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Swinging flies for Trinity Steelhead

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Trinity river steelhead
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Trinity river steelhead
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The Trinity River in Northern California is my home river.  I have had the pleasure of swinging flies for steelhead all the way around the Pacific rim, from California up and around through the States, BC and Alaska, and down into the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia, but the Trinity always feels like home.

The Trinity, for me, is a summer run river. We fish it in the late summer and fall, when the water is gin clear and the perfect temperature. The dime bright fish enter the Klamath first, but within a couple of weeks, or sooner, they head up the cooler waters of the Trinity. The water this time of year is scary clear and somewhere around 50-55 degrees.  Any other steelhead river in the world I would hang my head if I showed up and it was that clear, but in the fall on the Trin, I don’t want it any other way. It blows my mind how often I hear guys say the Trinity fish don’t eat swung flies. They swear you have to nymph them up with bobbers. I promise you, this time of year there is no better way to fish than full floating lines with a tight line swing.

The steelhead on the Trinity are some of the best risers I have ever targeted.  They take dry flies aggressively, and small traditional wet flies just below the surface.  With the low clear water conditions of fall, Scandi heads and long leaders, on light spey rods, is the ticket to bring these missiles to the surface. It seems like such a waste to fish the bottom of the river when the fish are so willing to come up!

The Trinity is a very unique river. Lots of steep walled canyons and hard rock. This makes for very interesting fishing, not the standard cast step mend gravel bars common on larger rivers. So many of the spots the fish hold are situational and completely different from spot to spot. Lots of places you don’t step at all, you just find the best spot to stand to get the right angle and speed of swing, and then gradually lengthen each cast until the piece of water is covered (or until a fish rips you right off of your perch!)

I just got done with my 8th season guiding swing method only, and the Trinity keeps teaching me new things every year. When I am guiding, I use a boat to move from spot to spot and then get my guys and gals out to wade each spot. Drifting in the boat I am constantly learning new places the fish hold. The water is so clear I can spot a lot of them, and then the next time see if the lie is swingable. Some of the wackiest places I have caught fish swinging are spots I never would have tried to fish, if I had not spotted fish holding there from the boat.  It blows my mind some of the places I consistently see fish holding.

The weather has finally changed in Northern California. Last week it snowed 6 inches in Redding. The temperature of the Trinity dropped dramatically and the fish do not want to rise as much.  I wrapped up the guide season and am praying to the steelhead gods for rain to kick off the winter season on the coastal streams, but I am already dreaming of next fall when the first fish pull into my home River  - the Trinity.

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