WHO-WHAT-WHEN-WHERE & WHY (TR Fall Steelhead Status)

“Native Beauty”- Glen Stanley catch/photo

Oregon steelheader, Chad Marshall, stepped out of the box and skated up this beautiful native hen.

There seems to be a lot of mixed steelheading chatter going around this fall from anglers and surprisingly a few guides indicating the TR has not produced up their expectations. Is a river supposed to consistently produce? Are steelhead created to bite “your” fly? Does level of accomplishment, luck or timing have anything to do with fishing success? Has anyone ever smelled a skunk or add a goose egg to the collection? Granted, to date, the 2018 steelhead numbers are down and the past couple months of zero rainfall and boney low flows have not been the most favorable conditions for fish and fisherman. Yet TR steelhead opportunities are available and have brought smiles to many. So why sour grapes?

Exercising Fall Trinity options, Andy Laursen has every reason to smile.

Mike Callan does what Mike Callan loves.

Over the years, it has been our experience tough conditions and fishing tends to bring out the best and worst. The best, those who get it, understand rewards are sweeter when conditions and fishing are challenging therefore willing to accept and appreciate what is served, go the extra mile, invest additional time and effort to do whatever it takes to score while enjoying the pursuit and quality time on the water. The worst, fortunately a minority, blinded by high yield, unrealistic expectations and simply naïve. The legendary Pacific Steelhead is often referred to by many as the ultimate challenge and anyone who feels they can select a day or two on the calendar and annually score needs to have their head examined.

Following suit, Conner Laursen with one of many healthy- hefties.

How do I feel about 2018 fall runs? Based upon the past three months guiding and shop feedback, it has been pretty much a typical bitter sweet steelhead season with an added touch of weirdness. Typical in that anglers fortunate to be at the right place at the right time scored. Weird because unseasonably high flows, 750-800cfs. ( Carr Powerhouse impacted) late July thru mid-Sept., activated early (August) promising returns, catching the greater majority by surprise. The lead edge led many believing above average TR runs were consistent with neighboring Klamath River that fired early as well. Mid-Sept. flows were throttled down and by October reduced to 300cfs.; oddly fish numbers, movements and fishing slowed. Chinook returns appeared promising however their numbers dropped as well. Coho, all but nonexistent? Drought like conditions settled in for the past two months, TR secondaries have all but dried up, water temperatures continue to drop (hovering 41-44 degrees) fish movements continue to slow yet a few steelhead are willing to grab; go figure.

Dark shadows are often great go- to waters when fish are bashful – low flows. Ashland angler, Bill Morrish, taking advantage and he did, as usual score.

Bottom line we need rain badly to snuff the fire season and the TR needs rain to refuel secondaries, raise water temps and reboot fish movements. On most everyone’s mind, difficult to wrap you head around potential impacts, major sediments and ash infiltration into the Trinity watershed, as a result of the Carr fire; time will tell. There have been some positive reports fish are locked up in lower canyons, Pecwan (Klamath) and Weitchpec, Burnt Ranch (Trinity). It is still early and TR traditional late fall-winter stocks should begin to make their move with the next freshet. Be ready to get with it, whiners stay home!!! Enjoy the HolidaysSolid Grabs!!!

Joe Powers testing hoop strength and thumbs up. Guide D. Victorine photo

GONE TOMORROW- HERE TODAY (Reflections-Directions-Transitions)

Each & every steelhead season brings out the very best, Ken Oda power-thrusting.

Steelhead are never easy and live up to the “fish of a thousand casts” however when plugged in — Oh What A Feel’n!

For what it may be worth and if my math is correct, October 2018 registers as my 36th. year commercial guiding the Trinity River. Wow, all I can say is time waits for no one and in our case has zoomed by like am arm- wrenching grab parting 1X. What an incredible experience and lifestyle filled with countless memories of all sorts; I vividly remember my very first guided trip like it was yesterday. Time out, slowing the train down and taking a moment to reflect, in the beginning (1982), Trinity River flows were a mere 150 cfs. (Normal year allocation).

New season-new arrivals-GB with new smiles.

The TR (above the South Fork) was open last Sat in May through Feb 28 (29), fish limits were five (5) salmon-steelhead-trout combo per day and “native” fish management and barbless hook restrictions were not even close to being on the table. I was the only Lewiston state licensed TR guide and there were no DFG guide log book requirements.

Isonychia mayflies hatch Sept./low lighting conditions throughout mid-lower TR. Match the hatch-Tie on a Silver Hilton and score!

Also there were no developed boat launches (literally backed thru the willows, drug rafts over gravel bars or simply tossed them off high river vantages), road signs off HWY 299 (referencing Poker Bar-Steelbridge etc.) and fishing pressure was all but nonexistent. I can’t even begin to tell you about the beauty and stoke of targeting unmolested fish or blind floating a new drift for the very first time; I was a kid in the TR candy store. Whether it was our timing, no coin and nothing to lose or simply no fear and too young to know any better, Pat and I are very fortunate to have experienced such a great opportunity; and we are still enjoying the journey! So after 36 great years what is in store for our future and Trinity Fly Shop? Easy, continue for as long as possible or become too crotchety, to share our labors of love with you all.

We Thank You for all the Years of Friendship and Support!

Straight from the Line-ups

Every steelhead are special, TR vet, Jeff Rhodes expressing his steelhead passion.

Last week TR flow reductions, 700 cfs. to 450 cfs. activated solid fish movements from the lower gorges. On the bottom, Weitchpec, fresh run chinook, lead coho, adult steelhead and a major surge of half-pounders raced through the lower valley; calming negative chatter and finger pointing at weirs, low flows or beliefs most runs turned left up the K. Anglers second guessing and targeting low, scored big time. Don’t get too comfortable with 450 cfs. releases, if the Bureau believes its own print, TR flows are slated to drop to 300 cfs. October 15.

The Great Blue–stealth, precision and deadly. Bob Jones captures the 180—beauty and grace.

A major fall highlight, a recent wet weather pattern was heaven sent, ending one of most tragic fire seasons, and was just what the doc ordered to also motivate late summer chinook-steelhead movements from the Burnt Ranch gorge and provide line-ups (Del Loma up to JC) fresh rotations. Transitioning fish are never easy and generally equate hit miss activity. Recently, we have scored success fishing less holding waters and investing full attention targeting the rotation in shallow flats supporting depressions, tailouts and streamy edges with smaller wets and damp skaters.

Scott Watson scores big early season!

Posting up may sound or appear redundant as opposed to covering more water or stroking marathon drifts. Personal experiences have revealed, when the shuffle is on, finding the sweet spot in transition waters, more often than not, increases your odds for tight line success. Major salmon-steelhead movements are prime examples why I’ve always preached, better off not know what is pushing thru. The visual numbers of moving fish, snubbing your presentations can be frustrating, yet rewarding; especially to those digging in and keep in mind the chain of command will slow, settle in and eventually crush; generally when least expected.

Inviting beauty and rare TR empty line-up opportunity.

If all this sounds too good to be true, it is. Recent wet weather also flushed upper reach tributaries (Deadwood-Hoadly-Grass Valley and others) and washed undesirable amounts of sediment and ash into the TR main stem; creating turbid conditions and fortunately lasting only a couple days. Unfortunately, at this point in time, appears there may be some serious T. LK and TR tributary repercussions, from the Carr fire, this winter; to what extent is anyone’s guess and time will tell. In the meantime the TR got shook up, H20 temps are primo and fish are in— Enjoy the 2018 Season & Get on’ em !!!

Yum-Yum Eat’em Up—Muddler Crusher!

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: trinflyguy@shasta.com 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 afliets@fs.fed.us. 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