WHO STOPPED THE RAIN (When the going gets tough, the tough?)

Trinity River
Spiritual Steelhead Sunrise.

It’s been a while since my last blog and I have taken some heat from those who have brought it to my attention. My apologies, haven’t forgot about you, needed some long overdue time out to share the love of the family and recharge the batteries.

GB-Lower River Chrome
still happening.

Weather wise not much has changed in the past six weeks with the exception of a spit of rain and dusting of snow; freezing mornings and cool daytime temperatures. As a result from a persistent prolonged high pressure most all Ca. steelhead rivers are low, clear, cold and challenging. How many years has it been since we have witnessed coastal systems bottoming out, low water conditions, during the height of the winter steelhead season?

The Trinity is no different and looks like a tempting gin and tonic and is still supporting strong numbers of steelhead, runbacks and fresh traditional native winter adults, scattered head to tail. However conditions are sensitive and fish are very spooky. Rain and warming weather would most definitely kick action into full throttle. Until it arrives bring you’re a-game, favorite fly selections and wouldn’t hurt to throw in a rabbits foot. I jumped right back into my guide mode and if you think steelhead fishing has been any easier for us, the following is just a taste of last week’s labor of love.

Bottoms Up

Brown Trout
Jenny Hartwick & dry fly Loch leven.

After a couple successful days fishing the upper river I thought it would be a great change of pace to target the lower Trinity and introduce fish my good friends and clients to spey casting and fishing big water. The lower Trinity was 3300cfs. and clear; rare for this time of year as it generally is raging, 15000-30000cfs and simply out of the question. The thought of spey casting and the haunt of bright lower river chromers enforced the 11/2 hr. drive and prompted us to leave at o-dark thirty to be in the line-up at first light. Big water steelheading can be intimidating, especially for those who had just fished two days of 300cfs. in the upper river. Learning how to spey cast can also be intimating, especially for those who had just fished two days with lightweight rods and dry flies. After a few hours of casting and targeting the soft edges with blind faith we all decided to take a breather. Scotty commented how fun spey casting is and how much more demanding it is then single hand casting. The idea of giving the arm a rest and not forcing the issue was the determining factor for another option. Besides there was still time to target some favorite, more intimate waters, up river with lightweight sticks and dry flies. We bolted back up river, hooked up the raft; I rowed 2 miles and was in prime dry fly water just as the duns began to emerge. The long and short of the day; had a good time learning how to spey cast, released one/ rose one, invested 3 hrs. of driving, fished top to bottom,, sun up to sun down, before realizing we devoted 12 hrs. for the love and passion of steelheading.

Should have been here yesterday

Trinity River Steelhead
Golden stone & hungry counterpart.

My good friend and client, Don, was down from Washington for his annual steelhead trip. After a successful day of steelhead and brown trout fishing we both agreed it would be fun to revisit and fish Lewiston Lake. The lake had been firing off, our expectations were high. We arrived that morning, the lake low, clear and calm with the exception of faint surface rises from actively feeding trout keyed on the midge hatches. Stoked and ready to rock, we suited/geared up, strategies set and I quickly positioned the boat just off the edge of a large roaming pod of surface feeders. Plenty of heads and tail action, we both were feeling it, until a blaring ear piercing siren sounded off echoing down the entire upper lake. Seconds later, a tidal wave of water surged from the Dam. The Bureau throttled water through the auxiliary release, a side chute that looks like massive waterfalls. What the hell? Thank God we weren’t fishing the channel by the release! Within a matter of seconds, flows increased, waters muddied and fish disappeared. Someone let the air out of the balloon, out hopes withered. Why? The eternal optimist, I jammed down the lake in an attempt to target lower waters before the muddy surge hit. We managed to hook a half dozen nice trout dredging leeches and seemed to have found out comfort zone. Not, it was short lived. About the time the increased flows reached us a serious south wind began to howl, transforming the entire lake into a whipped froth. Against the darken sky, 2-3 ft. whitecaps, representing the teeth of the lake, sprayed across the gunnels and bow. Windswept, the boat lifted, rocked and swayed like a bobber in a whirlpool. Fly fish, no way, no more. We both agreed to tuck tail and haul ass for safety. Strange day, someone saw us coming. Never the less, we salvaged the day fishing through a mess, boated in safely and scored good fun and success.

Sunday Social

For years I have always preached Sundays are generally a very good time to target the Trinity. Visiting anglers fish Friday afternoons and then do a full on Saturday fish out. Successful anglers generally fish early Sunday, then blaze, while those holding their bottom cheeks high tail it over the hill for a number-crunching confidence builder. What would we do without the lower Sac? A long awaited warming trend activated the first predictable dry fly action of the year and I was jacked for my Sunday guide trip, until I pulled into the boat launch. To my surprise, a couple of empty trailers indicated a couple boats launched earlier, while two more were prepping for the same drift. No big whoop. I’ll take my time, let it warm and come in behind everyone late. I suited, prepped the raft and sat on my tailgate, enjoyed my breakfast and waited for the two boats to castoff. The mellowing sun and warmth was soothing. I reflected back, prior to the developed boat lunch, remembering the days when I had to personally cut through the dense vegetation with shears and machete to gain access and launch; the good old days, when the entire Trinity experience was pure and fishing unmolested. The chatter and clang of yet another drift boat arriving disrupted my early morning reflections. Ok, still doable I thought, until another boat arrived and then another. Two boats already drifting, two waiting, I’m waiting and three more, totaling eight (8) boats, doing the same drift? What happened to Sundays? Doors flew open, anglers jumped out, stereos sounded and guides began barking out detailed orders while jockeying for launch position. Total chaos, I questioned why would a fleet drift the same waters? Must be “the hot spot,” I thought to myself. Then the unimaginable, two more boats arrived. It was beyond unimaginable; I started laughing and thought the whole scene was hilarious. Kind of looked like a mega boat expo or regatta; everyone line up and start your engines. One of the guides, a close personal friend, took note of me waiting and came up and politely apologized; which I thought was really cool and typical of his demeanor, a genuine smooth operator. I mentioned, “no worries, I’ve never witnessed this many boats on the Trinity, or at any launch site, and thought it was exciting to experience. I did ask,” what is the proper protocol when drifting, pass on the left or right?” He laughed as he and two others drove off opting for another drift. Squeezing in the lineup, I launched my raft and returned two hours later. Remarkable, the boat launch was vacant, the way I remembered Sundays. Although, all day long, I could swear I could hear the stroke of their oars just around the bend, my clients never saw another boat, another fisherman and had a very memorable and, most remarkably, successful dry fly fishing day.

When the going gets tough, the tough, well you take it from here. However, keep in mind, during sensitive or extreme conditions, rewards are just that much sweeter. See ya on the water; and bring rain!!!

Fish On!