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Fishing Reports by Drew Griffith

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I'm on the eve of heading north to Alaska for what promises to be an adventuruous summer of guiding and backpacking, but before I go, I wanted to share some flies and thoughts for targeting Trinity River Steelhead. 

Every summer we all have to hold our breath in anticipation of the first returning summer run fish who make their way to the Trinity by way of the Klamath. There are fish in the river all year long, but it usually isn't until some time in mid-August that they start to show up on the Trinity en mass. By October the river is loaded from top to bottom. During this time finding water that hasn't been pressured can become as difficult a task as bringing one of these storied fish to hand. While most guides prefer to focus on the upper river, my favorite beats are mainly between Hawkins Bar and Willow Creek. I like this stretch for two reasons:

1) It doesn't get anywhere near the amount of pressure that the upper river does.

2) It offers the perfect venue for presenting a swung fly to Trinity River steelhead. 

This river, and specifically this stretch of river, offers one of the best places in the lower 48 to find success fishing a traditional down and across method with a classic pattern tied onto the end of your leader. To borrow a well worn phrase, these fish come to the fly well. Grabs are explosive, on or near the surface, usually accompanied by an acrobatic display that'll leave you grinning ear to ear.  Coupled with mild weather and the beautiful backdrop of fall, come October, there is no place I would rather be then on the Trinity. 

 A quick word on tackle. For swinging flies on the lower Trinity a scandi line with an assortment of floating versi leaders will get the job done 9 times out of 10. There are times when I like to fish an intermediate tip, especially if the sun is high on the water.  3x tippet or 8 pound Maxima Ultragreen is as light as I'll go (I had to learn that lesson the hard way). To bring a Skagit head or not? Sometimes the afternoon thermals will make you wish you had, especially earlier in the season when the mid day temps can climb into the 90's and the fish are in the dumps. Rods. A 7wt in my opinion is too much rod for 90% of the fish you're likely to catch on the Trinity. A 5wt spey up to 12'6 ft is perfect. Switch rods ranging from a 4wt to a 6wt are perfectly suited to TR Steelhead. 

Now, A few flies for your consideration. Part of what makes this fishery so unique is that these steelhead really love eating flies. They aren't particularily choosy either. This gives the angler a unique opportunity to fish different methods and try flies that normally would stay in the box. For me, there is nothing more exciting than trying to entice a surface grab on a waked or skated fly. The Trinity also presents the angler with the perfect venue to fish the timeless patterns that make fly fishing for steelhead such a unique sport. Tie on a Silver Hilton, a Royal Coachman, or a Greaseliner and never think twice about your fly. 

I'll be back from AK just in time for the Trinity to really start heating up towards the end of September. I offer both walk/wade and float trips out of a 13 ft raft.    

Looking forward to getting on the water with you!

 

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The Copper Coachman. When sun's on the water, throw copper
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A simple feather wing for early and late in the day
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The Peacock Hilton. A variation of the timeless classic.
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Bretts Klamath Skater. For toilet bowl flush grabs on the surface
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Soft Hackles, the bread and butter of the Trinity
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A traditional Spey Fly. Nothing says classic like a feather wing.
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A hidden gem deep in the Trinity River drainage.
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The countdown is on for one last shot at a winter steelhead as we near the March 31st deadline. After that the Smith and Trinity Rivers will remain open. We had a brief window last week that saw almost all of our South County rivers come into play. I spent two hard days fishing the South Fork Eel with father and son team Tim and Dominic. We had everything you could hope for minus the fish. Great color, mild weather, and no pressure. Currently we're seeing another bout of wet weather that has everything turing brown, everything except for the Smith. These are some of the most enjoyable days to target these powerful sea run fish. Warm mild weather and light angling pressure make March a unequally special time to venture north in hopes of swining one up before the closing bell tolls. 

If you're curious about more in depth fishining info or looking to book a trip feel free to call. 602 717 0315.

Tight lines!

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Father and son duo Tim and Dominic Bruno swinging the S. Fork Eel
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Surveyor
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Fresh lilies usher in Spring
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Perfect color over the weekend with non existent pressure made for some relaxing days on the water
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A little recap from a recent trip I made to Pyramid Lake. I got to reconnect with two of my 2016 Confluence Outfitters Guide School alumni; Aaron Silverman and Robert Maldonado for an epic weekend of cutthroat fishing. Aaron is a Reno native and Pyramid Lake insider, providing Robert and I the good fortune of having our own personal guide for our fist time on the lake. Simply put, Pyramid is a strange place with strange fish. I'm hooked. We didn't rope in any monsters, but we all had a great time and each of us landed some nice fish. The only downside? Our brother Dylan Hartsell coudln't make it out! Next time. 
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Aaron braves the cold hoping for a tug
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Aaron with a specimen
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Battle ready. These fish are like nothing else
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Yours truly, getting bent
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Robert with a colored up buck. Post blizzard
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Back they go, to feed and grow.
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I fished the Smith earlier this week with a few friends and while none of us hooked up we were able to spot a few fish from the bank. It's getting to that point in the season where it can really pay off to focus on the upper river. Lot's of fish have made it in at this point and are queuing up to spawn. We even spied a few who were actively spawing and got to sit back and watch the show! The boat guys were doing well fishing the main stem below the forks with averages of 2-4 fish per boat. 

We all had our fingers crossed for a prolonged dry spell letting some of our other rivers come into play, but just like that another system is projected to sack the coast this weekend keeping everything high and muddy. The Smith looks to rise several feet over the weekend with another push early next week. It should fish well as it falls through the end of next week into the weekend. Early spring ushers in some of the most enjoyable days to be on the water here on the North Coast. Warm day time temps and the first blooms of the season make those dreary winter days feel like a distant memory. I have open dates for those who are looking for a late season shot at sea run chrome! 

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Manzanita blossoms. The first signs of Spring.
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Neil punches a cast on the upper Smith River
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Spey rods and dry bags taking a load off after another hard day of fishing
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Searching for signs of life
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Good

Yesterday I had the opportunity to get a day of fishing in on the Smith River with fellow angler and friend Colton Schwenning. It's been a wild winter season to put it mildly. We've had an unprecendented amount of rain, leaving most coastal rivers completely blown out for weeks on end. The Smith, which can rise and drop within a 24 hour cycle, has become our saving grace for a chance to swing up the much coveted winter run steelhead. Yet that is no easy propostition, especially on the Smith. The river is notoriously challenging to fish. It guards its secrets well, and I'm not just talking about the fish. Half of the battle on this system is finding the right water for swinging flies. The Smith is an incredibly deep river and has some extreme hydrology. Having an assortment of heavy sinking tips to really get that fly down to where the fish are is paramount to success. What do I mean by heavy tips? I like 13.5 ft of T-17 for most of the runs I'll cover in a given day, but I've gone up to 15ft for when I really want to dig em out! 

Back to the other day. Bad weather was imminent. We could see the storm churning off the coast as we descended into Crescent City. We fished the lower river first, both hoping that after the recent rise and drop we might intercept a fresh push of fish coming out of the estuary. After an hour we decided to save ourselves the hassle of jockying for good water on the lower river and go above where the guide boats can access the river. The rain started coming down heavy and the temperature was falling rapidly, but the river was in perfect shape. It had fallen just below 12 feet at the Jedediah Smith park gauge and was holding color beautifully. Nothing can raise the spirits of a weary steelhead angler like the emerald glow of this river. We fished our way up the middle fork and lucked out on scoring a few choice runs to ourselves. Suddenly the rain turned to snow. It came down in big fluffy flakes through the canyon and soon it was hard to make out the ridgelines. We fished until our hands were frozen and we were soaked through and through. It had been a good day. 

You don't always find them, but it's the pursuit and anticipation that make this sport so special. It can take you to places that you would never find yourself in otherwise. Always in the back of your mind is the memory of the last time one grabbed and the hopes that some day you will find that big scary fish to remember for a lifetime.

I have open dates through March for guided steelhead trips on the coast. There is still lots of great fishing ahead!

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Colton firing another cast to the far bank on the Smith River.
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Braving the elements. Steelheading in winter is like working for the postal service. Rain or shine.
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A perfect Smith River hen. Fish like this are what its all about.
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Snow day on the Smith.
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