Idaho Steelhead fishing

Idaho has some amazing fishing opportunities, from our world record tiger musky, to one of the best sturgeon fisheries in North America, we have a little bit of everything.

As much as I would love to list and talk about all the species in our creeks, lakes, rivers, reservoirs, streams, and ponds; I better stick to just one for the time being. The fish of much mystery and discussion that I refer to is the illusive Idaho Steelhead – thought to be one of the most challenging of sporting fish.

The Idaho Steelhead

These beautiful creatures that have navigated from the ocean, through 8 man made dams, and miles of river are not for the faint of heart. Catching one takes time patience, . . . more patience, . . . and  did I mention patience? 🙂 Skill is also required but some days I think it could be chalked up to just pure luck – the right time, place, and lure all have to align. Not to mention the tides, horoscope, full moon and and some days even the color of your shoe laces.

But landing one of these beauties after makes all of it worth while – a challenging catch is a well deserved catch.

This Spring’s Steelhead Fishing season has been a bit of a challenge for us, our runs weren’t as high as we would typically like to see. The early high and murky water has made the water less than desirable for Steelhead Fishing.

Idaho Steelhead Fishing with America’s Rafting Company

Here I am going to give you slight insight to how America’s Rafting Company pursues one of Americas most sought after anadromous fish.

Our Steelhead fishing boat

 Where to start? Well I guess with the boat. The boat that we use for Steelhead Fishing in fall and winter is typically a 17’ aluminum drift boat. Drift boats are preferred for many reasons but the main reason is the create less drag on the water making back stroking while side drifting a bit easier for the man on the sticks. Rafts can be used, buy they tend to stick to the top of the water which moves faster than the water below the surface, making for more of a backstroking challenge.

Our boat of choice is Hyde they are an Idaho Based company and provide excellent service.

For rods we have teamed up with TFO (Temple Fork Outfitters) in my opinion, these are the best rods for the money and are backed with a no fault warranty. As an outfitter their warranty is a saving grace, I just wish they would cover the rods that mange to slip right out of a clients hand into the bottom of the river! 🙂 Their casting and spinning rods have been designed by Gary Loomis – enough said! For fly fishing TFO offers darn near anything under the sun. As for reels, its hard to go wrong with a Shimonno. And as for what to put on the end of that line . . . well you’ll just have to book a Steelhead Fishing trip to see.

Temple Fork Outfitters for Steelhead Fishing

But, if you’re lucky enough to read this post, I will even give you a little insight on different steelhead fishing setups. Showing you my secret holes on a map, well, that is where I draw the line…

Steelhead Setups

One of my favorite setups is drifting row and shrimp – this consists of 15lb high visual main line attached to a clip swivel. The clip will hold your weight. My preference in recent years has been the slinky (lead shot stuffed into parachute cord at various lengths), the weight will depend on river current. Slinky’s seem to not get hung up nearly as often as the traditional pencil lead. On the other side of the swivel barrel we attach 12lb flurocarbon leader of 18’’ to 36’’ inch length depending on water clarity, the clearer it is the longer you will want your leader. The hook is attached with an egg loop knot which will help secure your bait.

For bait, bay shrimp are always a decent bet. Whether they are dyed or not is up to you, but this is an especially productive choice in the fall. I have a lot of people ask me if there are shrimp in the river? The answer is NO, but they have fed off them in the ocean for so long that they have a hard time turning them down in the river – the Steelhead probably know better, but what a tasty treat!

As the winter progresses and the fish start to lay, eggs become the better choice – the fresher they are the better. Remember that Steelhead can travel thousands of miles on their sense of smell alone and old eggs or eggs that were not properly cured will send them running!

In high water it is nice to run some plugs out on braided line, 15lb braided is preferred as it is considerably smaller than mono filament, leaving the lure with less drag for better action. When steelhead fishing, hot shots are a must in these conditions, but kwik fish and wiggle warts can work as well. As for color I truly believe that the huge variety of colors is for the viewing pleasure of the fisherman, the Steelhead don’t care. Make sure your plugs are tuned and put some scent on them. At the end of the day be sure to clean them in some hot soapy water, as scents exposed to the elements have a tendency to break down and turn sour.

The most important thing when Steelhead Fishing is to have patience and spend plenty of time on the water. It helps to have your priorities a little screwed up as well, can you say Sick Day?

See you on the river…