As trout anglers in and around the Lake Tahoe region, we love our hard-fighting wild fish. The feeling of a sizable rainbow moving downstream and making powerful head shakes is what drives us out of bed in the mornings. What if there was a rainbow trout even more hardcore than our wild McCloud strain? Well, that award would, without doubt, go to the steelhead.
Pacific steelhead are the ideal cross between salmon and trout. They are born in anadromous rivers and tributaries, then work their way to the ocean, where they spend a few years bulking up and dodging predators.
They then come back to the river they were born in to continue the life cycle and spawn. Unlike salmon, steelhead are able to spawn three or four times before they die. Because of their usual four to six year lifespan, they can get big.
Unfortunately, steelhead have been driven out of much of their native range, particularly in Southern California. There are currently estimated to be around 400 southern steelhead left on Earth. If you drove south from Alaska, you’d notice that steelhead are more and more scarce the further south you drive, right to Los Angeles.
There’s still hope for southern steelhead though! Biologists and engineers are teaming up to reconstruct a five-mile stretch of the Los Angeles river flood channel to prime it for spawning steelhead. With any luck, steelhead should be able to once again spawn in a more natural place, and their population is expected to increase once the project is finished.
Learn more about what’s being done to help the critically endangered southern steelhead at this L.A Times article.
The wading was difficult in my sandals. It had rained the night before, and that smokeless day on the river was the first I had seen in weeks. Consistently catching fish, but nothing big yet. After a short break, I was looking for a fish to end the day with.
When I set the hook I knew I had found a good one. A second after the fish found itself with a hook in the corner of its mouth, it flew out of the water, traveling several feet through the air. Even mid-flight, I could see it was a big brown. The dark back and yellow flash gave him away long before he was landed. The fish jumped once more and when the hook still held it tried another tactic: it swam down to the bottom and parked.
I stood in a foot of water, looking over the drop-off the fish headed toward. I saw nothing down there. My rod was bent to nearly to its cork and I couldn’t move the fish. For several seconds I watched the rod tip; it was motionless.
A Hawaiian hotel worker had taught me about “plucking” years earlier. It’s a tactic used in ocean fishing to get fish out of snags or holes underwater. When a fish stops moving, the angler can pluck their line above the reel like a guitar string. I remembered this strategy and began plucking, moving the line enough for the fish to feel it but not so much as to lose tension.
The fish shot off to the middle of the river, pulling out the line under my control finger and onto the reel. It didn’t stop until it was mid-river and downstream of me. I chased it down, reeling as I walked.
I coaxed him back to me and he swam towards the bushes of algae on the bottom of the shallow, slower water. A turn of the rod tip corrected his path, pulling his head around to where I wanted him to go. His spot pattern caught the sunlight and as he came closer to me I observed every inch of that fish.
The fish was tired. It felt itself being held by the tail, cradled behind the head and moved into shallow water. It was lifted out of the water and held up to a camera. Then it was placed back into the water, and as I cradled it I took a look at the fish I had just landed. A perfect brown. Flawless fins, kyped nose, thick brown spots and a tail the size of my palm. Nothing detracted from his beauty. As it caught its breath, more pictures were taken, and after a few seconds it shot off.
I walked back to the car with a stupid grin on my face. A perfect fish to end a beautiful day in Eastern Idaho.
Fall is here, and for us anglers that means two things: the browns are spawning, and so are the kokanee.
Streamers will be fishing the best they have all year, but don’t get too excited. We want to make sure the the fish can spawn in peace to ensure a healthy population in the coming years.
That said, last week the Little Truckee River flows were dropped to 10cfs, extremely low. Spawning browns and kokanee were very vulnerable during this time. Myself and the crew at MHFF wanted to thank each and every angler who left these amazing fish alone during this time.
Since the fish are spawning, we also need to mind where we step in the river. Don’t tread on the redds! We want our future fish, so keep your eyes out for possible spawning areas and avoid them!
Redds are basically fish nests. The eggs are fertilized and covered up by gravel to hatch in the coming months. One can distinguish a redd by its difference in color than the usual river bottom.
By- Ryan Rintala, Social Media @mattheronflyfishing
Landon Mayer resides in Colorado and spends his free time fly fishing on several of the state’s finest and famous rivers and lakes. As a guide, he is accustomed to the issue of uneducated anglers fishing for spawning trout.
The South Platte is one of the rivers he frequents, and there is a particular three-mile long section known as the Dream Stream. Anglers land sizable fish daily. Because of its opportunity for big fish, the Dream Stream gets quite a lot of pressure from experienced and rookie fly fishers.
Fall and spring are important to fish because it’s when trout spawn. Brown trout spawn each fall, sitting in shallow water with a gravel bottom in pairs and digging their redds.
These spawn events are crucial for the continuation of each fish species, and some unethical or uneducated anglers use it as an opportunity to land that trophy fish they’re looking for.
Luckily, Mayer put in some time and organized for educational signs to be placed on the Dream Stream where trout are known to spawn.
This should help prevent the issue of anglers targeting spawning trout and help the Dream Stream keep its status as a blue-ribbon trout fishery.
Fishing has been good recently on the Truckee and its surrounding rivers and lakes! We’ve had a few smokeless days of clear skies, but the smoke has returned (this weekend should be good though). Although it may suck for us, the bugs couldn’t be happier. Smoke is making a good substitute for cloud cover, and the baetis are loving it. We are seeing a few Mahogany Dun and October Caddis coming off, and the hatches should only increase as we roll further into fall.
Tahoe City to Truckee: 74 (these should pick up this week)
Truckee to Boca: 90
Boca to Farad: 450
Farad to Stateline: 503
Tip: if the bugs are loving the weather, the fish are too! The smoke cover has been a substantial factor regarding fishing, and it has been good lately! We are starting to get fish on streamers, which should pick up significantly after we get some rain or snow. Impressively, fish are still eating hoppers and most likely will until some weather rolls in and daytime temperatures drop. As usual, indicator and tightline nymphing has been the main game. Fish have keyed in more on midges and baetis now, but they’re still eating some big bugs. Downsizing tippet is always a good move, especially with smaller flies.
Our friends at RepYourWater have teamed up with big name brands in the fly fishing industry to bring us one heck of a giveaway! They have items from Thomas & Thomas fly rods, Nautilus reels, Umpqua, Scientific Anglers, and Backcountry Hunter’s and Anglers. That’s over $2500 in prizes! The giveaway ends at the month and signup couldn’t be easier! Head on over to RepYourWater’s website or click here to enter the giveaway.
In fly fishing, your cast is affected by a multitude of things, both major and minor. Although this blog post won’t fix your cast, it’ll offer two of the most common things that fly casters of all skill levels can be held back by. If you feel that your casts aren’t going as far as they should be, aren’t straightening out all the way, or are lacking power (or maybe all three), try again with these two tips in mind.
Tip #1: You might be getting overly cocky. What this means is that you are letting your wrist flex too much on the backcast, therefore letting the rod move too far back. Keep in mind the when you are casting you should have a stiff wrist. A relaxed wrist will lead to an overshoot in rod motion and a loss of power, because your arm will stop but your wrist will keep going, slower and with less purpose. If you’re relaxing your wrist too much, try keeping the rod butt pressed to your forearm by pinning it under your sleeve or a rubber band.
Tip #2: You may not be stopping hard enough. Each time you move the rod, whether on the back or forward cast, there is a crucial stop that must happen. Picture this scenario: I’m at the edge of the water, thirty feet of fly line out in front of me, and I’m ready to cast. My rod tip goes from being pointed down at the water to straight above my head pointed at the sky. Do I stop crisply when my rod tip reaches this position, or gently press the brakes like rolling a car up to a stop sign? Those of you who said I need to stop hard are correct: A hard stop will catapult the fly line with more power than if I used the previously mentioned stop sign approach. Try it for yourself! The stop sign approach will result in a loss of power, which also means a cast that isn’t straight. In sum, a harder stop equals a farther, straighter and more accurate cast. **Caution, although rare, it is possible to stop to hard!**
These two tips interlock with each other regarding when to stop: How far back should your cast go before I stop? The answer to this question will change as your casting distance changes (see our 10-and-2 casting blog here). Basically, your rod movement will increase with cast length. A twenty foot cast requires much less of a front-to-back or back-to-front motion than a fifty foot cast, and a fifty foot cast will require a harder stop than a twenty foot cast.
Forbthies if you that don’t know, Matt Heron is the director for the Tahoe/Reno region of an organization called Cast Hope. Cast Hope is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to getting youth into the world of fly fishing.
Our friend Kim has quite the artistic ability, and recently has been using it to raise money for Cast Hope! With the covid situation going on, most of our fundraisers have been cancelled and the fact that Kim is using her spare time to help Cast Hope continue making a positive effect on youth through fly fishing is incredible.
For those of you who have any interest in purchasing or promoting Kim’s artwork, you can find her Facebook here.