Saturday, December 26, 2009

Klamath River, December 18-19th

Craig Nielson, of Shasta Trout, pulled up with four anglers from the Tracy and Freemont fly fishing clubs itching to fish two days on the upper Klamath. The first glimpse of the river revealed the usually tea-colored currents below Iron Gate Dam darkened by recent storms. Certainly still very fishable, the color changed just enough to make the fly choice obvious. Frank and Dean climbed aboard the ’86 SlideRite Friday morning, Craig and August on Saturday, and everyone hooked fish. Dean took the fish of the trip, a wild buck whose heavy headshakes showcased the forgiving qualities of bamboo rods. Overall the bite changed from previous fall/early winter trips, with fewer half-pounders showing, the rhythm of both days slowed; at least until a bright steelhead took the fly. The winter fish are coming!

Klamath River, December 14th

After nearly a week of single-digit lows and icy roads, it made sense to push back the put-in time and allow the sun to work some magic on the roads and water temperature. Despite the more cautious plan for the morning, Preston, his son Casey, and I all arrived in Hornbrook simultaneously and a half-hour early. It didn’t matter as we fished through the first run under grey skies with Preston tied fast to a steelhead. So it continued throughout the morning as Preston continued to make the most of his spot at the bow with four in the net by lunch. Casey, a recent grad of USF, found a couple of adults in the afternoon that never had a chance. Whether the credit falls on years of fishing experience or the applied knowledge gained from a major in kinesiology, he pinned those fish but good.

Friday, December 18, 2009

December 8th, Klamath River

Tuesday morning kicked winter into a higher gear as temperatures dropped close to zero degrees - Fahrenheit. I emerged from the house a spitting image of Randy waddling to school in the holiday classic, “A Christmas Story,” and labored pulling myself into the driver’s seat. Fortunately, yesterday’s stinging breeze took today off and Matt had opted for the towing package on his SUV as the ignition in my ’95 4Runner suddenly seemed as frozen as the landscape. After swapping the trailer, the sun shined on us literally and figuratively throughout the day as Matt and Paul pulled a steelhead or two from a handful of runs, every one of them wild. We hit the take-out with headlamps on, hopeful that this time, the key would turn. But that’s another story.

November 28th, Klamath River

My Dad has always been a trout fisherman. He enjoys pursuing steelhead too, but I would hesitate to call him a devout steelheader. His first came from the Trinity River, his largest from the Klamath River with others from the region completing his resume. Of the steelhead rivers fished together, the Klamath seems to suit him best and often offers us something unexpected when he’s at the bow. This fall, I obtained a permit to expand float options and thought today would offer a prime opportunity to explore. Late in our day, a fish crushed the fly, boiled at the surface, shot towards the Pacific and, never stopped. Expecting eyes full of disappointment as he turned to plead his case, I was surprised to see them alive with fire. Welcome to the club, Dad.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Trinity River Slideshow Nov 09

Jim and Rachel Andras
Andras Outfitters

Friday, December 11, 2009

November Trinity River Report

November 10th kicked off my eighth season guiding the Trinity River. While preparing for nearly a solid month of floats over the hill, thoughts of this special fishery included hope for a healthy steelhead run and gratitude for a calendar full of returning guests. Fortunately, the fish showed up and days spent rowing the river’s currents with friends provided special and spectacular moments. Unfortunately, I fell way behind writing daily entries and, in an attempt to catch up, will summarize the conditions in a single report and highlight the story of something extraordinary (See November 17th).

Aside from the obvious appeal of steelhead, the Trinity’s clear currents and intimate size create an approachable fishery with virtually unlimited access. Constant, controlled, flows of 300 cfs establish these conditions with fall/winter rains providing the necessary influx of water needed to usher fish upstream. However, with virtually no measurable precipitation since mid-October, the river needs some rain. Extended periods of low, clear, flows and sunny skies created tough fishing one day and good fishing the next. Despite the dry spell, steelhead are spread throughout the upper river with larger concentrations generally found below Junction City. Certainly the returns thus far do not indicate another 2007, but those willing to cover water and appreciate a quality steelhead experience will find their fish.

November 25th, Klamath River

Four years ago, Rachel and I packed up and headed to Flagstaff, Arizona to celebrate Christmas with the family. My nephew Tyler, only four at the time, expressed great interest in fishing and jumped at the chance to spend a few hours at a local pond. His first two rainbows, both of the day and of his life, measured 24 and 20 inches respectively. As sharp as he was innocent, he noted the size difference and labeled the second fish “small.” This year, everyone traveled to Oregon for Thanksgiving and Tyler eagerly awaited his first float trip on the upper Klamath. After a quick demo, he picked up the technique and promptly landed a half-pounder. Shortly thereafter, it came as no surprise when he slid a wild steelhead into the net. The kid’s a natural.

November 17th, Trinity River

The first cold snap of the season pierced thermals and stung extremities as guides stood strategizing the day’s floats outside of the Old Lewiston Inn Tuesday morning. I had a feeling that Ron would not mind dropping in just below the old bridge as memories of a double digit steelhead from that drift bring him back year after year. As expected, the idea met no resistance but, after fishing several runs, our greatest challenge revolved around clearing iced tip tops. Ron’s first fish ignored dead drifted presentations only to take a nymph mid-swing. However, the next fish defined the day. Les‘ six-weight buckled under the strain as fly line headed steadily upstream and focused everyone’s attention. Focus that only intensified as golden flashes identified the genus. Lifted for the camera, it was quite a specimen.

Monday, December 7, 2009

November 9th Trinity River

Ten years ago, I moved to Redding, California after spending two summer seasons guiding in Southwestern Alaska. Coincidentally, the timing of that move coincided with the steelhead season on the Trinity River. After hooking and losing a fine fish on my first trip, following attempts yielded experience only. Thanks to Rachel, I met Ross a short time later and he offered to spend a day over the hill in search of steelhead. We started in Douglas City just upstream of the bridge and the fish took an egg on the swing. That moment will forever remain a highlight in my angling life. Ross still fishes the Trinity and, as always, generously shares his knowledge of his beloved river with anyone who asks. With November approaching, the Trinity River’s song will call and I will certainly bump into Ross celebrating another fish. I can’t wait.

November 7th, Klamath River

Visions of that steelhead’s aerial display recirculated constantly through my mind overnight and heightened the anticipation of what could happen on the Klamath today. As Bob and John’s fishing partners, Ron and John heard a lot about that fish and welcomed the quiet calm of another morning on the river. After John landed a beautiful, wild fish early on, half-pounders vastly outnumbered adults throughout the day and drifts past Chinook always yielded a couple of fish. By early afternoon a specific, reoccurring, clicking sound forced me to ask Ron and John about its source. Turns out, Ron, tired of exaggerated reports, utilizes a counter to keep everyone on the same page. With the last fish released, its final tally looked like a pitch count through three. Honest.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

November 6th, Klamath River

Writing daily fishing reports takes more time than I initially envisioned. Maybe it’s because to me, fishing means something other than just numbers or methods and more about experiences. Capturing and transferring an event from a river to a computer feels like piecing together a puzzle. Today, Bob and John pulled up next to the 4-Runner ready for their annual trip on the Klamath and it fished very well again with a mix of half-pounders and adults keeping everyone on their toes. However, one fish in particular made an impression that will last a lifetime. Bob hooked it just above a fast riffle and it instantly went airborne. Now, I will admit that upper Klamath River steelhead may not be the largest or brightest of their kind but that fish cleared the water eight times!

Nov 2-3rd, Klamath River

In the summer of 2003, Robert stepped off of a Russian MI-8 helicopter on the banks of Kamchatka’s Zhuponova River and we’ve fished together ever since. After spending a day on the Klamath last fall, he rebooked the date and added an additional one to this year’s trip. With good reason too, as he experienced the river under ideal conditions and some outstanding steelhead fishing. Monday’s float started with a fish on the first cast and ended leaving us hopeful of a repeat the following day. Tuesday morning’s bite slowed but turned on again in the afternoon with some beautiful fish caught wading knee-deep riffles. And as the light faded that evening, Robert set on a steelhead that left our leader empty and us wondering, at least until next year.

October 30-31st, Lower Sacramento River

Neil and Ethan needed a trout fix after chasing Trinity River steelhead and opted to fish the lower Sac for a couple of days. Not just any two days but October 30 and 31st - typically the heart of prime time for river’s largest rainbows gorging on salmon roe. The river fished well although, certainly not on fire, and the usually aggressive takes through redds were often replaced by subtle twitches. Despite very low salmon numbers, egg patterns still got the fish to eat, accounting for all but a couple of rainbows. Success ultimately depended on making multiple passes through prime lies and changing depth and flies often. Persistence paid off though, and, on both days led us towards the ramp with another fish in the net.

Monday, November 16, 2009

October 28th, Klamath River

Keith Kaneko, of Angling on the Fly, decided to stop over for a day on the Klamath to finally fish the river he’s only looked at while driving north for an annual Rogue River trip. He and Rachel met while running The Fly Shop’s “Fishcamp” nearly a decade ago and both seized the opportunity to finally fish together again. The river had fished really well over the past weeks and, with two sticks in the boat, I could not help but envision a big day. As expected, it was good, really good. A prime example of the fishing occurring moments apart as Rachel released a beautiful steelhead, Keith hooked two half-pounders simultaneously! On the drive out, Keith and Rachel talked about their Klamath experience with the enthusiasm of finding a Location X, only this time, vowing to talk about it.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

October 24th, Rogue River

Some days, finding a single steelhead can further challenge a guide’s sanity and, despite yesterday’s number approaching double digits, sometimes the only constant on the river is change. Saturday morning arrived early, especially after celebrating Friday’s fish with an evening of margaritas and tequila. Nonetheless, any lingering effects from enjoying a few took a backseat to the prospect of another tailed steelhead. The morning passed quickly as Susan and Cheryl fished through beautiful water and by noon, each kissed a fish. That afternoon, Cheryl switched boats and my wife, Rachel, joined us. She founded the Mayflies eight years ago and cherishes every relationship and cast shared with them over the years. Of course, big fish titles make her smile too.

October 23rd, Rogue River

This October marked the fifth anniversary of the Shasta Mayflies annual two-day trip to Southern Oregon and the Rogue River. Overcast skies and a mild morning created a buzz amongst the group of nine women as bets were placed before dawn. Judith and Sandy always fish hard with smiling faces regardless of weather, fish counts or reports and today they found steelhead early and often. After releasing a couple of half-pounders, the adult steelhead showed up and turned a great day into an unforgettable one. The exclamation point added by two steelhead, a coastal cutthroat and a silver salmon all from the same run. Turns out, Sandy’s silver was 1 of only 25 counted over Gold Ray Dam by the date!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

October 21st, Klamath River

Since becoming a father myself this past spring, fishing with fathers and sons means something different than just a few months ago. Wednesday morning Don and Kevin wadered up on the banks of the upper Klamath ready to start a three-day fishing trip. Both admitted to busy schedules and a lack of any recent fishing but any rust failed to show. Again, the river fished well from put-in to take-out with a mix of half-pounders and adults keeping the net wet all day. Don kept his hooking to landing ratio near perfect by putting the wood to every fish. His largest, landed on a rod splintered by a heavy, stubborn buck. Kevin’s last cast yielded his third steelhead in as many drifts. The wild hen, a fitting symbol of the day: Perfect.

Oct 20th,Klamath River

With “indicator” dry flies now filling a bin or two at most fly shops, it’s no secret that trout will take a bobber off the surface so, why not steelhead or salmon? It happened within minutes of threading one onto Mont’s leader Tuesday morning leaving us slack-jawed and leaderless. Once retied, the morning’s fishing settled into a more consistent rhythm with a mix of half-pounders and adults taking stonefly and egg patterns. As more Chinook pair up over redds, the crowds targeting them even a week ago are gone and cooler water temperatures have spread steelhead out beyond choppy riffles and tailouts. Mont fished well throughout the day and the near constant pull of Klamath River half-pounders hardly rested his tennis elbow.

October 14th, Rogue River

The idea of Mayrene traveling back to Memphis without netting a fish did not set well. After her first steelhead of the morning parted too soon with a souvenir in its jaw, the boat fell silent. Everyone wanted that fish. We retied and fished on without moving anything through several runs. Nancy broke the spell on another heavy steelhead at the head of a riffle that quickly spit the hook and left us wondering. Another fish cleared the water seconds later and brought everyone right back. It leaped three more times, ultimately landing in the bottom of the net still connected to Mayrene’s leader. She had finally landed her first wild steelhead and as the boat drifted towards the take-out, Nancy landed one of her own.

October 13th, Rogue River

The sound of heavy rain pounding the roof and strong wind through the trees rung through my ears before dawn and the TV forecast didn’t look any better. Wind warnings and the promise of constant, heavy rain, dominated the news. Nonetheless, Nancy and Mayrene arrived in the hotel lobby with waders on and a determined look in their eyes. We decided on a short float in case things went from bad to worse and hit the road. Forty minutes later at the put-in, the storm simply vanished. Everyone knew not to talk about our fortunate situation and just fished, hard. This day belonged to Nancy as she started by landing a beautiful coastal cutthroat and ended it by releasing her second steelhead of the afternoon.

October 12th, Rogue River

Mayrene called a few weeks before her 3-day trip on the upper Rogue to make sure she showed up with the right equipment and expressed some concern regarding her inexperience pursuing steelhead. She assured me that her fishing partner, Nancy, was a seasoned angler and hoped that between the two of them, someone would find a fish. In return, I assured her that steelhead will eat a well-presented fly regardless of who puts it there and left it at that. Sure enough, a steelhead found Mayrene’s fly first and promptly straightened the hook while Nancy followed with another that shook the fly on its first run. With the light fading and the take-out around the corner, two more steelhead came unbuttoned and, as the forecast predicted, heavy clouds rolled in and threatened tomorrow’s shot at redemption.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

October 9th, Lower Sacramento River

Gabe Duran and I met four fishing friends at the Posse Grounds on Friday the 9th for another float down the Lower Sac. They had already placed their bets for first and last fish by the time the boats hit the water and anxiously awaited their first casts. Despite more salmon in the system than the previous week, the rainbows ignored egg patterns early and fed indiscriminately on anything from a #22 brassie to a #6 rubberlegs. By ten o’clock though, the egg-bite turned on and stayed on. Regardless of the presence or absence of salmon redds, riffles accounted for the majority of the day’s rainbows. As daylight fell, smile filled faces told the day’s story. No one mentioned the bets and everyone bought a round.

Monday, October 19, 2009

October 6th, Klamath River

On the hope of finding a few early summer steelhead on the upper Klamath, I met Peter and Brook at the Klamathon Bridge for an afternoon of “research.” Trucks and trailers packed the take-outs and put-ins and quickly changed the tone of the day from perhaps what could be to what others already knew. Thankfully, the masses stacked in the river’s deep runs targeting fall Chinook, leaving the riffles and runs untouched. The first fish came out of heavy current and instantly went airborne. Brook, a 95-pound, curly coat retriever, took notice and desperately tried to follow his instinct. Peter held on, and fought both battles from the chair. We slipped the beautiful, wild fish in the net under Brook’s watchful eye and set it free. The rest of the day, Peter didn’t stand much.


Hank came into our lives three years ago after Rachel picked him out of a lineup online. After meeting the breeders and playing with Hank under the lights of a Wal-Mart parking lot, he was the obvious choice. Yet, Rachel’s upcoming trip to Argentina made her apprehensive to bring him home, as she feared the two boys would bond without her.

The deal done, Jim picked Hank up two weeks later before a stop at the airport to welcome Rachel home. On his first fishing trip, Hank quickly showed his strong dislike of water and, on later trips, fair-weather tendencies emerged. However, be it four in the morning or afternoon, rain or shine, when he gets the nod, he’s the first one in the boat and the last one out.

Dan Elster Photography

One look at Dan Elster’s photography and it becomes clear that, for him, “getting the shot” runs through his blood just as guiding trout and steelhead rivers runs through mine. Turns out, he and I moved to Ashland within a few months of each other, each shared the same birth city of Chicago and grew up devoted “Sox” fans. Conversations over a couple of beers exposed a mutual belief over the importance of preserving wild places and wild creatures. He has since become a good friend and generously decided to loan a few of his images for our Conservation and Ashland pages. I urge everyone to view his full gallery at

October 1st, Lower Sacramento River

Anticipation filled the air Thursday morning as the drift boat rolled off the trailer into the lower Sacramento River. With the arrival of another October comes the unmistakable buzz that surrounds the onset of spawning Chinook salmon and egg-eating rainbows. Cheryl and Rebecca fished well throughout the morning but only managed to bring a few fish to net. However, the stars aligned in the afternoon and the bite turned on. Despite relatively few salmon in the system, most fish keyed on egg patterns and took the indicator under hard on the take, often coming right at the boat once hooked only to turn and run like only Sacramento River rainbows can.

September 30th, Rogue River

What an end to September! On Wednesday, Tina and Jim floated the upper Rogue for the first time and experienced a day to remember. Tina hooked a steelhead briefly out of the gate and Jim followed up minutes later landing one of his own. So it went throughout the day as the couple alternated encounters with steelhead, rainbows, and coastal cutthroat trout. Tina put on a clinic to end the day, landing two beautiful steelhead, including one taken on the final cast. With perfect autumn weather, optimal flows and the river to ourselves, it doesn’t get much better!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Rogue River Summer Review/Fall Preview

It all started Mid-July on the river with a couple of guys who wanted to spend a few hours improving their technique.  Prior to the trip, I mentioned that over 2,000 summer steelhead had swum passed Gold Ray dam and that we might just find one.  Although they certainly took that number as good news, each of them assured me that finishing the day better anglers took precedence over hooking steelhead.  Back at the hotel lobby, we shook hands and both guests expressed how much they enjoyed the day and how their confidence on the water improved.  As I turned towards the truck, I heard the two talking and the words,  “you know, three steelhead certainly makes a morning.”  Agreed.

Fortunately, the strong push of summer steelhead continued to make their way into the upper Rogue through August, almost doubling the count at the end of July from 2082 to 3948.  Not only did these numbers account for some outstanding days, but they also suggest that October and November’s counts could go off the charts.  By comparison, last year, 2943 summer fish filtered into the upper beats by September’s end with that number jumping to 5525 steelhead by November 30.  As of September 15, this year’s count already stands at 4212!  The next two months look to showcase the Rogue at its best with mild days, autumn color and the peak of the summer run.  Make this the year to experience the upper Rogue! 

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Since launching Andras Outfitters, linking a fishing report/blog to the website seemed like a no-brainer. For some reason though, I thought about kicking it off to chronicle an event like fishing with my wife and newborn son on Mother’s Day, the first summer steelhead of the season, or the comedy of a blown trailer bearing somewhere off the beaten path in Siskiyou County, California. The more time that went into the idea though, the longer I questioned the need of anything more than simply a list of words that, in no particular order or completeness, capture what makes any day on the water precious. After all, who needs anything more out of a day than camaraderie, presentation, anticipation, currents, hatches, headshakes, redbands, adrenaline, heartbreak, personalities, grabs, backing, tailwalking, metalheads, or celebrations to make it special? Not this guide.