By Headwaters Kayak Shop

Fly fishing the Delta Part 3 Places to fish by Headwaters Fly Shop

Now that we’ve covered tackle and vessels, it’s time for the fun part: places to fish. The delta is huge, consisting of over 1,000 miles of waterway, so if you’re just starting out it can be a little overwhelming choosing a place to fish. My hope with this article is to get people new to the delta started fishing with some of the spots that I have fished over the years, that are easy to launch at with a kayak, canoe or stand up paddle board. My focus will be on the north delta and the central delta near stockton, as these are the areas of the delta that I frequent most.

The delta offers spectacular scenery and captivating sunsets.

North Delta
For the purposes of this article the north delta will be the sloughs that feed into the Sacramento River and upper Mokelumne River North and East of Rio Vista. This area has heavier current flow with relation to tides, as well as cooler water temperatures than the rest of the California Delta. As a result the primary species caught here are smallmouth and spotted bass, as well as some redeye bass in the Cosumnes River. The north delta is a great place to fish during the heat of summer as the cooler water temperatures give the angler some relief from the heat, not to mention that peak time to fish this area is June, July and August, when the water temps have warmed a little, producing epic topwater fishing. The North delta is also the best place to fish if it is windy, because you can always find a narrow channel out of the wind, or a slough that runs perpendicular to the wind. 50 plus fish outings are common, and most fish are taken on topwater poppers. My favorite flies for this area of the delta are size 4 black and white Lil Fatty Pultz Poppers, Size 2 Purple Lil Fatty Pultz Poppers on a floating line and size 8 near nuff crawdads in brown on an intermediate line. I usually use a 4 or 5 weight rod as the fish tend to be smaller than in other areas of the delta.

A Prime example of a north delta smallmouth with a Pultz Popper hanging out of its mouth.

Cosumnes River Preserve 13501 Franklin Blvd Galt Ca 95632
This is one of the places where I learned to fly fish in the delta. The free launch and parking as well as an abundance of small fish, not to mention the shallow water, keeping power boats at bay, made it an ideal place for me to learn about warm water fly fishing. Here you will find lots of bluegill, along with a fair amount of largemouth bass (the most I find in this part of the delta), and quite a few redeye, spotted and smallmouth bass. If you’re really having a good day, you might even catch a warmouth and a few crappie.

One of the things I love most about the delta is you never know what you might catch. Pictured here is a warmouth, something you don’t see everyday in the delta.

One of the nice things about Cosumnes River Preserve is most of it isn’t very deep, maybe 6ft max, making it easy to find fish most of the time. Here I vary in my fly selection compared to the rest of the north delta as the fish are smaller on average. I like to use a size 10 foxee red clouser minnow on an intermediate line. For topwater I use a size 6 or 8 Pultz Poppers Lil Fatty. Be sure to bring wheels for your kayak, as it is a long walk from the parking lot to the launch.

A bluegill caught at Cosumnes River Preserve

Walnut Grove Public Dock 14173 River Rd, Walnut Grove Ca
If it is smallmouth you’re after, or you’re just looking for a quick trip before or after work, this is a great place to start. Located across the street from the Post Office, this is a free place to launch and park (just to clarify, there are 2 docks in Walnut grove and this is the older looking of the 2). Just park, carry your craft down, drop it in the water off the dock and go! From here you can access the Sacramento River, Georgiana Slough, and the Delta Cross Channel and Mokelumne River  if the locke is open. If you have a buddy that can help with a vehicle shuttle, floating from here to Ko-Ket Resort is an ideal float, with plenty of good fishing along the way.  This stretch is particularly fun on a SUP or kayak you can stand in, as the water is clear enough to be able to see the fish eyeing your popper!

A Walnut Grove smallmouth that fell for a crawdad fly.

Georgiana Slough Fishing Access Link to map
This launch tends to have more of a mix of smallmouth and spotted bass, as well as a few largemouth compared with the Walnut Grove Public Dock. Also the fish here tend to be grouped up, so move quickly and cover lots of water and if you do catch a fish be sure to make at least one additional cast back to where you caught them, you will often be rewarded with a second or even a third fish. Also the fishing is best if the water remains clear in this slough, so if there are lots of powerboats coming and going, check out a different spot.

An example of a bass taken out of Georgiana Slough.

Central Delta
For the purpose of this article this area is composed of launches around Tower Park and Stockton. The primary target species is largemouth bass, but there are huge bluegill and redear sunfish, as well as striped bass in the spring and fall. I usually target this area in the spring to take advantage of spawning largemouth and then again in fall as the water starts cooling. In the fall the bass are fat and eager to eat as the water temps start falling.

Me with a nice central delta striper

Paradise Point Marina 8095 N Rio Blanco Rd Stockton Ca
This marina is a nice launching point because marina is right on the channel, creating a 5mph zone, so you can spend a morning or evening fishing the docks in the marina or the adjacent rockwall without getting constantly waked. You also have multiple choices for fishing venues: you can fish disappointment slough, which is some of the bassiest water in the delta, with miles of tule islands and a few side channels, you’re sure to catch something. Or you can head north and fish a huge rock wall and head toward bishop cut. The rock wall can be particularly productive in fall as the water is cooling, as the rocks absorb heat and keep the fish a little more active. This is one of my go to spots for fall largemouth and stripers. The bluegill can get rediculously big here too.

A prime example of a fat fall bass caught in Disappointment Slough

Unnamed Launch on Empire Tract 15180 W Eight Mile Rd, Stockton, CA 95219
This is an old shipping dock that has partially fallen into the water, so I would only recommend it if you are the adventurous type and have a good sense of balance. At low tide this launch is very slick. That being said, parking and launch are free. Also there is a good variety of habitat here: cuts in islands, narrow side channels, and tule islands all make it very fishy. This area is fairly exposed, so it isn’t the best in the wind.

An average size largemouth from this location.

Westgate Landing ParkGlasscock Rd, Lodi, CA 95242
This is a San Joaquin County Park set off the channel along the South Fork of the Mokelumne River. The nicest thing about this venue is you can camp out, and the campground is highly underutilized. Unless it is Memorial Day, 4th of July, or Labor Day you have a better than fair chance of getting a site. Definitely bring wheels as you have to cart your craft up a levee and along the top of the levee to reach the launch. There are docks there that you can tie up to as well. You can also just fish right off the docks, which can be a fun way to spend the morning or evening if you bring out your whole family. There are 2 Tule islands very close to the launch and plenty of rock wall to work so you’ll run out of time before you run out of fishing spots.

A largemouth I caught with my daughter at Westgate Landing.

These are just a few of the many launches found in the California Delta. If you have further questions, or would like to book a guided fly fishing trip on delta, don’t hesitate to e-mail me at bill@headwaterskayak.com or call the shop at 209-224-8367 and ask for Bill. Another great resource is Fly Fishing the California Delta by Captain Mike Costello. This is the book that got me started fishing the delta. I keep a copy in the fly shop that I am happy to lend out.


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