Clearwater To Fish Well Till Mid March – Then Slow

By Toby Wyatt | 02/22/2014

There’s going to be steelhead in the Clearwater system through March. However, I’ve been fishing steelhead so long it’s about to be time for me to do something new. Come mid March I’ll be heading down the Columbia to target springers, but right now steelhead fishing on the Clearwater is really good.


In fact, it’s rocket hot. On the other hand, if fishing is anything like last year it will probably die off. While our numbers are down this year, there’s a lot of fish being caught. I’m guessing that won’t slow until mid-March. This is what happened last year and we have less fish than this season.


I refer to our Clearwater fishery as the Jellybean Effect. Imagine having a jar of jellybeans sitting on your table. Everyday you pick up a jellybean, take it out of the jar and then put it back in the jar. At the end of the day the jar remains full.


That’s what’s going on here on the Clearwater. Due to this year’s reduced bag limits we are catching lots of steelhead and putting them back in the river to be caught again. Basically, there’s the same amount of fish everyday because no one is keeping any and they haven’t moved upriver or into the hatchery yet.


Right now, the river is loaded with steelies. Yesterday we got 25 and we pretty much catch the same number daily. This won’t change until the open the gates at the hatchery. When they open the hatchery a lot of these steelhead are going to swim in. Many of the other fish that we are catching are upriver fish that are going to move upriver soon, too. They normally open the gates in mid March, and when they do, there’s going to be a lot less fish in the river. Those are the fish we are catching now.


Between now and mid March there’s lots of fish around Orofino. Now remember, you can only keep one fish under 28 inches and there’s not many of those available, so don’t plan on keeping any. It’s primarily catch and release, with lots of action everyday.

Let’s not overlook the upriver fish in March. In and around the Kooskia area there’s a lot of bigger fish up there and you can keep them. This is where the best fishing is found throughout March. I’d be up there fishing after the middle of March, but keep in mind you can’t use powerboats. It’s a drift boat and bank deal.


Right now we have high and muddy water. Under these conditions my guys are using pink BorX O Fire cured eggs and yarn/egg combos, but as the water gets clearer I’ll switch to yarn balls and smaller presentation stuff. It’s an egg bite right now and if you have good eggs, you’ll get them, like we are.


Editor’s Note: Toby Wyatt operates Reel Time Fishing. For more info on Wyatt’s Clearwater steelhead adventures please visit