Clearwater River Report

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    By: Bryan Tollbom

    The week leading up to my first ever steelhead trip was almost more than I could handle. The excitement was building inside me everyday, coupled with a creeping nervousness that I would simply not have the right gear and knowledge to make my first trip a success. I picked my co-workers brains incessantly throughout the week to the point they probably should have just told me to kick rocks. I picked up an Echo Classic 12'6" 6wt spey rod for the trip and borrowed a reel and OPST Skagit setup from Dillon to get me through the weekend. I also borrowed the shops demo reel that had a smaller OPST Skagit setup for my single hand 10' 6wt rod since I had been dying to test that setup out.


    At 3:30 am Thursday morning, my lifelong friend Ben and I loaded up his Tahoe with everything we could possibly think of and hit the road. Although our original plan had to be rerouted, we were able to find promising water in a different section of river. At this point, it was time to wet a line!

    Want to know how the river is doing? Check out the current river flows here


    The fishing was pretty slow late morning and in the afternoon, but I didn't even notice since I was having so much fun playing with my new spey rod and enjoying the good company. By late afternoon, the people started to disappear from the river and once the pressure went down the fishing turned up! I was able to hook into and land my first ever steelhead and managed to hook into her on a pattern that I had tied up just a few days before! In the last 3 hours of daylight, we were able to bring 4 great fish to hand, including a double up we landed and 1 beautiful wild buck my buddy brought in!


    Just before dark, I hooked into a 3rd fish on the swing. After 45 minutes and multiple big runs, I had had to chase this fish over 200 yards down river, and he still had over 250 ft of line out and was on the opposite side of the river. It was almost pitch black by this point and he was getting ready to swim under a bridge, so I had to make my last stand to try and get this fish in. I locked the reel up tight and leaned into him with everything I had. Something was going to have to give and it wasn't the fish. I felt as he turned and gave me one last big head throb and he pulled my hook straight. I don't think I have ever had a bigger grin on my face as I walked back up the bank reeling in my line.


    Over the next 3 days, I managed to bring at least one fish to hand per day and was able to head home with a cooler full of hatchery fillets that have since been smoked up devoured by everyone I was willing to share with. Such an incredible trip and first ever experience chasing Steel. So amazing in fact that I wasn't even home 3 days before I was loading up my dad's truck, heading down with him for a couple more days!

    Need gear for your own trip? You can find everything you need here