The predicted El Niño of 2016 has shown it’s soaking potential, dropping much needed precipitation across the West Coast. Rain, sleet, and snow and typical winter storms have had their affects on waterways and roads leaving a trail of swollen rivers and treacherous highways in their wake, confirming that winter steelheading is not for the faint of heart. If you are up to the challenges and ready to face the caveats, rewards are present for the taking.
We’ll try to keep this one cut and dry, unlike the current weather forecast for the State of Jefferson. The Trinity river has been on the high side and perfectly green for the most part. Even on the clear days, the river has been clouded by the waters emitting from Lewiston Reservoir and Trinity Lake. This happens often when low lake levels receive rain on their muddy banks, and for the time being, this is a good thing, offering concealment to those fishing. As a result, fishing has been great the last couple weeks. We have had quite a few successful spey trips during this time period, but as the cold snow melt trickles down the tributaries, the bite has grown a little slow. The fish seem a little reluctant to aggressively grab the fly, and a lot of short strikes have been experienced lately. In these times it is essential for the angler to cast beyond the conventional quartering downstream in an effort to slow the fly’s progress across the current, thus giving the fish a greater chance to react to the fly. Be sure to have the T-14 tips at hand in lengths from 7.5-15 feet, in addition to your iMOW tip selections made by Rio Fishing Products. Structure seems to be paramount in our success, causing us to focus on those bouldery runs and tailouts. Non-weighted flies have been great in these areas, but be prepared to fish those adorned with barbells and cone-heads in those slotty, deeper runs.
During these colder times, the indicator gig reigns supreme and the dead drift is just the ticket to get these cold blooded creatures to react. Different from the low and clear conditions of the fall where many of the fish are found in the same runs day to day, be prepared to fish the entire river: every drop off, every green slot off a boulder, every hole and every tailout. We have been changing our rig for virtually every run of the river, adding and removing weight or lengthening and shortening our drop.
There’s no denying the effective power of the egg pattern and the black or brown superfloss rubber legs, but every year as of the January the Golden Stone nymphs on the bottom of the river become active, and it is right about now that the Solitude and Mercer’s Poxyback Golden Stones earn their fish.
Snow has fallen on some of the lower elevations of the area, along with rain in the valleys, but a change in the recent colder storms threatens to melt such water storage. As of today, the rivers and streams are dirty, but the floods have begun to recede. Reports have suggested that there is little to no fishable water on the Trinity, but fortunately the drainage clears rapidly. We could see perfect conditions as soon as tomorrow.
The roads of Trinity County have been plagued by falling rock and debris, and in many situations Highway 299 has been entirely closed or open to one way traffic at best.
Please use caution at all hours of the day while driving in the area, and be sure to use your brights at night. Snow and ice are not out of the question in the approaching storms, so if you don’t have 4-wheel-drive with snow tires, carry chains. During such Caltrans requirements, trailers will also need at least one wheel chained. Don’t let something so simple ruin your plans to fish, carry chains.
During one of the road closures a group of musicians on their way to a gig were stranded and what happened next made the delay a moment to remember. The Trinity Alps Chamber Players sweetened the wait for the stranded travelers without requesting anything in return. “They absolutely did not ask for donations,” one stranded traveler said.
The current river conditions on the Lower Sac and it’s tributaries remain good but have come close as heavy precipitation hammered the North end of the valley. The creeks are high and muddy, but the upper section promises fishable water. Depending on how much rain comes down in the next couple of days, things could be epic out there like they were this week.
A few mayfly hatches have been seen, and flies such as the olive pheasant tail, Hogan’s S&M, peaches and cream, and poxyback PMD’s have been collecting their fair share of fish. There are quite a few salmon out there still, so of course, don’t overlook the egg imitations and more importantly alevins. They might just be the only thing they can see out there if things get much dirtier.
We would like to take a moment to thank all of those who were involved in our 2015 season, making it the best year of our lives. We are blessed to have the best guests in the world and it is because of you that we are able to continue smiling on and off the water. May you all continue to do well and have the best fishing season of your lives. Here’s to another phenomenal year. We hope that you can be a part of the fun in 2016.
The Kennedy Brothers
Northern California Fly Fishing Guides
Trout and Steelhead