In the shadows of the Sawtooth Mountains, the annual migration of steelhead is in full force. With steelhead counts steadily climbing, anglers are finding successful fishing throughout the river system. With below-average snowfall and freezing nighttime temperatures contributing little runoff to the Salmon River, the river remains low and clear.
With a couple thousand fish having arrived at the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery, the record run of 2009-2010 is in mid-stream with as many as 10,000 more fish to arrive over the next month. Anglers are finding success using a number of tactics and tackle, especially on days with clear skies and sunshine helping anglers to see well into the river to identify fish. With such low and clear water conditions, it is very easy to identify channels, holes and pockets which so often act as rest stops for the steelhead. When fishing for resting fish, try using splitshot to help take your patterns down towards the bottom. Dead drifting flies is an effective manner in which to entice lurking steelhead – especially when using stonefly and mayfly nymphs, leeches or egg patterns. Egg-sucking leeches are also an excellent choice and can entice cruising fish to strike. Purple, black, olive, yellow, pink, white and cream are all effective pattern colors. Many anglers will drop egg patterns off of nymph or leech patterns but I would suggest dropping the nymph or leech off of the egg instead. This reverse setup more accurately imitates real life with the predatory leech or nymph pursuing the egg.
The steelhead season runs until April 30th but there are rumors on the river that Fish and Game may extend the season into May. What a wonderful treat for anglers!