January and February are the toughest months of the year for me. All of the hunting seasons have closed and it is generally too cold and icy to fly fish around Missoula. Too many gloomy days spent indoors makes me a little stir crazy so it was nice to get a mid-winter fly fishing break this past week. All of the streamflow and weather conditions came together for a quick trip over to Idaho to chase big Clearwater steelhead with a fly rod. Steelhead fishing requires a different mindset than trout angling. It is not a numbers game and the conditions can play a huge factor. Still, it is worth the time in the hopes of coming tight to such an incredible fish. At worst it is a great excuse to escape town for a couple of days and spend some hours outdoors in a river. We found the river levels dropping, which is a good thing, and the air temps above freezing for the most part. We jumped into one of my favorite runs first and I was a little worried after fishing it twice without a strike. The anticipation of that first strike is huge with steelhead. It is the moment of validation, that the fish are there, your technique is working, and you have the right fly. Without that first strike, fly fishing for steelhead becomes a punishing mind game. The questions can crush your spirit. Am I deep enough? Do I have the right fly? Am I in the right water? Are the fish here yet?……. Fortunately on this trip those questions only lingered until our second run when I connected with a fiesty buck in the first few minutes. With that first fish under our belt we cruised through the next two days and hooked steelhead in every run we fished except the final run of the trip. It was exactly what the doctor ordered. Fresh air, good company, and a bent rod left me refreshed and ready to endure a few more weeks of the Missoula winter.
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