Steelhead in Idaho [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Steelhead in Idaho

Leland Miyawaki
04-19-2002, 09:19 AM
This is from a good friend in Ketchum. He is a great flyfisher and major activist. He and I have always jested about the difference between the steelhead in the Salmon River, Idaho, in April versus those same fish caught in the summer in the lower Snake, Clearwater etc.

It's an interesting read, particularly in light of the battle to breach the dams.


Date: Thu, 18 Apr 2002 16:32:03 -0600
To: Leland Miyawaki <>

Subject: Idaho Steelhead fishing, Wow!

Stuck 50 in the last three trips, landed 16, many over thirty inches. The fish
are strong and in great shape. The run is so big that one is allowed to
fish within 200 feet of the hatchery... and kill 60 per year, which many of the
rednecks did. For the first quarter of a mile below the hatchery, the
snow was red with blood and eggs

My neighbor, Gary Vinagre, lost everything on a big fish at the
confluence of the Salmon and the Pashemeroi below Challis. He never saw
it. He couldn't turn it. All his line went out, then the backing which
popped at the knot. He raced down river to the first hole and eddy where
a bait guy had snagged the line and was pulling it in making a pile of
fly line spaghetti . Gary picked up some and tugged. The fish was still
on. He tried to bring it in hand over hand but the fish broke off. He
got his line back however.

I located a hole at the top of a long pine tree lined steep sided run in
a section of water about two miles below the hatchery. This canyon
hasn't been open to fishing since the 70's. There was a large rock on
one side where the fish would move from the rough water and rest. One
other guy upstream saw me hook three and came down to join in. I said
come on, we'll rotate. We did for the next four hours. We stuck at least
60 fish between the two of us. I only got four in. The fish were 28 to
35 inches and all heavy. The swift current away from the rock worked in
their favor. I thought this guy was a real gentleman. I almost asked him
to come fish the Big Lost. For some reason, I didn't .

When I got back to the lodge and told my story, I found out the guy was
a sociopathic con man from Hailey who married a rich woman and was
taking her father to the cleaners. He is horse thief who rustles in
Montana ,drives to Nevada and sells. He breaks into places, steals
antiques and sells them to rich folks. He borrows stuff that he never
returns, and when he finds a good steelhead hole he will camp out on it
for days and not share. One of his favorite pastimes is bar fights.

The next day, the 17th, I fished with the guys from our annual overnight
at Ted Dale's lodge in Stanley. We went back to my new hole. There was
the man and he didn't offer to share. It was actually just as good above.
Twice, four of us had fish on at the same time, and we were spread out
over several hundred yards of water. We were constantly fishing over
pods of as many as fifteen fish.

Later, I finished the day twenty miles down stream at Mormon Bend. Met
another old fly fisher by the name of Cotton. He seemed a gentleman as
well. Had a heavy Southern drawl. Said he was from "Narlens" and that
the "Missus" was asleep in his outfit. He was a hell of a fly fisher. He
was using a Jim Teeny sink tip and black bugger. He was from Challis
were the water was deeper. He also said that most of his old fly fishing
buds were dead and gone. It began to snow heavily. At the same time more
fish began to move through. There were always four to six within easy
casting distance. Each of us got two in. His biggest was a 33 inch buck,
a beauty. My biggest was a 30 inch hen heavy with eggs. Don't worry, she
didn't lose a one when I released her.

Then it began to get dusky. Some other strange folks drove in above. All
I could think of was the movie Deliverance, so I shook hands and left.

There are a lot of very strange folks fishing for steelhead in this part
of the country.


PS; This great run is the best since the hatcheries were built as
mitigation for the four dams on the Lower Snake which were completed in
the seventies. As good as it is, it represents less than ten percent of
what they were before the dams. It is the product of two back to back
heavy water years three years ago that flushed the smolts to the ocean
quickly without much trucking or barging around the dams.

Idaho Fish & Game states that these good runs were worth over $100
million to the rural towns along the Snake, Salmon, and Clearwater
rivers in Idaho.

Next year it will collapse again.

04-19-2002, 09:45 AM
Awesome read Leland, thanks you made my day.

It's amazing what happens when you let the smolts pass unabated to the sea. Kind of like the pre-dam days, except they were born in concrete tanks because the spawning grounds were blocked by... well dams again.

I read a statistic that today's runs are 13% of the runs that existed in the 1930's on the Columbia River system.

Great story though, I enjoyed the colorful depictions of streamside encounters almost as much as the sensation of a rushing river alive with big ocean-run rainbow trout.

04-19-2002, 09:59 AM
Steelhead sure bring 'em out, don't they! :devil:

Thanks for the story - that was great!!


04-19-2002, 01:08 PM
I just know that somewhere up the Salmon there is a place where the same type of fishing is happening on fish that have adipose fins. I hope whoever is there is lonely and in good enough shape to hold up to the strain. Last year the wild population was looking good in all them there cowboy country streams.

04-19-2002, 01:23 PM
Great read, maybe Idaho is the place to go for fish but not the locals, don't think they would like seeing a eastern/great lakes fly fisher, hope I don't run into any of those characters next week in Michigan either. Got some rough characters out there steelhead fishing. Bet they are packing heat also :whoa: :whoa:

04-19-2002, 02:33 PM
I'm one of those Idaho locals and my wife even says I'm crazy, but I'd go fishing with an Eastern/Great Lakes steelhead fly fisher. If you ever come out West to fish, visit Fred or whatever, and you get a chance I hope you stop in. I'm about 60 seconds from the Clearwater.

Leland: I also enjoyed reading you post.

04-19-2002, 02:36 PM
Thanks Leland!

As someone that spent the first 28 years of their life in Idaho, I can verify the following:

1) This run is unheard of in modern times
2) The locals do pack heat (and many are quite good on the banjo as well);)
3) If you go, rent something with Idaho plates and leave the out of state cars behind.

04-19-2002, 06:22 PM

Yes Idaho is on the radar screen. Maybe we should have a forumn spey clave there, Fred could meet us. Actually can't beleive those number of steelhead but the Idaho run size is consistent with what I have been hearing from other sources.


Oh yes I will definitely have a local license plate on the rental car out there. Heck I will go unshaven and unbathed for the week before I arrive, so I blend in well, etc....


04-20-2002, 11:35 PM
Being that Idaho is within a short drive of Pullman and thus WSU (Harvard West as it is sometimes called)...I still think I am going to stick with BC for Fall steelhead trips. :razz:

04-21-2002, 01:17 AM
Are you coming over to Pullman?

04-24-2002, 01:37 AM
Don't get too excited Ryan, the drinking age in 'Scow was upped back in the mid-80's when I was there. But, you might sneak into the Corner Club if the hair doesnt' attract too much attention from the local crowd. Just stick on a cowboy hat.:p

Wonder if they still break out the hoola-hoops at the Rodn'Gun Club in Stanley during the late night?