Priest Lake Lakers: Moving Water Alternatives Part 3/3

Fishing in local creeks -- where legal and you’ll need to check the regulations -- and the Priest River downstream from the 26-mile long lake offers worthwhile action too. We haven't fished every available spot, but the easily accessible roadside stretches of the Priest River down to the town of the same name have kicked up some lively trout and the stretch is open all year. You do have to watch out on the lake, as the mouths of streams for a radius of 100 yards into the lake have the same seasons as the streams. Beaver, Caribou, Granite, Indian, Kalispell, Lion, Trapper and Two Mouth Creeks and the Thorofare and Upper Priest River and its tributaries are closed all year.

The vastly underrated St. Joe River a couple of hours south by Lake Coeur d’Alene and the wonders of waters around Bonners Ferry also offer attractive moving water options. There are miles of small creeks and tiny alpine lakes that rarely get fished too.

Most streams offer a mix of cutthroat and brook trout -- note the different bag and possession numbers for each. We find that brook trout in the eight to ten inch ranges from streams are the best tasting trout. So we concentrate our efforts on smaller waters where four to five foot long ultra light rods rigged with two-pound test and tiny spinners do the job. Now and then such rigs produce temporary custody of a big cutthroat too.

These spots offer the scenic Selkirks as a background that is snow covered until the end of summer. Add much less shoreline development than you find at other Panhandle lakes and it's easy to see why serious fishermen prefer Priest Lake. Few other spots offer big fish action in pleasant surroundings without much competition in such scenic surroundings. What it's not so easy to see is why there are not mobs in the area from ice out to freeze up.

Reportedly, the fall fishing is nearly as good as the spring action. I wouldn't know about that. Between Clearwater, Grande Ronde and Snake River steelhead and the blandishments of elk, deer and upland bird seasons I can't find the three hours it takes to drive each way. Still, the thought of a big laker taken on a sinking fly line has its attractions and I'm sure that lakers offer more hookups per hour than steelhead. So, next time the river muds up and the dogs need a day off, I'm off for Priest.