It’s no secret that California has been drought stricken for the last few years. With small cold storms almost on a weekly basis, recent conditions in the Northern California region have been wet but overall a mere drop in the bucket for what we really need to solve our water issues. The rivers and feeder streams remain low and clear, and the recent storms have done very little but drop the water temperatures a bit. We’ll take whatever we can get. The fall colors hanging in the trees, once so vibrant and vivid, have begun to fade to shades of brown and fall to the forest floor, alluding to a wintery certainty with threats of a villainous visitor: the Godzilla El Niño.
We have been bombarded the last couple of months with questions regarding the upcoming winter and how we will manage with the predicted massive amounts of rainfall producing mudslides and blown out rivers. Our response has been an almost doubtful, “we’ll believe it when we see it.” Like road trips and flat tire conversations leading to a blowout or float trips and comments about how the wind hasn’t been blowing resulting in whitecaps, planning for longterm predicted bad weather is almost taboo, as though enough talk about it’s imminent future will spook it from happening. Scientists, however, are under the impression that this years El Niño could be the strongest on record, stronger than that observed in the 1997-1998 wet season, resulting in large amounts of rainfall across California and the Southern U.S. The bulk of the rainy season has been estimated by the weather professionals at NOAA to hit the Southwest from January to March 2016 with a 33-39% chance of above average precipitation for Northern California. Storms are expected to be warm with high elevation snow levels. Our reservoirs, as low on water as they have ever been, fill mostly on annual rainfall rather than snowfall, and they stand to benefit greatly from the potential rain. But the truth of the matter is that without natural water storage in the form of snow, wild steelhead are at great risk. Before making it to the ocean, steelhead live a freshwater life hiding in the small streams and creeks, using logjams, cutbanks, rocks, and other structure to avoid otters, ospreys, herons, egrets, and other predators, but there is no piece of structure that can shelter them from the perils of warm water. What good is a safe home if you cannot breathe within it. Steelhead and salmon need cool oxygenated water that snowpack delivers, and without it their chance of survival is reduced greatly. Let’s all hope that this years “Godzilla” has a Yeti for a friend.
Winter has indeed arrived, and we have more storms in the recent forecast that threaten cold precipitation with low snow levels. This could mean that the passes surrounding the northern end of the central valley could be icy. If you are planning a steelhead trip over to the Trinity River, please take care on your commute and be sure to carry chains if you do not have 4WD.
The Lower Sacramento River saw a reasonably small return of wild salmon this year. The egg bite that is synonymous with October out there was strong but brief, and as of now there are not many spawning pairs out there. Where not too long ago it was almost impossible to catch a trout on anything but an egg pattern, it is now difficult to say that eggs will produce. Midges, little caddis, and small mayflies have been the majority of the bugs hatching out there on most days, and honestly the fishing has become a little difficult. Size 18-20 pheasant tails, KP’s Nosepicker, Mercer’s Micro Mayflies, and Hogan’s S&M nymphs have been working with reasonable success for us lately, but be prepared to miss your fair share of takes. It seems that the fish out there are very selective and the takes have been very subtle. Speed is essential in your hooksets. The steelhead numbers have been low this year or maybe it’s that the majority of them have yet to show up. Due to some conventional reports in the lower river, we know that there are some more salmon on the way. December can be a great month out there and may be this years time for steelhead.
Like every year before, November is a month of transition for us. The Trinity River takes center stage and it’s easy to understand why. Possibly more steelhead are caught per day on this river than any other steelhead river in the world. Lately, the river has been low and clear, and the catching has been limited because of the conditions. Skill has played a huge factor in that landing ratio, and those who are adept at keeping the flies at a distance are the most successful. The fish we have been seeing are hot and on the move, and a smooth drag is paramount to seeing these fish to hand. Expect a few head shaking jumps to be a part of the program. Rubberlegs and copper johns are staples, for this time of the year, but golden stone imitations and small mayflies are not to be overlooked. We’ve heard reports of fisherman doing well on Mercer’s Psycho Princes throughout the system. Point being, a well presented fly can and will get eaten. Fish your flies well and you will be rewarded. The water temperatures have dropped considerable over the last couple weeks, and the aggressive fish around that could often hit a skated muddler have sulked to deeper and slower water. If the two-hander is your game, then break out the tips and get down. Smaller traditional patterns have been the most productive on our side of things. Smaller black leeches and intruders will also do the trick.
The season has been great and fish filled, and we have a lot to look forward to. More rain will bring about better condition for steelhead fishing. When that time happens, will you be ready? If you have an open calendar, then you can respond at the drop of a hat, but you may not have that capability. Get your dates on the calendar now and we will be sure that you have the best chances at having the best day possible. Who knows what this year will present, but we can say that the Kennedy Brothers will be on the forefront of the latest happenings and conditions. We understand the rivers and the fish and would love to share these experiences with you.
To secure your part in the action this winter, CONTACT US and lets get after some steelhead! Oh and don’t forget your Simms rain jacket.
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