April 5, 2009 in Outdoors

Steelheading prime in Idaho’s upper Salmon

Roger Phillips The Idaho Statesman
 

Steelhead fishing is winding down in most parts of Idaho, but around Stanley, it’s just getting started.

The Upper Salmon River attracts some of the longest-running steelhead in the United States.

These hardy fish swim about 900 miles upstream and about a vertical mile during their marathon migration from the Pacific Ocean.

Anglers are there to greet them when they arrive.

Brad Wright of Boise and his girlfriend, Kristin Ellsworth, braved the fickle spring weather to entice steelhead with a fly last weekend.

Wright regularly fishes the Clearwater River and Lower Salmon, and he tries to make an annual spring trip to the Salmon’s headwaters.

“I think it’s a little more friendly for fly fishing,” he said.

While far removed from the other steelhead hot spots like Riggins, Orofino and Kooskia, the stretch of river between Salmon and Stanley provides about 120 miles of fishable water, most of which is accessible by road.

It draws hundreds of anglers who want a chance to catch an ocean-run fish on the edge of the Rocky Mountains.

The fish trickle into the upper river in late fall, but most spend the winter downstream before making their final push to the headwaters in the spring.

They disperse in the upper river, giving anglers a chance to escape the steelhead circus at the South Fork of the Clearwater or the Little Salmon when those rivers hit their prime.

“You got your big holes … where bait fishermen are stacked in, but if you get away from there, there’s plenty of room,” Wright said.

The fish can be dispersed throughout the stretch of river between Salmon and Stanley. Finding where they’re likely to be hanging out can greatly improve your chances of catching one.

Steelhead fishing lasts until April 30 in the upper river, from a marked boundary near the Sawtooth Hatchery near Stanley down to Long Tom Creek near the Middle Fork of the Salmon.


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