An Orvis-Endorsed Fly-Fishing Guide in Northern California

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Mark Pinto

Orvis-Endorsed Fly-Fishing Guide

Phone icon209-581-3474 Email Link
Northern California

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The Story

Go fly-fishing in California with Orvis-Endorsed guide Captain Mark Pinto: When I started guiding in 1984, my fisheries were known by very few anglers, even those who lived within a short drive. Anglers would drive many hours to fish and literally would cross bridges right over their "home waters" to higher-elevation streams and rivers, not knowing about the often more productive tailwater sections hours closer. Home Waters Guide Service was based on teaching these anglers how and where to fish much closer to home, learning techniques that they could then use when traveling farther away, out of state or around the world. The more days you fish, the better you become in all aspects of the sport, maximizing your success anywhere you go!

Although my waters aren't secret anymore, we still fish many days without seeing another angler. I have heard so many stories from clients fishing famous waters that the sheer number of boats and fisherman completely detracted from their experience. I can assure you, even if there are others around, I know spots where we'll have our own water.

You could say that teaching is in my blood—my dad was a principal, mom was a teacher, as well as both my sisters. The first thing I taught was swimming at 16 yrs. old, in my parents' backyard. I used the sliding door under the patio as a mirror so students could see movements and copy me. After high school, I would help coach both the girls' and boys' tennis teams. I've always had new and innovative ideas while teaching and continue to use them while communicating the many skills required to become a better and more complete fly fisherman.

The ability and love for teaching is not always present with guides, as many of you know. For me, the titles Guide and Instructor are synonymous.

2019 marked 35 years of following my passion. Nothing makes me happier than a client calling me up and saying, for instance, "I went to this river in Montana and no one was catching more fish than me!" Remember, with great technique, you can catch fish anywhere, even waters you aren't familiar with! Helping you become a more complete fly fisherman, is and has always been my main goal.

Gear Recommendations:

Trout: 1-6 wt. rods and floating lines, nice to have both a nymphing and dry fly set-up available.

Steelhead: 6-8 wt. rods and floating lines predominantly, sink tips if swinging the fly is your preference.

Striped bass and largemouth bass: 6-9 wt. rods with both floating lines and shooting-head type sinking lines.

Waders for stream and river fishing with either felt or a good-gripping rubber sole. Wading wet in the summer feels great with quick-drying shorts or pants.

Wading staffs can be useful, although I'm always there to escort you across fast sections.

What to Bring:

California fishing license with steelhead report card when necessary. Most have phones now for pics, but lots of great photo opportunities for those wishing to bring cameras. Other gear to bring varies with species, location and time of year, we'll always discuss what's needed, of course.


  • Spring: Prime striper time, largemouth bass, and native rainbow trout
  • Summer: Native rainbow trout and top-water lLargemouth bass
  • Fall: Striped bass, largemouth bass, native rainbow trout
  • Winter: Trophy native rainbow trout, steelhead, and stripers

The Stanislaus, Mokelumne, and Calaveras Rivers, along with Putah Creek, are all tail waters, emerging below large and deep lakes. The water remains at optimal temperatures even in the dead of winter or the middle of summer. All of these fisheries remain colder than most streams up in the Sierras. As a matter of fact, during the hottest months, allowing for consistent action all day. When I fish on my days off, I'll fish from about 11:00 AM until about 3:00 or 4:00 PM, great for those not wanting to get up before sunrise! You simply don't have to.

The magnificent California Delta is about 200 yards from my house. It fishes well for striped bass and largemouth bass except for the dead of winter from the middle of December until February, depending on water temperature. Fall and spring are prime striper times, with even mid-summer great for top-water largemouth. There are, of course, exceptions depending on how cold the winter is. Bait fisherman continue to do well during that time, but it can be really tough on the fly. I have had years where the water remained pretty clear and above 45 degrees and the stripers and a few largemouth were still willing to take a slowly-presented fly. That was a bonus, but unusual.


Striped Bass, steelhead, native rainbow trout, largemouth bass.


The vast California Delta is about an hour east of the Bay Area. With over 1300 miles of water and some of the best striped and largemouth fishing in the world, it is a "must do" for residents and travelers alike. Open all year, there's almost always great fly fishing to be experienced. We'll cruise around in my smooth riding deep-v skiff, exploring the many sloughs and channels, maybe even have lunch at a restaurant on the water (a tradition of mine). Endless tules, islands, and coves are really something to see! Many days, it feels like we've got the water all to ourselves!

The Calaveras, Stanislaus and Mokelumne Rivers are all tailwaters, located in the Gold Country foothills, east of the San Joaquin Valley, just an easy day trip from the Bay Area. The Calaveras flows below New Hogan Reservoir, the Stanislaus below Lake Tulloch, and the Mokelumne below Lake Commanche.

The Calaveras and Stanislaus both have canyon sections with both very easy and more strenuous access points. The Mokelumne is a gentle valley river with long shallow riffles and runs with easy wading and more open casting, great for anglers with limited mobiity or those looking for more wide open fishing. All 3 of these rivers are about 2 1/2 hours from San Francisco, maybe a bit closer.

The Gold Rush and Gold Country played a major role in the developement of the state. Towns like Sonora, Columbia, Jamestown, Angels Camp, Mokelumne Hill, Sutter Creek and Jackson are all within a very short drive. Of course, the vast Sierra Nevada Mountains are just a bit farther up hill, with all they have to offer.

Putah Creek flows from Lake Berryessa, just over the hill from the world famous Napa Valley and Sonoma wine country. Open all year Putah in renowned for some of the largest rainbows anywhere, with 30" fish a possibility and 20" common, especially in the winter. About 1 hour and 15 minutes from San Francisco, a great day trip.

Typical Weather:

A great thing about our weather is very low humidity when it's hot and very few if any biting insects. I can't remember the last time I or a client was bitten by a mosquito or anything else. Annoying bugs can ruin an otherwise nice day out on the water, at least for me!

Temperatures below are typical highs, mornings are, of course, cooler.

  • Spring: 60s to 80s F
  • Summer: 80s to 100s F
  • Fall: 70s to 90s F
  • Winter: 40s to 60s F

You can find all pricing information at:

What is Provided:

I will always have all of the appropriate gear for our outing, if you have equipment that you feel comfortable with, that's always best. I will have water and lunch when on a river or stream trip. On the Delta, most prefer the option of going to a nice restaurant, a tradition of mine and a chance to get out of the boat, stretch our legs, and attend to other matters.

I can accommodate those with limited mobility, primarily on Delta boat trips, just a short walk on even pavement to the dock. I also have stream access on the Calaveras and Mokelumne over very even ground, just let me know your physical limitations and we'll discuss the best options. As you can imagine, over the last 35 years of guiding, I have had clients with all types of needs and preferences. I will do my best to make the experience you want as successful and pleasurable as possible.

Additional Activities:

What else is there to do on your trip? Being a native of this area, I can help you plan just about any activities you would like. From San Francisco with its many sights and great restaurants, wine tasting in the world renowned Napa-/Sonoma area and increasingly famous Lodi and Foothill wineries, hiking the Sierras, golf, Monterey, Yosemite, the list goes on forever. Probably no where else you will fish has more opportunities and such a wide spectrum of activities available and it's ALL YEAR LONG! I would, again, be happy to help you plan your trip so there's something in it for the whole family!

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