The Klamath River has long been a name that resinates with serious salmon and steelhead fisherman the world over. While it's 200 miles of classic riffles, pools and runs have been the spoils over which many political battles have been fought, when your on the river all the controversy is a world removed. Flowing through Yurok Tribal lands for the lower 50 miles and then Klamath National Forest, it's a reminder of what the west once was. Raw, rugged and unbridled this area provides a spectacular backdrop for one of California's last Salmon and Steelhead strongholds.
Despite the heated controversies and negative press surrounding salmon and steelhead in the past few years, the Klamath River still boasts strong runs of both and offers some of the best fishing on the west coast. Adult steelhead normally run 4 to 10 pounds with an occasional fish pushing into the mid teens. Immature steelhead called "halfpounders" also make a strong showing on the Klamath and on some years 50 of the 12 to 18 inch scrappers a day aren't uncommon. Sidedrifting small clusters of salmon roe is frequently the most productive method for steelhead but plugs like hot shots and wiggle warts are also effective as are flies. Fly fishers favor 6 to 8 wt rods with an intermediate sink tip or floating line for swinging local patterns like silver hiltons, brindle bugs, and herniators. King (or chinook) Salmon on the Klamath range from 3 pound "jacks" (2 year old males) to monsters over 40 pounds. Backbouncing and sidedrifting roe and backtrolling kwickfish are deadly effective on these big chrome missiles. In addition, silver (or coho) salmon offer a bonus and provide the opportunity for a Grand Slam. While not as numerous as the kings they do make a strong showing on most years and frequently grab spinners or small plugs.
The Klamath River is unique to the North Coast in the breadth of it's run timing. Late May and early June bring spring king salmon to the lower river where "plunking" the high waters of spring runoff produces salmon running 8 to 30 pounds. These early season fish enter the river with huge fat reserves and are considered some of the best eating on the planet. By late June flows begin to recede and summer steelhead start their ascent, joined in August by the first fall kings. The lower 10 miles of river between the ocean and Blue Creek is the heart of this action with fish sometimes stacking in huge clouds in the thermal refuge offered by the cool flowing tributaries. As river temperatures begin to fall in late August and early September, salmon numbers swell and begin flooding upriver on their journey to spawn. By late September the majority of the run is in from the salt and I move upstream to the Middle River. Trading the jet sled for the driftboat, I float the rugged canyons enjoying spectacular action with no crowds.
On top of the great fishing, the wilderness scenery and wildlife sightings round off the Klamath River Experience. Black tailed deer, foxes, otters, bald and golden eagles and osprey are all common sightings and bobcats, mountain lions and ring-tailed cats are more elusive but not uncommon. Overall, the Klamath in the fall is one of the best fishing destinations in the west and there is no better way to see the river and catch it's fish than with Green Water Fishing Adventures.