A few weeks ago, I had a chance to meet up with an old (actually he’s pretty young) friend to fish new waters. Our plan A was to go to the Thompson, but it closed after the first of November. We planned to leave on the 18th. What to do?? I called a friend (Jeff Jarrett) in Orofino, Idaho to see what the Clearwater was doing. He told me to get my ass up there. So Plan B turned to the Clearwater and as it turned out, the Salmon River, in Idaho. My friend (Justin Miller of northern California) was way up for it. We made a meet date and time and we were on another epic fishing trip. We got our licenses, food, liquor and gas in Lewiston, Id and took off for Orofino. We got there in late afternoon and got our tent set up. We were in an RV park so we could get electricity to our tent to fuel a heater. It was worth the money for the heated tent and a heated shower. After day one, the temps got down to 23 degrees F. at night. Really cold to leave the tent to take a leak – thick frost over everything. Wow! It is one of the punishments of getting older.
Our first morning, Jeff showed up pretty early (he is good at that), and got us underway. The Clearwater was colored up, so he suggested going to the Salmon River, which was much clearer. I was all for it as was Justin. We got there after driving snow covered roads to find it misting on the river with great color. We fished new waters for about three hours. Caught a 20” Bull Trout and a steelhead of about 25” and hooked another steelhead that threw the hook. We fished another run and then left so Jeff could show us new waters (for us) on the Clearwater where we could fish out of Justin’s boat.
The first day on the Clearwater was so awesome. We actually got on the river early (about 7:00 AM). The sun hadn’t yet risen over the canyon ridges. Some river fog was on the waters. There was no one else around. It was magical. We hit every run on our list. Justin connected with a wild steelhead in the afternoon on a run that looked too good to pass up. Justin had hung up and instead of yanking it off, he waded nipple deep to a place he could free it up. He then waded back upstream to fish this particular space of water again. I thought he was going in for sure. But he didn’t. He made two more casts and I was above him watching his drift. I actually saw his line send the message that a fish was mouthing his fly. The fish was on. And a good one it was. His second steelhead in Idaho. What a great day! I was in heaven. I really do like witnessing my fishing partner hook and land a fish. Almost as much as I like hooking and landing a fish. This was a good day. We celebrated with a pull, or two or three, from his flask. Filled with ethyl alcohol. He got another tug for the day. Me nothing. That’s OK. Next day we got on the river a little later in the day (25 degrees F) at about 10. Very civilized. This day and the end of a no-pull day ; in our last run before take out, I got the tug. What a surprise! The sun had removed its presence for the hills opposite us. It was a much smaller fish than Justin’s of the day before. But, a Steelhead is a Steelhead!!!!
I have to tell you that dinners in the open at our campsite were delicious. Cold temps, but good grub, thanks to Justin, chief cook. Salad and a good meat compliment every night, except for a few when we when into Orofino to a restaurant for dinner. After dinner was spent in the tent in chairs sipping wiskey or coffee and Baileys (more Baileys than coffee). Justin is almost as good a story teller as I am so I enjoyed our evenings in the tent enormously. Actually, I told him that the master was now learning from the grasshopper. I love so much, fishing with someone who is as passionate about this sport as I. In fact, he more so than I, now.
I don’t know when I have enjoyed four days fishing as much as I did that trip. We explored and worked new waters and found which ones we enjoyed the most; including a few runs where we spotted BIG steelhead spooking from our boat drifting downstream. Where we fished over the next day.
Clear waters, sunny skies, very few other anglers, good friend and a few fish. Can’t beat it. We are returning next year.