Fishing guide

Clancy Holt’s fishing guide company has been working there for 64 years


By Eric Trent /

Each year as he grew up, Clancy Holt and his family would spend two months camping on the banks of the Sacramento River near Redding, Calif., Fishing for salmon every day.

They would tie the salmon to a rope through their gills, plant it on the ground, and keep them alive for four or five days until they had enough to can with a pressure cooker.

“I have become good at it,” said Holt. “In my early teens I got really good at it.”

One day in 1955, when Holt was 16, a man came to their campground and asked if there were any fish around. Holt’s father told the man to go down to the bank and pull on a rope attached to the floor. The man pulled on the rope, which had a 40-pound salmon attached to it, was splashed with water and was nearly dragged into the river.

The man asked Holt’s father if he would take him fishing. He politely declined but offered to take Holt with him if he paid Holt any money. The man asked how much.

“I said, ‘I don’t know. No one ever paid me to catch fish, ”said Holt. “My dad said, ‘Give him $ 5 and he’ll catch you a salmon. “

Holt took the man about half a mile down the river in the family’s boat and ended up in a whirlpool where he knew there was a bunch of salmon. Holt threw down his line, hooked up a salmon, and handed the pole over to the man who fought him and landed him. The man was delighted.

“He said, ‘It was fun. I want another one. How much?’ Holt said. “I said: $ 5 more. “

Holt won $ 15 that day. It was before any guide license in California. Soon Holt started taking people on day trips at 11 a.m., then working in a grocery store from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Within a year, in 1956, he had created Clancy Fishing and has been a full-time guide ever since.

Holt, now 81, led thousands of fishing trips during his 61-year career as a guide, and Clancy Fishing moved from Redding to Highway 12. He guided all of the North. Western Pacific, from the Sacramento River. north of Washington, and even led salmon trips to Chile, South America.

“I’ve been a guide for a lifetime,” said Holt.

He quit guiding trips three years ago at the age of 77 and now has four guides, including his son, Ron Holt, as well as Steven Hammond, Richard Hassett and Blair Johnson. Holt now books trips, arranges times, meeting places, and more.

The Clancy Fishing website says the company has guided more than 10,000 trips, but that hasn’t been updated in years, Holt said. Clancy Fishing employs three guides most of the year and clients come from as far away as Latvia.

“I don’t know how many thousands upon thousands of customers Clancy Fishing has guided since going into business,” Holt said. “I have no idea.”

The company owns 10 boats, ranging from 26 feet which are used for large rivers, such as the Columbia River, up to 18 feet which are used on small rivers, such as the Wynoochee River and the Satsop River.

Clancy Fishing guides outings mainly for salmon, rainbow trout, sturgeon and lake trout. The most requested fish by its customers are winter and summer rainbow trout, fall king salmon, and silver salmon and sturgeon.

Holt discovered Lewis County while on vacation in Redding. He was on his way to Alaska to check out the fishing there, but had to make a pit stop when he reached southwest Washington.

“Coming into Washington, I saw all the rivers and all the opportunities,” Holt said. “Every 10 miles there was another river you could go fishing on.”

He checked the maps and noticed all the lakes in southwest Washington, then saw how much precipitation the area receives. The fishing at that time was excellent. In addition, there were rainbow trout in almost every river and no size limit for sturgeon at the time.

“The Cowlitz River was probably the best river in the northwest,” said Holt. “The Columbia River was full of fish.”

He stopped in Lewis County and fished for a while. It didn’t take long for him to realize that there was no need to go to Alaska. He returned to Redding, packed all his things, and set up his headquarters along National Highway 12.

For a while, he didn’t have to go anywhere other than the Cowlitz River for almost 365 days a year, barring a storm. Eventually it started hitting the Columbia River as well.

There were fishing opportunities everywhere, ”said Holt. “You can take your customers out fishing every day knowing they have a good chance of success. But it’s not like that anymore.

When Holt first arrived in Lewis County, he observed the crystal clear waters and abundance of fish and figured it would stay that way as long as he was around.

“I was like, ‘No one can ever destroy this resource, with all this beautiful country, the water and the fish,” Holt said. “I was wrong. The man is doing a good job. They are destroying this resource.

Salmon are still in decline in the state, even after $ 1 billion spent over the past 20 years on salmon recovery programs, according to the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office’s 2018 State of Salmon report.

Salmon habitat is being decimated by road construction and residential and commercial development. Caught coho salmon declined from nearly three million fish in 1976 to less than 500,000 in 2017, according to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

The Cowlitz River, which was once one of the jewels of salmon fishing in the state, now has three hydroelectric dams that cover native spawning grounds. Historically low numbers of Chinook Salmon resulted in the closure of their fishery in the Cowlitz River in 2020.

“Poor management of the WDFW and very bad goals,” said Holt. “They’re slowly wiping out every run of fish that we have in the state. Washington could be the fishing capital of the world, and Lewis County could be its hub if we manage and develop our resources properly. “

Holt is still making the most of the state’s fishing situation right now, and there are still some great fish to catch. His company books clients from all over the world and he has at least one guide on the river nearly 365 days a year.

“You do it by treating your people well and keeping them safe,” Holt said.

More information on Clancy’s Fishing

Owner: Clancy holt

Site: 910 US Highway 12, Chehalis rural

Telephone: 360-880-0409



Journalist Eric Trent can be reached at Visit for more local business coverage.