Easily my favorite venue to fish in northern California! This is where I go on my days off. 35+ miles of pocket water, deep drop-off pools and solitude. Even on the busiest Memorial Day weekend, you can find un-abused water on the Pit…you just might have to work a little harder than the next guy to get there!
The fly fishing waters of the Pit start below Lake Britton dam on Pit Reach3 and continues through Pit4, Pit5 through the town on Big Bend all the way to Pit7 Reach and Lake Shasta. Each section is broken up by dams and powerhouses providing contolled, oxygenated flows all year and yes…the Pit is open year-round!
Spring: We typically don’t fish the Pit until the first few warm-ish days of early spring arrive. That can be as early as mid-February in some years. As I sit and write this, we’ve had a very anomalous, wet, cold spring so…even mid-April has seen cold temps and snow along the banks in Pit3. That being said, early spring is my favorite time to fish the Pit. Early season, mixed hatches of numerous mayfly species, early Golden Stones and Brachycentrus sp. caddis can fill the air on warm afternoons. Usually, in any run you happen to fish, the trout haven’t seen flies in months! True. There aren’t usually any tire tracks in the sand from the last guy. The river typically fishes the way it must have back in the day. Take a look at the Pit River pic gallery. All the big fish you see…and many more that aren’t there were all landed in the early spring. So…when should you go?? You got it! Just get there before the opener of the general trout season in late-April. For a week or so after the opener, I avoid the Pit if possible. Just too crowded with folks bumped off Hat Creek because there’s nowhere to fish there either.
Late-Spring/Summer: May through July see sometimes awe-inspiring hatches of caddis and Yellow Sallies. I think the little yellow stonefly is THE most important hatch on the Pit River this time of year. Clouds of freshly-emerged adults will fill the air on many spring evenings. The most incredible dry fly fishing we’ve ever seen has been on the Pit at this time of year. A #14 yellow Stimulator or a yellow Elk hair caddis tied with dun hackle should be all you’ll need to get quite a few grabs in the last 3 hours of fishing light. Sometimes the dry fly bite starts earlier than that so always be on the lookout for the odd rising fish at noon!
Late Summer: “Dog Days” on the Pit depend on the air temps. It can get HOTTT!! in the canyon during July and August and early September. This the perfect time to wet wade. Early and late is still best and nymphing the oxygenated pocket water is still the most productive. At this time of year, fish will be where they can get oxygen and be protected from predators by the bubbly water…perfect! They’ll never see us coming. This time of year it’s very typical to hook fish right under your rod tip. Bubbled water, with a little stain to it, is the perfect camouflage for our high-stick presentations.
Fall: To be honest, we don’t get to fish the Pit much in October/November anymore. Guiding the lower Sac and Trinity rivers keeps us way too employed to be able to enjoy the time off by then. I used to fish it quite a bit then and it can be fabulous as I recall. Cooling temps, less crowds and combined with a day or two at Hat Creek is a neat getaway before winter hits. The hatches on the Pit River are sparse by then. A few caddis, a few myflies, a few craneflies…just not a lot going on bug-wise. But…what you don’t see are the CRAWDADs!! The Pit is polluted with them..so is Lake Britton for that matter. In the fall, the crawdads molt before winter and are olive in color and very vulnerable to trout as the ‘dads try to shake off their exoskeltons. An olive, orange and olive or even black Wollybugger in sizes 12-8 presented on a high-stick drift behind boulders will pull some great fish looking to take advantage of this “hatch”. Try it sometime in the fall if you find nothing else is working for you. Your hook rate will likely go down but your fun-factor should definitely go up!!
Winter: Yes the Pit is open year round but…I’ve never been to the Pit November through January. We’re usually chasing steelhead at that time of year so, please let me know you do if you try it!
Read more at The Fly Shop’s page on the Pit River