The steelhead season typically kicks off for the bigger fish in late August, when steelhead enter the system after spending a couple years at sea. They can typically be found in the lower third of the river. The Clearwater also holds some rainbow and cutthroat trout, although steelhead are the main draw here.
Best time: The best fishing occurs from August to September around Lewiston upstream to Dworshak Dam.
Be sure to check Idaho fish and game regulations as there are strict guidelines in place for catching steelhead.
Equipment: If you’re not in a boat, chest-high neoprene waters are a good idea because of the fast, cold flows. Wade with caution on the region’s larger waters, which can be difficult to fish without a boat. An 8- or 9-weight rod is the norm for steelhead out here. A mechanical drag is also recommended. If you’re going for rainbows or cutthroat, traditional trout gear will suffice.
Flies: Steelhead streamers in olive or dark purple are standard, although fish will also hit Royal Wulffs and ’hoppers, which are active in the late summer and fall. Some salmon patterns are also successful with these sea-run fish. For standard trout, try a royal wulff, elk hair caddis or Adams.