Directions

From Redding From Interstate 5, take Highway 299 going East. Drive about 39 miles to reach Douglas City and turn left out of the highway onto Steiner Flat Road.

 

Trinity River - Indian Creek to Steiner Flat

It's no longer news that Chinook have returned to their Northern California rivers in good numbers since the huge declines of 2008 through 2010. Here's one data-point: over 7000 salmon redds have been tallied on the Trinity through mid November.

A 7 pound steelhead landed on the Trinity River

For comparison, last year's survey recorded just under 5000 salmon redds on the Trinity below Lewiston Dam. That's an increase of about 40%. I call that good progress. The Trinity's steelhead call it a salmon roe buffet.

So salmon redds on the Trinity are almost double this year - big deal. Why should I care? Because it shapes your fly selection, or should I say your bead selection.

Angler hooks into a large steelhead along the Trinity River

In past years, I fished a nymph rig using say a pleasant-tail and a caddis poopah most often. That's not to say the steelhead wouldn't grab a brightly colored bead, but the hook-ups were more common on the bugs. Steelhead fishing on the Trinity this year, however, I noticed a change. In late November, maybe a 3 to 1 preference of the bead over the bug. Consider pinning at least one egg to your rig if you come to steelhead fish the Trinity in the prime months of October and November. And if the water is off-color consider tying a couple of brightly colored beads on your leader.

A Note on Hatchery Fish

The story not told (unless you look real close) is the growing percentage of hatchery raised steelhead present in this run. Hatchery influences are huge in the Upper Trinity River. Each year, Trinity River Hatchery releases approximately 500,000 coho salmon smolts, 800,000 steelhead, and 4.3 million Chinook salmon.

Wild Steelhead caught on the Trinity River

Robert Behnke outlined the dangers of introducing hatchery rasied steelhead to "supplement" the wild ones in his 1985 column for Trout Magazine: ...each particular (steelhead) life history strategy has been evolved through thousands of years of natural selection in each specific environment to optimize those life history traits that result in best survival. Hatchery selection replaces natural selection from the time of spawning to the time of smolting, and this has resulted in hereditary changes in hatchery stocks such as earlier timing of runs, earlier spawning, adaptions to artificial diets, disease resistance, crowding, etc. The end result is that hatchery steelhead, selected for many generations, and usually from a nonnative stock in relation to the river of stocking, have much reduced reproduction fitness in comparison to any native population. The large-scale stocking of hatchery fish leading to a predominance of hatchery fish in spawning runs may be a major cause in the decline of wild steelhead.