Steelheading on the Trinity River

AT 5:00PM ON A FRIDAY it seems as if the whole city of San Francisco can’t wait to get out of town. Every highway is jammed with commuters and road-trippers escaping the cement confines of the city. On most weekends in the fall, you can find Tyler and I among them. Although most of the cars on the road are headed for home, we have a slightly different destination in mind: the cold waters of the Trinity.

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Tyler and I’s steelhead trips have started to take on a predictable pattern:

  • Friday Night: Drive all evening; arrive after dark; drinks.
  • Saturday: Get up before the sun; beat everyone to the river; fish hard all day; back to our campsite after dark; dinner; drinks.
  • Sunday: see Saturday; drive home.

Most of this routine is fueled by junk food and weak coffee. And it’s all for the opportunity to spend a few hours on one of the most productive steelhead rivers in the country.

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The Trinity runs 165 miles from northwestern California to its confluence with the Klamath River farther east. Along most of its course the Trinity flows swiftly through tight canyons and mountain meadows. Steelhead can be found throughout, but on this trip we focused on the upper stretches where floating the river is possible and most productive.

Tyler and I were scheduled to float the Trinity with guides Jeremy Baker and John Slubowski. The flows out of the damn had been dropped to their winter levels, but recent reports gave us optimism that we could find fish.

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The fishing was tough at times and better at others. Without the first big storm to blow the river out, most of the fish are holding in just a flew places. Locating those places is the key. But with steelheading, that’s sorta just how it goes. Pursuing these fish isn’t for everyone, just like fly-fishing isn’t for everyone, but for those who choose to take up the challenge it’s one of the most rewarding in all the sport.

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