Idaho: At Play in the Land o' Plenty

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Idaho, Steelhead Fishing, Blue Heron Inn
There be steel in them thar waters: The steelhead-rich waters of the Snake River. (PhotoDisc)

Steelhead Fishing on the Snake
Even if you’re not an angler, chances are you’ve heard of the famous Snake River and the fighting steelhead that course up its cool waters from the Pacific. Captain Dan Fleshman, a 51-year-old Clarkston, Washington-native who guides for Beamers, an outfitter in Lewiston, took me out for a couple of hours one drizzly afternoon for my debut at hooking the trout-like fish. After a thrilling ride in a 24-foot jet-sled boat around rapids and into eddies, Captain Dan rigged up a couple of lines with shrimp and back-trolled along the currents. Within ten minutes, the rod tip jerked and dipped nearly in two as we had a bite. I’d reel the fish in close to the boat only to have the line go tearing out again as the beast—fighting like it had to have been 50 pounds—cut back into deeper water. Finally, with forearms pumped and swollen, Dan noticed I’d caught a wild steelhead and by law could not even take it out of the water. (Fishery-hatched steelhead, however, make excellent eating.) It wasn’t 50 pounds, but then again we didn’t have a scale. By the time we pulled back into the docks 90 minutes later, I’d caught six fish, all of them wild, the biggest being only about nine pounds. Having never done this before, I was naturally quite thrilled at my hunter-gatherer prowess and surprised at how hard the suckers could fight. Dan put it all into perspective, though. “It was maybe nine pounds,” he said. “We were only out for a short while, you know.” (Beamers Hells Canyon Tours: 800-522-6966;; $695 for up to five anglers)

Blue Heron Inn
It’s easy to drive right past the Blue Heron Inn in Rigby, Idaho. Heading west on Highway 20, the inn looks like a gorgeous home off to your right. Lots of glass, a huge great room with lots of glass. Not much else around.

But then you go inside and look out those huge windows at the marsh, the birds, and the lazy Snake River as it meanders right through the back yard. I mean right through. Stumble outside on a dark night and you’d fall in, unaware, after 50 easy paces. From there, it’s impossible to deny the mistake you would've made had you not stopped.

Run by high school sweethearts Dave and Claudia Klingler, the seven-room inn has the unique privilege of being a favorite among locals. People from the surrounding farms and hamlets book months in advance to come here to relax for anniversaries, fishing trips, and just to get away without going away. They probably come for the food, too. The Klingler’s cooking is nothing short of mouth-watering. We rolled in one evening to find shrimp scampi, wine, and sausage-stuffed mushrooms on our plates.

What the locals know is often good advice for us out-of-towners. And the place is indeed A-1 spectacular. The Blue Heron Suite upstairs has room enough for a pasha, a fireplace, and a beautiful balcony overlooking the river below. There’s a library just down the hall stocked with popular titles and games, a fitness room with a massage table downstairs, and an outdoor hot tub perfect for soaking away the day’s aches. Jackson, Grand Teton National Park, Targhee Ski Resort, Yellowstone: You could hit all of them with a three-hour drive.

After sleeping soundly, we awoke to the sun breaking through the clouds to display an outrageous crimson sky. We didn’t even get out of bed to look at it. A few hours later when an eagle, as if on cue, flew by the breakfast table window, it became glaringly obvious why locals rent rooms here when their own beds are nearby. (Blue Heron Inn: 866-745-9922;; $89-$185 a night for doubles, depending on room and season)

Published: 14 Jan 2004 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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