The plan of leaving Reno early, arriving at the boat ramp before sunset, finding a good campsite and getting a good night’s rest went pretty smoothly until we didn’t leave early… In typical fashion, we arrived at the boat ramp/campsite just before 3:00 in the morning. Fog had settled into the canyon and rain began to drizzle through the following hours. We were comfortable in our tents listening to the drizzle and waiting for first light. As signs of daybreak began, we prepared a coffee and loaded all of our gear into the raft. As visibility increased, we launched the raft into the cool, misty morning.
After a series of debris-filled drops, we anchored at the top of the first fishable run. Drifting heavy nymph rigs through the first trough, we managed to hook six fish and land half of them. Each steelhead was a healthy, wild fish that gave more than their fair share of a fight.
After flogging the bucket for nearly half an hour, we decided to move on and continue down the 8.5 mile stretch we planned to float for the day. Early success quickly turned to struggle as steelheading often does. The next few hours were a grind. Casting and mending to water that felt empty and lifeless. I knew if we persisted we would find what we were after.
As afternoon approached, a storm quickly rolled in from every direction. Rain and wind swept over the river and filled the sky above. After an hour, the storm subsided and sunlight glistened through the clouds. Water dropped from the trees and warmth filled the canyon. As we approached camp, I hooked into the final steelhead of the night. With two heavy runs and unforgiving headshakes, the fish broke my leader before showing itself. These creatures have a funny way of hooking you.
We made camp along a rocky bar along the river. Low hanging fog filled the canyon. Moss wrapped around the north facing surfaces of the rocks and trees. As nightfall set in, we made camp and prepared a cast iron pan. I seasoned half a dozen venison burgers and laid them across the pan. We removed the wild game from the heat and served ourselves straight from the skillet. The hearty meal refueled us after a long day outside. Following a campfire and a short drizzle of rain, we fell asleep with the stars peeking through the clouds overhead.
I awoke to the sweet smell of fall along the Trinity River. The crisp, clean air filled the canyon and provided a promising take on a new day. We made breakfast and coffee and loaded our gear into the raft. Continuing downstream, we began working the likely runs holding water. This particular float included a section far away from any road or highway traffic and allowed for a more immersive experience not offered on other sections of the Trinity. We didn’t see another boat on the entire float.
As we continued downstream, we worked ledges and drop offs below Chinook Salmon redds. Steelhead often congregate below the salmon and eat eggs drifting downstream of their redds. Matt picked up a nice steelhead just below camp and proceeded to hook multiple fish after that. As we exited the canyon towards Junction City where we would take out, we were satisfied not only with the fishing but the quiet and natural beauty of the canyon. Exploring new water is what it’s all about-but catching a steelhead never hurts.
Aden Breckner and Matt Cullen have both worked in the shop for several years and can be a tremendous resource for our local and even regional waters. When they aren’t in the shop you will find Matt casting two hand rod to steelhead in Northern California or at Pyramid Lake. Aden spends most of his time contemplating which color of egg use in any water that he is fly fishing.