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There are two distinct parts of the McCloud River, the Upper and Lower. They are separated by Lake McCloud (or McCloud Reservoir). In this upper section, the water is small, and most of the trout here are stocked and average less than 10 inches long. The area is however very scenic, containing boulder-strewn gorges, waterfalls and lush green vegetation. This area can be waded, and allows easy access for fishermen, campers, and others to jam into the area during summer. 

The Lower McCloud is far more popular when it comes to fly fishing. This lower section holds  really large, especially in heavier, fast water. It is also less accessible and way less crowded. The river here runs through a steep, narrow canyon, and its blue-green water courses over boulders and loose rock, giving trout long, deep pools in which to hold. Rainbows average 15" and can exceed 22"; browns average 16" but fish have been caught and released as big as 36" . Because the water originates from McCloud Reservoir's bottom-release dam, the water remains between 48 and 55 degrees even in the summer. Wading can be difficult due to water depth and flow, which can fluctuate at any time due to dam releases. Numerous feeder streams and springs also contribute to the size of the Lower McCloud. There are some trails that follow the river, but over all the water is not easily accessed. The most isolated stretch is below the Ash Camp area, where the Pacific Coast Trail stays high above the river for three miles before curving away toward Ah-Di-Na campground. Look for a path down to the river about a half mile downstream. As stated, wading in this area is tough, and wading boots with cleats and a wading staff are recommended.