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Coldwater

Good fishing continued into the afternoon and for me average fish size went up, which was awesome. I still caught smaller ones, so numbers didn’t drop, but larger ones were sprinkled in more frequently. I captured a story in three pictures below of Dad setting the hook on a fish, lifting it out of the water, and then a long distance show off.

Not all the water was fishy though. There were some long, flat riffle stretches that didn’t yield many fish. The fish we did catch in those places tended to be smaller. Just like the rivers I fish in Louisiana for spotted bass, you really wanted to target anywhere there was deeper water. Around boulders, around timber, undercut banks, where tributaries dumped in, and definitely in deeper runs and seams. Places you typically find fish, it wasn’t too hard to find them. There weren’t any long, deep, slow pools in this section of river either.

We fished our way up to a crossing trail and then took it back to the main trail along the river to make our way back to our campsite. I was sufficiently worn out when I made it back to the campsite. Absolutely whooped. The long, upriver wading mixed with the hike back took a lot out of me. It was so worth it though. It made the Sky Kraken from Fremont extra delicious that night. It may have been my favorite beer from the trip.

We continued fishing our way upstream and catching fish along the way. While in Spokane we stopped at the Silver Bow Fly Shop for a little intel into the area, and the main takeaway, for me at least, was to fish purple flies. Following that advice I was fishing a purple psycho prince nymph as a dropper and having a good bit of success on it.

Blake may have a better shot of the fish above on his phone, but that morning he caught what was likely the best looking Westslope cutthroat I saw on the trip. It came off a downed tree that was lying along the riverbank. The deep, dark colors on that fish were fantastic – a beautiful fish.

We then came across a pond and some old mining equipment just off the river. We’d find out later from our campground neighbor that the trail we hiked in on was actually an old road that followed the river a long way and led to different garnet mining operations. As you waded in the river the purplish colored garnet sand was hard to miss. It was a pretty neat sight mixed in with the various colored river rock. It really made for a colored up streambed.

I think this is a Columbia spotted frog (Rana Luteiventris)

I caught back up to Dad after checking out the old mine equipment and playing with the local frogs and just before I made it to him, behind the rock above, I noticed a little bit of trash tucked under the rock. I found it a bit odd because I had not seen trash anywhere on this river. I went to retrieve it and put it in my pack and noticed that it was a crushed can, but tucked further behind the crushed can was an unopened one. It was a cold beer! The river gods had looked favorably upon me and rewarded me for my efforts! Hopefully it was a pay-it-forward moment and not a stashed-for-later one for whomever left it there. It was definitely the best Blue Moon I’ve ever had though.

On our first full day of fishing in Northern Idaho we hiked upstream from our campsite, on the trail that ran along the river and away from the roadside accesses, and into the backcountry. When the itch to fish was too strong to ignore we found a goat trail to descend down to get the day on the water started.

It was hard to see the river through the thick vegetation so when we did pop out of the woods to the riverbank, the setting was pretty idyllic. The fog over the river was beginning to burn off and to the downstream side on the far bank was a big rock wall that looked fishy as hell. It was hard to imagine a better place to start fishing. I didn’t start catching immediately though. I was fishing a dry-dropper setup with a pretty big Chubby Chernobyl up top and a fairly large stonefly imitation below and was getting lots of interest and several bumps on the dry. I downsized my rig and starting getting into fish.

Westslope cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi)
That telltale cutthroat slash

Things were going pretty well, fish were being caught, however we were missing just as many fish as we were catching, if not more. The regulations on this river dictate that we were fishing single, barbless hooked flies and coming from the land of the meathaul, it took a little time to get adjusted to that.

About an hour and a half into fishing I tied into a fish with some size. It ended up being the largest fish I would catch on the trip and one of the main reasons we came to this specific watershed. Catching an above-average Westslope was something I wanted to accomplish on this trip and this fish checked that box for me. This was the first Westslope I had caught with the rose and salmon coloring on it’s belly, something I’d find out later most of the bigger fish were sporting. It made for an absolute beauty of a fish, a special fish, one that was a lot of fun to tangle with.