By Mike Carey
The Clearwater River is putting out some BIG B-run steelhead this time of year! I just returned from our weekend Northwest Fishing Reports Members Adventure fishing with owner/operator Toby Wyatt of Reel Time fishing and guide Kyle Jones of Jones Sport Fishing (Kyle guide with Reel Time on the Clearwater). We had two days of fun fishing with members of NWFR and also our Fox partners from Spokane Fox 28. Everyone went away happy and most anglers were able to catch steelhead on this adventure.
I flew in from Redmond Friday evening and met up with Aaron Borg and Rob Holman and we made the easy drive down to the Clearwater and Lenore Lodge in less than three hours. It was dark but I got to see the scenery coming back which is amazing. I love the Palouse and the small towns that we drove through. So much history!
We arrived at the Lenore Lodge for the weekend. The lodge is run by Toby and is nestled overlooking the Clearwater River. It’s a very comfortable place to stay with five bedrooms, full kitchen, bathrooms with showers, tub, recreation rooms with flat screen TVs, dedicated game room, outdoor fire pit and plenty of room for groups of anglers to stay at as a base camp while exploring the area. I will definitely be keeping it in mind as a place to stay when I bring my boat to fish at the Dworshak Reservoir above Orofino.
We fished launched each day a couple miles below the hatchery and with anglers assembled made the quick (and cold) run up to the hatchery hole. The technique of choice was side drifting with either yarnies/eggs or beads. It’s a simple technique that does require skilled boat operators, which Toby and Kyle certainly are! We worked multiple holes and locations, not just at the hatchery. That was nice as the Clearwater River valley is an awesome place to fish. The scenery is breathtaking and unlike the combat fishing of the west side rivers of Washington we never had more than a half dozen boats in sight.
The morning bite was best, with each boat catching several fish. The steelhead this time of the season are running 29-32” making most of them catch and release (must be under 28”). Which was fine by us as catching a 30”+ steelhead is plenty of reward in itself. The fighting colors on these fish are beautiful, but it’s the fight that is most rewarding. Even after traveling 450 miles to return to the hatchery these fish are strong and powerful, making reel screaming runs and bulldogging and fighting all the way to the net.
There’s a reason the Clearwater is regarded as one of the top steelhead rivers in the world. Least you think this is a hatchery hole only fishing area, the river runs forty miles from Lewiston to the hatchery. In between are countless runs with waiting steelhead for anglers to pursue. According to Toby and Kyle, it’s not unusual for boats to have twenty fish days. That’s pretty amazing fishing! Add to that the Clearwater River is a very scenic river and it’s not uncommon to spot Bald Eagles, Deer, Elk, River Otter and numerous other wildlife along the Clearwater mountainside.
After the morning fishing Toby and Kyle would ground the boats so anglers could stretch and then return to a hot lunch of burgers and brats. That really hit the spot on a cold day! I will say, by 10am the sun would break through and warm us up, it really wasn’t that bad at all. After our shoreline lunch we went back at it for the afternoon bite which Toby and Kyle reported would start picking up around 2pm and run until 4pm, the end of the day. It didn’t take long to confirm that prediction as the anglers again started hooking up and bringing in more gorgeous steelhead.
On a side note, in Idaho it’s legal to take the fish out of the net, measure, and get a quick picture. All our fish swam away strong and healthy. Indeed, several had marks indicating they had been recycled (and likely caught) before.
On Sunday we had to call the day a little early so I could catch my flight back to Redmond. NWFR members Patrick and Thomas continued to fish with Toby and as we pulled into Spokane Toby sent us text messages that they had caught more steelhead, including Patrick’s first ever steelhead! The Clearwater and Reel Time Fishing did it again.
If you’re interested in fishing this renowned river give Toby a call at 208-790-2128. Visit his web site at ReelTimeFishing.com to book your trip for steelheading the way it should be.