Little Slice of Low Water Advice (they’re bashful but catchable)

Fly Fishing bliss
How could you not enjoy fishing Steelhead waters?

Gin’n tonic best describes current Trinity River low water flows and clarity. And many of you already know the next chapter of how this affects salmon-steelhead fishing. River flows are scheduled to drop again, October 18, from 450cfs. to 300cfs. and with little rain forecasted for the near future it appears these conditions may be around for some time.

Trinity River
The toilet bowel flush – A forever lasting
memory that becomes deeply embeded.

So how does one deal with low flows and sensitive conditions? Piss, moan and whine or buck up and deal with it. Easy, no room for buzz killers—it’s the 2012 steelhead season man! Stoke is in the air, flourishing fall colors are coming on, fellow friendships are being rekindled, new equipment and flies are being tested, promising waters are waiting to be fished and strong numbers of fish are already scattered throughout the system. The table is set for those eager and willing.

Trinity Steelead
Reflections of Steel.

No doubt low water steelheading is demanding. To better understand how these conditions impact their behavior, consider the complex life cycle of a steelhead. As a rearing juvenile they feed with reckless abandonment, migrate miles to the ocean, transform body chemistry, from fresh to salt, and accept an entirely new diet while maturing and eluding predators in one of the world’s largest rearing ponds (Pacific). Returning mature steelhead, again, transform body chemistry and adapt to freshwater environments and devote every effort, navigating miles of complex water compositions while eluding predators, returning to their natal rivers to perform their ultimate goal; spawn to perpetuate future stocks. In other words it’s not about feeding and crushing your fly. Steelhead are remarkably honed, instinctive creatures that respond and make every attempt to adapt with current environmental changes. Whether it is ravaged aggression or prolonged lock-jaw, steelhead are unpredictable at best; you either love-em or hate’em.

Here are a few hints of advice that have helped me during low water periods.

If It Feels Good Do It – Its mid-October and the time of year is right. Forget all the staggering weir counts and raw reports, if you’re feeling lucky and eager than go for it. Sure they may not come easy, no steelhead does. All it takes is a few at the right time and right place.

Trinity River
The beauty and complexities of a
Steelhead’s journey.

Blinded by the Light – Keep in mind current conditions. If sunny conditions persist definitely take advantage of early mornings/late evenings. Mid-day fishing target west bank shadows and shy away from waters receiving direct sunlight. (Try staring into the direct sunlight for hours and see if you like it, let alone able to even see a fly). Earth tone clothing/gear is strongly recommended, especially during sunny conditions and blends well with your surrounds. During low water conditions take every advantage of overcast and low lighting conditions. Fish tend to be a bit more forgiving and express a willingness to move.

Size Matters – Reduce fly sizes. Big is not always better, although I always attempt to go big or go home. Traditional flies for swinging drop from2- 4-6’s down to size 8-10 and even 12’s depending upon water compositions. Even though skaters ride high and in the film, low waters tend to magnify them. They too should drop in size, often down to sizes 10-12’s. Straight line nymphers sometimes drop to 16-18 -20’s as it may seem appropriate. Unfortunately they often learn these hooks are not made to handle a tiger by the tail. Lengthen leaders to compliment water compositions. My 10 ft. leaders graduate to 12-ft. and tippits drop from a general 8-10 lb. down to 4-6 lb. test. Loosen drags accordingly, lift easy and let’em run.

Each & everyone are special. Most people’s
smallest Steelie is their largest Rainbow Trout.

Don’t Worry Be Happy – Low water, high water, clear, muddy, warm, cold, tons of fish, no fish, no matter where you are steelheading is what it is and timing is everything. Even though low water currently persists the good news is a solid run of steelhead is already well distributed throughout the Trinity. For those in question, it could be a lot worse. I’ve been around long enough to unfortunately witness the worst of both, no water and no fish. You think fishing is tough now? Steelheading is not all about catching and it is for certain, you don’t stand a chance of catching one, if you don’t go. You know where I’ll be the next several months. All the best for solid grabs and shades of steel!