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Challenging Currents (2019-Hopes, Dreams, Opportunities & Fresh Arrivals)

Hey Honey-Its Feb, height of Steelhead Season, I’m calling in sick tomorrow and don’t hold dinner!

After closing the 2018 books Pat and I took a month off for some quality family time and long needed R&R. To put it mildly, last year the cookie didn’t crumble our way. The Carr fire was too close for comfort. Locking our house, TFS and evacuating, Pat and I thought the Carr might be the “one.” Just when you thought, some close friends passed away; a rough year for many. Our friends left us with great memories and luckily we survived the deadliest and most destructive fire season in California. We are fortunate and count our blessings.

Photo #1: Tim Regan-Bukanza
Photo #2: Mark Noble-Greased Line
Photo #3: Norm Christensen-North Coast

Hard to believe it is early Feb. and in the heat of the 2018-2019 steelhead runs. How time flies while having fun chasing steel. Each and every steelhead season is a new chapter in a new edition; never know what Ma Nature is going to deliver. The 2018-2019 TR runs have spawned mixed reviews; some good, some great, and the raw, whiners should to keep to themselves. Our take, other than the lower Klamath stealing the fall limelight, 2018-2019 have not really been bang-up years on any west coast steelhead river. Seems to be pretty much straight across the board—Hook a slab, consider yourself lucky.

Lewiston Lake supports steelhead-sized bows that are much more than an option to a blown steelhead river.

Why is anyone’s guess? Keep in mind, current steelhead numbers are largely related to ocean and instream conditions years ago as well as harvest and predation impacts. The greater majority of TR adults returning this year represent (2-3 yr.) stocks after the five year drought (2011-2017) that severely impacted west coast watersheds and all anadromous fish stocks. What may be a positive glimmer, a surprisingly high number of half-pounders, as well as jack salmon, returned this year in a number of rivers. The high percentage of smaller fish may very well represent quality conditions and rebounding stocks for 2019-2020.

Sure, years past, the TR has produced larger returns. Most any long term TR steelheader remembers the mid-90’s mega hatchery saturation that put the TR on the cover of every angling periodical and website and most anyone that could hold a rod or say fish caught fish. Unfortunately excessive returning hatchery stocks, including hymerfidates that baffled hatchery technicians, negatively impacted “native” stocks. The past clearly demonstrated, in the case for successfully managing native stocks, more was not better and also large returns attract large numbers of anglers, creating increased pressure on both river and fish; many would agree, diminishing steelheading experiences. On the other hand, we’ve also experienced extremely low returns. Referencing 1983 personal log books, oddly we never caught or recorded what I would consider a “true” (3’bs.-larger) TR adult steelhead the entire fall-winter; a vicious cycle that produced few native or hatchery adults.  And some of you think this season is challenging?

Low numbers, high numbers, who really gives a shit? It only takes one at the right place at the right time. Steelheading is about opportunity and fun!  And since mid-August, past five months, the TR continues to serve up intermittent pulses of fall-winter runs and provide fun quality steelheading; beauty, challenging fishing, minimal pressure and enough opportunities to keep many guessing or grinning forever. Want Fun – Get Out There!!!

Kurt Reichermeier has every reason to smile after landing this TR winter native.

SPARSE SERVINGS (Scratching for Tidal Chinook)

Glenn Burton glass stretching and feel’n it.

It was after losing a shooting head to a coastal slab having his way with me, I got bit hard last year fly fishing for north coast chinook. My first outing I was lucky to hook up, feel the surging power, and not so lucky, as I realized my situation raced from bad to worse. My 8 wt. Bad Ass Glass was far from bad, lacked bone, and under gunned proved a big mistake that led to getting towed around, in a six ft. dingy, by the chrome culprit that ultimately snatched my fly line. As my Grandson would say, “I learned the hard way.” Rookie moves haunted me and after nearly a year of a wounded ego, I could not wait for 2018 and the opportunity for some coastal revenge.

Another day in paradise, Motley Crew

Since my first encounter, fly fishing north coast chinook has evolved into a personal bucket list challenge. The lure of coastal giants fresh from the salt, dramatic coastal beauty, smell of salt air, towering redwoods, anchored- up casting shooting-heads and probing the depths, the strange acclimation to the sounds of breakers along the coast in one ear and hearing a distant riffle in the other and reflecting the era of those fortunate to have pioneered the Lost Coast fisheries, all blend to enhance the hype and desire. Nobody said it would be easy yet my friends and I are fortunate longtime north coast angler, Glen Stanley, has helped us cultivate a better understanding of tides, conditions, and overall coastal fisheries. His direction and positive advice, “only a tide away from a fresh rack,” is invaluable and without his knowledge and willingness to share, chances are, we would be lost bloodhounds.


Glen Stanley dredging in light and shadows.

My 2018 guiding year ended early November and Glen and I had already locked into a week’s reservations for the north coast; gear prepped, flies tied- inventoried and jacked to the hilt, this year my brother Glenn, number two, was joining us. Time off, salmon adrenalin flowing and possibilities of sweet revenge, everything appeared perfect except one minor detail; somebody forgot to turn on the faucet. An abnormally dry fall and little to no rainfall equated no flows no rivers and low flow closures were in effect on all north coast rivers; odd for November. Tidewaters were an option, rain was forecasted and, as agreed, one missing element was not going to ruin the party; we remained positive.

Who’s got who-Hanging on and learning the hard way. GS Photo

As it turned out rain forecasts were a myth and unseasonably mild beautiful weather dominated. We knew it would be a royal longshot however; the limited waters we targeted appeared inviting and promising. Despite our efforts, investing five days of solid fishing, nobody got bit. We did witness a few salmon; unfortunately all being chomped and devoured by the local seal colony. Regardless our time on the water was a great learning curve and we enjoyed quality time together. As I’ve preached, if I based a good time solely upon a tally of fish caught I would have quite fishing years ago.

Here today, gone tomorrow. Regardless how could anyone not have a good time here, Drift prep. GS Photo

Weeks later, Thanksgiving, a series of fronts brought significant rainfall, refueling coastal rivers and Glen took advantage of the new pulse; fishing two days strangely without a touch. Here today, gone tomorrow? Despite less than encouraging reports, a week later, coastal river flows dropped and held to what we thought would be primo. With the hope of fresh arrivals, Kit and I bolted north for a few days; surprisingly scratching zeros. Wrong place, wrong time? I thought steelhead were the ultimate challenge. 2018 north coast salmon runs eluded many. Chalk it up to the mystic and unpredictability of anadromous fish and their environments. The question remains, are coastal salmon runs over? Or, are they abnormally late as a result from the dry fall weather pattern? The answer is anyone’s guess and no better way to find out than to commit and get on your horse and ride with the next wet weather patterns. I did forget to mention, earlier a coastal river delivered a beast, weighing in just less than 65 lbs., if that might be a trip breaker.

Xmas ornament colors often appeal to coastal slabs.

Locally, recent rains added a touch of juice and color to the TR main stem and were just what the doc ordered to raise water temps and activate fish movements. A mix of both hatchery and native fall fish are scattered throughout the system with the bulk currently filtering thru North Fork, JC and Douglas City. Additional storms are forecasted for upcoming weeks and rains should inspire traditional winter stocks into the system and secondaries.. Keep in mind winter weather plays a major role in river conditions. Traveling anglers might consider including a floating devise (boat- pram- pontoon- float tube) for Lewiston and Trinity Lakes. Both generally withstand harsh weather patterns (in the event the river blows), within easy striking distance and often prove to be much more than winter options. Thank You for Your Loyal Support & Best Fishes for 2019!!!

SWEET SEPTEMBER (Twitch- Twitch)

2018 is one of the worst fire seasons on record. No better way to find your stride than immersing yourself in shattered mirrors—Darrin Victorine liquid chrome searching.

Sweet September, it’s cool evenings and warm mellowing days, is a personal favorite time of year that tends to broadcast a contagious hype and restlessness as the seasonal fall transition becomes ever present. Since the beginning of the month Pat and I have experienced an added spring in our step and for good reason; the Carr fire is 100% contained, smoke and air qualities continue to improve, HWY 299 West is open, days are shorter, air/water temps are dropping and fresh-run coastal chrome is entering lower systems; highlighting what may be a hint of normality returning to our lives.

All smiles, Sandy Noyes doing what she loves to do best, fly fish the Trinity River and cash in

Like a major holiday celebration, each and every steelhead season is special. As we prepare for the upcoming fishing seasons, a severe case of “steelhead twitch” has infected all of us. Tending daily chores and maintaining rhythms have been a bit of a challenge as we occasionally lose focus dreaming about fresh arrivals and the possibilities of a few with our flies embedded in their maxillaries. Regardless how many years you have fished or guided steelhead, when they are in, one never remedies the twitch. Although spending as much time on the water as your lifestyle permits helps. If it isn’t in the cards call (530)-623-6757 or e-mail: for solid grab suggestions, reliable on-the-water steelheading updates and technique/fly selection counseling or to simply share the stoke!

We have also been pumped restocking and inventorying TFS with new quality goods and merchandise to better serve you and your friends. We have expanded our fly selections with new deadly and locally fashioned steelhead flies (Wets-Dries-Skaters-Nymphs); guaranteed not online. We’ve also expanded our fly tying materials, (including hard to get bad-ass salmon/steelhead fluorescent rooster necks & broaden Gamakatsu-TMC-Daiichi hook selections), books (great new/old steelhead reads), soft wears and exciting gift items. Remember, we’ve invested 35 yrs. as your destination Trinity Fly Shop; we know your fishing needs. Besides our flies taste better!!!

Unexpected smoke obscured trophy hunkering riverside—SHHHH—its open season!

750 cfs seems to be the magic TR flows for now and has been since the Carr fire impacting Whiskeytown powerhouse. For how long is anyone’s guess. Higher flows have dropped water temps in both the lower Klamath and Trinity rivers and fresh salmon-steelhead have been on the move in both systems for weeks. A recent excursion to the lower TR gorge produced bulk half-pounder activity that provided exciting skating and greased lining favorite patterns. Chrome small-giants, days from salt and many never seen a fly. Did I mention smoke’n hot? Was encouraged witnessing firsthand the lead edge on the move and grabby. Staging spring chinook, throughout the mid-sections of the TR up to Lewiston, have matured and are beginning to show interest in riffles and tailouts for spawning. Scattered summer steelhead pods are also beginning to make their move, from the cool deep water pools, seeking riffles, pocketwaters as well as sniffing mature adult salmon; stay tuned-egg hatch soon. Most hard working anglers are scoring about a fish, adults averaging 3-6 lbs., per outing swinging a variety of favorite standbys (low water Hiltons-Green butt skunks-Burlaps-Chappies). We have experienced best success swinging and skating (small Bombers, Palm skaters, Kit-Chuckie-Joes-its and Muddlers) early and late.

Early season fresh arrivals are seldom particular; find them, tie on any favorite color and stick your finger in the light socket.

To date, with the exception of the lower gorge, there really doesn’t seem to be any major fish concentrations, steelhead are scattered head to tail (Douglas City- down). Keep the odds in your favor, stay on the move, what looks good- fish it, notice activity and no takers-return later. Most importantly have fun and maintain confidence. Mid-day fishing has been tough, sun bleached waters and temps are still climbing above 90 degrees. West bank shadows and favorite ice cold hops are key should you decide to grunt thru it.

September 22 (Sat), 9:00am is 2018 Trinity River Clean-Up sponsored by the US Forest Service and Cal Trans; after cleanup (3:00pm) a free BBQ at Pigeon Point. A great opportunity and user friendly for guides to give back, policing river/banks while floating clients. Anyone going to be in the area and would like to contribute contact: Weaverville ranger Station: (530) 623-2121 or Amelia Fleitz at For the love of fish & the Trinity River!

There are never enough steelheading opportunities in anyone’s lifetime—Be good to yourself— Do It!

Absolutely nothing wrong with down and dirty. However, the visual and sound of a steelhead crushing your skater is life changing; Double dare Ya.

CARR FIRE (Sleepless Nights-Restless Days)

Sky Cranes, provide major air defense against the in the Carr fire

We are OK and thankfully not a single home burned in Lewiston. We count our blessings and also thank our friends and customers who reached out and expressed their concerns and generosity. Your thoughts and friendship helped us through some very challenging times.

Hodley Cr. north front line Trinity County with Bay area fire engines used for suppression; hard to wrap your head around, the southern tip of Carr fire has burned almost to north Anderson (SW Igo) and is still active

Our hearts and prayers go out to all of those who suffered losses during the Carr fire. There are not enough words to describe how grateful we are for all the fireman and law enforcement that protected the Lewiston community and kept us safe from harm’s way. WE THANK YOU!!!

These have been tragic times and while the Carr fire is still active, it appears the worst may be over. The healing process will take time but I truly believe Redding, and surrounding communities impacted, will rebound better than ever before. And, as we reestablish our lives, together we will gain strength, progress in positive directions and strive to prosper because it is who we are.

The Carr fire erupts, as a crow flies only two miles away from TFS, burning county line ridges

Evacuations in Lewiston were lifted and the Trinity Fly Shop has reopened and back in full operations. Those planning to visit Trinity County to visit Trinity County should be aware HWY299 WEST has reopened, subject to change, ( Noon to 1:30 pm and 6:00 pm to 5:00 am) to regulated single lane traffic. Three alternate routes to Trinity County: (1) HWY36 Red Bluff-Hayfork HWY3-HWY299W (junction Douglas City). (2) I-5 north-Ft. Jones HWY3-HWY299W. (Over Scott Mtn. around Trinity Lake or access the Gazelle cut across to Callahan HWY3). (3) HWY 101 Arcata-HWY299W. Also keep in mind air quality. South-southwest/east winds visibility is poor and air quality unhealthy for outdoor activities. North-northwest/east winds visibility and air quality improves dramatically.

Lewiston locals seeking refuge

The Trinity River is currently flowing 750cfs. (up from 450 cfs.). Increased flows have dropped water temperatures and helped scour undesirable algae blooms. Before the fires, impressive numbers of summer chinook and steelhead were filtering through the system. Ditto off shore salmon reports along the north coast; indications of a promising fall season are brewing. It is mid-August, height of the fire season, use sound judgment and be fire safe. Let’s get through this together!

South-southwest/east winds influence orange sunshine and poor unhealthy air qualities in TC

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