Golden Stones (For Shades of Steel)

Trinity Steelhead

Rusty late season native caught grazing on Golden Stone

One of the major highlights of late season steelheading on the Trinity River is the annual emergence and hatches of golden stones. The Trinity’s rich and fertile tailwaters are ideal for Golden stones. The upper 40 mile reach, Lewiston-North Fork, is heavily populated with a smaller golden stone – Skwala (size 8-10-12’s) while the mid to lower river supports mixed populations of both Skwala and larger golden stone varieties – Calineuria (size 4-6-8-10’s). Populations flourish throughout the system, available for months, and are key bread and butter; Trinity steelhead eagerly key in on both the nymph and adult stages and when available crush’em.

Golden Stones

Golden stone hanging with close cousins

Skwala Golden stone nymphs – live in riffles and steamy runs and migrates to softer waters-streamside edges to emerge. Without a doubt, the Skwala is the single most important golden stone to Trinity steelheaders because of their winter emergance time frames. Migrations begin as early as late January and generally peak March-April, during the height of TR winter steelhead runs. Nymph sizes range from size 6 to 12’s. Key features are two tails, approx. body length and support a golden olive/yellow body color. The nymph stage is generally favored and most productive when fished dead- drifted in riffles and glides. Steelhead, simply do not play by the rules, and will often slam a nymph on the lift or hang down, catching the unsuspecting angler off guard and trembling from a forceful yank that often times results in parted tippits. Favorite golden stone patterns are: Copper-tone stone—Tungsten golden stone-large Copper Johns-V-rib golden stone Burlap,-Golden Prince of Diamonds.

Golden Stone

Skwala and ever popular T-Bone

Skwala Golden stone adults – prefer streamside grassy, tree lined and brushy habitats. Key features; flat wings, elongated, low profile and yellow-dark olive body coloration. Mature females will also support dark olive-black egg sacks on their rear. Adult sizes range from #6 to 12’s. Unlike the golden stone nymph Skwala adults can generate unusually rare and even bizarre winter dry fly opportunities. The adults don’t fly much, stay hidden while maturing and, in most cases, available in sparse numbers. However, it doesn’t take many adults to get steelhead revved up. Rises, of steelhead actively feeding on drifting adults, varies from a loud, all but obnoxious toilet bowl flushing sound, to a sly, wide gaping mouth lifting from the depths and quietly inhaling the drifting adults. A keen eye or tentative ear can’t miss the action. Hatches and populations are greatly influenced by winter weather patterns. Generally, peak air and water temperatures are the witching hour for adult stone hatches. Overcast balmy conditions are optimum for triggering hatches as well as inspiring mature adults to perform their final egg laying stage on surface waters. When fish are up, target the rises. Spring Creek, downstream presentations, are strongly advised. Cast to the rise, lead your target two-three feet and extend your drift four to six feet past the danger zone. Steelhead will often follow and even circle under drifting adults, either toying with them or ensuring they are a live eatable, before finally accepting them.

Scott Frogner

Scott Frogner and steel success

If fish are sporadic or stubborn try incorporating the occasional twitch, during the drift, to mimic the adult crawl. Be for warned, steelhead love to target drowning adults so pay attention to the end of your drift as drag skates and pulls the fly underwater; 4x never seems to be strong enough to absorb the typical reaction. Blind dog finds meat; it is difficult to muscle up non-rising steelhead. However, mild windy conditions, blow adults into the river, offering some blind faith opportunities along tree lined banks and under overhanging structures. Fascinating to witness such a magnificent fish that has matured in the salt adapt, react and behave so trout-like in freshwater environments that are constantly changing; the beauty and mystic of steelhead. Dreaded, severe freezing temperatures simply retard and or kill adult hatches and dry fly opportunities. Favorite adult golden stone patterns are: T-Bone (a famous and most popular Trinity Fly Shop original representing a T-Bone steak), Mr. Beam, Olive Stimulator, Bullet (another Trinity Fly Shop original), Skwala Adult.

Steelhead release

Veteran north coast steelheader-Glen Stanley with a rare, Trinity River sea-run lock-level that flushed a T-Bone

The golden stone has become a favorite year round aquatic and go to fly, nymph or adult, for most Trinity steelheaders. Rightfully so, fish devour them. Nymphing with a golden stone is likely to yield greater numbers of steelhead day in and day out. However, when Skwala adults are on the water, steelhead fishing jacks to a higher level. Experiencing the tight line eruption, of a feeding steelhead inhaling your dry fly, is the ultimate accomplishment that easily overshadows number crunching and, in my case, is a rare addiction that has strung me out for over 30 years. Oh-Dem Stones!!!

Catch & Release

I’m outta here, wash tub release