canyons that's tough to access.
Fly fishing the Upper American River ranges from easy
to very difficult depending on the particular area of water
you choose to fish.
The Upper American River is made up of three forks -
the North, Middle and South Forks. The South Fork of
the American River is fairly easy to access because U.S.
Highway #50 runs nearby. There are numerous pull-offs
where you can park and fish the river. There's a section
that flows through a deep canyon and is very difficult to
access, but most of the South Fork is very accessible.
The South Fork is stocked by the state.
The Middle Fork flows through a canyon and requires
some effort to reach in that area. There are sections
above and below French Meadows Reservoir. The upper
section can also be reached from a road. The section
just below the lake can be accessed from the dam. This
Middle Fork of the American River is also stocked but
mostly below the lake. The upper section above the lake
has plenty of stream-bred, wild rainbow trout.
The North Fork of the American River offers only those
willing to go to a lot of effort to reach its waters. It's a
truly wild, freestone river. It's so steeply declined that
most of the whitewater portions of the North Fork are for
experts only. It's canyon walls extend as high as 4000
feet above the river in places. The stream can be
accessed but only from canyon trails that are very
The Middle Fork has the Rubicon River tributary that's a
designated "Wild Trout Stream" from its confluence with
the Middle Fork upstream to Hell Hole Reservoir. The
Rubicon River contains good populations of both brown
and rainbow trout. Due to its remoteness, It's only lightly
fished, yet it offers some very good fly-fishing
The season is open year-round but part of it is catch
and release only
Spring is good in sections of the Upper American River
provided it's before or after the runoff period
Summertime is usually considered the best time for fly
fishing the Upper American River
Fly fishing the American River during the early part of
Autumn is usually excellent provided the water levels are
not too low or warm.
Parts of the river that's not heavily snowed in can
provide some good fishing during the Winter.
Fly Fishing Gear, Tackle and Flies
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Photo Courtesy Steven Lamb
Recommended Tackle & Gear
4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 &12 ft., 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 71/2
ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rod:
Perfect Fly Supreme Four, Superb Five or
For 4/5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Loon Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (email@example.com)
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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