Denis Peirce: When opportunity knocks, answer the door |

Denis Peirce: When opportunity knocks, answer the door

Long time friend, Bill McCrea, was in touch early this month and mentioned a trip to the Klamath River he had on his calendar. The plan was to take his travel trailer to the north coast on vacation. Bill has a river boat with a jet drive, capable of navigating the river but he could only tow one vehicle. I offered to drive the boat up and back for a few days of fishing. The trip was on!

Some of my most memorable fishing trips have been to coastal rivers in Indian Summer to “swing flies” for steelhead. Most of these fish are “half -pounders” that have only spent one season in the salt but return to winter over in the river. There are adult fish in the mix but these are much fewer in number. The allure of half pounders for me is the quantity of fish waiting to eat a fly. If you can get to the right water the action is fast. You can get confirmation of what a good angler you truly are.

I have fished the Klamath River on a number of occasions but these are few and far between due to the distance and travel time involved. The upper river from I-5 down has good road access but the lowest section from the coast to 20+ miles upstream is only accessible by boat. I have not had an opportunity to fish this stretch of river in 20 years. I put off all other obligations to devote four days to a Klamath River steelhead trip.

Colin and I got our tent camping kit and fishing gear together and hit the road. Because we were towing a boat, we took Hwy 20 west to Hwy 101 then north, an eight hour drive.

We spent the first morning getting the feel of the boat on the river and then headed upstream. The lower river is a series of long deep pools with shallow riffles as much as a mile apart. The riffles are the points at which the river goes over a gravel bar and picks up speed as it drops in elevation. This is where the half pounders hold and feed. The drill is to fish a riffle top to bottom and move on to the next one.

There were quite a few boats on the river but most of them were fishing salmon in the deeper holes. We had most of the steelhead water to ourselves. With the boat, if there were anglers on a riffle, we just moved on to the next one.

The river is warm this time of year, wet wading in shorts is very comfortable. The cobble stone bottom is slippery with moss but if you slipped you dried off quickly.

Colin caught his first half pounders this trip. He was a little unsure at first about walking on what seemed like greased bowling balls. But once he settled into a spot fishing was his focus.

On a good riffle the three of us could take as many as a dozen fish or more.

As the fall progresses these steelhead will continue to migrate upstream on the Klamath with many taking the Trinity River turn off. With the weather hopefully cooling down waders and warm clothes will become the norm. Right now is the time for steelhead fishing in summer conditions and camping in tents. If you get the opportunity, you will not regret going.

If you go, drop by Little Ray’s Tackle Box in Klamath Glen. The owner, Tommy Chew, is a wealth of information and he has exactly the right gear for the Klamath River.

Local Salmon Fishing

The fish are in the Feather and Sacramento rivers, but the catching has been tough. The Feather has low water and the fish are not easy to hook. The earliest legal time in the morning is your best bet. The Sacramento has a decent bite above Red Bluff but it is a long drive.

Justin Leonard shifted his guide trips to the Sacramento Metro area of the river ten days ago. Although the water is 68 degrees the quality of the fish closer to the saltwater is better. There are hundreds of fish per day swimming through the area as seen on the electronics. His clients are boating one to three fish per day. He noted that the Garcia Bend ramp is closed for repair and the Miller Park ramp is the best bet but a bit crowded. He has been trolling both spinners and plugs.

Tom Page has been fishing the Lower Yuba. There is a noticeable increase in migrating salmon. A week ago the local trout/steelhead began showing an interest in egg imitations. The salmon have yet to begin digging redds. When they do the egg bite will get going in earnest.

Denis Peirce writes a fishing column for The Union’s Outdoors section and is host of “The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report,” which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via his website at

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