Clearwater, February 2021
After a dismal run in the 2019 - 2020 season, I was thrilled to see strong numbers of steelhead returning this season. Plans for a late winter steelhead extravaganza began, and before I knew it, the time had come to chase monster anadromous fish. Joining me this year would be Camron and Kevin, as well as their friend Richard, Camron's coworker Spencer, and Spencer's father in law, Steve.
Camron and I headed up on a Tuesday, while the rest of the gang would get in late Wednesday night. Hopefully Camron and I would be able to figure a few things out before the others got there. As luck would have it, the day before we arrived the river spiked, giving the signal to all the waiting fish in the big river to head upstream. Unfortunately, this was the first water spike of the entire year, so very few fish would be in the river. Concentrating all the fresh fish and angling pressure near the lower river.
Camron and I arrived on the river by noon and were pleasantly surprised to find "steelhead green" water in the midsection of the river.
Camron and I quickly geared up and began fly fishing some of our favorite water in the upper and mid-section of the river.
It was clear after a few hours of no fish and no other angling pressure that we were too high in the river system. The fish, and likely the angling pressure, were downriver. Camron and I headed down-river to find many more anglers and unfortunately, murky water. Several feeder creeks were pumping in mud from the Camas Prairie, reducing the water clarity to about 5 inches. We knew where we could find fish, however, and how to catch them. We arrived at the "Private Hole" and began drifting corky and yarn. Not long after, Camron tied into the first fish of the trip, a gorgeous colored male.
I hooked a feisty specimen but lost it near the bank. Before long it was dark and Camron and I packed it up for the day. As a scouting day, we learned where we would need to concentrate our efforts for the rest of the trip.
The following morning we found ourselves in the same hole once again. Once again, Camron hooked into the first fish.
I hooked one myself, but lost it. Camron, however, had the magic touch and connected with another nice female.
In search of clearer water and after no more hookups as the morning progressed, we decided to move to another location several miles upstream. With the current flows, we hoped the fish would channel into a small "bucket" near a sandbar. After wading across the river and drifting our flies through the bucket, we realized flows were just too low to truly hold any numbers of fish. We now had the water clarity we desired, but not the flows or the fish, it seemed.
I decided to try fishing some other water that occasionally held fish and was quickly rewarded with a hookup. As good as it felt to have a fish on my fly rod, I knew immediately it was a small one.