Trinity River fly fishing guide service in Northern California | Trinity Fly Shop
Trinity Fly Shop


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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

GONE TOMORROW- HERE TODAY (Reflections-Directions-Transitions)

Each & every steelhead season brings out the very best, Ken Oda power-thrusting.

Steelhead are never easy and live up to the “fish of a thousand casts” however when plugged in — Oh What A Feel’n!

For what it may be worth and if my math is correct, October 2018 registers as my 36th. year commercial guiding the Trinity River. Wow, all I can say is time waits for no one and in our case has zoomed by like am arm- wrenching grab parting 1X. What an incredible experience and lifestyle filled with countless memories of all sorts; I vividly remember my very first guided trip like it was yesterday. Time out, slowing the train down and taking a moment to reflect, in the beginning (1982), Trinity River flows were a mere 150 cfs. (Normal year allocation).

New season-new arrivals-GB with new smiles.

The TR (above the South Fork) was open last Sat in May through Feb 28 (29), fish limits were five (5) salmon-steelhead-trout combo per day and “native” fish management and barbless hook restrictions were not even close to being on the table. I was the only Lewiston state licensed TR guide and there were no DFG guide log book requirements.

Isonychia mayflies hatch Sept./low lighting conditions throughout mid-lower TR. Match the hatch-Tie on a Silver Hilton and score!

Also there were no developed boat launches (literally backed thru the willows, drug rafts over gravel bars or simply tossed them off high river vantages), road signs off HWY 299 (referencing Poker Bar-Steelbridge etc.) and fishing pressure was all but nonexistent. I can’t even begin to tell you about the beauty and stoke of targeting unmolested fish or blind floating a new drift for the very first time; I was a kid in the TR candy store. Whether it was our timing, no coin and nothing to lose or simply no fear and too young to know any better, Pat and I are very fortunate to have experienced such a great opportunity; and we are still enjoying the journey! So after 36 great years what is in store for our future and Trinity Fly Shop? Easy, continue for as long as possible or become too crotchety, to share our labors of love with you all.

We Thank You for all the Years of Friendship and Support!

Straight from the Line-ups

Every steelhead are special, TR vet, Jeff Rhodes expressing his steelhead passion.

Last week TR flow reductions, 700 cfs. to 450 cfs. activated solid fish movements from the lower gorges. On the bottom, Weitchpec, fresh run chinook, lead coho, adult steelhead and a major surge of half-pounders raced through the lower valley; calming negative chatter and finger pointing at weirs, low flows or beliefs most runs turned left up the K. Anglers second guessing and targeting low, scored big time. Don’t get too comfortable with 450 cfs. releases, if the Bureau believes its own print, TR flows are slated to drop to 300 cfs. October 15.

The Great Blue–stealth, precision and deadly. Bob Jones captures the 180—beauty and grace.

A major fall highlight, a recent wet weather pattern was heaven sent, ending one of most tragic fire seasons, and was just what the doc ordered to also motivate late summer chinook-steelhead movements from the Burnt Ranch gorge and provide line-ups (Del Loma up to JC) fresh rotations. Transitioning fish are never easy and generally equate hit miss activity. Recently, we have scored success fishing less holding waters and investing full attention targeting the rotation in shallow flats supporting depressions, tailouts and streamy edges with smaller wets and damp skaters.

Scott Watson scores big early season!

Posting up may sound or appear redundant as opposed to covering more water or stroking marathon drifts. Personal experiences have revealed, when the shuffle is on, finding the sweet spot in transition waters, more often than not, increases your odds for tight line success. Major salmon-steelhead movements are prime examples why I’ve always preached, better off not know what is pushing thru. The visual numbers of moving fish, snubbing your presentations can be frustrating, yet rewarding; especially to those digging in and keep in mind the chain of command will slow, settle in and eventually crush; generally when least expected.

Inviting beauty and rare TR empty line-up opportunity.

If all this sounds too good to be true, it is. Recent wet weather also flushed upper reach tributaries (Deadwood-Hoadly-Grass Valley and others) and washed undesirable amounts of sediment and ash into the TR main stem; creating turbid conditions and fortunately lasting only a couple days. Unfortunately, at this point in time, appears there may be some serious T. LK and TR tributary repercussions, from the Carr fire, this winter; to what extent is anyone’s guess and time will tell. In the meantime the TR got shook up, H20 temps are primo and fish are in— Enjoy the 2018 Season & Get on’ em !!!

Yum-Yum Eat’em Up—Muddler Crusher!

  • 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!