Fly Fishing the Feather River – Intermediate

Fly Fishing The Feather River:

The Lower Feather River is a 50 mile long river stretching from the base of Lake Oroville, through Marysville and Yuba City, and eventually meets up with the mighty Sacramento River near the Sacramento International Airport. It’s a fairly scenic river throughout this stretch and boasts the largest steelhead run in California’s Central Valley, and one of the best steelhead fisheries in the state.

Species in the Lower Feather River:

Rainbow trout-year round
Shad-late Spring to early Summer
Steelhead Adults-Fall to Spring
Steelhead “half pounders”-Spring to Fall
King Salmon- Summer to Fall
Striper – year round

Charactoristincs of the Lower Feather River:

Just below Lake Oroville where the Lower Feather River starts, the river system has a complicated water diversion structure that we won’t get into, however this diversion structure creates two different fishing sections. A “low flow” section and a “high flow” section, and they are called that accordingly. The first 5 miles of river, a section between Lake Oroville dam and the outlet is known as the “low flow” section. It is called this due to the water that is diverted from the lake though the Thermolito Forebay and Afterbay (agricultural water), leaving this section with lower flows. The low flow has four exceptional fishing sections, separated by very long and slow sections that are not very appealing for fly fishing, but can host some big striper on occasion. Its accessibility is bar none due to the fact that it follows hwy 70, and the Oroville Wildlife Area.
Below the outlet, where the water flows out from Thermolito Afterbay, starts the “high flow” section. This is where the Feather gets the majority of its flow, usually 2-3X the amount coming out of the low flow. It has many access points, mainly through the Oroville Wildlife Area, which has numerous entrances along hwy 70 near Oroville, then once outside of town it turns westerly and parallels hwy 99 where there are even more points of entry. This section of the river is 45 miles long, and it’s the first 15 miles where the majority of the fishing happens. It has too many fishy pools, runs and riffles to count, and you can cover those 15 miles by driving the dirt roads in the Oroville Wildlife Area.
Once you get below Gridley and Live Oak, this is where the Feather becomes wider, deeper and slower. This is where you start targeting the mighty Striped Bass that migrate throughout this great river system. The access is very limited so a boat is a must, however a jet drive is the best bet, as there are many sand bars, logs, a few riffles and shallow water where a prop would get destroyed.

Fishable Flows on the Feather:

Low Flow Section 600-900
High Flow Section up to 5000

Most productive time of year:

Late Summer to Late Spring

Popular Floats on the Feather:

Low Flow Section
Riverbend Park to RV Reflections Park (great half day float)
Riverbend Park to Thermalito/outlet (great full day float)
Riverbend Park to Lower Vance Ave (great all day float)
High Flow Section
Thermalito/outlet to Lower Vance Ave (great half day float)
Thermalito/outlet to Palm Ave (great full day float)
Thermalito/outlet to Gridley Boat Ramp (great all day float)
Using a trolling motor, or gas motor to get through the frog water/slow sections is a great idea. Especially since the wind has a tendency to pick up mid day and blow straight up the river.

Recommended Reading:

California’s Best Fishing Waters
Fly Fisher’s Guide to Northern Ca
Also a Feather River Streamtime River Map is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, it shows all vehicle access points and fishing spots along the entire Lower Feather River stretch

License to fish the Lower Feather River:

To fish the Lower Feather you need a current California fishing license and Steelhead card.

Access along the Lower Feather River:

The Lower Feather has an abundant amount of access. The Oroville Wildlife Area travels alongside the Feather river for many miles, this is a great place to park and drive to many great fishing spots along its banks.

Low Flow Section

Hwy 70 to Montgomery street, taking a left will take you into Riverbend Park, taking a right will take you into the heart of downtown Oroville and alongside its levy (on the right) where you can drive, park and fish. However this section of the river closes above hwy 70 bridge on July 15th and reopens Jan 1st, also it is closed to fishing above the green walk bridge that parallels State Hwy 70 Bus/Washington Ave bridge near the Feather River Hatchery. Also off of hwy 162 near Oroville, there is a dirt road that puts you at the start of the Oroville Wildlife Area, this dirt road follows the entire low flow section from hwy 162 all the way to the outlet.

High Flow Section

Coming up hwy 70 just past the East Gridley Rd light, there is a road on the left that goes up and over the levy and will put you down to the river. You can go right or left here, either way will put you onto come great fishing spots.
Coming up hwy 99 through Gridley, turning right on East Gridley Rd then left on Larkin Rd will take you to Palm Ave, where you can get on the dirt road and drive up and down the levy as well. Taking you all the way up to the outlet, and driving by some great fishing spots as well.

If you get the streamside map, it will show you all these areas. Its large and vast, getting this map and learning its key road ways is keep to having great success.


Americas Best Value Inn
580 Oroville Dam Blvd
Oroville Ca, 95965
(530) 533-7070


NorCal Fly Guides
Brian Clemens