Diamonds in the Ruff (Trinity Alps Lakes)

Even with the growing popularity of the Trinity River and its legendary salmon-steelhead runs it is amazing just how many people do not know where it comes from.

Where does the Trinity River originate? No, not Trinity Lake. No, not Lewiston Lake; even though both of these popular lakes/fisheries are Trinity Counties largest bodies of water. Yes they are a major source and feed the lower Trinity River but they are only a fraction of a very large, complex and diverse watershed.

Trinity Alps fishing
On top of the world Trinity
Alps Vantage.

Headwaters of the Trinity River originate deep within the Salmon-Trinity Alps wilderness. A remote rugged mountain range whose majestic granite pinnacles and deep crevasses, formed by glaciations, closely resemble the Swiss Alps and are often referred to as their counterparts. Comprised of over 53 high mountain lakes and 1,600 miles of streams, the greater majority of these waters are spring fed and freestone compositions. They are annually replenished and nurtured by winter rains and snowpack’s. Activated by spring’s warming temperatures, runoff cascades down steep terrains and carves its way through deep granite formations, filling a variety of pristine granite, seep, fertile and even sterile lakes. Peak runoff, outlets overflow and spill, often creating stunningly beautiful waterfalls before flows subside and quietly meander through lush, rich and colorful high mountain meadows. Intercepting and converging with others, tributaries gain volume and velocity and slowly bleed the Alps and foot hills of their vast liquid richness; ultimately creating the headwaters of the Trinity watershed. At the same time, as these waters flow into the man made impoundments of Trinity and Lewiston Lakes the entire watershed dynamics and compositions are drastically altered. Forever changed, at least until the Dams are removed. What? It could happen. The once wild free flowing upper Trinity headwaters are now separated and isolated from the regulated lower Trinity River tailwaters; the current boundary for all anadromous fish.

Hiking the Trinity Alps
Pause and reflect-high mountain

Lakes and streams of the Trinity Alps are home to colorful resident rainbows, browns and brookies. Remarkably they are able to withstand the harsh high mountain elements and short growing seasons. Stream fish are generally small but colorful, often reflecting the beauty of the Alps themselves and quite eager. The lakes support larger quarry however fishing is more demanding. Forget the fairy tales about wilderness lake trout literally jumping on the hook. Timing is critical. Ice out and the first few weeks of the melt is always prime time to target early season squaretails. Fish are congregated, hungry and often eager. Keep in mind south facing lakes thaw first and offer early options. (My own personal Alps trophy measured 17”—from the butt section of the glass fly rod to the distant Fenwick Eagle wing below the first stripping guide. The high mountain treasure reflected a buffed- up body profile that displayed a color collage of brilliant orange, olive, red and blues; highlighted with a gator head and jaws—reminding you the brookie is truly a saber-tooth char). I have personally seen fish, and photos, that are simply off the chart and well worth keeping tight lipped. As summertime temperatures soar, concentrate efforts early mornings, late evenings. When fishing slows, simply go day tripping. The scenic beauty, relief from the summer heat, wildlife and sweet smell of the high mountain Jeffrey Pines all blend together for a natural high and great escape.

Trinity fish
Early season ice out rewards.

Seasons are short and for the eager backcountry angler this means monitoring snowpack’s and current weather patterns before heading in. (Depending upon the winter generally June through October are great windows of opportunity). U.S. Forest Service offices provide wilderness permits and on top with updated trail conditions. Two great publications that will broaden your knowledge of the Alps and Trinity watershed as well as give great direction to some very promising fishing prospects are; THE TRINITY ALPS COMPANION By Wane F. Moss… THE TRINITY ALPS by Luther Linkhart … (both publications a must & always available at T.F.S.).

Trinity Alps
Trinity Alps fire works.

So next time you, your family and friends visit Trinity County and or the Trinity River, slow the train down. Take a few moments and reflect on the vast wildness of the Trinity Alps and beauty of the Trinity River. That’s right the emerald beauty whose headwaters are tucked away, well hidden and off the beaten paths while the lower tailwaters flow parallel HWY 299 most all the way to the coast. A magnificent liquid pulse and energy that intercepts the Lower Klamath and flows far into the Pacific. By the time the river hits the Weitchpec junction its purities are somewhat diluted, only trace elements and yet still enticing; a scented flow within a mix, a signal, a beacon, a reminder this way home. Home to remarkable salmon and steelhead cycles that brings wonderment and great stoke to most anyone who stretches a line in her waters. Remove the blinders, pay attention and always give respect…

Trinity Alps lakes Trinity Alps
Where is everybody? Soul fishing…
Unspoiled splended beauty-well worth the effort.