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.

  • Shad Camp 2016
  • Shad are in!
  • Here's to another great shad year!
  • 2016 Shad mug
  • Steve Hopkins and friend
  • Scott Watson with a dandy
  • Shad on!


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!!!

  • Shad Camp 2016
  • Shad are in!
  • Here's to another great shad year!
  • 2016 Shad mug
  • Steve Hopkins and friend
  • Scott Watson with a dandy
  • Shad on!


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

  • Shad Camp 2016
  • Shad are in!
  • Here's to another great shad year!
  • 2016 Shad mug
  • Steve Hopkins and friend
  • Scott Watson with a dandy
  • Shad on!


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!

  • Shad Camp 2016
  • Shad are in!
  • Here's to another great shad year!
  • 2016 Shad mug
  • Steve Hopkins and friend
  • Scott Watson with a dandy
  • Shad on!