Copyright 2018 James Marsh
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Fly Fishing On The Clearwater River In
The Clearwater River is a beautiful 75 mile-long river
located in north central Idaho. It flows from the
Bitterroot Mountains to eventually join the Snake
River. It is formed by the confluence of the Middle Fork
of the Clearwater River and the South Fork of the
Fly fishing the Clearwater River can be good most
anytime of the year depending on where you fish it
and which species you pursue.
The Middle Fork Clearwater is quite large because it
consist of the water from both the Lochsa River and
the Selway River. The smaller South Fork of the
Clearwater River originates in the Selway-Bitterroot
The North Fork Clearwater River is a prime cutthroat
trout stream. It receives the water from Kelly Creek
and Little North Fork Clearwater River. Dworshak Dam
blocked the once thriving summer steelhead run.
Access is available from Forest Road #250 for most of
The Clearwater River was one of the first Wild and
Scenic Rivers. Access is great because a highway
follows the Clearwater River from its headwaters to the
The river picks up a few tributary streams along its way
to the Snake River. Lolo Creek, Jim fork Creek,
Orofing Creek, the North Fork of the Clearwater River,
Big Canyon creek, Bedrock Creek, Cottonwood Creek,
the Potlatch River and finally, Lapwai Creek, join it
prior to entering Lower Granite Lake.
Fly fishing the Clearwater River for steelhead is
probably best in the Fall. It is one of the nations most
popular steelhead fishing destinations. Fishing
opportunities for steelhead continue through March.
The wide Clearwater River usually has moderate flows
that are best covered with a Spey Rod but
single-handed rods work for the steelhead as well.
Rainbow and cutthroat trout fishing is usually best from
about the end of May to the middle of July. It slows
down some in the Summer but pick back up from about
the Middle of August through September. It's of course
possible to catch them anytime of the season.
Several of the tributary streams have good trout
fishing opportunities. The fish are not exactly highly
selective but it certainly helps to use specification
imitations of the most available and plentiful aquatic
insects at the time your fishing. Attractor and generic
flies work to some extent but never as well as better
imitations of the naturals.
Seasons follow the general Idaho fishing season but
are species specific.
Late Spring, after the runoff, is good for rainbow trout.
Summertime is usually slow and most anglers fish for
Fall presents some good opportunities for rainbow
trout and is prime time for steelhead.
The steehead season continues through the Winter
and it is possible to catch them any day the weather
100% Satisfaction Guaranteed
Recommended Tackle & Gear for
Steelhead and Salmon
7, 8 , 9 or 10 weight for appropriate type
rod, sinking, sinking tip and floating
10#, 12# in 9 to 15 feet lengths
10# and 12#
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly 7, 8, 9 and 10 ft. single hand
For 7 to 10 weight lines
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
KISS Strike Indicators, Lanyards, etc.
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
Recommended Tackle & Gear
4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 - 12 ft., 5 or 6X Nymphing:
71/2 ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly Supreme Four, Superb Five
or Ultimate Six
For 4/5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (email@example.com)
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.
2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.
3. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.
All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $50 are shipped via
01/07/16 There was a few steelhead caught this past week according to our local contact but
it is slow. Isn't most steelhead fishing slow? Nymphs are your best bet. Swinging will work but
you need to keep the flies down just off the bottom and work them very slow. The fish are a
little sluggish due to the colder water but you can catch them. It is going to be a little warmer
this coming week.
01/14/16 The weather is just a little warmer than last week but at least the gauge on the North
Fork is not frozen. The warmer weather brings more snow and rain and it is forecast
everyday. Isn't that normal for steelhead fishing? We didn't get any reports from last week.
01/21/16 The water temperature in the lower river is up just a little but it is a big help to
keeping the steelhead from being sluggish. We reccommend nymphs fished under an
indicator, but try to keep the fly as close to the bottom as possible. We received two good
01/28/16 The temperature is staying up enough to keep the water warm enough to help. It is
still averaging about 37 to 38 and nymphs are catching some fish. It isn't fast action, but of
course, it never is. Swinging also picked up a few fish the last week.
02/04/16 The water is remaining warm enough to keep the fish active enough to play and
anglers are catching steelhead on both nymphs and swinging. The water levels is in good
shape and the forecast looking good for the first of next week.
2/18/16 The river is blown out at 21,400 cfs and 11.74 ft. high. It will be a few days getting
down and clear. Keep up with the latest stream and fly recommendation by clicking the above
link to the fishing report.
03/10/16 The river continues to be blown out in all sections with a lot more rain to come. Right
now, it is almost impossible to fish and certainly not worth the effort. There are steelhead in
the river and of course, plenty of trout. The water is highly stained to downright muddy in
places. It is going to take some time to clear this up.
03/24/16 Seems like it isn't going to stop raining. The river is still blown out. It was down for a
while and steelehead were being caught in good numbers, but it is back up again, or to be
specific, blown out.
03/30/16 The river has finally dropped down to near a normal level for this time of the year,
and conditions are very good. Anglers are catching a lot of steelhead and the few that are
fishing for trout are doing as well. There are several new hatches taking place. Swinging and
nymphing are both producing steelhead.
04/20/16 The streams are very high and dingy and it is likely to get worse. It is both from rain
and melting snow but there is more rain in the forecast every day for the next week, so the
situation is likely to get worse. It is going to be a few days before the river is worth fishing.
04/26/16 The river has been high now for a several days. This is from both rain and melting
snow. the melting snow tends to keep the water temperature down and although the weather
has been very warm, the water temperature hasn't. There are several insects hatching but the
water levels must come down to fish for trout.
05/04/16 Streelhead fishing is done for the season but trout fishing will be getting better as
the days go by. The Little Black Caddis, called the Mother's day hatch, is in full swing. Blue-
winged olives and Skwala stoneflies are still hatching good. Watch the water levels.
06/02/16 The levels have dropped down a lot and anglers are catching trout in most all of the
sections of the Clearwater. The hatches vary depending on the section of water, meaning not
all of them are hatching in the same section. There is only a little rain this coming week and
the levels and color of the water should continue to get better.
06/23/16 Trout fishing should pick up as soon as the levels get a little lower and the water a
little clearer. There are several small tributary streams that have dropped down and cleared
up enough to be fishing now, but all together, the levels need to come down just a little more.
06/30/16 One customer did well in one of the small tributary streams. He caught about 30
trout. The main stems are still a little high, too high to safely wade, but much lower and should
be fine very soon. There are a lot of insects hatching. Be sure to check the current conditions
by click the above fishing report link.
07/07/16 The clearwater is in good shape for trout fishing. Steelhead are not in the river at
this time. One customer reported catching a lot of trout this past week and many of them on
the surface on dry flies. Pale Morning duns, Spotted sedges, Green sedges, Golden
stoneflies, Little yellow stoneflies, Green drakes and other insects are hatching.
07/21/16 We are getting some reports from anglers fishing for trout in the uppermost sections
of the river. There are lots of little Yellow stoneflies, Pale Morning duns and Spotted sedge
08/04/16 Smallmouth bass fishing in the lower section of the river is very good. Top water flies
like our Stealth Bomber and Baby Popping bugs are working good. Little Yellow stoneflies are
hatching in the headwaters along with lots of caddisflies. Trout fishing is a little slow but okay.
Terrestrials are working.
08/11/16 There are some steelhead being caught in the lower river but the numbers of fish
there are low and it is just getting started. The trout fishing in the North forks is going good,
with lots of trout being caught. There are still Pale Morning duns, Tricos, spotted sedges,
green sedges, Little sister caddis, little yellow stones and terrestrials are working as well.
08/26/16 We received some good reports this past week. The wter is still a little low and clear.
For some reason, we guess the copy cat theory, has most anglers fishing the Black Canyon in
the North Fork. Other sections should do well too, with less competition. The insect hatches
vary greatly, depending on the section of water being fished. We still think it is best to fish
early and late in the day.
09/08/16 The river is low but still okay. Most anglers are fishing the Black Canyon of the North
Fork. Terrestrials are working good - hoppers, both green and brown, and Carpenter ants
and Japanese Beetles. There are some Little Yellow stoneflies hatching in some sections
along with lots of caddisflies. Fish the late afternoon egg laying caddis. It is bringing trout to
the surface to feed.
09/15/16 The North Fork is in good conditions, a little low, but fine. Mahogany duns, Blue-
winged olives, Spotted Sedges, Tricos, and October caddis are hatching. This one is a little
ahead of the other cutt streams. Some trout are being taken on terrestrials, hoppers, beetles
and ants, but we don't recommend them when something is hatching.
09/22/16 The river is down a lot and in good shape in all sections. Trout are being caught in
good numbers. There are lots of Mahogany duns, October Caddis and Blue-winged olives
hatching. The North Fork continues to be the best option. Terrestrial imitations are still
working good according to our customers.
10/07/16 The river is in good shape in all sections. The water temperature is down in good
shape and the stream levels about normal. There are plenty of hatches taking place including
Spotted sedges, October caddis, Blue-winged olives and Mahogany duns. The Brown sculpin
and White Belly sculpin streamers have been working good early and late in the day.
10/23/16 Stream levels are still up too high to make it feasible to fish. There is more rain in
the forecast for this coming week, so that is unlikely to get much better. I wish we could report
good conditions. It isn't much fun telling it like it is.Be sure to check out the Clearwater river
fishing report linked just above.
11/10/16 The stream levels have been high for a long time but back down almost to the
normal level. It should continue to fall and get in better shape. Steelhead are being caught in
the lower river.
11/17/16 The stream levels are very high and the river not worth fishing at this point. The
weather is turning much cooler and the trout fishing will slow down. Steelhead are in the lower
river in good numbers. Watch the stream levels and when they begin to fall and get within
fishing range, it should be good.
11/24/16 The upper river is very cold with water temperatures in the high thirties. The lower
river is in good shape with normal stream levels and our customers are catching some
steelhead. Most of the fish are being caught swinging. Some are being caught on nymphs
under strike indicators.
12/02/16 The river is okay from a stream level standpoint but the water is cold, averaging
about 38 degrees. Use nymphs under an indicator for the best results. The fish are probably
a little sluggish in the cold water.
12/15/16 The stream levels are down a little below normal and the water getting colder. It is in
the high to mid thirties in most sections. There are still some steelhead being caught but the
action is a little slow due to the cold water. Steehead nymphs are catching the most fish.
12/22/16 The water temperature needs to come up some. It is averaging 36 at the most and
that makes it tough. Much of it has slush ice and lots of bank snow and ice We don't
recommend it until the weather improves a little.
01/19/16 The conditions are not very good at all. The weather and water is very cold and the
reports we got last week totaled one and it was a blank. It is still possible to catch fish with
water averaging about 35 degrees, but tough. We don't recommend it until it warms a little.
01/26/17 There are steelhead being caught from the mouth to the Orofono Bridge. The upper
section is still to cold with lots of ice. There are steelhead being caught in the North Fork as
well. They are reporting a fish about every 8 hours of fishing. Our customers are swinging
flies and fishing steelhead nymphs under indicators.
02/09/17 Our customers were catching steelhead in the main stem and NF, but the water
levels are on the way up. It is warmer and that's getting rid of a lot of ice and snow. There is a
flood watch in effect through Saturday, so make sure you check the stream levels before
traveling very far to fish.
02/16/17 The river levels are high again and there is more rain in the forecast everyday for
the next week. You will just have to watch the levels. There are plenty of steelhead in the
river. You will just have to wait until the levels settle down. Both the main river and North Fork
02/23/17 There is a chance of rain or snow everyday for the coming week. The main stem
lower river and the North Fork are both very high, too high to fish. You will just have to watch
the stream levels and fish when it drops back down.
03/09/17 The lower river is very high flowing at 33,000 cfs. It is getting near the end of the
season. You will just have to watch the stream levels and see if you will get another shot. .
03/16/17 The river is blown out with flood warning. There is rain forecast everyday except one
for the coming week. This is going to take a few days to clear up. All you can do is watch the
03/23/17 The stream levels are down a little from last week but still very high, too high to fish
in all sections. There is more rain in the forecast for this coming week and it is likely to
continue being high.
04/13/17 stream levels in lower river and in the North Fork are still very high and the water is
highly stained. The temperature averages around 43. It won't be long before things straighten
out again. All you can do is keep checking back with us. We will keep you updated as to the
05/04/17 The stream levels in the lower river are way down from the past week, not too far
above normal levels and clearing up good. The North Fork is still very high and badly stained.
05/31/17 The stream levels are still very high in all sections from the Spring runoff. All you can
do is to check back with us. We will keep you informed as to the status of the river. You can
send us an email and let us help you plan that next fishing trip to the Clearwater. Be sure to
check the current conditions by clicking the above link to the fishing report.
06/15/17 The stream levels are down a lot from last week. They are still high but falling fast
and clearing. We think the runoff has peaked and think the levels will be back in good shape
very soon. There are a lot of insects beginning to hatch as the water is getting a little warmer
as well. We think another week or two at the most, and the river will be down enough that it
can be waded in places.
06/29/17 The river is down big time and still falling fast. The main stem and North Fork are
both getting into good shape fast. There are lots of hatches taking place but vary with the
section. The water is getting much clearer. It is still too high to wade safely in most places but
should be down low enough for that soon. Drift boat should do fine.
07/10/17 he weather is going to be very hot this coming week. There is almost no chance of
rain and that should help get the stream levels down. The North Fork is in good shape with
fish being caught. The main stem or lower river is still high. There are a lot of insects hatching.
07/31/17 Steelhead season is off to a good start. Good fish are being caught. The North Fork
is still turning out a lot of trout with some good hatches taking place. The stream levels are in
good shape in all sections of the river.
09/07/17 Smoke has been a problem but is better. Rain will end Saturday. There are some
steelhead being caught, or so we understand. Our customers have not scored with them very
well but are catching lot of trout in the North Fork. The NF stream level is a little low but
wading is safe and easy.
09/21/17 The stream levels are a little high in the main river and North Fork but still okay to
fish. There are some steelhead being caught as well as good numbers of trout in the North
Fork. The water is a little cooler, thanks to the cooler weather. October Caddis should start
10/12/17 Good conditions exist in the North Fork and main river. Both are down to good levels
and the North Fork is turning out good numbers of trout. Mahogany duns, BWOs, Oct. Caddis
and Dark Red Quills are hatching. A few steelhead have been picked up swinging flies. The
steelhead fishing should improve this week.
10/19/17 The river is in good shape in all sections. Trout fishing is still very good in the North
Fork. There are some good Blue-winged olives, Cream and red midges and October caddis
hatches. Steelhead are being caught mostly from Memorial Bridge to Orofino Bridge.
10/26/17 The lower river has been very high but falling the last three days. It is still high but
this should be bringing more steelhead into the river. The North Fork is a little high and much
colder with water temperature in the mid to low forties. Midges, creams and reds, are
hatching. There will be some BWO hatches, mostly on cloudy or overcast days.
11/03/17 Steelhead are being caught in good numbers. We had three good reports from
customers this past week. The river is in very good condition and some nice fish are being
11/10/17 We received two more good reports from customers fishing for steelhead. Good
numbers are being caught swinging, on nymphs and eggs. It is about as good as it gets at this
time of the year.
11/17/17 The water temperature is getting colder and the levels lower. We are still getting
good reports from customers fishing for steelhead. Eggs and steelhead nymphs are catching
the most. There is rain in the forecast from Monday through Friday of next week.
12/03/17 stream levels are very high. We didn't receive any reports this past week from
anyone fishing for steelhead or trout. It should be fine when the stream levels drop back down.
12/23/17 There have been some steelhead caught lately but it is slow due to the cold water.
The North Fork and above the Pink House access produced some.
01/11/18 Stream levels are very high (blown out) and we didn't receive any catch reports this
02/16/18 The weather and water is a little warmer and steelehead are being caught near the
Orofina area of the river and near the bridge on the North Fork. Swinging and nymphing
methods are both working. Be sure to check the current weekly updated fishing report by
clicking the link above.