Voices from the river

Voices from the river: The Holy Trinity

Angler on California’s Trinity River.

By Sam Davidson

Every year, when the perseid meteor shower flings sparks across the night skies, I start thinking about fishing the Trinity River.

The “Holy Trinity” is one of the best salmon and steelhead streams in California, and perhaps the Lower 48. In August summer run steelhead are in the system, and the annual return of fall-run Chinook to this legendary river typically begins. Early winter run steelhead are not far behind.

And every year, it seems, wildfire sweeps through some portion of the Trinity drainage. A blaze last year, the Helena Fire, reduced homes and small businesses in the town of Junction City to ashes. This and other small communities here and there along the road that follows the river provide camping and limited gas and grocery options for visiting anglers.

But driving along Highway 299 last fall, Junction City offered little more than ghostly blackened scrub, pines and structures. Cars were literally melted in people’s driveways.

(L) The Trinity River, with damage from the Helena Fire visible. Photo courtesy of The Fly Shop.

The fishery, thankfully, was not devastated. It felt a little strange to be fishing—the source of so much joy for me—in the wake of such destruction. But I reasoned that affirmations are needed and welcome after tragedies.

The northern California hub of Redding, just over the hill from the upper Trinity, can use such affirmations. For the past several weeks the Redding area has been beset by wildfire. The huge Carr Fire burned 1,000 homes around Redding (including some owned by TU members) and forced the evacuation of the tiny hamlet of Lewiston on the Trinity just below Trinity Lake (where TU members Herb and Patty Burton have owned the Trinity Fly Shop for many years). The Hat Fire forced the evacuation of the Clearwater Lodge on the Pit River, another TU Business Member owned by fishing industry leader Michelle Titus. A new fire is now burning near the venerable Bollibokka Club on the McCloud River—one of the most glorious trout streams anywhere.

Trout Unlimited will host its Annual Meeting in Redding from the 19th to the 22nd of September (with support from our local Shasta Trinity Cascades Chapter and local TU Business Member The Fly Shop, one of the most acclaimed fly fishing retailers and guide service providers anywhere. In the meantime we encourage members of the angling community to make a donation to help those affected by the Carr Fire.

The impacts of all these fires on the cornucopia of trout streams around Redding, including the Trinity, remains to be seen. At a minimum there are likely to be issues with water quality this winter, when storms cause runoff from denuded slopes and precipitate tons of sediment into creeks.

(R) The Steelhead Whisperer, throwing line on the Holy Trinity.

Meanwhile, the Trinity beckons. A recent post from The Fly Shop described the current conditions: “Highway 299 has been opened to escorted traffic from 6:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. If you are looking to get over and fish the Trinity, it’s go time. The releases have brought a lot of fish up into the river and there is next to no pressure right now. Smoke over there is usually significantly less than it is here [in Redding]. With early summer run fish in, you know they are grabby.”

Grabby fish on a fabled steelhead stream. Count me in. But first, I’m making a donation to the Carr Fire relief effort, sending prayers for those who have lost lives or property to the fires, and giving thanks for the heroic efforts of our firefighters and others who are the front line in dealing with “the new normal.”

Sam Davidson is TU’s Communications Director for California and Oregon.

By Sam Davidson.