Winter steelhead fishing conditions are in full effect in the Salmon area. The Deadwater ice jam backed up to the Diamond Creek area, though the river has cut down through the jam for several miles, creating an ice canyon. Launch ramps from Tower Creek down are plugged with ice. Ramps upstream are usable. The river flows ice on cold mornings, but on milder mornings it is clear.
Son John has been fishing on most suitable days this month, concentrating on the spey rod. River temperature has been cold, just above (or sometimes below) freezing. Winter steelhead fishing success has not been fast, though yesterday he got two, the day before a friend with him got two and lost another, and John got one the day before. This time of year half-days on the river are usual. Afternoons often are pleasant. From 11:00 am to 4:00 pm is a pleasant time to be on the river. Hard-core casters might stay out till dark, but that gets to be “more fun than I can stand” this time of year.
There is a lot of valley snow this year. Our overall basin-wide snowpack is 115-120%. Some years the high-elevation snowpack will be heavy while the valley is light, but not this year. Implication, of course, is that when we begin to get some nice days, and some run-off, the river may get off-color. As we get farther into the winter, the F&G and BLM will push ice out of the launch ramps and provide additional fishing opportunity, but they will wait until there is reasonable expectation that the ramps will not become blocked again. Often there is a sweet spot of fishing for a few days right after the ramps are opened, while there are still some fish that have overwintered here and haven’t been caught yet, before the river gets muddy, and before the river warms enough to bring new steelhead up from downstream. Soon the conversation around town will be, “is Deadwater out yet?”, but I think the more important question is “is the river 40 degrees yet?”