FISH STORES TOLD HERE-SOME TRUE!!! (Flashbacks etc.)

Anyone fishing the TR late winter with any regularity has witnessed the beauty and significance of the (Callibaetis) mayfly.

In the event anyone else is blinded by the light, as comedian Brian Regan referenced, “the big yellow one is the sun”. Finally spring! Or is it?

Carr Fire impacts to TR upper reach tributaries. Headwaters demand serious habitat restoration,. Time to turn the keys off TRRP mainstream projects and invest $ and efforts to curb sediment loads in the mainstream.

I realize it has been a while since my last post. Although I’m climbing the ladder a bit more slowly these days, this time, not my excuse. It’s just been one of those prolonged winter-spring transitions that has been nothing short of rowdy and unpredictable. Local waters and fishing have been just as unpredictable; blown out, turbid, bouncing barometric pressure, solid grab one day, humbled the next; conditions literally changed by the day, hour and sometimes by the minute. Factor in the Carr fire impacts to upper river secondary’s (Deadwood, Hoadley, Grass Valley) purging heavy sediment loads into the mainstream, gut instincts led you to believe the river was out for the year. On that note, it was hard to get motivated or inspired about anything that was truly anyone’s guess.

Buzzer Beater! TR guide, Darren Victorine, landed his last steelhead, preciously at the sound of the Lewiston Dam alarm flushing TR. The innocent native hen pounced a T-Bone!

I will mention those willing to risk it and lucky enough to score fishable conditions, did well, not numbers, but tightening up on kelts and a good number of fresh run late winter natives. And, while weeks of overcast rain and balmy conditions might have been gloomy and depressing for some, it prolonged generations of Callibaetis (mayfly) and Calineuria (stonefly) hatches that triggered dependable dry opportunities and helped refuel the stoke. A final added bonus, April 1 TR “Fly Only” waters reopened and fired off one of the better openers in years. Solid mid-day dry action with an added spice of exciting meat and potatoes (streamer) fishing yielding occasional late winter slabs;  a great, totally unexpected, highlight to wrap up the 2018-2019 steelhead seasons.

Over 40 inches of rainfall, 160% plus average snowpack, headwaters flowing full steam and Trinity lake capacity pushing 90%“what does all this mean? Its Goanna blow captain, goanna blow! April 14 it did. The Bureau allocated a wet water year (701,000 acre ft.) and increased TR flows that will peak 10900 cfs. April 29. Odd, above average rainfall and record snowpack, many are questioning why wasn’t the TR dealt an extreme wet (815,000) allocation? Go figure. Should also mention we dodged a bullet. Remarkably TR headwaters are clear and surprisingly were not severely impacted by last winter’s rage.  Early 2018 winter storms were cold, dumping snow in the Alps and lower levels, minimizing runoff, in Trinity-Lewiston Lakes. Never have I observed this amount of rainfall and snowpack with minimal impacts to headwaters. (Early 70’s- 80’s-1997 entire TR watershed was turbid for the year). To date, spring runoff has not even begun and with California getting

hosed, head to tail, this fall-winter could prove interesting, possibly okole squeezer, with lakes potentially supporting healthy, above average, carryover capacities. It’s been a while since the last round of multi-year wet cycles.

Without a doubt high flows are a blessing and will benefit habitats, wildlife and hopefully help set the stage for rebounding anadromous fish stocks.  The latest TMC Flow Schedule (http://www.trrp.net/restoration/flows/current) indicates TR flows will remain high and unfishable through much of June and into July. High water is everywhere and not going away anytime soon, get used to it. For those wanting to keep in tune with their gear and need a spring Trinity fix, consider the following local options.

Springtime is always a popular season for spiny-rays and fly fishers. Why, they pull and crush flies!

TRINITY–RUTH LAKES- Large-smallmouth bass fishing fires all spring-early summer; with this year’s above average snowpack/runoff possibly all summer and into early fall. Opportunities for jumbo buckets and smallies, pre-spawn grab happening NOW. Springtime warming temps key. Although plenty of shore fishing available, no doubt, boat, pram, pontoon, tube gives you the edge.

Trinity Lake rivermouth/boca fishing for trout and landlocked steelhead has always been a personal favorite. The upper TR is open year-round; other streams (East Fork-Stuarts Fork-Swift Cr.-Papoose) do not open until general trout opener April 27 (Sat.). Scenery is epic and fishing the mix with a variety of styles, can be very rewarding. Seldom numbers, however the quality of fish is high caliber. Trout, bass and landlocked salmon stage and graze these waters. Limited wade fishing available and floating devise offers mobility that helps increase the odds. Both lakes offer excellent spring-summer camping options.

Classic Lewiston lake specimen-Flawless with an attitude.

LEWISTON LAKE- Cold, rich and fertile tailwater supporting biggins! A Bureau design, strictly for power and water diversion to CVP, Lewie-Lewie resembles a large spring creek, flowing much of the year based upon water diversions, and is a popular tailwater to many fly fishers. It’s rich and fertile habitats are grossly infected with mayflies, caddis, stoneflies, midge, damsels, dragons, scuds, aquatic wasp, lampreys, you name it and they probably exist and consumed by bows, occasional browns and landlocked salmon. Early spring “Aquatic Wasp” (Hymenoptera) steal the show. Warming spring temps activate generation “float-ups” that get the attention of every double-digit fish and lite up the lower flats and protected bays off main channels. Lewie fishes year-round, supports fishing opportunities for all anglers, including handy-cap access, and offers excellent camping facilities. Primo lodging is available at Lakeview Terrace (New cool owners- remodeled cabins) and boat rentals, tackle, good advice and fun people/owners (Matt-Louise) available at Pine Cove marina.

GRASS VALLEY LAKE- (requires a 45 minute hike)-Nestled atop Buckhorn summit and only 10 minutes from Trinity Fly Shop, this 40 acre gem is popular for float tubers seeking solitude, quality fishing and scenic surrounds. GV supports a healthy population of small (8-14”- occasionally larger) resident and land-locked steelhead willing to accept a variety of offerings; nymphs, dries and most popular, leeches- streamers- damsels fished deep and on the strip. Semi-wilderness walk on the wild side and should fish well into mid-summer this year.

Sad but true—Tim and Joy Brady closed TRINITY OUTDOORS. An iconic Weaverville based sporting goods store that filled a void with quality goods and services for over 30 years. A real loss to all outdoor enthusiasts. Wonder if on line sporting good sources deliver to campgrounds or drop ship wilderness areas?

Does any of the above sound familiar? Well, if so, you know Trinity well. High water and spring conditions dictate this diverse and exciting lineup. All are quality fisheries, much more than simple options, and await those willing to step out of the box and explore exciting new opportunities. Keep in mind, Trinity Fly Shop (530-623-6757.  www.trinityflyshop.com ) is your local source. We not only have the goods to help you score, our knowledgeable staff is always available to answer your questions, provide helpful advice and ensure your Trinity experiences are fun and memorable. Enjoy The Spring and See Ya On The Water!

Mike Callan

Sandy Noyes

Steve Hopkins

Jeff Rhodes

Andy Laursen

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Challenging Currents (2019-Hopes, Dreams, Opportunities & Fresh Arrivals)

Hey Honey-Its Feb, height of Steelhead Season, I’m calling in sick tomorrow and don’t hold dinner!

After closing the 2018 books Pat and I took a month off for some quality family time and long needed R&R. To put it mildly, last year the cookie didn’t crumble our way. The Carr fire was too close for comfort. Locking our house, TFS and evacuating, Pat and I thought the Carr might be the “one.” Just when you thought, some close friends passed away; a rough year for many. Our friends left us with great memories and luckily we survived the deadliest and most destructive fire season in California. We are fortunate and count our blessings.

Photo #1: Tim Regan-Bukanza
Photo #2: Mark Noble-Greased Line
Photo #3: Norm Christensen-North Coast

Hard to believe it is early Feb. and in the heat of the 2018-2019 steelhead runs. How time flies while having fun chasing steel. Each and every steelhead season is a new chapter in a new edition; never know what Ma Nature is going to deliver. The 2018-2019 TR runs have spawned mixed reviews; some good, some great, and the raw, whiners should to keep to themselves. Our take, other than the lower Klamath stealing the fall limelight, 2018-2019 have not really been bang-up years on any west coast steelhead river. Seems to be pretty much straight across the board—Hook a slab, consider yourself lucky.

Lewiston Lake supports steelhead-sized bows that are much more than an option to a blown steelhead river.

Why is anyone’s guess? Keep in mind, current steelhead numbers are largely related to ocean and instream conditions years ago as well as harvest and predation impacts. The greater majority of TR adults returning this year represent (2-3 yr.) stocks after the five year drought (2011-2017) that severely impacted west coast watersheds and all anadromous fish stocks. What may be a positive glimmer, a surprisingly high number of half-pounders, as well as jack salmon, returned this year in a number of rivers. The high percentage of smaller fish may very well represent quality conditions and rebounding stocks for 2019-2020.

Sure, years past, the TR has produced larger returns. Most any long term TR steelheader remembers the mid-90’s mega hatchery saturation that put the TR on the cover of every angling periodical and website and most anyone that could hold a rod or say fish caught fish. Unfortunately excessive returning hatchery stocks, including hymerfidates that baffled hatchery technicians, negatively impacted “native” stocks. The past clearly demonstrated, in the case for successfully managing native stocks, more was not better and also large returns attract large numbers of anglers, creating increased pressure on both river and fish; many would agree, diminishing steelheading experiences. On the other hand, we’ve also experienced extremely low returns. Referencing 1983 personal log books, oddly we never caught or recorded what I would consider a “true” (3’bs.-larger) TR adult steelhead the entire fall-winter; a vicious cycle that produced few native or hatchery adults.  And some of you think this season is challenging?

Low numbers, high numbers, who really gives a shit? It only takes one at the right place at the right time. Steelheading is about opportunity and fun!  And since mid-August, past five months, the TR continues to serve up intermittent pulses of fall-winter runs and provide fun quality steelheading; beauty, challenging fishing, minimal pressure and enough opportunities to keep many guessing or grinning forever. Want Fun – Get Out There!!!

Kurt Reichermeier has every reason to smile after landing this TR winter native.

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SPARSE SERVINGS (Scratching for Tidal Chinook)

Glenn Burton glass stretching and feel’n it.

It was after losing a shooting head to a coastal slab having his way with me, I got bit hard last year fly fishing for north coast chinook. My first outing I was lucky to hook up, feel the surging power, and not so lucky, as I realized my situation raced from bad to worse. My 8 wt. Bad Ass Glass was far from bad, lacked bone, and under gunned proved a big mistake that led to getting towed around, in a six ft. dingy, by the chrome culprit that ultimately snatched my fly line. As my Grandson would say, “I learned the hard way.” Rookie moves haunted me and after nearly a year of a wounded ego, I could not wait for 2018 and the opportunity for some coastal revenge.

Another day in paradise, Motley Crew

Since my first encounter, fly fishing north coast chinook has evolved into a personal bucket list challenge. The lure of coastal giants fresh from the salt, dramatic coastal beauty, smell of salt air, towering redwoods, anchored- up casting shooting-heads and probing the depths, the strange acclimation to the sounds of breakers along the coast in one ear and hearing a distant riffle in the other and reflecting the era of those fortunate to have pioneered the Lost Coast fisheries, all blend to enhance the hype and desire. Nobody said it would be easy yet my friends and I are fortunate longtime north coast angler, Glen Stanley, has helped us cultivate a better understanding of tides, conditions, and overall coastal fisheries. His direction and positive advice, “only a tide away from a fresh rack,” is invaluable and without his knowledge and willingness to share, chances are, we would be lost bloodhounds.

 

Glen Stanley dredging in light and shadows.

My 2018 guiding year ended early November and Glen and I had already locked into a week’s reservations for the north coast; gear prepped, flies tied- inventoried and jacked to the hilt, this year my brother Glenn, number two, was joining us. Time off, salmon adrenalin flowing and possibilities of sweet revenge, everything appeared perfect except one minor detail; somebody forgot to turn on the faucet. An abnormally dry fall and little to no rainfall equated no flows no rivers and low flow closures were in effect on all north coast rivers; odd for November. Tidewaters were an option, rain was forecasted and, as agreed, one missing element was not going to ruin the party; we remained positive.

Who’s got who-Hanging on and learning the hard way. GS Photo

As it turned out rain forecasts were a myth and unseasonably mild beautiful weather dominated. We knew it would be a royal longshot however; the limited waters we targeted appeared inviting and promising. Despite our efforts, investing five days of solid fishing, nobody got bit. We did witness a few salmon; unfortunately all being chomped and devoured by the local seal colony. Regardless our time on the water was a great learning curve and we enjoyed quality time together. As I’ve preached, if I based a good time solely upon a tally of fish caught I would have quite fishing years ago.

Here today, gone tomorrow. Regardless how could anyone not have a good time here, Drift prep. GS Photo

Weeks later, Thanksgiving, a series of fronts brought significant rainfall, refueling coastal rivers and Glen took advantage of the new pulse; fishing two days strangely without a touch. Here today, gone tomorrow? Despite less than encouraging reports, a week later, coastal river flows dropped and held to what we thought would be primo. With the hope of fresh arrivals, Kit and I bolted north for a few days; surprisingly scratching zeros. Wrong place, wrong time? I thought steelhead were the ultimate challenge. 2018 north coast salmon runs eluded many. Chalk it up to the mystic and unpredictability of anadromous fish and their environments. The question remains, are coastal salmon runs over? Or, are they abnormally late as a result from the dry fall weather pattern? The answer is anyone’s guess and no better way to find out than to commit and get on your horse and ride with the next wet weather patterns. I did forget to mention, earlier a coastal river delivered a beast, weighing in just less than 65 lbs., if that might be a trip breaker.

Xmas ornament colors often appeal to coastal slabs.

Locally, recent rains added a touch of juice and color to the TR main stem and were just what the doc ordered to raise water temps and activate fish movements. A mix of both hatchery and native fall fish are scattered throughout the system with the bulk currently filtering thru North Fork, JC and Douglas City. Additional storms are forecasted for upcoming weeks and rains should inspire traditional winter stocks into the system and secondaries.. Keep in mind winter weather plays a major role in river conditions. Traveling anglers might consider including a floating devise (boat- pram- pontoon- float tube) for Lewiston and Trinity Lakes. Both generally withstand harsh weather patterns (in the event the river blows), within easy striking distance and often prove to be much more than winter options. Thank You for Your Loyal Support & Best Fishes for 2019!!!

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WHO-WHAT-WHEN-WHERE & WHY (TR Fall Steelhead Status)

“Native Beauty”- Glen Stanley catch/photo

Oregon steelheader, Chad Marshall, stepped out of the box and skated up this beautiful native hen.

There seems to be a lot of mixed steelheading chatter going around this fall from anglers and surprisingly a few guides indicating the TR has not produced up their expectations. Is a river supposed to consistently produce? Are steelhead created to bite “your” fly? Does level of accomplishment, luck or timing have anything to do with fishing success? Has anyone ever smelled a skunk or add a goose egg to the collection? Granted, to date, the 2018 steelhead numbers are down and the past couple months of zero rainfall and boney low flows have not been the most favorable conditions for fish and fisherman. Yet TR steelhead opportunities are available and have brought smiles to many. So why sour grapes?

Exercising Fall Trinity options, Andy Laursen has every reason to smile.

Mike Callan does what Mike Callan loves.

Over the years, it has been our experience tough conditions and fishing tends to bring out the best and worst. The best, those who get it, understand rewards are sweeter when conditions and fishing are challenging therefore willing to accept and appreciate what is served, go the extra mile, invest additional time and effort to do whatever it takes to score while enjoying the pursuit and quality time on the water. The worst, fortunately a minority, blinded by high yield, unrealistic expectations and simply naïve. The legendary Pacific Steelhead is often referred to by many as the ultimate challenge and anyone who feels they can select a day or two on the calendar and annually score needs to have their head examined.

Following suit, Conner Laursen with one of many healthy- hefties.

How do I feel about 2018 fall runs? Based upon the past three months guiding and shop feedback, it has been pretty much a typical bitter sweet steelhead season with an added touch of weirdness. Typical in that anglers fortunate to be at the right place at the right time scored. Weird because unseasonably high flows, 750-800cfs. ( Carr Powerhouse impacted) late July thru mid-Sept., activated early (August) promising returns, catching the greater majority by surprise. The lead edge led many believing above average TR runs were consistent with neighboring Klamath River that fired early as well. Mid-Sept. flows were throttled down and by October reduced to 300cfs.; oddly fish numbers, movements and fishing slowed. Chinook returns appeared promising however their numbers dropped as well. Coho, all but nonexistent? Drought like conditions settled in for the past two months, TR secondaries have all but dried up, water temperatures continue to drop (hovering 41-44 degrees) fish movements continue to slow yet a few steelhead are willing to grab; go figure.

Dark shadows are often great go- to waters when fish are bashful – low flows. Ashland angler, Bill Morrish, taking advantage and he did, as usual score.

Bottom line we need rain badly to snuff the fire season and the TR needs rain to refuel secondaries, raise water temps and reboot fish movements. On most everyone’s mind, difficult to wrap you head around potential impacts, major sediments and ash infiltration into the Trinity watershed, as a result of the Carr fire; time will tell. There have been some positive reports fish are locked up in lower canyons, Pecwan (Klamath) and Weitchpec, Burnt Ranch (Trinity). It is still early and TR traditional late fall-winter stocks should begin to make their move with the next freshet. Be ready to get with it, whiners stay home!!! Enjoy the HolidaysSolid Grabs!!!

Joe Powers testing hoop strength and thumbs up. Guide D. Victorine photo

  • Shad Camp 2016
  • Shad are in!
  • Here's to another great shad year!
  • 2016 Shad mug
  • Steve Hopkins and friend
  • Scott Watson with a dandy
  • Shad on!