Nothing in this world beats swinging for Idaho steelhead on the spey…nothing. The elusive fish of a thousand casts and hours upon hours of swinging makes every steelhead a moment in which you will never forget. You cherish the fish as if its your own child, and its hard when it comes time to release it back to its watery home. I wait all year just for that one moment, even if its the only one I get all season, it is completely worth it.
As summer draws to a close, I start a marathon of tying steelhead flies. Purple Perils, Green Butt’s, Irish Car Bombs, Freight Trains, skaters, and a few of my own design are just a few examples (the sparser the better). Generally I like to keep them sizes 6-8 , I find that this range is best for summer-late fall. I go stock up on leaders and maxima from Grizzly Hackle, and pull out my gear and make sure everything is good to go. I have a 13’0 8wt Winston B-II X spey rod, and an Old Florida Reel (Now called Nautilus) to top it off. For my line I use an Airflow Delta Spey, which is a long belly line that allows you to cast much further than using the standard short headed Skagit or Scandi lines. Also for this time of year I stick with a floating tip, just because the water is warm and the steelhead are more inclined to chase your fly. I really only use a sink tip when winter is in full swing.
The Purple Peril is one of my favorite flies to tie. After I get a pretty decent amount of flies tied up, I start my scouting trips with my dad. We’ll head over to the Clearwater in Idaho, and stop by the Red Shed Fly Shop to see Poppy on our way over. Poppy is one of the coolest spey fisherman you will ever meet and gives us the scoop on how the fishing has been. After we depart the Red Shed, we usually head over to Lewsiton, and go swing just outside of town. Generally during the end of August-early September the steelhead haven’t gone up river much past Lewiston, so they pile up in the faster water waiting for the temps to drop. We hooked up a few and my dad managed to land two, it was a great start to the year!
As the season goes on, my dad and I head out any chance we can get. This season so far as been quite exceptional, every time we have gone over we manage to catch a handful, and turns into a great weekend! Though the river gets really hectic after the head bonker season begins, you can still find fish. Generally I keep close to the town of Orfino, usually fishing below it until it hits the end of November. As soon as December begins I stick to good runs above Orfino and will continue to go upstream. I have never fished the North or South Forks of the Clearwater, just because at that point you are getting into combat fishing. Its not worth your time to fish those areas, you will end up being less than 15 feet away from the next fisherman. Overall I consider the Clearwater the best steelhead river in the lower 48, the amount of steelhead in this river trumps any other river as far as number of fish. Certainty the west coast is the ultimate place to go if you want massive fish, but that’s quite the drive from Missoula, versus going to Idaho. If you want to get into steelheading now is the time to go!