Spanning hundreds of miles and through multiple reservoirs, the Trinity River is one of the most pristine and diverse rivers on the west coast. It’s not only a beautiful place to fish, but it is also one of the best places in California to hook steelhead. The headwaters of this river begin in the Salmon-Trinity Alps Wilderness area and then work their way down in the Trinity Lake, which is California’s third largest reservoir with a surface area of over 20 miles. Altogether, the river is 110 miles long, and It is the main tributary of the Klamath River, and it meanders through the canyons and meadows of the Klamath Mountains and Coast Ranges. Read on to learn more about fishing the Trinity River, and contact us today to learn more about our guided fishing trips!


For thousands of years, the prolific Chinook salmon runs of the Trinity River sustained Native American tribes. Because of its remoteness, the Trinity was not a destination for early European colonizers. However, similar to a lot of rivers in the area, the gold rush during the mid-19th century changed this as thousands of people flooded to the area in seek of gold. In 1848, Major Pierson B. Reading named the river after he mistakenly concluded that it flowed into the Pacific Ocean at Trinidad Bay.

At one point, it is estimated that up to 90 percent of the upper watershed was diverted for agricultural purposes, which naturally disrupted the ecology and fish of the river. Since then, legislation has been enacted to protect the river and its inhabitants. However, the use of the river’s water is routinely an issue, especially during droughts.

The Trinity Lake, which is the third largest man-made lake in California, was created in 1964 after the river was dammed. This beautiful lake is one of California’s prime fishing spots and is known for having a healthy population of rainbow trout and Kokanee salmon, as well as being home to California’s largest smallmouth bass ever caught.  

In addition to being home to some monster steelhead and salmon, the Trinity River also serves as a top attraction for rafters, kayakers, canoeists, and anyone looking to soak in the natural beauty of the north coast.

Trinity River Fishing Seasons

  • Summer – As early as August, the steelhead begin to run. Although the runs are nothing compared to October and November runs, the summertime offers a great opportunity to catch wild steelhead using skating flies—or what some call “grease lining.” Additionally, during the hot days of summer, Chinook salmon can be caught on the fly in the deeper areas.
  • Fall – This is the time for fly fishing on the Trinity River. In the lower part of the river, near the cool and shady Weitchpec Canyon and Lower Klamath, the fish will often congregate. As far as fly fishing goes, fall offers a great opportunity for swinging flies with sinking lines. From September to October, the Hoopa Valley presents some great fishing opportunities, especially with the help of seasonal rains. November is perhaps the most productive time for fly fisherman, and this success can continue throughout the winter.
  • Winter – All through the winter, you can catch steelhead. The average steelhead in the Trinity River weighs around six pounds. As you might imagine, these big fish are hard-hitting fighters and often jump when hooked, making for quite the fishing experience. They like basic bugs, like gold stones and copper johns, and they generally get bigger and bigger toward the end of winter.
  • Spring  – More often than not, you can catch winter steelhead all the way through late March, and in April it is still possible to find some adult steelheads, but the real appeal during this time is the immature steelhead that can be caught with dry flies. Additionally, in May, when the Lewiston Dam releases high flows, the Chinook salmon begin to appear. On average, these large fish weigh around 15 pounds.

How Can I Book a Trip?

If you are curious about planning a fly fishing trip to the Trinity River, we encourage you to read more about our fly fishing packages and to contact us with any questions. Although those who are just learning to fly fish can be intimidated by fishing for steelhead—because they are such a notoriously difficult fish—there is no reason to worry. Not only will our ace fishing guides help you, but the Trinity River also allows visitors to catch steelhead using basic trout techniques, which is partly why the Trinity River is the perfect destination for a fly fishing vacation. Learn more about our fishing charters and fishing the Trinity River.

Trinity River Fishing Report

Want to stay up to date on the conditions of fly fishing in California? Check out our California Fishing Report. We do our best to keep our Fishing Report updated and provide you with current and accurate reports on a routine basis.

Contact us today with questions or to book your guided fishing trip to the Trinity River!