Saturday, December 26, 2009
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!
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
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.
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
Friday, December 11, 2009
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.
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.
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
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.
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.