Smith River [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Smith River

12-14-2005, 03:40 PM
I will be in California in late January and plan to fly fish the Smith River. I would appreciate hearing about what methods work best, what fly line/leader set-up is appropriate, flies and color to use, etc. Also what are the areas best for fishing from the bank/wading. Thanks

12-15-2005, 10:13 AM
Hey, Chucks,

Welcome to the Forum.

I've never fished the Smith personally, but will try to dig up some useful information for you in the next couple of days. Meanwhile, if you haven't seen it, here's an article that might give you some useful information:

Catch you later,


12-15-2005, 10:32 AM
Hey Chucks,


Like Eric I have never fished the Smith. But I have driven along the road by it a few times and can tell you there are many places to pull over and walk to what looks like many fine runs. It is a beautiful river and in an area with the Pacific coast near by as well as some of the biggest trees in the world just inland. There are a few small motels along the river and all of them look funky but clean. There are also guide services throughout river system if you want a float trip.

I'm sure some of our CA steelheaders can help you out before you leave for your trip.

Best of luck.

12-15-2005, 10:42 AM
Looks like a great salmon steelhead river, wish I could explore it with you!

US Forest Service provides good info (our tax dollars at work):

This information can be very important in your angling endeavors (river levels):

With the Klamath and Trinity nearby you should have good options to expore. I'll ask a few friends from the area to chime in.

12-15-2005, 01:24 PM
I have fished it a few times. What I can tell you is the river is truly one of the most beautiful on the planet. The old growth groves are spectacular.

There are miles of water well suited to swinging a fly. Fish it from Jed. Redwoods Park proximity down to 101.

Downside to this stretch 'lower river' is it GETS POUNDED by gear (bait) fishers in drift boats. An endless line of them. Several running two floats a day. They will row over your line and water you are fishing all day long. A flyfisher on this stretch of river is an oddity. These gear guides will remind you all day long that they have never seen a flyfisherman catch a steelhead on the Smith but are 'rooting' for you. It wears on you after a while. Maybe 'our' odds would be better if they would stop pushing the fish off the shallow flats with their boats...

You will witness several pure chrome native steelhead get bonked. All day long. You will also run into the 'miles' of mono left attached to the bottom when they get a snag and break it off. Gets to be VERY annoying when you have to retrieve your swinging fly after every cast because it fouls on the invisible string left drifting in the currents.

If you venture into the S. Fork or Middle Fork be prepared for 'classic' swinging water to become very rare. Some does exist but it's mostly a drift fishers game whether using a fly rod or the gear best suited for the technique. You leave the Redwoods but the canyon is absolutely spectacular. Especially the little traveled S. Fork.

Don't take my complaining as a means to not go. I enjoy the river but just be prepared to deal with the local customs and that any fishing ettiquette you may believe exists elsewhere absolutely does not on the Smith. Don't make yourself miserable and let it run off a ducks back. Advice is start several miles below the launches at first light so you can get some time in before the armada shows up. Then switch off and follow behind the armada after the water gets a rest. Once a boat shows up on your drift don't think that it's just one. It's the first of 50.

Good luck,


12-16-2005, 06:58 AM
Thanks William. Is fishing with a sink tip? If so, what length and inch/second sink rate?


01-07-2006, 02:35 AM
Haven't fished (fly) the Smith for a couple of years as I concentrate on the Chetco which is a few miles north and just inside the State of Oregon. Having said that, thing you need to watch right now is water flow.

With the series of storms that have gone through all the rivers along here (actually up to the State of Washington) are blown out to put it mildly. I typically take my motor home the end of the first week in December and do a 'monthly' at "AtRiver's Edge" RV park up the south bank road (right on the Chetco).

Reason for this is the RV park controls, and I do mean CONTROLS, about 1500 yards of beach on the lower river right at the end of tide water. Twice per day you have 'first shot' at anything that enters the river on the tide changes.

But, back to the Smith. The lower you go towards 101 the more 'spey type' water you'll find as the river spreads out .. and I do mean out. But from Van D. parking area (think I got that right) up stream it really becomes a 1 hander show for the most part. The lower the flow the more this becomes the case.

I use Tneey sinking heads from 200 to 400 grains depending upon water flow and actual location. Yes, a hundred yards of river could require a 200 grain head (and it could be too much) and as you work your way down the gradient can change considerably. (Think be very flexable.)

The mile poster guide on the first web connect above is VERY on point. When they say 3.1 miles, they mean 3.1 miles. Even for a 'river newbie' it makes figuring out access rather easy. That said, as is in most cases, the bankies do NOT want to walk beyond site distance of they auto/trucks. Hike a half mile up stream and you'll probably have the place to yourself. At least that's been my history.

It is a beautiful place to fish to say the least; the fish are the largest (consistantly) of any river within 200 miles up or down the Coast. Looking for a 'trophy fish,' this is THE river to fish.

Access to the north and east folks is quite easy off of highway 199 as this runs along the river canyon(s). Once you hit the folk of 199 and 197 you'll turn up/on to 197 as this follows the lower main stem of the river to where it hits highway 101.

My guess is you should be able to pull some pretty good 'on-line' maps and I know Amato (sp?) puts out a map on the river.

01-07-2006, 07:05 AM
Fred, thanks for that excellent report and good to hear from you. :)

01-07-2006, 08:57 PM
At the risk of alienating everyone, a lead-eyed glo-bug with a wisp of white dangling is a great fly for the Smith... You can fish it off a long leader with a floater, or swing it.

01-09-2006, 10:17 PM
The Smith is a spectacular river, i can't remeber the name of the place just up river from Jed SP but some of the best light bulb food I have ever tasted. I almost died twice that trip once down the canyon on the south fork. I've been thinking of getting down there again.

01-14-2006, 02:51 PM
Fred, thanks for that excellent report and good to hear from you. :)

Thanks Juro. It's going to be darned interesting to get back over to the Coast, when - or should that be 'if?' - the weather calms down. As mentioned elsewhere the weather problem has been the jet stream moving south so it's running straight east through California.

The Smith should fair fairly well as the majority of its length (all the forks) travel through solid rock canyons to a point below the South Fork. There it widens out onto a gravel plain. The Chetco on the other hand is a gravel plain from 'top to bottom.'

With constant flows of 50-90 thousand cfs for weeks on end everything you knew about fishing either river is totally in the bucket. We'll all start from scratch figuring out where the holding water has relocated. I've been fishing both of these rivers since the mid-1980's and have only seen the likes of this once back in the 90's.

Ah well, new adventures in fishing.:cool: