Vision Quest, B-run Steelhead on the Clearwater River Idaho

It was September of 2007 when I walked into the Red shed fly shop in Peck Idaho and announced that I was for all practical purposes a complete idiot. I broke the ice by saying that I was from Minnesota and would not make fun of Idaho senator Larry Craig who had just been caught playing footsie with an undercover agent in a bathroom located in MSP international airport.They in turn could not make fun of a recent bridge collapse that really messed up my commute to my local hospital job. My bold entrance into this tight knit group of spey casting specialists seemed to work because a really cool dude named George showed me a bunch of good Steelhead runs. My reason for the 1600 mile pilgrimage to the Clearwater River is that it is the closest place from the Twin Cities to find native Pacific B-run Steelhead. The Clearwater River is a tributary to the Snake River which in turn flows into the Columbia.The B-run Steelhead that run up this river constitute some of the largest Steelhead in the lower forty eight states. My other reason for fishing the Clearwater was that I could practice my new interest in casting two handed spey rods. For those fly fishers who have yet to try this technique, there is a learning curve. For the next five days I practiced casting until my arms were exhausted and I lost two fish. There was plenty of time to reflect on the drive home. I returned to the Clearwater in 2009 with a renewed sense of confidence that only success can bring. The fall prior I landed three Steelhead on a very well know Oregon river named the Dechutes. Well it turns out that I spent another five days practicing spey casting and NO fish. There was plenty of time to reflect on the drive home, two years, ten days of fishing, six thousand miles of driving, zero Steelhead. Next year found me sipping a cool refreshing beverage while congratulating myself on a clever time saving strategy. I was on a commercial flight ( not my favorite thing to do ) from Minneapolis to Spokane and if things went according to plan, I’d be fishing later today. It is now October 2010, my third trip to the Clearwater River. My first two days accomplished nothing besides extending the streak to twelve days of fishless fishing. I finally scored on my thirteenth day. The 34 inch Hen Steelhead fright trained the fly and went airborne like it was shot from a grenade launcher. An hour later I landed another. I thanked my guide Steve Mock aka Skinny with the largest tip I’ve ever doled out. Despite the fact I landed two fish in the low thirty inch class, big by midwest standards, I hadn’t hooked up with the mythical B-run for which the river is famous. I had two more days of solo fishing to catch a thirty five plus inch Steelhead. The next morning I got the first of my three B-runs. Landing a fifteen pound fish without a net or companion on a thirteen foot fly rod is an interesting task. The technique requires you to get as high on the bank as you can and beach the fish. The leap of faith occurs when you lay the rod down and run about twenty feet to the water’s edge and wrestle with the flopping thing before it can re-establish itself in the river. The flight home was nothing short of my own private party with the added bonus of flying directly over the Bob Marshall Wilderness area and viewing the South Fork of the Flathead River from the air. I also decided to award Skinny the guide with a real man of genius award for owning a drift boat dog ( Oh-EE the Siberian Husky ) who would not walk in the water.