Just One More Cast (It’s all Good)

Dean Rizzi

Dean Rizzi believes in — “Go Big-Go Home”

I wish we had a scream’n steelhead report to deliver, just not so. Since our last post the winter season snuck in early, bringing significant rains and snow in the mountains and activating healthy cold water fluctuations. The majority fall steelhead raced through, many already in the secondaries, and we are currently awaiting winter runs. However there are still some nice late fall fish and bright half-pounders trickling throughout the upper reach, North Fork-Lewiston. It’s that time of year changing conditions are challenging both fish and fisherman while windows of opportunity are less frequent. Anglers willing to commit fish hard and lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time are being rewarded.

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When the Going Gets Tough (Only the Tough Go Steelheading)

Trinity River Steelhead

Like Father (Bob Burke), like Son (Jeff Burke) double down.

“Just like the old days,” is the comment many Trinity River anglers, familiar with the 70-80’s fishing, have referenced 2016 steelheading. Weeks of a stunningly beautiful Trinity fall landscape, screaming with colors and mystic, that generate exciting hype and fishing vibe, unseasonably mild Oct-Nov. weather patterns formulating primo river conditions, water temps pushing 52-53 degrees (ideal for skating’em up), media buzz and flap-jaw deterring number seekers, opening waters and options and the sweet rewards of occasional success and challenging fishing left to those who appreciate the full package and willing to dig’em out. That’s right folks, the 2016 TR fall steelhead season is “just like old days” yet better; it is here and happening now.

Wild Release

Unintended alley-oop release-Andy Laursen behind it all.

Since our last post fishing hasn’t changed much, spotty, with the exception of some rains that shuffled spits and sputters of some unusually large hatchery stocks (a few exceeding 10 lbs.), Big Bar up river through Junction and Douglas City. On the down low, some smaller size steelies, brief bursts of 2-3 lb. native adults, have also been showing and getting attention. Never underestimate size. When the iron hits home, attitudes flair and energies throttle; these smaller chromies give you a run for the money that often exceeds, and puts to shame, some of the large, double-sized, hatchery stock performances. Interesting power-punch size, why and what secondary reared and spit them out or are they main stem jewels. And what do they represent, drought rebounding super stocks for 2017; the beauty, mystic and wonder of steelhead.


Fall steelheading—Tim Leary in the power groove.

To date, there hasn’t been any cold weather or a freeze so water temps and prolonged fog and cloudy patterns have keep fish happy, strung out and on the move. This fall, there is no magic fishing method that shines or appears more effective than another; it’s all good and simply a matter of being at the right place at the right time. Keep in mind, steelhead are sparsely distributed so cover plenty of water. Fish thoroughly yet invest minimal time. Change it up, serve’em a variety of flavors fished in varied water columns and, most importantly, remain confident and feel the stoke for the opportunity. If fish are actively showing yet unreceptive, to nymphing or wet fly swinging, return later and target the upper water columns, even the surface, during peak air and water temperatures and when aquatics are most active. This approach has proved very effective; especially since water temps are mild and this year’s October caddis hatch, throughout the upper river, has been one of the best and longest durations I can remember. And fish are on’em, expressing great interest, accepting both skating and dead drifted patterns!

Steelhead Release

Ted Gallagher releases his second on a skater.

Effective fly patterns and selections are actually up to the angler and what they feel best compliments technique, waters fished and enforce confidence. The past few weeks a little bit of everything has been scoring however the following have been our go- to selections for traditional skating and wet fly swinging/drifting you might consider.

DRIESSteelhead Muddlers, Kit- Chuckie- Joe’s- It, Rusty Bomber, Greased Liner, Mr. Beam. (Sizes-4-6-8-10’s)

WETSBurlaps, Rusty Caddis Pupa, Breadcrust, Copper-tone Golden Stone-Rock Mr. Pimp, Ole-Blue,Fall Hilton-Silver Hilton-Renegade, (Sizes 6-8-10-12’s)

Switch-SpeyHobo, Rock, Burnt Chicken, Mr. Pimp Kit-Chuckie- Joe’s-It Fall Palm Skater. (Sizes 2-4-6-8)

Trinity River Release

Jan C. used to visit and fish with her grandpa, pre-dam Trinity R.-reconnecting roots in a steelie way. (1st. on the GRAB)

More wet weather is predicted for the upcoming weeks, snow levels dropping, that will more than likely put the kibosh to what has been happening; the beauty of steelheading, fish and conditions forever changing and success is inevitable often when least expected. Keep an eye on the next round of weather, rainfall amounts and river heights (www.trinityflyshop current river conditions). Within the next few weeks lead winter fish should be turning the corner and available throughout the lower TR system. If weather patterns remain dry and flows drop get on your horse and ride! Stay Tuned-Solid Grabs!!


Trinity Harvest Moon and Fire Sky are an unexpected angling highlight that makes you wish the day doesn’t end.

WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET (2017 TR Steelhead Runs)

Wading Trinity River

Many moods of fall steelheading- Washington angler Don Frogner in the mood with heavy anticipation

Steelhead release

Bruce admiring chrome perfection after a royal ass-kicking

Straight from the lineups, the past several weeks have reflected below average steelhead returns and many new TR anglers or unfamiliar with anadromous fish cycles are questioning — where’s the beef. Previous years, by October, solid steelhead runs were in and crunching. Harsh reality, the past is history so savior the memories. This is 2016 and obviously fish aren’t looking at the calendar. Those in question need to take a deep breath and accept, to date, what you see is what you get.

All anadromous fish are cyclic and survive, migrate and perpetuate when conditions and opportunities permit. Impacting factors and current conditions have been least favorable for all stocks for quite some time. To help better understand current TR salmon and steelhead returns take a few steps out of the lineups and dial in the big picture; what has occurred and and is currently happening with the Klamath and Trinity watersheds.

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STEELHEAD STUDIES (Great Reads for Fun & Success)

Trinity River Float

Sweet September- Misty morning commute

Often referred to as the ultimate fly fishing challenge, Steelhead have a way of captivating those who succumb to their legendary reputation and ability to kick ass; to some, from the very first encounter, becoming a lifelong addiction. Accepting the steelheading challenge is like a double edge sward, exciting yet at the same time daunting. “How do I learn to fish for steelhead,” is a question we often hear, especially throughout the fall-winter seasons. It has been our experiences there is no better way to learn and peruse steelhead than wader up string up and go fishing with a seasoned veteran steelheader or professional steelhead guide. On the water, hands-on experiences eliminate much of the guesswork and help you excel and develop the skills that are essential to become a successful steelhead angler.

The hands- on approach may not be so easy, or affordable. Another resourceful and proven recommendation to broaden the steelheading learning curve is fuel the brain with literature; READ, and as much as you can. Why read? Isn’t steelheading like any other catching, simply get in the boat and chase the float? Well, to number crunchers, yes. To many others, new and old school, steelhead and steelhead fishing supports far more meaning spirit and sport than simply catching. It is a passion or, as already mentioned, an addiction, a committed all but religious worship with rod in hand shared by many other fellow anglers from the same fraternity, the mystic, the seasons, gleaming chrome perfection, haunting unpredictable behaviors, the hidden intensity and confidence while stretching a line and dissecting waters in search of the “sweet spot”, a chance and opportunity to fish and wade God’s gift of some of the most beautiful and inspiring rivers in the universe.

While the literary approach many not sound exciting as wading into a prospective run, it is cost effective and there is a wealth of helpful literature available, written by devoted steelhead authors, willing to share their experiences, past and present, that is enjoyable, informative and equally rewarding to help get you started and closer to landing your first chromer. Learning about steelhead’s background, history, life cycle and their relationship and connection with rivers, ocean and nature, is fascinating and should be a standard prerequisite for any steelheader. Ultimately it helps to better understand their habits, migrations and ghostly behaviors that are vital and key to steelheading success. Knowledge gained nurtures the learning curve on and off the water; the more you learn the more you also develop a richness of deep appreciation, admiration and respect for how magnificent steelhead and their environments truly are.

The following handpicked books are great reads that have immensely helped my family friends and I better understand steelhead. Some are current, some are diamonds in the ruff; emerging every now and then and sure to benefit all level steelheaders. (Snagged on catching an oldie but goodie—Check out Adams Angling; info@adamsanglingbooks.com or many can be purchased at your local source: Trinity Fly Shop; trinityflyshop.com). Intrigued with one of nature’s finest and most elusive? Desiring to feel the sensation of a fresh chromer?
Fuel the brain and score what many only dream of.

Fly Fishing books

Steelhead History-Bio-How-When-Where
Ca-Steelhead-Klamath-Trinity Fishing—By Jim Freeman
May the Rivers Never Sleep—By Bill-John McMillan
Trout and Salmon—By Robert Benke
Salmon Reaching Home—By Tim Jay Brad Matsen
Steelhead Pale Ale—By Mad River Brewing Co.

Fly Fishing books

Steelheading Techniques & More
Dry line Steelhead—by Bill McMillan
A Steelheader’s Way—By Lani Waller
Steelhead Fly Fishing—By Trey Combs
Steelhead and the Floating Line—By Bob Arnold
Greased Line Fishing—By Jock Scott

Fly FIshing books

Steelhead Flies
Flies for Steelhead—By Dick Stewart-Farrow Allen
Classic Steelhead Flies—By John Shewey
Pacific Salmon Flies—By Cecilia Kleinkauf
Steelhead Flies—By Trey Combs

Fly Fishing books

Steelhead Classics
Bright Waters Bright Fish-Fisherman’s Spring-Summer-Fall
By Roderick L. Haig Brown
Anglers Coast—By Russ Chatham
Steelhead to a Flt—By Clark C. Van Fleet
Steelhead—By Claude Kreider

Fly Fishing books

Steelhead Periodicals
Ca Fly Fisher
Steelheading Journal
The Osperey
(DVD) Rivers of the Lost Coast

Fly Fishing books

Just Because You Should
I Know Bill Schaadt—By Ben Taylor
N. Umpqua River Edition—By (editor) Bob Wethers
Fly Fishing Gide to the Olympic Peninsula—By Doug Rose
Dan Callaghan’s North Umpqua—By Dan Callaghan

Straight from the local line-ups:
“Fly Only Waters” CLOSED (SEPT. 15) TO ALL FISHING (Re-open April 1, 2017)
Trinity River flows still up at a healthy 1,000cfs.. Higher flows have greatly improved water temps and both salmon and steelhead are beginning to make their move. Water temps in both the Lower Klamath and Trinity will dictate future flow reductions. Small pods of summer- fall chinook and steelhead are scattered, head to tail, with Junction City to North Fork receiving most attention. Louie-Louie Lk. is firing off for late season trout; cool temps inspiring lower lake fish to also make their fall migration into the narrows and providing good fun. Shorter days, cooling nights and fall colors are blending into a classic Indian summer. Step in with a smile and Get’em!

Fish release

Doug Noyes and Steelhead baptism release