Clearwater River Report

  • North Fork of the Clearwater RiverThe North Fork of the Clearwater River begins its journey, towards the ocean, in the Bitterroot mountains of eastern Idaho.  The river is roughly 135 miles in length and is blocked by Dworshak dam, a few miles up from its confluence with the main stem of the Clearwater River.  It is host to a variety of species but is best known for its spectacular cutthroat trout fishing and the bull trout that reside in its deep pools.  Once host to thousands of steelhead before it was dammed and off the beaten path, the North Fork provides some of the best dry fly fishing for cutthroat trout in the state of Idaho.

    We left Lewiston, Idaho to make our way up to our campsite at Aquarius.  It takes a little over two hours to get there as you head west up highway 12 through Orofino.  The campground, at Aquarius, hosts a nice beach, has running water, picnic benches, facilities and beautiful campsites near the river.  Our plan was to explore the river but some of the runs right in camp looked too good not to fish. So, right away we made a few casts and were rewarded with a nice native cutthroat trout.

    North Fork of the Clearwater River

    Our plan was to fish fast and see what the North Fork had to offer us.  As we moved down river we ran into a boulder garden that held fish, and they were more than willing to eat.  At first, I started with a size 12 purple Chubby Chernobyl and hooked a few.  Then, I switched to a soft hackle and landed some decent fish.

    The Chubby Chernobyl is a great summertime fly. Learn how to make your own here.

    As we moved about the river we began focusing on the tributaries of the North Fork.  The fish here really seem to prefer cooler water, and fishing the smaller water was a lot of fun too.  The fish averaged in size from 10 to 15-inches. There were definitely a few larger ones that we missed. What made it so fun, was the idea of fishing the small water and coming across bigger fish.  For me personally, catching smaller trout is a lot more fun while on tributaries. I’m always thinking that I may be the first person ever to hook that fish, and with the proper handling techniques, I may be able to catch that fish again when it is much larger.

    North Fork of the Clearwater River

    For rods on the North Fork, I like to bring a smaller rod for cutties, usually a 3 or 4-weight equipped with floating line and leaders in 3X-5X.  Fishing dries for cutties is mainly how I roll. I like to have a variety of large attractor patterns as well as some naturals too.  Chubby Chernobyls, Morrish Hoppers, Hippie Stompers, and Stimulators all work well for larger flies.  For naturals, I like using Parachute Adams, beetles, black ants, and caddis.  Keep in mind, there are some bull trout up there, if you decide to go after them, you’ll need a 6 or 7-weight rod, large flies, and weight.

    Remember to look for wildlife while immersed in Mother Earth. There is plenty of opportunities up that way to spot some critters. Stay hydrated, wear sun protection, and have a darn good time. If you have any further questions, feel free to pick our brains at the North 40 Fly Shop. We are happy to give our time to you and answer any questions.