Back to the Trinity River

Trinity Steelheading

It had been about 14 years since last wading the water’s of Northern California’s Trinity River, and the return was just as glorious (and daunting) as the first visit.

The memories of my first trip to the Trinity are vivid, and the first recollections usually include the feeling of being overwhelmed. Coming from Colorado at that time, the river was enormous and there was seemingly too much water to cover. In fact, by steelhead river standards, the Trinity is relatively small. And compared to the Skeena system rivers I visited in British Columbia, the Trinity is tiny. Nevertheless, exploring new waters is rarely easy, and in many ways, going from trout fishing in the Colorado Rockies to steelheading the Pacific Northwest is almost an entirely new ballgame.

Round two brought those memories back quickly. In addition, this trip reminded my how mesmerizing steelheading Pacific Northwest is. Lush, green forests with enormous trees line large rivers that inhabit several anadromous beasts that are the lifeblood ecosystems – both in the river and the ocean. Their ancient migration has sustained life for thousands of years, and surely the behavior and size of salmon and steelhead have impressed all anglers who have ever pursued them.

Salmon Head

As I fished, I was repeatedly astonished by my surroundings. Leading up to the trip and upon my arrival, I was reminded that the steelhead bug (pun) is one that can easily lead to obsession. Although I’ve caught Great Lakes chromers, I was told that one hookup in the Northwest would be the downfall of any steelhead sanity that I would have held. But perhaps it didn’t even take a hookup. Jumping steelhead and salmon made my heart race, and even witnessing a chinook in passing triggered verbal recognition (and I was alone).

The moment I think I will never forget came on the second of three days. Scouting out a new stretch of the river, I came upon about five salmon guarding their beds. I stood and watched in awe. Despite visible decay indicating that their days were numbered, I watched as they aggressively pursued anything that crossed their path. It was incredible to watch. Each fish had a mission. The first part of the mission was to complete a journey that in itself is wondrous (let alone demanding). And the second part was to defend the reproduction ritual that each fish both lives and dies for. For these fish, ensuring the existence of future generations was worth every ounce of their remaining energy.

When I returned home, looking at a calendar of open days to get back to the Trinity preceded unpacking. The last few days have had numerous hours spent looking at steelhead and salmon cult websites and considering gear needs. … Uh oh …

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