A mid-winter taste of skunk

For the third year in a row I drove cross-state in the middle of winter to my buddy Jawn’s home in Lewiston, ID to partake of the annual Clearwater River Debauchery: Steelhead & Fireball & PBRfest. That’s not the official name of the event, but it is rather descriptive.

Year One

The first year the event drew a relatively small crowd of respectable drinkers anglers. Plenty of fish were caught this first year: 9 total and all were hatchery fish that ended up in the cooler. My math skills aren’t the best, but by my reckoning that was dangerously close to two fish apiece. And if you count a couple whitefish and a belly-hooked sucker, we actually caught more than two fish per angler. Like a riveting pilot episode for a would-be TV series, this first trip ensured that we’d be back for a second season. The key aspect of this first tour was that nobody got skunked.

Year Two

The next year saw a dramatic increase in the size of the event, as a second boat was added to accommodate what would be a total of 9 anglers drinkers. I’d love to be able to give more details from the trip but it wouldn’t be fair to those in attendance. And I can’t remember much of it anyway. I do know that the catch rate was respectable and only one of those in attendance got skunked (and it wasn’t me). In contrast to the first year, most of the fish caught were wild unclipped fish which had to be thrown back. Still, we took a few fish home and it was someone other than myself that would carry the weight of the Skunkopotamus on their shoulders for a year.

Year Three

The third year proved to be yet another unique adventure as we added yet another newcomer to the mix, as well as a returning cast member from the premier season (who did not attend the second year). With 11 anglers on two boats it would be a tall order to fill everyone’s steelhead tags. Despite several rather tall chaps on board (excluding of course, myself), the order proved too tall and far fewer fish were caught this year. In fact the skunk was tasted by two anglers this year, myself included. I could spout all sorts of reasons, including a lack of rain to bring fresh fish up the river, too much angling pressure, cheap beer, poor reflexes and bad boat driving, but most of those reasons would be inaccurate. Particularly the part about the poor boat driving: our guides are top-notch. If you’re ever looking for a good outfitter, check out Hells Canyon Sport Fishing. Anyone who does any amount of fishing knows that success is not guaranteed, and skunks happen. But every guide does their best to put every guest on a fish. And therein lies an opportunity…

Unaccomplished Outfitters & Guide Services

I’m pondering starting my own guide business and doing something a little different: Unaccomplished Outfitters & Guide Services, where the motto will be: “We can’t guarantee you a skunk, but we’ll do our damnedest.” The one problem standing in my way of this dream is that I’m reasonably confident that I should never be allowed to receive a boat license for a motorized vessel on moving water. Drift boats are one thing, but add a couple hundred horses attached to the stern and…well, I’m fairly certain I’m better off just fishing. Scratch that idea.

Before we wrap things up I’d like to give a big shout out to the local Pabst Blue Ribbon distributor in Lewiston for the “sponsorship” swag. They supplied us with lawn chairs, bottle openers, beer koozies, t-shirts and hats; all nice stuff which added a touch of class to our event. I know what you’re thinking:  You want that hat. Stay tuned—there may be a chance to win it!


  1. Jason Tucker

    Good stuff Kirk. Always entertaining. You realize, of course, that you must wear that skunk around your neck for the next year.

    • Kirk Werner

      Thanks, JT. And yes, I’m painfully aware of my burden. I made my bed; I’ll sleep in it…but damn, the sheets do smell…

  2. Nate

    I do want the hat!

    • Kirk Werner

      Stay tuned for the official March Madness Contest, Nate. The hat could be yours…it probably won’t be, but hey–you never know.

  3. David G

    Kirk… One day you will hold a world record in your hand. Karma has to play ball.

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