Clearwater Winter Steelhead

Clearwater Winter Steelhead

I moved to Spokane a few years ago after a lifetime living around the Puget Sound. Fall and Winter always meant great fishing chances and smoked salmon for Thanksgiving. I'm still learning what's what here in the Inland Northwest, so when my pals from (Mike Carey & Aaron Borg) told me last summer about our planned trip to Lewiston to chase Steelhead in November I was cautiously optimistic. Rather than a 5, 6 hour or longer drive to get to the fish; Lewiston is just a couple easy hours from Spokane. Those fish have a long haul from coastal waters to reach the Clearwater - quite a change from my usual Steelhead scene.

After arriving in Lewiston, we stopped into Black Sheep Sporting goods to grab our licenses. The 3 day permit ran around $35. After topping off our tackle supply, licenses in hand we headed out towards Orofino. This little town of a few thousand sits on the banks of the Clearwater and features a couple hotels, restaurants and thank God an espresso stand that opens at 6 am. Our first afternoon in town we tried some bank fishing, bouncing roe down the river. While the river was definitely being fished, the pressure was very light compared to most "hot" coastal rivers. The scenery was amazing and it was a great way to get in fishing mode after the work week.

Our guide, Kyle Jones of Reel Time Fishing, was ready to go when we arrived at the boat launch the next morning, Latte in hand. Kyle fishes the Clearwater, Snake and Columbia. I was pleased that he had a well equipped, comfortable boat; quality gear in good condition; but wasn't overly fastidious. It was "comfortable". Kyle's fished the Clearwater for twenty years and knew the water well. Within 20 minutes of launching I busted off my first fish. Wide awake after that, I watched Kyle land a bright native Steelhead in the 8 pound range within the hour. By lunch everyone had at least one fish to their name. These fish were beautiful, taking on dramatic coloring on their long trip. The smallest of the day was six to 8 lbs. The biggest was a twelve pound plus brute that shook and ran multiple times before I got it along side the boat for Kyle to net.

One interesting fact about the Clearwater is that the Idaho handling rules differ from Washington - so it was no issue to lift the "native" fish up for a quick photo before releasing them. Kyle noted that many of these native fish were actually "unclipped" hatchery fish. The Clearwater features a couple effective hatcheries and has gotten some notoriety for the restoration of the Chinook and Coho runs.

Kyle did a great job covering lots of water and getting us tons of chances. We fished holes with names like "Big Eddy" or "Black Rock" and were able to stick to basic side drifting for the whole trip. I was impressed with this fishery from start to finish and had an unforgettable experience.

All told, over the two days with Kyle, we landed 24 Steelhead and lost several others. Every one was a native, so no fish in the cooler for us. Kyle says this is unusual and normally its 50/50 native to hatchery. Oh well, we got lots of pictures and video and had a blast. The complete video of the trip can be found on I cant' wait to head back to the Clearwater and another great day with Kyle Jones.

Kyle says the Clearwater fishes well through January for Steelhead. He has some availability but it is limited. He's also booking 2015 now. If you'd like to book a trip with Kyle for Spring or Summer fishing on the Snake or Columbia mention this article and you'll get a 10% discount. Visit or call 208-861-0654 for more details

Editor’s Note: previously published December 2014 By Rob Holman

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