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Sacramento River 'Red Hot' Rainbows

Jeff Goodwin author photo,
By Jeff Goodwin
07/13/16 -- With Sacramento River flows out of Keswick running around 10,500 cfs, many Redding area trout fishermen have been shying away from the river and fishing other waters. This was evidenced by the small number of guide boats working the river last Sunday. I had a two party trip and only saw 4 other fishing boats on the river all day. Our morning started at daybreak with a meet and greet with my clients at the boat launch. Scott and Jamie Ellsmore made the trip over from Ferndale Ca. to experience the thrill of catching Sacramento River wild rainbow trout with me and were very excited for their day on the water. It had been a week since my last trip on the river and after DWR bumped the flows from Keswick up a 1,000 cfs just a few days before, I had some adjustments to make.

We started our first drift at the SR 44 bridge and picked up only a small trout, but I was glad to see the Dick Nite spoon bite was there. We made several more drifts over the same run and I started to wonder if these rainbows were going to cooperate at the level I needed them to for a memorable trip for Scott and Jamie. The Sac has been running a bit off color all summer and I've noticed the Dick Nite bite has been slow until the sun hits the water. We moved down to the next drift above the Cypress St. bridge hoping to find a better bite in the sun. We scratched out a few more trout, but the bite was still off. I ran back up river to see if the 44 drift was ready to produce. Since the spoon bite was slow, I switched it up a bit and back trolled some plugs real quick to see if I could get a taker. We didn't so I picked up and broke out the drift rods again.

Scott Ellsmore holding Sacramento River Rainbow, by Jeff Goodwin
Scott Ellsmore with a beautiful Sacramento River wild rainbow he caught while fishing with Jeff Goowin on July 10th, photos courtesy of Jeff Goodwin

At this point, I made a long drift through some fantastic water with only a few takers. I pulled out the plug rods again thinking its time to get Scott and Jamie on a big fish to keep their excitement peaked. Just moments later, a large rainbow crushed my plug 60 feet behind the boat! It was a big fish and wasn't happy about being hooked. As I walked back towards Jamie, this brute was burning line and throwing some big head shakes. Just as I prepared to hand off the rod, the trophy class rainbow erupted out of the water and went airborne and came unpinned from the plug. It was a good sign and I knew the big boys were ready to come out to play.

Jamie Ellsmore with Rainbow trout, by Jeff Goodwin
Jamie Ellsmore with one of four rainbows of this caliber she caught while fishing with Jeff Goodwin on July 10th.

Knowing this section of the Sacramento River very well makes me a top choice guide, and gives me the ability to put my clients on the big rainbows that live here. I put Scott and Jamie over some of the finest holding water on the river and it started to pay off, big time. Scott started off with the first big bow, but Jamie soon turned it up a notch and proceeded to put on a big fish clinic! She hooked and landed no less than 4 rainbows that went 3-4 pounds and lost a few more. For the remainder of the day, both Scott and Jamie did an outstanding job and the result was a day on the Sacramento River they won't soon forget!

I have days available for Sacramento River rainbow trout trips through October so get ahold of me so we can get your day reserved! The 5.5 mile section of the river that is currently closed opens August 1st. I refer to this section of the river as the "trophy water" and it produces giant rainbows every trip.

Jeff Goodwin is a full time Northern California fishing guide. He guides year round for salmon, trout, steelhead, Kokanee, and bass on Northern California rivers and lakes. He fishes many bodies of water in the Redding area, but also guides the Sacramento River as far down as Colusa during certain seasons. Jeff can also be found on the Klamath River chasing ocean fresh King salmon and steelhead in August each year. To learn more about the fishing trips Jeff has to offer, please visit Jeff Goodwin's Guide Service at You can also find him on Facebook, Instagram,and Twitter, or please feel free to call him anytime at (707) 616-1905.

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