Let’s take a trip town to Riggins to do some steelhead fishing, Idaho style. The nights are cold this time of year, so we can’t expect the fishing to be anything other than tough, but sometimes the river just calls. When that happens, you don’t have any choice but to make do with what the river will give you.
The drive out to Riggins will be relaxing; the snow is receding and the deer and elk are out in force by the sides of the roads — nature is getting in on this little trip long before we’ve gotten anywhere near the river. Did you bring binoculars, or a spotting scope? There’s a magnificent bull elk that hands out regularly at the rest area just this side of Rapid River; if you’re lucky, we’ll see him along the way.
Once we get to Riggins, we’re going to be putting down in a couple of places: Short’s Bar and the Riggins Park. Each is teeming with steelhead, but getting a bite won’t be as easy as it sounds in this weather; everyone’s feeling conservative in the cold, even the fish. The gentle breeze combines with the midday sun to make it actually pretty warm out, but we miss the first hit of the day because we’re distracted by a deer.
Finally, a few hours and a couple of lure changes later, the first hit! It’s a small crappie jig, so we have to fight the steelhead carefully — and fight it does. Several minutes later, certain of our victory, we start to reel the tired fish in, only to have the hook go straight on us, and the steelhead start making its way back to the Pacific.
As the evening starts to set in and the midday warmth leaves, we huddle in and devote ourselves to fishing Idaho‘s most elusive steelhead until we have something to bring home. Finally, an hour later, as the first drips of what promises to be a small monsoon start to fall, another solid hit, and this one doesn’t seem to have the will to fight — good thing, too, because neither do we. But our desire to put this trip in the ‘win’ column wins out over our fear of getting wet and the steelhead’s determination to be anything other than our dinner.
Victory is sweet.