The big run of salmon on the upper Klamath has subsided as quickly as it started. The mass of drift boats has now shrunk and all but disappeared in all directions south, north, and west.
The greater part of the salmon run entered the Iron Gate fish hatchery while many wild salmon have begun spawning in adequate locations where they can locate gravel suitable to deposit their eggs. This event of the migration is just now beginning and will continue through late October and into mid-November. This is nature’s signal to the steelhead anglers to get out in the cold mornings, as the mist rises from the river, and start their quest for that great and magnificent feel of a steelhead on the line rushing through the swift currents of the river. What a gift.
I don’t think size of a steelhead is so important to any angler as much as just hooking one. The reward of the event is playing and landing these shiny rainbows from the sea. It is an achievement and personal reward in itself.
Most of the steelhead in the Klamath run from about two pounds up to
Five or six pounds. Fish from seven pounds up are more rare. A four-pound fish will tear you up with great power and clear the surface many times.
The more productive places to fish for steelhead now in the Upper Klamath, is in the stable riffles entering the deeper holes; slicks above and below salmon spawning beds; and holding water in the swifter sections of the river.
Once in awhile anglers can catch a steelhead in the deep holes.
On more rare occasions, they may pick up fish that may be resting from their upstream migration.
Fly fishing on riffles, especially the shallow runs below spawning salmon, has been very productive. Anglers are switching from traditional flies such as Prince nymphs, Copper John’s, Wooly Buggers, Silver Hiltons, and Brindle Bugs, to salmon egg patterns. Bright colored flies such as the Duffy. Glo-bug, Two-Egg Sperm fly, and Battle Creek Special are examples of the many bright florescent patterns that attract the steelhead now and through winter.
What is nice about this time of the year is the breath-taking beauty of the Klamath with the trees surrounding both sides of the river displaying their brilliant colors. From sea level at the mouth, the river rises eventually in some 200 miles to 2,500 feet displaying those once a year gorgeous colors that enrich the soul. It brings out extra rewards to any angler wading or floating the river regardless if they catch any fish or not. Everything natural on the river is a reward.
Special note to anglers fishing the Upper Klamath. Just in case you might forget. You must not forget to write down on your steelhead or salmon cards, the day of fishing and the catch record. Not when you quit later but right after you catch the fish. Don’t forget to carry your license with you when you are out on the river. In addition, if fishing for steelhead, you must use barbless hooks or pinch the barb down with pliers is suggested you carry in your vest or on a belt. Above all remember the limit for trout or steelhead is one fish. Any fish you keep must be a hatchery fish and have a clipped adipose fin. All wild fish must be returned to the water. This has been a difficult discipline for many anglers but it is working.
The reason for these regulations is to support and improve the population of steelhead in the anadromous waters. At the present time there are many small steelhead in the river among the salmon and adult steelhead that take offerings frequently. Here’s where the barbless hooks come in. Regular barbed hooks are most times difficult to remove from the small fish and they tear the fragile mouth of the younger fish resulting in their eventual death if they bleed. Thus they are wasted and never reach the sea to come back as larger fish.
Several days ago Fish and Game Wardens were working the river and many anglers received citations for neglecting to record fish, no barbless hooks as the most common violations. Stiff fines are the result. Now don’t forget these not so simple regulations. Tight lines.
Keywords: Klamath River, salmon, Steelhead