California's North Coast Winter Steelhead

California's North Coast rivers offer a great opportunity at hooking winter steelhead on the fly in a beautiful surrounding. Many of these rivers run through some of California's largest redwood forest and provide an amazing backdrop when fishing for winter steelhead. Rivers such as the Eel, South Fork Eel, Van Duzen, Mad, and all host good returns of wild steelhead and offer the chance at hooking the steelhead of a lifetime. While most winter steelhead in these rivers average 6-8 lbs, fish in the 14-20lb range are hooked each year. The down side of fishing these North Coast rivers is that they tend to blow out rather easily when we get rain and can take anywhere from 1-3 weeks to come back into fishable shape. When they do drop into shape the fishing can be great as many fresh fish will pour into these systems after a storm. Some rivers clear quicker than others and can provide fishing for a lot longer period of time than say the main stem of the Eel. The South Fork Eel is one of those. We tend to spend more time of the SF Eel than any other system because it clears quicker and stays in shape longer.

Because of this I usually do not book trips too far in advance. What I am going to do is put together a call and email list of those intretsed in trips on the coast and or specific rivers one would like to fish. I will give you 3-7 days notice of when a system will drop into shape and a fishing forecast. This will allow us to have good fishable conditions and not have to worry about a certain date being blown out and having to rebook. That being said, if you do want to book a date so that it is reserved that will work as well.

These rivers are a great place for swinging flies on spey rods for chrome bright winter steelhead. We utilize spey and switch rods on the 10'6" to 14' range and skagit style fly lines with heavy sinktips to target these flies. This style of fishing is not for the faint of heart and typically requires casting skagit style lines with 10-12' of T-14 and flies in the 2-6 inch range to target these winter steelhead.

For those interested, please send me an email with a contact number to get a hold of you when these rivers begin to fish. Our time frame for fishing these rivers in from mid December to March 31 when most fo the rivers close to fishing. Thank you and happy holidays. Go for the grab!

Jason Hartwick

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