No Cal correspondent Mike McNeilly has the floor

Posted: March 4, 2013 by Hellcat in Fish Reports, Gear Fishing, Out of Area
Tags: , , ,

The Nor Cal 2013 Steelhead Season… So Far
By Mike McNeilly

I’ve caught almost as many fish this season as I did last year, but I have had to fish a few more days and wear a lot more felt off the soles of my boots. We got hammered with rain in December and there were a lot of black dots on the USGS map. After that, the rain essentially stopped, and it has been an extremely dry winter on the California Coast in January and February. Consequently, many of the rivers that are popular on wet years like the Smith and South Fork Eel have been way too low and clear for productive fishing throughout much of the season.

However, there is a silver lining to the lack of rain that we’ve been having. The Nor Cal coast between Fort Bragg and the town of Klamath is characterized by redwood forest that were clear cut at one time or another. Clear cutting led to extremely loose exposed soils that have a tendency to runoff into the river every time we get more than an inch or two of rain. Then main stem Eel rarely fishes due to its turbid waters. This year, the main stem Eel has been the workhorse of the whole state and the fishing has been outstanding for those in the know. Despite the good fishing, I’ve spent a combined total of about 8 hours on the Eel this season, and I have nothing but one brief hookup to show for it.

The muddy mighty Mad River is the hatchery powerhouse of Nor Cal steelhead fisheries, and it has been my bread and butter river for the past few seasons. I’ve had some awesome days on the Mad over the last few years. Most guys on the Mad are swinging extremely long leaders and microscopic beads in water that usually has about 6” to 1ft. of visibility. I don’t go for that stuff, and I’m usually the first guy to break out the eggs in murky water while everybody else is trying to snag fish. I’m usually greeted with a lot of eager biters as long as I can hit them on the nose.

This year, the rain has been largely absent on the Mad, and the water is low and clear (for the Mad). It is still relatively turbid with only about 3-4ft of visibility. Unfortunately, this has brought out more competition from other guys that are actually fishing for the fish as opposed to snagging them, and my unpressured resource has been educated more than in years past. Not to mention that the return to the hatchery seems to be below average this year and overall the fishing has only been fair in my opinion.

So, I’ve had to be an actual steelhead fisherman and go back to my roots of covering a lot of water and fishing for wild fish on wild rivers. If I had to chose two words to describe the rivers I’ve been fishing this year those words would be “low” and “clear.” Most of the rivers I’ve been fishing have been hovering at only about 10-25% of their average flows, and the fishing has been surprisingly good. It’s been the Pepsi Challenge taste test under these low and clear conditions, and it’s been surprising what the fish have favored. On one river in particular, we are restricted to artificials only, and the number one producer by far has been fishing a 4” pink worm and a light pink corky on drift gear. With the crystal clear water, my guess would be to downsize, but the fish have shown a definite taste for the worm over every other offering including small egg presentations.

Overall, the fishing has been a 6 or 7 for me and a 9 to 9.5 for some guys. H3LLCAT didn’t fish this week, so here’s some methadone in place of the pure black tar he usually delivers.

  1. Strick says:

    Nice write up Mike. Got to love the fish flossers huh?!?! What a joke. Guys that drift long leaders and go 1 for 30. Lol. Steelhead fishing is about covering water not camping on a hatchery hole flossing the day away. Again, nice work Mike.

  2. Sal says:

    Nice write up. It sounds like some tough sledding down your way this winter. Great that you stuck to it and got some fish the fisherman’s way. The one you are holding on the post, is a beauty. Sal

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *