Spyda's Blog

A Hawaiian Style Fishing Blog

Browsing Posts tagged Steelhead

Three old Japanese men from Hawaii and two haoles drifting down a northern California river in rubber rafts. Hmmm, what is this?

We’d been fishing in murky water since we arrived a few days prior, so on this day we were stepping in a few miles down river. I’m looking down into clear water as Herb tries to convince us that we shouldn’t worry about the class 5 and 6 rapids down river. While he’s not kidding about the rapids, they’re actually just down river from where we plan to end our drift, hopefully they’ll remember where to stop…


Escape, has brought us here. The details may be different, but, ties to our urban lives keep the fires called escape alive. We’ve all known each other for a long time and while the paths of our lives have taken each of us down different roads. Somehow, these roads have brought us back together and led us here to this river.

You can feel the “aahhh” with each breath, a light breeze pulls the chill off the water to cool us as we slowly drift down river. It’s a unique feeling, that of being drained of urban stress and energized at the same time. Every turn in the river brings another “magazine shot” into view. We’re on the Trinity, classic fly water, as good as it gets!

Drifting, a style of navigating trout streams where a drift boat or rafts like we’re in use the current of the stream or river to move us down in search of fish. A pair of oars controls the speed when necessary or guide us to spots in the stream where we can jump out to wade and cast to rising fish. Dean’s riding with Herb, while Daniel and I are with Kit. Herb is hands down the best guide on the Trinity and among the very best in the entire region, but, today, Herb is insisting that Kit is the better, he’ll certainly have his hands full with me and Dan today!

I watched Dean catch and release a beautiful wild Steelhead on a dry a couple of years ago and getting my first steelhead has been on my mind ever since. I don’t have any delusions of busting multiple trophy sized steelhead on dry flies today. I just want to get one, nymphing, wooly bugger, what ever, I don’t care.

Kit pushes us off and jumps in, Herb and Dean will give us a few minutes before setting off behind us. A hundred maybe one fifty down stream we come up on a little funnel that’s pushing the water to the right accelerating the flow, creating a fast lane that catches Kits eye. We pull up on the left bank and jump in. He ties us on some nymphs and calls out how he wants each of us to play the section he’s put us at. Before long Daniel gets a bender and lands a little Bow to get us going! Aahhh yea!!…..you feel that?

We work a few more sections trying different things, not much happening so we jump back aboard and slide on down a bit.

We’re alone on the river, the canyon walls and trees keep civilization far away. The echo off the walls allow Kit and Herb to keep in touch. A few whistles and shouts when needed, are used to keep each other abreast of any action going on even while out of sight around a bend. Their knowledge of the river, their craft and each other allow them to communicate most things with a whistle or a few key words. I don’t think it’s something either has ever consciously thought about, fishermen just talk fishing a lot, so much so you get to that point of familiarization that phonetic or grammatically correct sentences are not really necessary.

We’ve swung around a bend on to a wide, straight section of the river.  Kit sees a rise way down ahead of us, a shrill whistle back up stream lets Herb know. They refer to this stretch as the “football field”. Kit pulls us over to the bank just ahead of a little feeder steam that’s pushing through just enough energy to create a few lanes in the flow down river where we saw the rise. A couple of drys get tied on our lines and Kit directs us into spots where we can cast into the lanes where fish are rising. I get a little scolding from Kit for trying to cast too far! I guess it’s the Hawaiian shorecasters mentality kicking in, I can’t help myself! (I actually think that Kit and I were looking at different fish!) Anyways, I eventually get with the program and dial it back to “delicate” and drop my fly in the correct lane. I’ve always believed that some people learn and see things differently and feel like I’m one of those. Kit keeps on us and things are finally beginning to click for me.




It’s a little blurry as far as who took the first fish at the football field, but, we all did manage to take some Steelies. Daniel and I got our first ever! After a break for lunch on the bank we work the football field a little longer before moving on down stream.


As we drift along, Kit suddenly swings his head around! “Hear that?” he says, Daniel and I are clueless. “I heard a fish rise behind us!” says Kit who starts paddling madly back up stream. So, he heard a rise, but, not just behind the raft we’re talking 50 yards behind us!!

The section is narrowed by a gravel bank pushing out from the left. Kit jumps out and tells us to stay in the raft, he’s our anchor holding us against the current with the back side of the raft against the gravel bank. There’s a tiny feeder coming off the opposite bank that’s pushing pretty firmly into a deep pool. Kit tells me to cast just upstream of the joint on the top of the riffle. “Feed it, Feed IT, FEED IT!” I’m frantically waving the tip of my rod while stripping line trying to keep the drift drag free! The fly stays dry and drag free, but, no take. “Pick it up and toss it a little higher and closer to the bank”. I make another cast and somehow manage to drop it right in the slot and start feeding line madly again. This time we get a pop and fish on! It makes a short, hard run down stream with the current so feels like a good fish. Not quite a beast , but, enough to put up a good fight on 5x.



Dean and Herb slide on downstream ahead of us and find a shady riffle that produces another healthy steelie for Dean.


It was a fun day, on some gorgeous water, we’ll be back……

(This trip back in April of 2015, it’s taken me a while to get this up here! Now I need to start work on our trip two weeks ago…..)

“You may not be her first, her last, or her only. She loved before she may love again. But if she loves you now, what else matters? She’s not perfect – you aren’t either, and the two of you may never be perfect together but if she can make you laugh, cause you to think twice, and admit to being human and making mistakes, hold onto her and give her the most you can. She may not be thinking about you every second of the day, but she will give you a part of her that she knows you can break – her heart. So don’t hurt her, don’t change her, don’t analyze and don’t expect more than she can give. Smile when she makes you happy, let her know when she makes you mad, and miss her when she’s not there.”   ―     Bob Marley

Northern California, off I-5 through Redding another 20 to 30 minutes will get you to the town of Lewiston in Trinity County. With a population of just over a thousand in 20 square miles, life is slow and easy. We’re back again to see what fresh water fishing adventures we can find. We’re towing Deans 13′ whaler behind us and hauling along our trout and bass dreams. Those of ulua and oio are stashed away for now. When the elixir flows after dinner they’ll surface along with the debates we’ve repeated for the last thirty plus years of our lives. We can’t help it, it’s what fishermen do.









Seventeen years ago I came up here with Dean for what we were calling at the time “My last hurrah!” I was getting married in a month and it appeared my days of packing a duffel and rod case to disappear for a week or so were going to be lot less frequent, if they happened at all…

Magical, is the only way I can describe that trip. We caught fish everywhere we stopped. Strictly fly-fishing mind you, as much as I love the style I’ve never been a prolific fly caster by anyone’s standards. So to catch fish at each stop, river mouth, little stream, fast water, slow lazy water, it was beyond what I could have ever realistically hoped for! Was this a sign? If so, what did it mean?

This trip we fought a headwind all the way up the coast, it wasn’t until we turned into Redding and headed west towards Trinity that we got into more normal air. Redding is a typical rural Californian town, for us fishermen though, you can’t ignore the river as you pass through. The river, the “Upper Sac” as they call it, refers to the northern regions of the Sacramento river that meander through the state and is particularly prominent in Redding. Big water, typically fished from a drift boat or from the occasional low banks that allow one to toss a shiner or worm out with a spinner.

Five and a half hours and we are finally there! Turn on the utilities, flush the water system, turn on the fridge and we’re good to go! Down to the lake for a shake down run in the whaler to make sure everything’s as it should be before we hit the big lake later in the week. Fly fishing purists would be appalled, but, we tied some “needlefish” spoons on our fly rods to troll for trout! What the heck, our spin rods are all 6 to 7 foot so the 9 foot fly rods gave us a much more efficient spread between our lines. Laugh all you want, but it works!




Lewiston Lake, the smaller of two lakes in the immediate area, with about 750 acres of surface area sits just below the hillside where we would be staying for the next few nights. We had just tied up the whaler next to the launch the night before so it was a matter of minutes after we stepped out the door that we were in the boat headed out. I’ll let my buddy Dean describe the morning on the water.

“Next morning we hit the lake again, but still no flow going through. Trolled a bunch with no success then decided to head up to the north end and do some “Scotty fishing”. This method entails northern cali type driftboat fishing. Light lines (4lb) on a 2lb leader with a floaty egg and some real salmon eggs attached on a small lead splitshot. We took a few strikes but no hookups except for many encounters with the bottom as we were not getting any kind of drift. So screw dat. We went in for lunch and decided to suit up and hit the fabled trinity river fly-water 5 minutes away.”

Hiking and wading with a fly rod in hand, my absolute fave form of fresh water fishing, nothing like it!! For me it’s not all about the catching, just something about the serenity, the sound of the river and trees, reading the water looking for those little rifts or big rocks that create a slack water where the fish will hold. I suppose part of the draw is the amount of finesse and technique one needs to master to effectively present a dry fly well enough for a fish to want to take it. Not easy, but, so beautiful when done well.

“We cast small dries into the pocket water below a big pool and had our share of dinks fight over the floating candies. Joel said he saw a monster fish rise and check out his little hooked struggling smolt then slowly disappear. I thought to put a big ol’ trinity wooly bugger and strip it across and down. Joel did this for 15 minutes without a hit so we moved downstream. We came to a nice pool/run just below a riffle that looked nice and fishy. We cast a few times with no takers. Then, a big silver shadow moved up from the bottom to stick his nose out and check out the increasing hatch of caddis and baetis bugs that were floating by. It appeared he didn’t take anything off the top: I figured he wanted something more substantial for his trouble. I tied Joel on to a Herb Burton T-Bone, a fly that had taken me a 6lb. brown many years ago. Joel worked him for awhile but no takers. After a while, Joel said to try him. The riverbank was tight behind us, lots of casts into the bushes, not much room for a nice long reach and drift. finally, I remembered how to roll cast again and got the big dry down the lane. I never experienced a large steelie coming back more than a couple times to take a dry, but this one did. I missed him two or three times until I told myself to let him take it and put his head underwater before striking. After about an hour he cooperated and we had a fish on!”

I had just walked back up to where Dean was still working the run trying to get the big shadow to come up to take his fly again. I sat on the bank to rest and watched Dean casting. He told me that while I was gone downstream he had missed the fish yet again. I sat listening to the sound of the stream and Deans fly rod and line whooshing through the air. Then, a flash, a huge silver log appeared, sucked his fly in and rolled over towards the far bank, I held my breath for a second, then Dean lifted the tip of his rod and yelled as his reel started to scream! The rod was a 5wt Sage re-wrapped by our buddy Keith, a 5x tippet made for a challenging fight. It took all of ten minutes to get the fish to the net, which was actually way too small for this rather long chrome slab! Steelhead, ocean going rainbow trout, a real beauty for sure. One we will remember forever….I gently eased her back in the water, a few seconds later she shook her head to let me know she was ready to go, I relaxed my grip and she slipped away…

“Smile when she makes you happy, let her know when she makes you mad, and miss her when she’s not there.”