South Fork Smith River Heritage Trout Section


Fly Fishing South Fork Smith River

South Fork Smith River in California for fly fishing

California’s only major un-dammed river system, the Wild and Scenic Smith River drains the rugged Siskiyou and Klamath Mountains. The five major tributaries of the Smith are Rowdy Creek, Mill Creek, and the North Fork, South Fork, and Middle Fork.

Coastal cutthroat trout caught in the South Fork Smith River Watershed.

The South Fork of the Smith River and its tributary streams support healthy populations of both Coastal Cutthroat Trout and Coastal Rainbow Trout. In the upper reaches of the South Fork a person can find solitude, natural beauty and opportunity to catch a Coastal Cutthroat Trout on the fly.

Alder trees line the banks of Hurdy Gurdy Creek above the South Fork Smith River in California.

Because of these qualities, the California Fish and Game Commission designated roughly 100 miles of the Upper South Fork Smith River as part of California's Heritage Trout Waters. The designated water includes the South Fork Smith River, from Goose Creek upstream to the Island Lake Trail Crossing, and includes the following tributaries: Goose Creek, Hurdygurdy Creek, Buck Creek, Quartz Creek, Eight Mile Creek, Williams Creek, Harrington Creek and Prescott Fork.

Coastal cutthroat trout are native to a few rivers in Northern California.

Recently, the Fish and Game Commission designated 41 additional miles of the South Fork's watershed to the Heritage Trout Waters program - bringing the total designated Smith River miles to 141. The newest designation includes the South Fork Smith River, from the confluence with Craigs Creek upstream to the confluence with Goose Creek, including the tributaries of Craigs Creek, Coon Creek, and Rock Creek.

Fly Fishing the South Fork River in California.

Fish & Flows

The Smith River watershed is home to strong runs of steelhead, Chinook and Coho salmon. A mostly rain and spring-fed river, with some snow-melt in the spring, the Smith has a very “flashy” hydrograph, often changing from 2,000 cfs to 50,000 cfs in just days. However, the rocky and wild nature of the Smith allows it to return to its crystal-clear state just as quickly.