The North Fork of the Feather River is comprised of a series of dams and powerhouses starting from below Lake Almanor at it's highest elevation to its lowest dam, Poe Dam. The NFFR system provides a major source of electrical energy to the valley. Several important tributaries that feed the NFFR are: Spanish Creek, Indian Creek, Yellow Creek, Chips Creek, Rock Creek, Bucks Creek, and Grizzly Creek. The NFFR is easily accessible along HWY 70 and is my second favorite river to fish.
The Upper North Fork of the Feather River above Lake Almanor will not be mentioned in this post.
A) From below Lake Almanor downstream to Belden Bridge.
*Open from the last Saturday in April - November 15th
*No restrictions. Five fish limit.
B) From Belden Bridge downstream to Cresta Powerhouse.
*Open from the last Saturday in April - November 15th
*Only artificial lures with barbless hooks.
Zero fish limit/Catch-and-release.
C) From Cresta Powerhouse downstream to Lake Oroville.
*Open all year
There are several access points and turnouts along HWY 70 where you can park and hike down to the river. I will focus on the key access points that are more popular.
- The first and most accessible stretch is from Belden Forebay to Belden bridge. Caribou Road follows the NFFR and provides several turnouts and campgrounds where anglers can easily access the water.
- This section of the river is a put-and-take fishery that is stocked during the summer with catch-able sized rainbows. This section is the only section of the NF where you can keep fish. Like most put-and-take fisheries, if this stretched is overfished expect a very slow day.
- This is the easiest stretch of the NFFR to wade. There are many pools and pocket water that will hold both wild and stocked holdover fish year around.
- The small town of Tobins and Storrie along HWY 70 is the next best access point. There are several turnouts on the southbound lane of HWY 70 where you can park and access the river.
- This stretch contains the fast, deep, boulder-infested, pocket water that makes the NFFR so fun to fish. This is my favorite part of the river.
- Be cautious and careful when fishing this stretch of the river.
- Optimum flows are below 300 CFS but fishable at 500 CFS. (Check Dreamflows for NFFR below Rock Creek Dam)
- Optimum flows below Grizzly Creek are below 500 CFS. (Check Dreamflows for NFFR below Grizzly Creek)
The stretch of the NFFR that flows along the small town of Pulga is the last access point to the North Fork.
- I am unsure whether or not Pulga Road is still accessible to the public. The town of Pulga changed ownership in 2015 and has been vitalized as a vacation property. I will try to confirm public access in the near future.
Park on the gravel at the very end of Pulga road and do not park across the railroad tracks. Caltrans and Union Pacific uses this road very often so please do not block the road. This is one of the few stretches of the river where you can wade around if you choose to do so. Similar to the Pit River, expect chest high wading and slippery boulders full of snot.
- Optimum flows for wading are 100 - 180 CFS. (Check Dreamflows for NFFR below Poe Dam)
- Rainbow trout
- Smallmouth bass
- Pike minnow
- Sacramento suckerfish
5WT or 6WT fast action rod
Floating fly line
9ft - 12ft taper leaders in 2x or 3x
Plenty o split shots
- Pheasant tail #12 - 18
- Hare's ear #12 - 16
- S&M nymphs #12 - 18
- Rubberleg stonefly #4 - 6
- AP nymph #12 - 16
- Copper John #12 - 16
- Isonychia nymphs #8 - 10
- Zebra midge #12 -16
- Wet Flies
- Moorish dirty bird #12 - 16
- Bird's nest #12 - 18
- Dry Flies
- EC caddis #12 - 16
- EH caddis #12 - 16
- Stimulators #4 - 8
- The NFFR is a tight-line nymphing paradise. Indicators will still have their place in your vest but for the most part you won't be needing them. The trout in the NFFR love to feed in the fastest most oxygenated water therefore you need to get your flies down and fast. To find these rainbows, fish the fast white water riffles, soft seams, and deep runs. Remember to adjust your weights in order to get to where the fish are.
- 90% of the fish are in 10% of the water. Many areas of the NFFR look like they hold fish but don't. Keep moving until you find them.
- Do not underestimate this river! Most of the NFFR is made up of very deep holes and runs surrounded by boulders the size of small cabins.
- Boulder hopping and bushwhacking is the primary method of getting up and down the river. Make sure you are fit enough for this fishery as it is not easy to get around the river.
- There are thorny blackberry bushes, rattlesnakes, ticks, and all sorts of nasty surprises hiding in the boulders along the bank. Take each step carefully and always plan one step ahead.
- NFFR rainbows get their big shoulders from bucking heavy current all year around and will give you a good strong fight.
- Landing these beautiful bows can be very tough especially if your fishing the faster and deeper runs or riffles. These fish will run into crevices, make you chase them downstream, and may put you in a spot that you don't want to be in.
- Once hooked, plan on how you are going to land the fish. Leading the fish into slower moving slots is a good strategy.
Fish First Fly Shop
Hogan Brown Fly Fishing
A Tale of Two Trout Streams
Fly Fishing the Sierras - North Fork Feather River
PG&E's Feather River Canyon "Stairway of Power"
North Fork Feather River Map of Dams and Powerhouses
NFFR Blog Posts