After a productive trip to the Clearwater River my old saying “Fish Till It Hurts!” immediately came to mind. It was the kind of fishing experience that literally left the clients shaking their worn out arms to try and relive the pain from the hardcore, daylong batting of Clearwater B Run steelhead. The month of December has definitely been up and down for fishing on the Clearwater, but this day was different.

It started in the morning with a hook up coming on the first, second and third casts! It didn’t take long to realize this day was going to be special. It wasn’t going to be a matter of how many steelhead we could find, rather how many Clearwater Killer B’s could we get to the boat. We were on a huge number of fish and it was time to go to battle!
I’ve always been a fan of ultra-light tackle for steelhead and it sure can make a five-pound A-Run steelhead feel like the king of the river, especially in fast current. However, ultra-light gear is pushed to the limit on Clearwater B’s that can easily push 20 pounds. It’s not that the rods won’t handle the fish; it just means the fight may take a while. Anyone who has had to put a 20-pound steelhead to the net with 8-pound line and an ultra-light steelhead spinning rod can attest to that. I run Fetha Styx Homewater HW-SH-981-2S rods, which is a 9’ 8” ultra-light spinning rod designed specifically for free drifting. I fish them with a Shimano Stradic 2500. My silly saying “Fish Till It Hurts!” quickly becomes a reality when your arm stars to burn from the line burning runs that a monster steelhead make on this light tackle.

Our winter ultra clear water requires small baits and I will go as small as a size 6 hook in these conditions. I like to cure my roe so that a very small cluster can be cut and will hold its shape. Pautzke BorX O Fire does a great job at this. I prefer to use the roe I have retained from the Snake River Steelhead I have recently caught.blog1-IMG_0668

The skeins from A-Run fish are very tight and far less mature than the roe we get from our fall kings and Clearwater steelhead. With these smaller skeins I can cut super small bait and it will hold its shape. I want my baits to be dime size. I believe that round bait will out fish eggs that are long and stringy on your hook. If you expect your bait to preform like this you have to treat it correctly. My deckhand cures our roe on the boat every day at the end of our trip. Getting your roe cured immediately will ensure that the skeins do not start to loosen up and get soft from sitting in your cooler or refrigerator.

This day on the Clearwater was one to remember. I felt lucky to experience that kind of fishing with my clients. My office on the river is one I would not trade for any other. It may get a little cold and wet at times, but I feel still feel fortunate to make my living out on the river as a fishing guide. And, on this day, we fished till it hurt!

Editor’s Note: Jason Schultz operates Hells Canyon Sport Fishing. For more info on his Clearwater River steelhead trips please visit