Fly Fishing Only-Zero Limit (Cherished Home Waters)

Fly Fishing Section
Trinity river “Fly only” water

Located 250 ft. below Lewiston Dam and flowing approximately 2 miles downstream to the Old Lewiston Bridge is the Trinity River’s “fly only” waters. This upper reach of the Trinity River is open April 1 thru Sept. 15th and, in a class by itself, represents the only managed “Fly only” waters in northern California. Not to be confused with other special managed waters (artificial only etc.); it was one of the first “fly only” waters in CA (possibly #2/Hot Creek #1). Since the inception of the special “Fly only” regulations these waters have increased in popularity and for such a modest length and brief season, the “Fly only “waters are recognized for producing rare opportunity and quality salmon-steelhead-trout fishing.

A Fly only” water bow released by –
Eamonn Markham

In the beginning: 1964 Trinity-Lewiston Dams were completed and unfortunately eliminated an additional 70 miles of prime upper river habitats and restricted fish passage. Waters below Lewiston Dam currently represent the heart and upper headwaters of the Trinity River. These icy tailwaters have been identified as quality staging, spawning and rearing habitats. The question, how do you manage waters that historically produced thriving native fish stocks and now restricted below an artificial barrier and hatchery puzzled officials. Do you close waters entirely or utilize the resource and manage with special regulations to minimize impacts. Late 60’s DFG imposed special regulations that permitted angling (Fly only) with a restricted two fish limit (zero salmon) and then added a slot limit based on stream surveys (conducted by Mark Hampton, Fish and Wildlife and volunteers) which found summer steelhead that constituents wanted protected. Subsequently, the regulations were revised, from a two fish/slot limit, to a zero limit in the 1990’s (1994 adoption) after several years of debate and lots of local support; ultimately becoming Trinity County’s first zero limit- special managed waters. This would have never happened it were not for the leadership of the former California Trout north coast director, Tom Weseloh FOTR chairman the lateByron Leydecker , Trinity County Supervisors and my brother Glenn Burton who helped out with some knee-slapping humor and unique diving skills that occurred during our density/diversity dives. It’s true; the squeaky wheel gets the oil!

Summer Chinook & S.F. fan –
Tristan Miham

Season of opportunity: Originally the “Fly only” waters reopened the last Sat. in May (Memorial weekend). To simplify regulations, years later it reopened the same day as the general trout opener (last Sat. in April). The season opening date changed a few years ago to open April 1 to accommodate anglers that were being impacted by ROD releases—to give them a chance to fish before the flows were ramped up. In essence, there was little biological impact and a desire to provide more opportunity so anglers would not be opposed to the higher flows that decrease their fishing opportunity during spring ROD releases. The September 15 closure has always been in place to protect spawning salmon.

Loch-leven –colorful and wily

Full House: Early season openers (Apr. 1) anglers can expect to encounter late winter steelhead and trout, occasionally sipping dries (Callibaetis-Calineuria). Hatchery juveniles galore provide smiles of success, especially for the young, while at the same time pacify larger specimens preferring a meat/potatoes diet. After spring flows subside (late June) a complete lineup of salmon-steelhead, brown and rainbow trout are available and respond to a variety of fly fishing methods/techniques. Mornings generally provide quality streamer/wet fly fishing, midday nymphing and evenings pop with multiple hatches triggering dry fly opportunities. Truly no boundaries as all can be effective at one time or another. Throughout the summer and remainder of the season, hatchery juveniles have thinned out, pools fatten up with staging salmon while late season hatches (PMD’s-Beatis-Midge) inspire bows, browns, and the occasional summer steelhead to selectively feed.

Hatchery juveniles provide fun
& smiles of success – Mason on
the release

Here and Now: Sure the Trinity’s “Fly only” water is no Henrys Fork, Silver Creek or other fabled blue ribbon water. But keep in mind; it represents the headwaters of a legendary coastal river that is 120 miles long, supporting three secondary rivers and thirty one tributaries before flowing into the lower Klamath and Pacific. Not to mention supporting year-round anadromous fish runs (Chinook-Coho-Steelhead) and resident fish populations (Rainbows-Brown trout) that keep you guessing and often wishing you tied on larger tippits. If you don’t mind high water angling and not a number cruncher, these waters are for you. Limited access, minimal pressure and occasional sweet rewards measured in pounds. Past few weeks flows have dropped below 1600cfs and those not weaned on minimum flows and willing to accept the high water challenge have been scoring. Flows are slowly dropping 90cfs a day (currently 800cfs) bottoming out to 450cfs July 26. Streamer fishing is solid, evening hatches are predictable and the lead edge of our springer’s have arrived. Get the hint?

“Fly water” spring steel – released by Eamonn Markham