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Fishing Reports for North Coast

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Slow
I spent the last two days fishing with fellow Confluence Outfitters guide Drew Griffith on the North Coast.  We fished a couple of North Coast fisheries, including a day on the Smith River.  Always beautiful and always challenging.  We saw fish on the Smith, but did not hook fish.  I hooked a nice sized fish on our 2nd day, but sadly it was a brief encounter.  The coastal fisheries are about to blow out with this incoming storm and will probably be done for the rest of the season.  All but the Smith River close at the end of March.  The Smith is open through April.
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Wild steelhead making more
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Drew Griffith in a beautiful run
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Good

Winter seemed to be evading California's North Coast for most of January and February. Abnormally high temperatures coupled with little to no precipitation had many of us winter steelheaders scratching our heads, wondering when or if we would have the conditions that are synonymous with the sport; cold. wet. rain. The spell seems to have finally broken. As of today all rivers on the North Coast are on the rise, and with plenty of snow in the hills and more rain forecast into next week we can expect many of our rivers to remain high and off color for the time being. 

There are still plenty of fresh steelhead coming into our coastal systems mixed in with a good amount of down runners and some halfpounders. I had an epic day with a few buddies earlier this week. With the hopes that this storm system would coax some fish holding in the lower river to move up, we were rewarded for braving the storm with a few sea bright hens. Not a bad way to bring February to a close. Once we see our coastal rivers drop in and turn green it should be game on. 

See you on the water!  

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A freshly minted hen came to hand in the last run of the day.
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A coastal native just starting to show her blush.
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Winter colors on the coast.
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Okay

Last weekend I got on the water with Ben, Larry, Greg and Chester with fellow guide Colton Schwenning. We fished hard for three days on the coast hoping to dial in a winter steelhead but we never connected with the allusive ghost of the coast. Conditions were tough with the river being low and clear, yet despite unseasonably low precipitation for Febraury we still saw a good amount of fish in the system on the two days we floated. We had some nasty weather thrown at us on our last day together with hail, snow and strong winds giving us a run for our money. In the end our guys fished hard until the last and we all had an awesome time together. Even when the river doesn't offer up a fish the beauty of the redwood coast never fails to impress. 

Looking ahead into the waining days of Febraury and into March we have several wet weather days forecast. We've finally had a taste of winter, with snow falling as low as 400 ft on the coast and nighttime lows in the upper 20's. I've been seeing fresh fish come in on some of the shorter coastals in anticipation of a rise, so for anyone thinking the best of the season is past, think again. The later season offers some of the best fishing opportunities for swining up a fesh one. Light angling pressure and a mix of hefty adults and bluebacks (smaller chrome steelhead that run late) make for a proper finale to the winter steelhead season. 

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Ben up high on a snowy morning
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the crew. Larry, Greg, Chester and the mastermind, Ben
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Greg with a fresh tie. (photo Colton Schwenning)
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Larry in the zone down low
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In the big trees on the coast.
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Okay

Steelhead fishing on the coast remains tough despite having a window of  ideal conditions for finding a few fresh ones. Last week I got on the  water with Steve and Jim from the bay area. We fished on the S Fork on a  day that started with heavy fog and absolutely perfect water for  swinging up some steel. With only two feet of visibility and a heavy  green stain I was just waiting for one of them to get grabbed, but it  was not to be. We ended up empty handed at the end of the day but did  see a few fish caught by the boat guys as we made our way down  river.

Just yesterday I got to fish with  Mike from San Diego. We had a great day on the big river, the main stem  Eel. We still had great water color (the main stem takes longer to clear  than the S. Fork.) making every good swing seem like it could be the  one. Mike and I got to work on casting and it was great to see him start  to get into a rhthym with his 7130. We found one halfpounder that  grabbed during the hangdown and quickly gave us the fin! The grey ghost  remained allusive, as always.

Another spell  of dry and unseasonably warm weather has settled over the North Coast.  Most rivers are still holding good color, but some are beginning to  clear up. Some rain is forecast for tomorrow and another weak system  looks like it might drop some rain late next weekend. Despite a lack  luster start to February, we still have plenty of time left for some  great fishing opportunites here on the coast.

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Dream water on the Eel
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Mike getting into a rhythm
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Mike in the last run of the day
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Steve and Jim searching for chrome
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Steve sends one out there
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Tall trees
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Good
Brian Kohlman and I enjoyed a busman's holiday today.  I was fortunate to land this nice wild fish on my 7wt spey rod.  It crushed a black and red Silvey's Silvenator in a beautiful tailout.  Time to get out and fish!
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Andrew Harris swung this one up today
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Good

Had an excellent two days of swinging flies with Dick Compton on the North Coast. We had the good fortune of starting our first day off with the river showing great color after rising the day before and falling through the night. We beat the boat crowd by an inch to a favorite run and Dick was soon rewarded by the firm handshake of a winter steelhead.

We stayed on the lower river for the rest of the day hoping to intercept some fresh fish coming up from the esturary. The river was on the high side throughout the day making it a challenge to find good swing water, but we managed to get into a handful of runs that were textbook. 

The second day we looked high and low. We started up river hoping to swing up a well rested fish or two and avoid the boat brigade on the low river. No luck. We finished our day without another hook up but still had an amazing time. Giant redwoods, a wild river and chrome fish are a hard combo to beat. 

Looking ahead we have another high pressure system that looks to stay parked over Northern California for the next 10 days or more. With no forseeable rain in the forecast all rivers on the North Coast should be running green by the weekend to early next week at the very latest. February is nearly here, putting us at the midway point of the winter steelhead season. It's time to go fishing!

 

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Dick Compton fighting the good fight.
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This hen looked like she had seen some action before her morning smash and grab
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In the bucket, waiting for another handshake
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Not a bad way to start your day.
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Good

Green water returned to the rivers of the North Coast this past weekend after the first significant rainfall of 2018. This past week saw everything from the Eel to the Smith in prime condition and fish were found in both systems for anglers willing to put in the time and effort. 

I fished with Sang on Saturday up north. We had an awesome day poking around the Smith looking for fresh steelhead. While we didn't get into any fish we did dail up some hedgehog mushrooms between swing runs. Not a bad reward for a day on the river. 

A succession of storms are making ready to hit the coast starting tonight and continuing into next week. The Smith is projected to make it's most significant rise of the season over the weekend. All rivers will see a hard rise by early next week and in all likelihood we will see many blow out. Time to hunker down behind the vice and crank out those bugs!

 

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Sang bright eyed and bushy tailed in the first run of the day
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A hat full of fresh hedgehogs
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To the far bank
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Waiting for the big pull.
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Colton Schwenning swung up this savage buck fishing the coast over the weekend.
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The usual suspects
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Days end.
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Wet weather has finally returned to the North Coast. After an unsettling dry December the new year has begun with all coastal rivers set for a significant rise. Most if not all rivers subject to low flow restrictions should see enough of a push to open. The Smith is projected to bump up tonight by several feet, and rise again mid week. 

The Eel River is forecast to add multiple feet by mid week. With some projections calling for a rise of 4ft or more, the main stem Eel will in all likelihood blow out. The good news is that with such a significant rise the stretches of the Eel that have remained closed to fishing since early December should stay open through the end of January when low flow restrictions end. Rain is always a welcome sign and necessary ingredient for winter steelhead. Coupled with king tides that occured earlier this week, things are looking very fishy indeed. 

The coast is calling.  

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Tools of the trade.
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Good

Had an awesome day with Steve looking for some chrome up on the North Coast. After almost a month of dry weather we were finally treated to some rain earlier this week giving our coastal rivers a much needed recharge and putting some color back into the water. As expected, the rain brought more than just a hint of green back into the rivers. A fresh pulse of sea bright steelhead finally got what they too had been waiting for and have shown up at long last.

Steve went 1 for 2 today, bringing a chrome dart to hand before hooking up with a nice adult that ended up coming off. I saw a few fish holding from the bank and also witnessed another spey fisherman hook up and land a nice adult. All said and done, the fishing on the coast was good. Things should start to really heat up here in the next few weeks as more rain is forecast to fall. I'm looking forward to the new year and spending days on the water chasing chrome. 

Happy holidays from the North Coast!  

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Soaking the bucket, waiting for the pull
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Chrome dart.
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Steve finds a nice adult. Gets corked. Gets the fin!
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Sunrise
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Beautiful days on the coast.
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Good

I had a chance to get out on the water this week with fellow angler and regular steelhead bum Colton Schwenning. I was excited to use my new 14 ft raft for the first time and do a little scouting to see if any fresh fish had come in from the salt despite the lack of rain. It didn't take long. I found a beautiful dime bright hen that was all too eager to come to the fly. A sure sign that even with low and clear conditions the steelhead are making their first push on the coast. 

We ended the day with Colton finding two nice half pounders. The weather was beautiful and it was exciting to see a river transformed from what is usually a burly torrent of water to a gentle coastal stream. All in all it was a great day and the fishing did not disappoint.

Dry conditions continue but perhaps not for much longer. Wet weather is forecast on the coast early next week with some projections calling for half an inch of rain. While this isn't a significan amount it might be enough to coax a few fish to begin moving up river. Some of the smaller coastal systems have closed this week due to low flow restrictions, but there are still plenty of great options for wetting a line and hoping for the tight line grab of fresh chrome here on the North Coast!

See you on the water.  

 

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A beautiful bright wild hen on a clear day. Always amazed. Always grateful.
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Hope dies last on the coast. Every good cast can be the one
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New whip ready for action.
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Slow

Someone turned the faucet off on the North Coast. Sustained dry weather has all rivers running low and clearing fast, some more so than others. The salmon runs seem to be winding down as we move further into December. I fished on the Eel River last week and heard a report of some nice half pounders being caught. The main stem Eel is holding good color, along with the Van Duzen. 

The next forecasted rain for the area looks like it will be here by the weekend, with more rain projected into the following week. The first runs of winter steelhead are due to make an appearance at any time, and with some wet stuff on the way fishing should pick up.

For low flow fishing closures on the North Coast call: (707) 822-3164  

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Prawn flies and clickers. Hard to beat the classics
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End of the day on the coast
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Salmon runs have come to their end. Steelhead on tap
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Good

The rains that were forecast to show up came and delivered. All systems on California's North Coast saw significant rises over the weekend and the roller coaster continues with more wet weather on tap. With so many variables in weather and flows finding the perfect conditions can be fleeting. 

You can study graphs and projected rises compared to rainfall percentages until the cows come home. Your best bet is to get out when you can and forget the forecast. The fishing has been amazing at times, and slow during others, but for swinging flies that's par for the course. All it takes is one. 

I'm looking forward to transitioning into winter steelhead in the coming weeks. They're already starting to show up on the coast with the runs of salmon. Usually Thanksgiving is the unofficial start of the season, and with this next big push of rain it looks like it'll start off with a bang! 

 

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A freshly minted coastal king.
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Chris with the prize.
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Colton with a chromed out king
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Sometimes it really is that simple. Pink or Chartreuse?
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A beautiful hen on the coast.
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Rain is on tap for the North Coast. This looks to be the biggest rise of the fall season to date, and with it will come a push of fresh fish from the salt. All rivers from the Eel to the south to the Smith in the north have projected rises varying in degree from 1 foot to 3 plus. Batten down the hatches and break out the vice. Kings are coming to a coastal river near you. 

The Trinity should also receive a fresh pulse of fish with the rain we have in store. The lower river has been somewhat of a desert with most fish concentrated in the upper and middle stretches. 

 Happy hunting

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The prize
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Chartreuse is hard to beat when it comes to targeting fresh Kings.
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