Winter Run - December 6th

I left the house about mid-morning. During the first week of December, the central coast of California is typically free of fog. The late fall weather pattern cycles mostly between rain storms and bright, clear skies. This year settled high-pressure cells have delivered long stretches of clear skies.

Steelhead angler wades out into creek in December

Driving down the Pacific Coast Highway awakens your senses. The wide expanse of the horizon, the brightness of the sky, the smell of warm salt-air all energize the molecules of your body. Slowing down as I reached the north end of the marsh, I pulled off to the shoulder of the road just past the creek. Several cars parked in a neat line, and a guy stripping down out of his waders. "How did it go?" I asked. His short, frustrated tone told me - not well. The frustration magnified by taking an unplanned swim in the cold water.

As I walked toward the highway bridge, a couple more fishermen slipped by me. They looked only a little less frustrated than the first guy. But, these two weren't wet.

One glance at the amount of water in the marsh, and the creek's mouth should have pretold their fishing prospects. Sure, a warm day in December is excuse enough to get out. But if angling for steelhead on this creek, best to leave the waders packed in the trunk of the car. Chances of catching a steelhead smolt are better than an adult. The reason: the sandbar built up at the mouth of the creek and keeping it's water from reaching the ocean. Think of this sandbar as a traffic light. Currently it's solid red. On both sides of the light are steelhead. The upstream side, is younger and wants to go out to sea to feed. The downstream side (sitting off-shore) is older and wants to spawn in the creek. Until the sandbar is breached, the steelhead reproduction cycle is "parked."

A sand bar froms across the mouth of the creek

Should these anglers return after the light goes green, then the steelhead swimming into the creek range in size from about 24 inches and around 5 pounds up to 36 inches and over 20 pounds. Just knowing a mature hen or buck can be swimming by your fly should put a smile on your face (even if you fall in).

The Expanding Marsh