The Klamath River is the second largest drainage in California, boasting consistently strong returns of steelhead year in and year out. As the river winds southwest from below Iron Gate dam towards the Pacific Ocean, it takes many different forms. From high desert to thickly wooded pine forests, the river has a variety of scenery to fish through. The long sweeping tailouts and extensive rock gardens make this river a swing fisherman’s paradise. The Klamath River steelhead might not be the biggest on the west coast, but their sheer numbers will more than make up for that.



Spring on the Klamath isn’t typically viewed as the most productive time to catch adult steelhead, but it certainly can be a unique and fun time to fish. In late spring, there are hatches of stoneflies (goldens and salmon flies) that will get the juvenile and adult steelhead in the river looking up and eating on the surface. There aren’t very many rivers where you can target actively feeding steelhead on the surface with dead drifted dry flies. This can make for some extremely fun fishing with a 4-5wt rod. The salmon flies and golden stoneflies typically start to hatch in the middle of May, often lasting into the early part of June, providing weeks of good dry fly fishing. We prefer to fish this hatch from the drift boat and cover 5-10 miles of river, throwing dry flies towards the bank, under, over, and around cover. While most of the fish are 10”-14” the explosive take on a sz 4 dry fly is something we love, and the potential of raising a few adults over 18” is common on most days.



The Fall season can be considered by most to be prime time for steelhead fishing on the entire Klamath River drainage. By mid-September, there can be steelhead spread throughout the entire system, from Iron Gate dam all the way down to the estuary. As the Chinook Salmon start to dig redds and occupy the spawning gravel in October, these steelhead will start to slow down and feed behind the thousands of returning, spawning salmon. While water temps are still reasonably warm, we can still take fish on the swung fly, but as these salmon start to kick eggs and bugs into the current, dead drifting an egg pattern or nymph can be absolutely deadly. Early November is peak timing for the eggs to drop on the upper portions of the river. This is when we typically catch the most fish with even mixes of “half pounders” and adults, averaging 2-4lbs. Because success rates can be high, a fall trip to the Klamath River is the ideal trip for folks looking to get into the steelhead fishing game. Our Klamath River fly fishing guides are spending most of our late Fall fishing time on the upper portions of the Klamath.



Winter on the Klamath is when we typically see the larger fish of the year. The winter-run fish will usually start to show during the first big rains near Christmas and can be available through February. While most of these fish will use the lower tributaries to spawn, there are still quite a few fish available to us on the upper portions of the river. As river temperatures drop this time of year, most of our Klamath River fly fishing guides’ success comes on nymphs and egg imitations presented on the dead drift. As most folks don’t prefer to brave the winter elements, you can expect to find a lot of solitude when steelhead fishing the Klamath River. Since the majority of the upper river is strictly influenced by releases at Iron Gate dam, the upper river rarely blows out during winter storms, so the river will remain fishable as where most other steelhead venues will blow out with any substantial precipitation.