POOR MAN’S NEW ZEALAND (Last Chance for Winter Steel?)


Nikki Steegan has every right to holler’n shout-Catching/releasing her first steelhead on a fly, with the guidance of Darren Victorine

This post comes much too late however sometimes you just have to slow the train down, take some time off to enjoy the ride and reboot.

Straight From the Lineups

Fish On!

It ain’t over till it’s over according to Mike Morris and tight line counterpart

Trinity River

March madness recently delivered a one-two punch that belted NorCal with much needed rain and snow. The latest round of weather was one of this winter’s strongest storms and helped replenish a dismal snow pack in the Trinity Alps (30%) and refueled the Trinity River; activating late season steelhead movements, bug hatches and firing up fishing and anglers.

Prior to the recent round of wet weather, the TR above the South Fork was gin clear and boney, bare minimum flows in secondary tribs , as low as it gets during the winter. Yet, anglers who stuck with it scored a few half-pounders and occasional adults, fresh and rebounders. Beginning of the end? Amazing what a freshet can do. The recent surge of h20 was a major game changer and inspired a new, unexpected shift of late winter native adults and half-pounders, to burp up from the lower canyons and shift gears through the upper reach, Junction to Lewiston. Well folks, ain’t over till it’s over!

Steelhead release

Regardless time of yr. Washington Angler, Don Frogner, always manages to have a great time while getting it done

Water temps are back up, river reflecting a hint of color, and new arrivals are bending a few rods. Traditional swing/nymphing with smaller (#8-10-12) Golden stones, Pimps, Rocks and Breadcrust, along with longer leaders (10’) and lighter tippits ( 2-3X) have been effective while straight liners have been scoring on small (#12-14-16) Golden stones, Psychos, Prince Diamonds and mayfly trinkets, Robos, Psychos, Flashback Pheasant tails and Cream dreams suspended on 4-5X using a tender touch.

Aquatic insects

Up close and fertile, just a sample- TR supports a broad spectrum of aquatic insects

Most exciting and a major TR late season highlight is the current mid-day aquatic bugs hatching and inspiring adult and half-pound steelhead to selectively feed on the surface; creating rare opportunities what many refer to as the ultimate accomplishment—Steehead on dry flies. This event doesn’t happen often, however when conditions gel, time of year, prolonged low stable flows, mild air-water temps combined with Trinity’s rich/fertile tailwaters, mayfly generations (Baetis #16-18 Blue Wing Olives—Callibaetis #12-14 Speckled Wing Quill Infrequens #14-16 Pale Morning Dun-*Keep in mind fish do not speak Latin- names for reference only) hatch and activate surface feeding activity. Current startups (hatches) are generally 12:00 to 3:00 with a one-two hr. peak. It gets better! If overnight temps remain mild-balmy, a bonus hatch of a much larger tasty morsel, (Calineuria #8-10 Golden Stonefly), migrate to rivers edge, metamorphous into winged adults, crawl or fly, taking refuge in the woody streamside vegetation.

Hatch Match

Speckle Wing Quill (Callibaetis inhabit slow silty habitats) and key bread and butter throughout the upper reach TR..

Adults mature and mate before dropping in the river, to deposit their eggs, generally late afternoons when daytime temperatures peak. Past experiences have proved steelhead love big drifting Calineuria T-bone steaks and often move feet to pounce and inhale. Anglers fortunate to witness an afternoon Calineuria bone drop, will attest, it is an unforgettable hair rising experience, casting big dries to 3-8 lb. keyed targets crunching, sounding like a high volume toilet-bowel flush, while inhaling the drifting hors d’oeuvres.

Dry fly eye

Winter dry fly fishing can throw your timing off, as in this case can also be dicey. No worry-fly was removed, duck tape applied and angler limped back into the lineup.

How long bugs will pop and fresh fish arrive is anyone’s guess. Before anyone slams the door, keep in mind, the positive effects of our last freshet, fish don’t go by the calendar and another round of wet weather is forecasted for the upcoming week.

Lewiston Lake

Been “on” with quality midge and lead edge of Callibaetis hatches with the blessings of overcast moist balmy weather. With the lack of rains and water releases from Trinity Lake, water clarity reflects a gin-tonic; fish spooky. Pods are staging and feeding around incoming freshets, lower flats as well as the channel waters above Lakeview Terrance. Overcast rainy weather is most desirable and dictates hatch and feeding activity. Plan trips accordingly.

Trinity Lake

Brown Trout

Gabe Garcia and bonus winter dry fly brown

Intercepting tributaries (North-East Forks-Swift-Stuarts) attracting trout off the rivermouths. Kit Kreick recently stopped by with a solid report of Callibaetis hatching off his favorite Trinity tributary and plenty fish on them. Bass fishing has had a few perks however warm weather is needed to heat up pre-spawn action. Lake is at 76%, very clear and on the rise. Wind has been an issue, boaters use caution.

Seasons of change are a personal favorite. Winter slowly exiting; spring pounding at the front door and local fisheries unsettled, reflecting little predictability, like the transitioning seasons themselves. In other words, whether you like the fishing or not, tomorrow will be totally different.— Fish for today and enjoy!!!

hungry colorful
late season native that couldn’t resist a dead-driftrd #14 Punk-Rocker dry fly (Pat Burton original)

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