Trinity Lake

Stunning beauty and one of California’s largest and finest fisheries – Trinity lake remarkably filled last winter.

Just when you thought there was a glimmer of warm sunny weather settling in and one last shot for late season TR steel, Ma Nature delivers another one-two punch series of frontal systems bringing more rain and snow (to 3000ft.). Is it spring, winter, where are we? Runoff and snow pack has fueled Trinity Lake capacities, exceeding 90 %, prompting water agencies to throttle the valve, jacking Trinity River flows to 1500cfs…Influenced with additional secondary runoff, the TR is currently high, turbid and unfishable. In fact recent chatter is more than likely the Trinity basin will be allocated an “Extreme” water yr.; translating TR high flows peaking above 10,000cfs. and remain high through the month of July (refer to TR flow chart).

Trinity River Flows

Okay, faithful TR anglers are down and out for a while but good things happen to those who wait. Who would have believed Trinity Lake (third largest lake in the state,145 miles of shoreline and depth of 2,370 ft.) would fill, in a single winter, recovering from a mere 16% capacity last fall. The past has revealed, when low lake capacities rise rapidly, runoff and exposed embankments contribute heavy sediments loads, creating turbid water qualities that can last months or, as in the case of 1997, over a year before clearing; ultimately affecting the entire watershed and fish stocks. Not so this year. Weather Gods delivered plenty of cold weather and snow that helped minimize runoff and turbidity. To date, Trinity Lake water qualities are remarkably clear, research and feedback indicate fish stocks appear healthy and increasing flows through Lewiston Lake and TR are purging sediments and setting the table for promising water qualities for upcoming seasons. Keep in mind, it is early April so don’t hold your breath, major spring runoff and flush is a blink away.

Like it or not, high waters are going to be with us for quite a while. So until flows subside the following are Trinity’s high water, go-to options, many of you are already well aware of. Number cruncher’s need not apply; these waters don’t produce boatloads. However those desiring time on the water, with a chance to tighten up, or simply need time out to slow the train down and enjoy Trinity’s unsurpassed beauty; come check’em out!


Oddly, I have a passion fishing a variety of less popular local fisheries that offer brief windows of opportunity, predictability and overshadowed by higher yield fisheries. Trumping numbers and less emphasis on catching, I enjoy the challenges, learning curve and heightened intensity level of fishing while targeting longshots and attempting to unravel their complexities; might have something to do with being a devoted steelheader or simply being old school.

Trinity Lake Trout – Nothing as sure as constant change, sensitive and moody conditions best describes Trinity’s trout and Boca (inlet/rivermouth) fishing. (Other than the North Fork –all streams are closed until the general Trout Opener-Sat. April 29 – Until the trout opener, anglers permitted to fish the level of the lake). Bottom line, these waters are either firing off or simply so stale you might believe there isn’t a fish around for miles. I, along with my brother Glenn and Kit Kreick, still have vivid memories of our good friend, Tom Weseloh, stepping in one of our favorite Bocas, with a #2 Pimp, and on his second cast hooking a slab, well over 7-8 lbs. that launched and cartwheeled several times before busting 10 lb. max tippit. Whew!

Trinity Lake

Unpredictable & seldom delivering aces TL Bocas offer unique challenges.

Retying his next cast produced a 5 lb. beauty that was unfortunately dwarfed by his eager first cousin. The rest of the day is better left to your imagination. No better way to help understand this fishery than devote time on the water. Even then, each and every year, seasons, weather patterns, stream conditions, lake levels and fish stocks are unpredictable at best. Might just be one of those rare quality fisheries that seldom deliver aces, like the sleeping giants (Jaws-Mavericks- Waimea), and best left to those, better to be lucky than good.


After last winter, nearly every Trinity nook-cranny has water; A healthy pre-runoff East Fork Stuarts Fork nurturing TL and its fisheries.

Trinity Lake Smallies – If you are an avid bass angler there is a silver lining. Solid reports have revealed TL bass populations were able to survive last year’s low lake levels/warm temps and pre-spawn fishery is on the verge of busing loose. The next warming trend should throw down the hammer for quality smallie action. Without a doubt, a boat pram or pontoon is essential; providing mobility that is key to covering a broad spectrum waters and helps keep the odds in your favor.

Bald Eagle

On the Hunt – one never tires of Natures beauty and wildlife.

(Beware: springtime rising lake levels creates major flotsam/debris drifts – use extreme boating caution). Limited bank access is available and can be productive around Squirrel, Chicken, Ballpark, Hayward flats as well as numerous rocky points and shelfs adjacent river and stream inlets. Spring fly patterns: #1/0-#4 jawbreakers, slump-busters and traditional eel/leech patterns in blacks, olives, and rust colors; mimicking freshwater lampreys and crawdads. Recommended fly lines: Multi-tip lines, for varied water columns, while clear camos are great go- to lines for intermediate level water compositions and structure fishing. Trinity smallmouth fishing is no gemmy. Rising lake levels combined with unsettled spring weather fishing becomes even more challenging; some of you thought TR steelhead fishing was tough. The state record small-mouth bass, 9lbs. 1 oz., was caught from Trinity Lake. Haunted by the possibilities of a new state record attracts many each and every spring to accept the challenges and enjoy the stunning beauty.

Where in the Hell is Grass Valley Lake

Grass Valley Lake

Nestled in a semi-wilderness, Grass Valley Lake from a birds’ eye view.

Those of you, traveling from the east, on HWY 299 west, pass by it entering Trinity County atop Buckhorn summit. Located just below the crest, west side of the summit, access is not well defined but rather a small pullout along the HWY, just above a “private” fenced gate (adjacent Restoration Billboard). Do not park in front of gate! A small trail heads down the hill adjacent to pullout, through a fence, and into a brief landing. Do not take road prior to storage buildings. We refer to this as the “road to hell” as it doesn’t lead anywhere near lake, as many have discovered. Anglers may approach both upper and lower lake by hiking along the rough network of roadways below storage sheds on the main road by gate. The lower lake (dam) is much easier to locate and may be reached by turning right, up a steep grade that drops back down into the lake (about a 45 minute hike). Access to the upper lake requires some research and knowledge of the terrain. Grass Valley Lake is a 40 acre plus wild trout managed fishery (artificial-barbless hooks) nestled in a wild and remote setting (refer map). The lake supports both resident trout and landlocked steelhead that average 9-14”. Its steep terrain limits bank access, therefore, floating devices, such as float tubes and lightweight pontoons are strongly recommended. Stripping/trolling buggers, crystal leeches (TFS’s Mr. Pimp) have proven effective almost anytime.
Aquatic populations include: caddis, mayflies (Callibaetis-Baetis), aquatic wasp, midge, and dragonflies; providing hatch matching surface and nymph options.

The lake requires a moderate hike on the wild side and is much more than a simple option. Open year round but fishes early spring through June, possibly mid-July this yr., and reboots in the fall. Need further info.-TFS -Your Local Source is only 15 minutes away!


Lewiston lake – Anglers demanding moving waters, Louie’s rich and fertile tailwaters just may be your option. Increased flows have improved conditions and clarity (3 ft. visibility). Next few weeks flows should stabilize, trigging fishing. The first generation of Callibaetis mayflies and Aquatic wasp (Hymenoptera) has already popped on the lower flats; yep fish were on them. Keep an eye out, the next heat up will activate second generations. Hymenoptera-never leave home without them! Expect varied conditions influenced by increasing flows by the end of April, peaking in early June. Once flows subside, Louie should fish all summer. Need effective local fly patterns, boat rentals or how-when-where info, or simply updated conditions and reliable fishing reports—You should know by now! Trinity Fly Shop – (530) 623-6757 – trinityflyshop.com – Your Local Source – for a Quality Trinity Experience!

Lewiston Lake

Hang’n On! Louie’s rich and fertile tailwaters = Slabs; Chris Burton’s tender touch prevails.