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!!!