Putah Creek is a relatively short 4.5 mile tailwater fishery that runs below Monticello Dam. Famously named the "Green River" by the Clearwater Credence Revival, the nutrient rich waters of Lake Berryessa create a habitat for trout unlike any other within California.
Prior to 2010, Putah Creek was managed as a put-and-take fishery. Past pictures and stories of trophy brown trout continue to circulate the internet however, the fishery has drastically changed since its designation as a wild trout fishery in 2014. Instead of brown trout, which no longer occupy the creek, a self-sustaining population of wild rainbow trout have become the dominant fish in the Putah Creek system.
Putah Creek is well-known as a technical fishery. Fluctuating flows, submerged trees, weedy bottoms, overhanging branches, tight fishing quarters, deep runs, and thorny blackberry bushes are just a few of the many elements that contribute to the creek's notorious fishing difficulty. Although these elements create a great habitat for growing giant trout, they can puzzle inexperienced anglers who are not familiar with the creek.
Putah Creek is one of my favorite streams to fish because it is a high risk high reward fishery. Putah Creek is a jungle, welcome to the jungle.
A) From Lake Solano to Monticello Dam.
*Open all year
*Only artificial lures with barbless hooks
*Zero limit. Catch-and-release only.
There is an unwritten rule to not fish the creek from December through February. These fish are winter spawners that have very limited spawning habitat. Please respect this amazing fishery and leave the fish alone during the spawn.
There are several fishing access points with parking lots along HWY 128 in addition to turn offs. There is no fee to park with exception of Lake Solano.
- The first access point is the Putah Creek Wildlife Area. There are two undeveloped parking lots about a mile downstream from Monticello Dam.
- This section contains the most varied water. Riffles, runs, and pools both deep and shallow can be found all throughout this section of Putah Creek.
- Continuing downstream you will find the Canyon Creek Resort which is a private stretch of water only accessible by occupants.
- Once you pass the Canyon Creek Resort keep an eye out for a deer sign along the creek. There is a short turnout where you can park in the section cleverly known as "Deer Sign".
- The first type of water you'll see upon hiking towards the creek is a long deep run. Below the run there are a few riffles, runs, and pools however the access is better if you can cross the creek.
- The long deep run is crossable in certain areas at flows below 200 CFS or you can hike down to it from the Putah Creek Wildlife Area.
- Fishing Access #1 and #2 is the first parking lot access downstream.
- This section contains deep runs and pools along with a few shallow riffles and runs.
- Unlike the other fishing access points, access #2 has no parking lot and can be found as you hike downstream along the trail.
|Access 3 Spawning Riffle|
- Fishing Access #3 is the second parking lot access downstream.
- Some of the deepest runs in comparison to the other access points can be found in this section.
- The many boulders within this section create excellent habitat that can hold fish when the flows are higher.
|Access 4 Run|
- Fishing Access #4 is the third parking lot access downstream.
- This section is essentially a long run with a tailout, pool, and run. The run eventually shallows out and connects with access #5.
- The shallow area is crossable at flows below 450 CFS.
|Access 5 Riffles|
- Fishing Access #5 is the last parking lot access downstream.
- The creek wraps around an island creating beautiful riffles and pools in this section.
- Access #5 is relatively shallow, easily wadeable, and crossable at flows below 500 CFS.
- Below Access #5 the creek turns into Lake Solano.
- There is a parking fee at Lake Solano.
5WT or 6WT medium action rod for nymphing
5WT or 6WT fast action rod for streamer fishing
9' - 12' 4x or 5x tapered leaders
- Pheasant tail #16 - 18
- S&M nymph #16 - 18
- Copper John #16 - 18
- Prince nymph #14 - 18
- Zebra midge #18 - 20
- Juju baetis #18
- Juju midge #18
- Micro may #18
- Putah riffle special #18
- WD-40 #16 - 20
- Brassie #16 - 18
- Serendipity #18
- Wet flies
- Soft hackle #14 - 18
- Bird's nest #14 - 18
- San Juan Worm #6 - 8
- Dry flies
- Adams #18
- EH caddis #18
- Woolly bugger #4 - 6
- Sculpinzilla #4
- Zonker #4
- Hero Sculpin #4 - 6
- Nymphing is the most common fly fishing technique on Putah Creek. Although smaller fish can be found rising for flies during warm evenings, Putah Creek trout feed subsurface 95% of the time.
- Surprisingly the trout that live in Putah Creek love to eat tiny flies. The rig I use is an indicator, splitshot, and size 16 nymph along with a size 18 dropper. More often than not I will get a 20''+ fish to eat the size 18 dropper.
- When the flows are high use a long 10' or 12' 5x leader and a heavy splitshot to get your fly down to the fish. When the flows are low you can often get away with using a standard 9' leader.
- Adjusting your set-up is absolutely critical when fishing Putah Creek.
- Change the size of your splitshot or add more on.
- Adjust your indicator depth. I like to use the air-locking indicators because they can be adjusted quickly and easily. Changing the size and color of your indicator can also make a difference.
- Extend your leader. The creek is deceptively deep therefore adding more tippet to your leader can help you get down further and faster.
- Switch out your flies. Size and color are both important. Once I find two flies that work I will rig those flies together.
- High-sticking can also work wonders when the flows allow it.
- Check your flies often for green gunk. Fish don't like to eat flies with gunk on them.
- Streamers work very well on Putah Creek when the flows are 200 CFS and higher.
- I like to use an extra fast sinking 10' versileader with a 4' 10# mono leader when fishing streamers. Cast your streamer, let it sink, and once it begins to swing make steady two inch retrieves. Here are a few more helpful tips on streamer fishing.
- Cover lots of water when fishing streamers.
- Landing fish is essentially easier when fishing streamers because of the heavier line.
- Learn to roll cast.
- Putah Creek is a jungle creek lined with blackberry bushes and overhanging trees that prevent you from backcasting. Learn to roll cast and roll cast well.
- Be prepared to fight a trophy fish.
- 10% of the trout in Putah Creek are trophy sized fish so you'll eventually hook one if you fish the creek often. Fighting these fish can be tough so be prepared with a decent sized net and refined fish fighting skills.
- You'll lose more trophy fish than you land so keep calm and fish on.
- I believe that the optimal flow to fish Putah Creek is around 200 - 350CFS (Check flows at Dreamflows). The wading can be a bit challenging but is safe and doable. At optimal flows there are plenty of accessible areas where you can find fish. Any thing in the 100-150 CFS range is too low making it both tough to fish and tough for the fish.
- Putah Creek has a significant New Zealand mudsnail infestation. To help prevent spreading these invasive snails be sure to thoroughly clean your gear or let it completely dry out for a few days before jumping into another body of water.
Putah Creek Fly Fishing Forum
Putah Creek Fishing Access Map
Putah Creek Trout.org
Informative Fishermen - Fly Fishing Putah Creek ft. Jordan Romney video
Putah Creek Blog Posts