Long time no post, but sometimes life so rudely interrupts fishing with these things my wife likes to call "responsibilities". Although I finally got some stuff finished (responsibilities) around the house in preparation for winter, I'll admit, the whole time I couldn't help but dream about hookin' monster steelhead... It was hard to concentrate when the weather started changing and the reports started coming in from all over... To make it that much worse, two of my fishing buddies get back from the Copper and Kispiox with pictures of fish so big, I could swear they were fake... Where's MY hero shot of a 15 lb chrome steelhead?...
That was it... I was outa' there, and on my way to the first steelhead stop this season: the Trinity River.
Scott and I packed-up and bolted first thing in the morning on Saturday, and were on the water by 9:00 am, along with lots of other fisherman.
I've heard other people say it, and laughed when they did, but this time it was literally like there had been a fly fisherman hatch. Just like mayflies wait until the water temp and lighting is just right to hatch, so do the fisherman; and just like mayflies all hatch at once in huge swarms... so do the fisherman. This weekend proved to be perfect conditions for the fly fisherman hatch.
Scott and I tried our hardest to avoid the crowds, and surprisingly, did a pretty good job doing so. Although we didn't catch lots of adult steelhead, we did avoid the full metal jacket style combat fishing that the Trinity is now pretty famous for. I'm sure Scott was ultimately happy (I know I was) that we didn't fish a lot of spots with tons of people, but I could tell Scott was a little concerned about the fact that some of the spots we fished had zero people in them, or even near them. I remember him saying a couple of times, "There's gotta' be a reason that there's nobody in this spot," and he was probably right, but I wasn't willing to join the crowds to find out if the fishing was better elsewhere.
We started near the end of Steiner Flat in some amazing-looking pocket water that just screamed, "FISHY!"
We were the only people in sight except for a couple truck and trailers upstream and one other guy that fished and left after about 5 minutes of getting his line wet. Although the water looked like there'd be fish just stacked-up in there, Scott only managed two smolts and what looked like a small native rainbow.
Technically, I got the big goose egg through that 300 yards of water we fished, but Scott's second smolt was really my fish: I was drifting this perfect-looking run using Scott's rod without any takes. On the last drift I handed the rod back to Scott in mid-drift, and sure enough, a fish takes the indicator down right as I handed it to him. Scott didn't even have to set the hook.... Story of my life...
We moved up-river several times, still on Steiner Flat, to some other spots where the water, again, looked like there'd be fish sitting in there in a chow line waiting for some flies.... nope... We fished it down until dark without as much as a grab... I guess that's why they call it fishing, and not catching. It was a pretty disappointing start to the trip, but I guess it could have been worse.
That night we probably could have gotten away with camping out at the DC campground, but it got pretty cold by the time we were off the river, so I was glad we'd rented a room at the local roach motel in Weaverville. Not a fine establishment, but it was perfect for two stinky fisherman just looking for a place to lay their heads down... Bummer for Scott... he got the floor... Don't know how that happened, but I'm not complaining...
When we were checking-in, one of those "I'll never forget that face" moments happened after the woman explained that the room only had one bed.
"You guys know that there's only one bed on the room, right?" She said.
"Oh yeah, we're good..." I said without thinking about the connotation...
And that's when the "I'll never forget that face" moment happened as she looked at us silently with total confusion for about 3 second solid, darting her eyes back-and-forth; looking at me, then looking at Scott, then back at me... Thankfully, the silence and uncomfortable feeling was broken by the whirring of the credit card machine as the slip was being printed. Then she sort-of shrugged her shoulders and went back to business... good times.
So far we had received some mixed reports from other anglers that went from two or three fish to no fish caught on Saturday; however, we talked with a couple of guys in the motel lobby (I guess you could cal it a lobby) that fished below JC and said they boated 9 fish with one at 9 lbs... sure you did... I think I'm gonna call shenanigans. They did say that most of the people they had talked too below JC had been catching fish, while everybody above had our same luck. So, on a crazy chance that these guys were telling the truth, we decided to fish below JC the second day.
The next morning we got a crazy-early start... not really by choice... but one of the great things about that motel was that it was right next to a bakery that opened at 5:00 in the morning; so, first thing the next morning we went over to the bakery and got some doughnuts and hot coffee before we blasted-off.
First stop on day 2 was a run in JC where some guys last year had chastised me for corking there hole before they got there. I stayed there last year because I figured there must be a reason these guys like this run... I didn't catch any fish in that spot last year, but it was so fishy that I just couldn't not go back this year again. Again, the water looked amazing, but the fish just weren't there, or weren't biting. The water may have been a little cold for the fish, but it was warming-up fast and we stayed at that spot for a couple hours. Needless to say, we didn't touch a fish. I had a couple of short takes on the swing, but no repeat offenders. Scott pounded the water all along the entire run with his nymph rig with not one taker! Times were already getting tough and it was only 9:00 in the morning.
It wasn't simply that we weren't catching fish that was starting to bug me, it was that the water looked SOOO good, and we didn't even so much as see a fish. It was brutal.
We moved on to another run called the oil slick where we pretty much fished the same 200 yards of water for the remainder of the day. Right when we got there it was, again, a little strange that there was nobody else already at this spot. The water looked perfect and everybody we had talked to so far said that there has never been so many people on the river at one time before. We didn't let it slow us down though. We started at the top of the pool where river poured into a huge toilet bowl of current, and then tailed out into some picture-perfect steelhead holding water. Scott was dead drifting his nymph rig while I started swinging around the middle of the run.
It wasn't long when Scott says, "I think I've got a fish," and a huge fish comes flying out of the water about 30 ft upstream. I reeled-in, dropped my rod off in the bushes, and started splashing up the river to help Scott land this fish. Scott wrestled the fish for a couple of minutes when he noticed that the fish suddenly wasn't fighting right, and as the fish swung down near my knees I could see that it had spit the barbless hook from the lead fly that it ate, but had been tagged by the dropper just under it's pectoral fin. Total bummer because the 5-6 lb fish went from a good fight, to good night real quick. There was no way Scott could land the fish now, and every time it swam out into the current, it would just start peeling line as it drifted down towards a riffle that would definitely end the chase. I tried several times to tail the fish before it was too late, but that fish had plenty of fight left in it and no room for us to go.
I know Scott wasn't excited to see the fish pop off, but I could tell that he wouldn't have been satisfied with a foul-hooked fish if he had landed it. It was a good sign though, and in my opinion, a reason to celebrate... at least we then knew first-hand that there were fish in that perfect water after all!
We stayed on the same stretch moving up and down river off and on hoping to find some fish moving while the overcast skies still hung overhead.
After about an hour our guessing as to why nobody else had been at that spot stopped when four other people came down and parked at the tail end of the run. We had already moved to the pool below the slick and were debating moving back up to cork-out that great water where Scott hooked that fish, but as soon as we took our first steps back up river, a couple of guys came walkin' out of the bushes and posted-up right where we wanted to go...
Good thing we stayed where we did. I turned around and started swinging a silver hilton at the top of this fast water pool that we were sitting on while Scott drifted his nymph rig down below. Like somebody had suddenly flipped the switch on, Scott started tagging smolts left and right. He had 4 fish in 6 casts... mind you, at this point, I still haven't touched a fish... I'll admit it, I was starting to get a little jealous... but not for long...
After swinging short from the head of the pool 2 or 3 times, a moster fish came up and slammed that silver hilton like a friggin maco shark. The shock loop against the cork on my rod came flying out of my fingers and peeled about a foot of line off the reel. I pulled the rod tip up and the fish surged down hard, and just as it did, the knot connecting the fly to the leader cashed its chips in and the fish swam off with one of the only two silver hiltons I had left... I was a little bummed that I missed that fish, because it was big, but I was glad to have the elevated heart rate for a few minutes.
Nothing gets the blood pumping like a big steelhead taking a fly on the swing.
I tied my last silver hilton on and finished swinging the rest of the run, and just as I was getting to the last cast... WHAM!... but this time this fish wasn't gettin' off.
I fought the fish for a few minutes and had a couple of close calls when the fish swam through my legs, by I managed to get this beautiful wild fish to hand.
That fish alone was worth the trip.
We fished for another hour or so, taking over our prime water again, but didn't touch another fish. The sun was fading and we had a long drive home, so we decided to call it early. Then, after not spotting a single fish in the water nearly the entire trip, I spotted a big steelhead holding against the bank right as we were driving out. All the rods had been broken-down and the waders had been taken-off. There was no chance we were going get at that fish. We did get out of the truck and spotted one maybe two other salmon swimming around in the run. Scott thought what we had seen might have been a salmon; but, I didn't want to tell him that I was positive it wasn't.
Good trip and good company. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
Next stop? Probably the American this Friday with a wild chance that there might be some adult steelhead in the river.
4 days ago