Tips To Catching More Clearwater River Steelhead

By John Albrich | 11/13/2011
Few will argue that Idaho’s Clearwater River is one of top steelhead fisheries in the world. I’m lucky enough to live and guide on this steelheader’s paradise. Beginning July 1st the Idaho Fish and Game opens the river to catch and release steelheading. This is when I start experimenting. Retention isn’t allowed until October 15th leaving me several weeks to tweak my offerings and discover what these fish like.


The Clearwater is low and clear in the fall. Therefore, I downsize my baits to accommodate river conditions. During my experimental time, I learned that altering my baits, even just a tad, gives my clients a massive advantage over other anglers. For example, during the catch release season, I’ll add two tuffs of yarn in the egg loop on a #6 Lazer Sharp octopus hook and dowse it with Pautzkes Liquid Krill. There is a specific method that I’ve found to be extremely effective. Prior to adding the yarn to the hook, I’ll soak it in water and then treat it like a sponge, squeezing the water out of the yarn the same way you’d wring water out of a sponge. Once the water has drained I’ll apply a liberal amount of the Liquid Krill to the yarn. This method allows the yarn to soak up all the krill, rather than simply have it wash off in the water. This yarn/krill presentation absolutely puts the smack down on our steelhead. Normally, I’ll stick with this method during catch and release season so I can save my egg supply for the retention season. Meanwhile, some anglers do this through steelhead season.


October 15th I personally switch to bait. I’ve found an egg cure combination that Clearwater steelies crave. Start with fresh skeins of properly bled salmon eggs. First, butterfly the skeins, cut them in half and place them in a quart mason jar. Next, I squirt approximately 1/4 bottle of Pautzke’s red Nectar on top of the eggs. Then, I add about 1/4 cup of pink BorX O Fire. Now it’s time to seal the lid and roll the jar well enough to ensure all eggs get a good coating. Afterwards, I let the eggs sit in a cool, dark place, turning them every couple of hours for roughly 12 hours. Once they have sucked all the cure and Nectar in I set them on paper towels to dry.


Here’s where my trick comes in; I sprinkle Pautzke’s Fire Power (pure krill powder) on the skeins. The powder sticks to the eggs while they dry and mandates an even more powerful scent when it hits the water. For steelhead I cut my baits into dime sized pieces and fishing them on a double hook setup with a size 10 Corkie to float the bait.


When steelhead fishing the Clearwater I side drift with a Wright & McGill 9′ light drift rod. I use a 12-pound high vis mainline with five-foot long, 10-pound leaders. Opening day this year was awesome and I’d like to attribute our limits to the bait combination we used. Pautzke’s have proven deadly for me on Clearwater and I’m guessing these small, yet effective quirks I use on my bait will enhance steelhead success anywhere in the US and Canada where steelhead swim. Why not give them a try on your home water?