April is both good and bad in the eyes of a winter steelhead fisherman. While there are still a few fresh fish pushing into many of our systems on the North Coast, many of these rivers close March 31st. Not too mention that fact that everything is still high and off color due to the late March and April rains we have had. For me, April is bittersweet. While I would still like to be steelhead fishing, it is also nice to get some much deserved time off!

Fishing amongst giant CA redwoods.

This winter had its ups and downs as they usually do. Extremely low, clear conditions due to a lack of rain offered both excellent fishing and some really tough fishing in New Zealand like conditions. Those that put in the time, were patient, and made good delicate presentations were rewarded. We also saw the opposite end of the spectrum with 8-10″ of rain in 48 hours, causing minor flooding in some areas and blowing rivers out for a week or more. This pretty much sums up the middle of March till now.

So good, he thought he was dreaming!

Eel River @ 102,000 cfs after 8" of rain in less than 48 hours.

As is the case in swinging flies for winter steelhead we had some good days and really tough days. When the conditions were “right” we found some really nice fish and were rewarded with some multi-fish days. We also had those days where it seems like nothing is in the river until a bait guy floats by and hooks a fish right in front of you. They’re usually there, sometimes the stinky stuff just works better than swung feather and fur!

Jeff's 15lb Smith River buck. His first ever Smith River steelhead!

As is the case in winter steelheading, the ones that put in the time and effort are usually rewarded.  Chad Foster and Jeff Hickman from Oregon headed down south in search of redwoods, Bigfoot, and chrome steelhead and were rewarded the second day after being blanked our first day out. With a little rain overnight and good conditions they hooked 7 fresh winter steelhead on the swing their last day. While we saw giant redwoods and chrome steelhead, Bigfoot eluded us again!

Jeff Hickman with 1 of 4 he hooked on their second day.

The last day we were able to fish in March I had the pleasure of guiding Jeff Schillings and Dan Donoghue. We were fishing a rising river in heavy rain and wind and they did great in tough conditions. We were the only ones on the water that day and it paid off. Jeff had a couple of good grabs that didnt stick and Dan landed two including this hard fighting hen.

It was a great winter steelhead season and I want to thank those that fished with me this winter. We look forward to seeing many of you again this next fall and winter!


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1 Response to Bittersweet…

  1. will says:

    Looks like a great season Jason. I’ll have to get down to that part of the world sometime during the winter and sample a few of those adult steelhead who’s offspring I’ve been studying

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