Steelhead and You (Preserve the Magic)

Steelhead landing

Arguably, there is nothing more satisfying than wading and dissecting a run in search of the “sweet spot”–Life is a lot more sweeter for coastal steelheader, Mike Morrison

There is nothing quite like a steelhead…gleaming flawless beauty… mystical and fascinating life-cycles that spawn, rear and ascend hauntingly beautiful rivers and environments… the infectious passion, confidence and driving commitment that matures each time you second guess their unpredictable ghostly behaviors and strike chrome… feeling the sensation of their power and strength transmit throughout the backbone of a rod… witnessing wild unpredictable aerial displays while listening to the high pitch echoing sound of your reel, burning line and backing, as heart throbbing streaking runs test equipment quality, angling talents and abilities… subdued, each and every one admired, praised and, native fish, respectfully released unharmed back into the wilds.

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The Heat is On! (Chill Out-Go Fish’n)

Shad Fishing
Be thankful for what is and not what isn’t. Life is Great!

Whew! It’s a barn burner. A sweltering 103 degrees on the front deck of the shop and record breaking hot temps forecasted for another few days. And it’s early June; feels like mid-August! Just remember all; it’s a dry heat—Ha! Anyway no better place to cool down than your favorite watering hole, fishing, swimming and boarding. Here are some ops that may help shed some relief and provide a flex.

Yuba River
2013 shad lineup.

Shad Up and Fish-2013 Shad runs are a perfect example of anadromous fish not looking at the calendar. Typically Central Valley shad runs are late May-June-early July. With Jan-Feb the driest on record, these yr. rivers were low and shad runs were early; catching many off guard. Our first grabs were May 8 and females were present, eager and horney. Males were already do’n the chase and enjoying play time, even mid-day. Early shadders, dialed in on low water conditions and feel’n the itch, encountered shad as early as April 23 in the American/Feather. I’ve always preached—“go when it feels right”! Currently all rivers with the exception of the Sac are low and still providing sparse activity with pockets of low water sessions lighting up in the late afternoons. Bottom line, multi shad days are rare so enjoy and feel the love sinking your irons into a few. This is what is dealt for the 2013 shad runs. Call it good, appreciate and be thankful for what was and is currently still available. Whiners/number curnchers need not apply.

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Spoiled Fortunate (COW-LA-4-Ni-A Fishing Rocks)

Landing Fish
Looking for Waldo—Darren doing all the right moves on a 4Wt.

I had one of those days in the shop that put a smile on my face, hop in my stride and an eager stoke to stretch a line. No, the till didn’t spill from raging retail sales, selling tackle, feathers and irons(?), but rather a day filled with warmth, spring beauty and a contagious, happy-go-lucky vibe from anglers checking in and eager to go fishing. Cool to witness so many feel’n it.

The first anglers I encountered were already waiting for the doors to open. The early arrivals were jazzed and on a mission, hiking and float tubing nearby Grass Valley lake. Giddy, from success the day before, they hustled and already knew what they needed; our Mr. Pimps and aquatic wasps. They reported the forty-five minute hike was well worth the effort as they experienced pure solitude and remote beauty, quality leeching and mid-day dry fly activity; I wanna go-I wanna go!!!

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4/1—April Fools’ Day (I ain’t no Fool-then read on!)

Tim Regan and dry fly dream fish
– caught on a #14 Callibaetis.

Still on a bit of a buzz, while punching out this blog. Just this morning we had a young (age 16) beginning fly fisher, Derrick Wheeler from Fairfield, come in and inquire about fly fishing and Lewiston Lake. I always get jazzed when an eager and inquisitive Youngblood expresses interest in fly fishing, especially when they are all ears and ask the right questions. Delivering a fifteen minute verbal fly fishing crash course, selling a copy of “Curtis Creek Manifesto” and thoroughly going over effective flies, methods and productive Lewiston waters, Derrick left stoked and on a mission.

Spring has arrived and some mighty beautiful weather has not only activated some bursting beauty but also warmed TR water temperatures, triggering a variety of bug hatches that has created some exciting late season dry fly fishing for late winter steelhead and occasional brown trout. Mayflies, caddis, crane flies and stones have all made their debut. With unsettled March weather, hatches/generations start-ups have kept many guessing; dominate bug and extended hatch durations one day and brief hatch durations of a mixed bag of aquatics the next; strange and unpredictable at best. Although I’m sure the fish are just as puzzled. However, when it gels, they’ve got the feed bag on. Our Punk Rockers (Callibaetis Mayflies), T-Bones (Calineuria Stoneflies), Cream Dreams (Crain flies) Bullets (Hydropsyche Caddis) have been first choice flies when activity pops.

Trinity River
Be careful what you wish for-backyard
blizzard caddis hatch.

While most steelhead are runbacks (kelts), surprisingly, anglers are still scoring on the occasional bright winter natives. Wow, it’s the end of March and fresh fish are still arriving, especially below the South Fork. I can’t help but reflect back to August 22, 2012, when we first encountered the lead edge of the 2012 late summer/fall steelhead runs in the lower gorge. Runs were early as a result of additional water flows allocated down the TR to help prevent lethal high water temperatures in the lower Klamath. Nobody told the early arrivals it was August. Most impressive and highlighting the steelhead runs were the large numbers of native stocks, representing great tributary, secondary and main stem conditions. Not cool and deep concerns is the weird and scary numbers of hatchery “hermaphrodites” that showed up. So, where I’m trying to go with all this? Well, to date, the 2012-2013 TR steelhead runs delivered over seven months of opportunity and a whole heap of a hell of a lot of fun for most anyone who timed it right and devoted the time and effort.

Late March, still arriving & sipping
dry flies.

And it ain’t over till it’s over. April 1 is the opening of the Trinity RiverFly Fishing Only” waters (Old Lewiston dam down to Old Lewiston Bridge) Open Season: April 1 through September 15 to fly fishing only, zero limit. Flows will be low (300cfs.) so bring your best low water wizard approach. While the opener is often a favored event and social affair it is also a great trout season primer; great time of year to tune up your trout gear, well before the general trout opener. This two mile stretch represents the upper most heart of the Trinity River and supports a variety of water compositions that compliments most all fly fishing methods. Access is easy, via Hatchery, Old Bridge, and Lewiston Lake and most waters require moderate wading skills. This year, the river is serving up a mixed bag (steelhead runbacks, occasional fresh adults, residual rainbows, brown trout and slug, 800,000 of recently released juvenile out-migrants) that should prove to be fun for all. Need effective local flies and advice? Want some- get some, The Trinity Fly Shop is conveniently located, ten minutes from the “Fly waters”, across One Maple Winery on Lewiston Rd. Open seven days a week, 8-5—Your local Source!

Brown Trout
Steve Hopkins and dry fly

Now, back to where I first started. Just before closing the shop, Derrick Wheeler showed up with a sweet smile of success and solid hand shake. While Derrick and his Mom purchased a few more flies they also showed Patty and I a photo of his first, fly (Mr. Pimp) caught 18” Lewiston rainbow; fly casting in a kayak. Right on Derrick! And that’s how my day started and ended. It really doesn’t get any better! See ya on the opener!!!

Hatchery Fish
Here they come, hatchery outmigrants by the thousands.