Not since the movie “A River Runs through It” ignited a mega jolt of fly fishing popularity have we witnessed the latest addition of newbies expressing interest in fly fishing. Not everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. Most unusual is the latest surge of young children, mostly under 15 yrs. of age, expressing interests, suiting up and eager to learn how to cast and fly fish.
For the past week a dominating dry and cold high pressure system has dramatically changed Trinity River steelhead fishing. Dropping water temps (40-42 degrees) and low flows have slowed fish movements as well as the “Grab.” Unfortunately this weather pattern is forecasted for another week, possibly longer.
There are some positive glimmers. Current conditions have thinned out angling pressure and those willing to endure should have little problem finding open water. Mid-day, peak air and water temps, anglers are scoring the occasional adult targeting slower velocity waters dredging slow and deep. Mr. Pimp, the Rock and dead drifted Breadcrusts have been the go-to patterns for traditional fishing. Nymphing with Golden Stones, Robo Nymphs, Diablos, Prince Diamonds, Cream Dreams and the wire nymph family (copper-red-blue-char) have also yielded occasional success on long leaders and light tippits. A great change of pace, and despite cold water temps, brief mid-day Blue Wing Olives (#18-16) and burps of Callibaetis (#14-12) hatches have surprisingly inspired some half-pounders and small adults to selectively feed in the upper water columns. Great change of pace from the wet fly blind faith approach and helps fuel the dry fly stoke.
Until we receive rain, to warm water temps and motivate fish movements, you can expect challenging conditions and fishing. Keep in mind; we are only halfway through the steelhead seasons with plenty of opportunities yet to come. Fall runs have peaked and winter runs are slowly filtering through the lower system and should throttle our way with the next wet pattern and flush. Until then keep in tune with your tackle, eye on the weather, and stoke for the holidays. We thank you all for your loyal support—Peace on Earth!
Working in the fly shop we never get tired hearing fishing stories, each and every day. For fun, here are some observations, of a variety of anglers targeting steelhead, based upon a few yrs. feedback and hype. Possibly you can relate?
A – According to some unsuccessful anglers, steelhead do not exist, a myth; claiming too difficult, time consuming, better off snipe hunting or pumping up deflated egos tallying numbers while targeting easy quarry. Number Junkies!
B – On the other hand, there are a few anglers that annually show up, cool, positive, up-beat, well-educated, excellent skills, sport quality gear, appreciate the whole steelheading experience and fish their ass off. Yet, for reasons nobody understands, the steelhead Gods have yet to get their memo and have failed to crack the code. Regardless, they return each year with a smile, eager willingness to accept the challenge and rev it up. Born again Steelhead Junkies!
C – Others that have hooked or landed steelhead, oddly, remain baffled or in question, and are not quite convinced the labor, guesswork and time invested is worth the payoff. Yet, walk the walk, and express enough interest in the steelheading experience for the occasional shot. On the Fence Junkies!
D – To many fly fishers, steelhead are the ultimate accomplishment. The strange fascination about steelhead and the beauty of their surrounds attracts a rare breed, an odd lot, since their very first encounter, developed a religious devotion; ultimately evolving into lifelong, hard core, eat, drink, breathe and chase steelhead anywhere, anytime passionate addiction. Full blown Steelhead Junkies!
While I may not be as strung out as others, I can attest, my family and I have devoted over half of our lives fishing, guiding, building/owning/ operating Trinity Fly Shop while exercising our everyday strides largely blaming steelhead and one of the most beautiful and productive steelhead rivers in the lower 48, the Trinity River, for our addictions and lifestyles; with no regrets, other than wished we were hooked earlier in life. So, if you’re a dabbler get with it or stop reading this. How to be a Junkie? Its steelhead season—fish are in and no better time to wade in and Get Hooked!!!
Full Commitment – Go All the Way-Scoring chrome takes a positive attitude, confidence, thick- skin and ability to lick your wounds and overcome fishless days. It helps to cultivate a deep appreciation and thorough understanding of a steelhead’s complex life cycle and diverse surrounds; knowledge gained increases odds for success tenfold. The mystic and their unpredictable ghostly behavior dictate bringing your best and to dig deep, closely monitor and be in tune with weather and water conditions, coordinate rod/ lines/flies with appropriate water compositions and columns, thoroughly cover waters and adapt to varying conditions; listen and follow gut instincts. No boundaries or room for negative vibes, it’s all about being confident and “feeling it;” if you’re not, chances are it won’t happen.
Quality gear is essential! Remember, you have traveled how far and invested how much to hook up. Whoever skimps purchasing cheap reels, lines or flies/irons is not only braindead but also walks away from the river, holding both cheeks barking four letter words? You actually feel twice as bad about losing that fish of a lifetime! With steelhead there is little room to falter. Keep the odds in your favor by investing in quality gear that preforms for you, not against you. At minimum, for TR (mid-canyons to Lewiston) Fall- early Winter (single hand) outfits we recommend something comparable to; Echo’s Ion 9 or 10 ft. length 6-7 wt. rodsmatched with an Ion 6/7 disc drag reel, Rio Salmon-Steelhead Weight-forward floating line or RIO multi-tip series lines (ability to fish varied water columns). (Two-hand) outfits we recommend something comparable to: Echo’s Switch SR 10-10 6wt. matched with a 7/9 Ion reel, RIO In-touch intergrade switch line; (Handles versa tips for varied water columns). For more detailed information and recommendations you can always call or e-mail favorite local fly shops.
Plan-Prepare-Set in Motion
Do your homework; know where you are going and when to go. Read as much as you can about steelhead, (seasons- rivers-migrations-gear- techniques-preferred flies etc.) and targeted waters you plan on fishing. Helpful reading material: Steelhead and the floating line by Bob Arnold—Classic Steelhead Flies by John Shewey—Wild Steelhead by Sean Gallagher—Cal Fly fisher Magazine—Richard Anderson Publication (all available at TFS). The learning curve can be daunting, keep it simple and enjoyable. From BC down to Nor Cal there are numerous quality steelhead rivers sure to pacify your desires. Personal experiences and success have proved, from the get-go, it is best to invest your efforts targeting and leaning one river, as opposed to spreading yourself thin trying to fish them all. Plan a couple trips at different times, fall and winter, to help increase the odds for intercepting runs and scoring success. Remember local Fly Shops are your solid connection for accurate up to date information; fish runs, conditions, gear recommendations, fly selections, guide services and current fishing reports. Or, simply scrub the internet and U-Tube for general info..
Enjoy the Ride
I can’t emphasize enough, keep it fun and don’t try too hard. Steelheading can be demanding physically and mentally. Don’t beat yourself up. If your session becomes work; timeout, look around, enjoy the scenery, opportunity, refuel your system, re-tie tippits/flies and mentally regroup; more times than not makes all the difference in the world. Enjoy, let it happen!
2017 T.R. Fall-Winter Steelhead-Straight from the Lineups
Recent rains have rotated new arrivals. As of this post fall runs are challenging hoop strength and in full gear throughout the system, head to tail (Lewiston –Willow Creek). Secondary rivers and tributaries are also adding fresh juice to the main stem and encouraging native stocks and movements. A few lead winter fish are beginning to show down low. Primarily fall fish are scattered throughout the mid-canyons up through Junction City and Douglas City. Traditional swing, nymphing and some dry fly, Fall Caddis (Dicosmoecus), Mayfly (Baetis) opportunities have been effective for colorful adults, averaging 4-6 lbs., and half-pounders, 11-18”, filtering through and taking up the slack. Canyon creek and a few other tributaries in and around the Helena burn, (JC) areas impacted by the fire, have occasionally been flowing turbid from recent heavy rains; keep an eye on rainfall totals/flows. To date, HWY 299 is open with only occasional delays below Brig French Creek below (Big Bar). That time of year weather and river conditions are constantly changing, plan accordingly. Head Up & Hook Up!!!
I realize it has been way too long updating our blog. No excuses and don’t want to bore you with how busy we’ve been because, it seems like these days, most everyone I know is chasing their tail laboring overtime workloads; unfortunately many putting fun on the back burner. I will mention I have been busy stroking the oars, 34 yrs. guiding this October, restocking Trinity Fly Shop with bad to the bone flies and inventories to better serve you and your friends this Steelhead season and attempting to fulfill household chores in preparation for the upcoming fall-winter seasons. Whew! Can we all get a break? Let’s go Steelhead fishing!!!
As of October 4 update the Helena Fire is 85% contained and still active. The devastating fire burned roughly 21,450 acres, 72 homes and over 60 structures. Continued suppression, repair activities, monitoring and mop up fire areas will continue. For updates check out: Cal Fire: http://www.fire.ca.gov/. Friends and locals described the Helena fire as a blow torch with little time to escape. Remarkably there were zero fatalities. The aftermath is a gut-wrench and will take years to recover. Trinity County is heart strong and Helena-Junction City residents will overcome. THANK YOU FIREFIGHTERS!!!
On the Run
Great news, the smoke has cleared, the colorful fall season is upon us and a mixed bag of fresh arrivals is moving through the system. Better than F&W 2017 predictions, a surprising strong number of fall chinooks continue to filter throughout the entire Trinity system. Even though they are off limits good to see strength in numbers. Most encouraging are the excessive numbers of jacks appearing; possibly shedding light for future stocks. Coho are just beginning to enter the lower river and as far up as Willow Creek; unlike last yr. Coho were all but non-existent. Along with salmon runs, increasing numbers of late summer-fall steelhead have also been moving through the system and providing quality sport for those willing to dig in. The upper river, Junction City-Douglas City, currently supports just enough fish to keep one guessing and fishing clean tippits while the bulk seems to have stalled, staging in the mid-lower system (North Fork – Willow creek). To date, steelhead numbers seem to be down although it is still early in the season with many months to go. A major glimmer is the strong number of returning adult native steelhead. It will be interesting to see what develops with the next significant rains. Prep and be ready to jump!
|Bob Jones finds a chrome fix.||GB with an overnight express|
|Scott Watson-They do take skaters!|
HWY299 West Snags
Major snags for anyone heading west on HWY 299 (Junction City to Del Loma) has been the traffic closures, restrictions and delays; Helena fire and major slides from the aftermath of last winter’s rage. All understandably so yet a real bugger for anglers travelling (east – west). HWY299West Junction City, restrictions, delays and closures are largely depended upon current construction/cleanup. Nobody is exempt; the Del Loma slide has also been very active, creating delays up to 45 min., depending upon activity and construction work. So heads up, check out Cal Trans: http://www.dot.cagov/cgl-bin/roads and be in tune with road restrictions/closures or be prepared for lengthy, often hours, delays.
Trinity River Flows
As of this post current TR flows are 450 cfs. and scheduled to drop to 300 cfs. October 15 (Sunday). Unlike the drought years, and after this summer’s scorch, surprisingly most all secondary rivers (North-South Trinities-New River) and tributaries are sustaining quality flows and temperatures creating ideal main stem conditions and setting the stage for all anadromous fish stocks; especially native stocks. Trinity Lake is currently supporting a healthy 72% capacity; last yr. the lake was 39%. These yrs. late season high water capacities have some local residents concerned. Keep in mind, Trinity was the first earthen dam constructed in California and, unlike Oroville, was built without an auxiliary release option. Will be interesting to witness the water juggling act, especially if we are slammed with an above average rainfall and snowpack. Break out the big sticks, lead core, and tungsten- eyed chicken feathers.
Fall-Winter Trinity Trout
While the greater majority of anglers visiting Trinity County throughout the fall-winter seasons are searching for a steelhead grab, others favor stepping out of the box, targeting fall-winter trout in less popular environments. Trinity Lake and the tailwaters of Lewiston are uniquely different yet both offer quality, often steelhead size, trout opportunities for those willing to dial in. Trinity Lake offers excellent river mouth fishing after the general trout closure (Nov. 15). Although the upper Trinity River is open all year with special restrictions. Haunting to fish waters intercepting a lake supporting 145 miles of shoreline, over 400 feet deep, and populates rainbow- brown trout and land- locked steelhead. Lewiston’s rich and fertile tailwaters challenge even the most accomplished with intense aquatic activity and selective trout. Fall is the time of year larger fish stocks migrate from the lower lake and into the upper narrows for feeding and spawning; a rare opportunity anglers experience 60% of the trout populations in 40% of the lake. Numbers are irrelevant. In other words Lewiston trout are not easy by any means however there are those magical days you could do no wrong and best kept to yourself. Both Trinity and Lewiston lakes are much more than a simple option and great go-to fisheries when the TR blows during even the harshest weather patterns. Feeling the need for an out of ordinary option or if dicey weather conditions exist, throw in that pram pontoon or tow up your skiff, more than likely you’ll be glad you did. Those down and without a floating device: Pine Cove Marina (Louise) (530) 778- 3878 rents boats all fall-winter. Don’t have to look far for quality fun in Trinity County.
Been crunching too much OT and need time out? Take control and straighten out your priorities. Break out your gear and we’ll look forward to seeing you and your friends this fall-winter. Need further information regarding rod- wader rentals, fly selections, questions about equipment needs or simply inquiring about current river conditions and fishing—you know the Trinity Fly Shop (530) 623-6757 is and always will be your trusted local source!!!