Fly Fishing Idaho  by Bill Mason

Fly Fishing Idaho Guide Book

by Bill Mason (No Nonsense Fly Fishing Guidebooks)
Fly Fishing Idaho  by Bill Mason
This colorful guide provides a clear understanding of the most enjoyable and rewarding waters in Idaho. Detailed maps annotated by the author show you where to fish and how to get there. In this guide you'll learn about Salmon River, Silver Creek, High mountain lakes, Big Wood River, Henrys Fork, Kelly Creek, Clearwater River and many more.

© 2005 Bill Mason/No Nonsense Fly Fishing Guidebooks. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Fly Fishing Idaho" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 21.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 21.

These rivers and headwaters are about 30 miles east of Sun Valley. They’re some of the most fertile fly fishing water in the state and, depending on the time of year, can be the most productive “big fish” water in Idaho. For the best fly fishing, head to the East Fork of the Big Lost in Copper Basin or to the Big Lost below Mackay Reservoir. The section from Mackay Reservoir upstream to the main river is beautiful water, but I’d avoid it. For a number of reasons, it has never been very productive. East Fork: In the 1970s and 1980s, this section was great in July. Hatches were diverse and prolific. Now, unfortunately (despite fish limits) the fishery is a mere shadow of its former self. Check with fly shops in Sun Valley for conditions. Lower Big Lost: When “on,” this is great water for big fish. Hatches are infrequent but can produce sensational dry fly fishing. Nymphing is the most successful method here, even during hatches when fish seem to prefer the nymph to the winged version. Water below the reservoir is unwadable most of the summer. Types of Fish: Rainbow, cutthroat, and cut bow in the upper section and some brook trout in the East Fork.
Arco, ID - Fly-Fishing
A rich, freestone-type stream, the Big Wood River flows through the Wood River Valley in the Ketchum/ Sun Valley area. Trout of high quality and good size challenge fly fishers most of the entire 75 miles of the Wood. The most popular fishing area is from the town of Bellevue north to the North Fork of the Big Wood River. The section below Magic Reservoir, or “The Canyon,” is good yet mystifying. Fall irrigation storage reduces the water flow to a mere trickle but surprisingly, heavy fish kills do not result. Types of Fish: Rainbow trout. This trail guide covers the “where, when, and how: to fish in this region. You’ll get a full-page map and information on the known hatches, suggested equipment to bring, and the best flies to use.
Ketchum, ID - Fly-Fishing
ADD TO BOOKSHELF
Residents of central and southwestern Idaho are fortunate to be very close to one of the state’s best trout streams. It’s not uncommon for businesspeople from Boise to leave work and, in about an hour, get into some great fly fishing. The South Fork of the Boise, located east of Boise and north of Mountain Home, is a medium-sized freestone stream of high alkalinity and diverse and heavy aquatic insect populations. The upper section flowing into the reservoir has small trout and is not often fished. The major fly fishing action is on the two main sections below Anderson Ranch Dam. The first section, 12 miles below the dam, is a picturesque river canyon that is easily accessed by road, and hence, often fished. Most of the 30 miles of the second section below Danskin Bridge is accessible only by boat or raft. This part of the river, called “rattlesnake gulch” by locals, demands a cautious eye for snakes. The river requires skilled boating techniques. Type of Fish : Wild rainbow trout. This trail guide covers the “where, when, and how: to fish in this region. You’ll get a full-page map and information on the known hatches, suggested equipment to bring, and the best flies to use.
Dixie, ID - Fly-Fishing
Idaho has a great alternative to, or respite from, fly fishing for trout: warmwater fish in ponds, pothole desert lakes, and even the lower sections of major rivers like the St. Joe and Snake. Plus, fly fishing for bluegill, crappie, and bass is generally best when either the trout season is closed or most waters are unfishable. C. J. Strike Reservoir and the Bruneau area, the so called Desert Fishing Oasis are two of the best places for panfish and bass in the state. Located 20 miles southwest of Mountain Home (from Interstate 84 take Highway 51 south toward Bruneau), C. J. Strike is composed of two reservoirs, the Snake River arm and the Bruneau arm. There are more and larger bass in the Snake River section, but the insistent spring winds can be bothersome. The Bruneau arm, which consists of “The Narrows” and the upper deep section, has a good supply of fish but tends to have more anglers. Nearby Crane Falls Lake also provides excellent fishing. Types of Fish: Abundant populations of bass, bluegill, crappie, and perch. There are also trout, though they’re tough to find when the water is warm. This trail guide covers the “where, when, and how: to fish in this region. You’ll get a full-page map and information on the known hatches, suggested equipment to bring, and the best flies to use.
Bruneau, ID - Fly-Fishing
ADD TO BOOKSHELF
The Clearwater has long been considered Idaho’s top steelhead river, boasting a strain of these fish that can exceed 20 pounds. These “B” run fish (versus the smaller “A” run) enter the Columbia River on August 25 after spending two or three years in the ocean. They return as brutes in good condition and are much more active than the steelhead that remain over the winter months and are fished in the spring. Look for steelhead in the lower third of pools and runs especially above heavy riffles and whitewater. Clearwater River trout populations tend to be slim or limited. But if trout is your game, you will find some cutthroat and steelhead smolts. Types of Fish: Primarily steelhead and smolts with some cutthroat and bass in the lower sections. This trail guide covers the “where, when, and how: to fish in this region. You’ll get a full-page map and information on the known hatches, suggested equipment to bring, and the best flies to use.
Arrow, ID - Fly-Fishing
Fishing in Idaho during April, May, and early June can be limited by area closures or unfavorable water conditions. The Hagerman area presents a unique water situation that solves this seasonal dilemma. In some stretches the spring water is almost too pure, and aquatic insect populations suffer. Trout rarely grow over 16 inches in this water. In areas that are not entirely spring-fed, larger trout can be found. The toughest part about fishing this area is finding the waters. Traveling the farm roads of southern Idaho is not always easy. Types of Fish: Rainbow and a few browns in the Snake River. This trail guide covers the “where, when, and how: to fish in this region. You’ll get a full-page map and information on the known hatches, suggested equipment to bring, and the best flies to use.
Hagerman, ID - Fly-Fishing
ADD TO BOOKSHELF
This area is commonly referred to as “Sealy’s” because of nearby Sealy’s farm. Because it’s open year-round and has catch limits, fly fishing is better than ever. Because of limited access, floating is the best way to fish this section. If you are unfamiliar with this section of river or boating in general, consult a qualified guide or outfitter. The backwater of Chester Dam must be fished from a boat or float tube. Types of Fish: Mostly rainbows with increasing numbers of brown trout. This trail guide covers the “where, when, and how: to fish in this region. You’ll get a full-page map and information on the known hatches, suggested equipment to bring, and the best flies to use.
Ashton, ID - Fly-Fishing
Quite simply, this canyon, below Island Park Dam is quite simply a gorgeous place to cast a fly. Truly monster trout patrol this three-mile stretch, and their presence has enticed fly fishers for years. In this section, one has a reasonable opportunity to take a 10-pound trout on a dry fly, big nymph, or streamer, but it’s a challenge. This area has fast water, odd-shaped boulders and slick rocks, making wading difficult. For this reason many anglers don’t fish “The Canyon.” Types of Fish: Mostly rainbows with some brook trout. This trail guide covers the “where, when, and how: to fish in this region. You’ll get a full-page map and information on the known hatches, suggested equipment to bring, and the best flies to use.
Last Chance, ID - Fly-Fishing
ADD TO BOOKSHELF
To many fly fishers the seven miles of river in the Last Chance/Harriman State Park area is Henrys Fork. Despite siltation, weeds, and regulations, this is some of the greatest dry fly water in the United States. “The Ranch” (as many locals still call it) may be famous, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to fly fish. Hatches present themselves readily yet don’t always indicate what the fish are eating. And, as this area is a prolific aquatic insect factory, you are continually faced with complex hatch situations. At times as many as five species of mayflies, in various stages, can be on the water at the same time. Add simultaneous caddis activity and things get even more challenging. Types of Fish: Rainbow trout. This trail guide covers the “where, when, and how: to fish in this region. You’ll get a full-page map and information on the known hatches, suggested equipment to bring, and the best flies to use.
Ashton, ID - Fly-Fishing
Over the years this area has been called the Gravel Pit, Osborne Springs, Piney Point or the most commonly accepted label, Woodroad 16. Though similar in structure to the nearby Harriman State Park section, the slow meandering river runs deep, so crossing is possible only at selected spots. Types of Fish: Rainbow trout. This trail guide covers the “where, when, and how: to fish in this region. You’ll get a full-page map and information on the known hatches, suggested equipment to bring, and the best flies to use.
Pine Haven, ID - Fly-Fishing
ADD TO BOOKSHELF
Pine Haven to Warm River—This remote area is highly rated for scenic beauty and is a good spot to get away from humans. However, you must work inordinately hard to get into fish on this water. Over the years I’ve floated the tricky whitewaters. I’ve four-wheeled into the canyon and descended carefully to fish all the remote sections. I’ve even dragged a boat down Bear Gulch and floated out. Yet despite these gargantuan efforts, I’ve not found enough quality fish here to justify all the hard work. The possible exception is the area upstream of Riverside Campground. Mayfly and caddis hatches on the flat water and a lingering salmonfly hatch make this area quite enjoyable. It’s also more accessible. From the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway (Highway 47) look for any number of forest roads that lead to the canyon. Floating is recommended as the best way to work this entire section of river. Take-out is either at Ashton (Wendell) Bridge on Highway 20 or at the boat ramp in the backwaters of Ashton Reservoir. Types of Fish: Mostly rainbow trout with increasing numbers of brown trout below Mesa Falls. This trail guide covers the “where, when, and how: to fish in this region. You’ll get a full-page map and information on the known hatches, suggested equipment to bring, and the best flies to use.
Ashton, ID - Fly-Fishing
Henrys Lake is probably the finest fly fishing lake in Idaho. If you know of a better one, you might want to keep it to yourself. The 4.5 by 3.5 mile lake is shallow, with an average depth of 18 feet. Much of the water comes from springs, and the lake’s rich aquatic growth provides tremendous nourishment for fish. The majority of fishing on “Hanks Pond” is done from a boat or float tube. Fly fishing from the bank or by wading is limited. And despite what appear to be rising fish, Henrys does not fish with dry flies. Leave your floating lines in your car. The lake consistently produces large brook trout and is the source of the current Idaho record holder. Fall fishing for “Mr. Squaretail,” dressed in his bright spawning colors, can be quite exciting. For that matter, fishing Henrys Lake is always a rewarding experience at any season. Types of Fish: Cutthroats, Henry’s original inhabitants, predominate, with brook trout and some hybrid cutbows. This trail guide covers the “where, when, and how: to fish in this region. You’ll get a full-page map and information on the known hatches, suggested equipment to bring, and the best flies to use.
Island Park, ID - Fly-Fishing
ADD TO BOOKSHELF
If you like to hike or backpack and fly fish, Idaho offers some of the best and most picturesque high mountain lake fishing in the country. Generally the farther into the backcountry you go, the better your chances of finding large fish. With Idaho’s beautiful mountain scenery, these fly fishing treks are worth the effort, large trout or not. The majority of the high mountain lakes that are prime fly fishing destinations are located in the state’s central wilderness area. Some are quite easy to get to whereas others require either horses or airplanes capable of landing on backcountry airstrips. Types of Fish: Most lakes are stocked with cutthroat, rainbow, brook, and golden trout. These populations may be high, but fish size can be small. Restocked every three years. This trail guide covers the “where, when, and how: to fish in this region. You’ll get a full-page map and information on the known hatches, suggested equipment to bring, and the best flies to use.
Stanley, ID - Fly-Fishing
Kelly Creek is one of the great trout streams in northern Idaho’s panhandle region. Special catch and release regulations have helped save the stream’s indigenous cutthroat trout, though overall it does lack the big fish associated with many blue ribbon streams. A strong population of catchable fish in the 10-to 15-inch category, with the occasional larger fish, is reason enough to head for Kelly Creek. Types of Fish: Westslope cutthroat. This trail guide covers the “where, when, and how: to fish in this region. You’ll get a full-page map and information on the known hatches, suggested equipment to bring, and the best flies to use.
Pierce, ID - Fly-Fishing
ADD TO BOOKSHELF
The 30-mile upper river from Powell to Wilderness Gateway Campground Bridge is catch and release and the best bet for fly fishing success. The 50-mile lower river from the Wilderness Gateway Bridge to Lowell has good quantities of insects but fewer fish than the upper section. Limits and catch and release regulations were placed on the Lochsa in an effort to maintain the Westslope cutthroat trout. The results are lots of trout between 12 and 14 inches and many in the 18-inch category. Types of Fish: Primarily cutthroat with some rainbow trout. This trail guide covers the “where, when, and how: to fish in this region. You’ll get a full-page map and information on the known hatches, suggested equipment to bring, and the best flies to use.
Lowell, ID - Fly-Fishing
The section of the St. Joe from the town of Avery to the headwaters is designated a Wild and Scenic River. The eastern stretch of river is a Wild Trout Trophy Fishery. The lower sections feature fine bass fishing. Residents of northern Idaho consider the St. Joe one of the best rivers to fish in the entire state. The lower river, between St. Maries and Prospector Creek is big water, making wading fairly difficult. The smaller upper section can be waded except for the many deep pools. In addition, you must often maneuver around or cast from house-sized boulders. This is not a fly fishing river for youngsters or for people with difficulty getting around. This aside, the river and surrounding area are beautiful, and if you are in the northern part of Idaho in midsummer or fall, be sure to visit the St. Joe. Types of Fish: Primarily cutthroat, with some Dolly Vardens and bass in the lower sections. This trail guide covers the “where, when, and how: to fish in this region. You’ll get a full-page map and information on the known hatches, suggested equipment to bring, and the best flies to use.
Avery, ID - Fly-Fishing
ADD TO BOOKSHELF
From its origins in the Sawtooth range, the upper Salmon flows north through the mountains to the small village of North Fork, a distance of about 170 miles. The river then heads west on a 450-mile journey of whitewater and runs going through the rugged canyons and mountains of the 2.25 million acre Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area. This middle section is best fished from a boat. The Salmon eventually meets the Snake River at Hell’s Canyon on the Idaho-Oregon border. For us fly fishers, the upper and main sections are the most interesting. Mountain scenery and wilderness aside, the steelhead runs now get most of the attention when considering this river. Hatchery and wild steelhead return from the sea in September, some running up to 20 pounds. There are more than enough fish in this river to please the fly angler. Types of Fish: Steelhead during their spawning runs, whitefish, rainbows, some bull trout, cutthroats, and steelhead smolt can make fly fishing here rewarding for everyone. This trail guide covers the “where, when, and how: to fish in this region. You’ll get a full-page map and information on the known hatches, suggested equipment to bring, and the best flies to use.
Ellis, ID - Fly-Fishing
Through this pristine, scenic wilderness flow crystal clear waters that now contain an abundance of Westslope cutthroat trout. Overfishing nearly depleted the cutthroats, but catch and release regulations placed in effect in 1970 have restored the fish to near overpopulation. Now the most novice fly fisher will catch fish from this beautiful river. A portion of the river can be reached via Highway 21 from Stanley by taking the gravel road to Dagger Falls. The remaining 100 miles can only be accessed by boat, or by small plane using various mountain airstrips. If you plan to fly in, contact an experienced backcountry pilot. Difficulty of access and lack of crowds are two reasons the Middle Fork is one of the most popular three-to-six-day whitewater float trips in Idaho. You’ll need a Forest Service permit (Salmon, ID) to do this, or take a trip with an outfitter. Hiring an outfitter is good idea. With class 2 to 4 rapids the Middle Fork is not for the inexperienced. Types of Fish: Primarily cutthroats, some steelhead and steelhead smolts, and a few rainbows. This trail guide covers the “where, when, and how: to fish in this region. You’ll get a full-page map and information on the known hatches, suggested equipment to bring, and the best flies to use.
Stanley, ID - Fly-Fishing
ADD TO BOOKSHELF
Internationally famous, “The Creek,” as locals refer to it, is perhaps the finest piece of dry fly water you can find. It’s also one of the largest, purest spring-fed streams in this country. Silver Creek’s abundant food supply supports numerous large trout, to which the fly presentation must be near perfect. Moreover, fly imitations must be precise in size, color, and profile. Sound challenging? It is. In the upper section of Silver Creek within the Nature Conservancy Preserve, trout and fly fishers are abundant. The Purdy Ranch section, downstream from the preserve, is private. Here the trout population is very strong, but a float tube is required to reach them. The Point of Rocks area has very big trout, though fewer in numbers than in the other sections. This is the brown drake hatch area. Bear in mind that I have tried to condense the basic information needed to fly fish all sections of this complicated water on a single page. Types of Fish: Rainbow, brown, and some brook trout. This trail guide covers the “where, when, and how: to fish in this region. You’ll get a full-page map and information on the known hatches, suggested equipment to bring, and the best flies to use.
Picabo, ID - Fly-Fishing
The South Fork of the Snake River, all 60 miles of it, is one of the great river systems in the state of Idaho. Starting in Wyoming, the South Fork’s fertile and rowdy waters produce huge fish. Fly fishers can cast to some of the largest cutthroat and brown trout in Idaho. The state record brown (some 35 pounds) was taken from these waters. Most of the great fly fishing is in two sections: From Palisades Dam 10 miles downstream to Swan Valley Bridge and from Swan Valley Bridge to Black Canyon or Table Rock. The former section has easier access, is a shorter float, and hence, is the more popular. The lower section is just as good but more remote. This river is very popular, and you had better be prepared to share the water with other people and boats during the peak season. The South Fork is big water, and although it can be waded in most Types of Fish: Cutthroats, German browns, some rainbows, a few mackinaws that sneak in from the reservoir, and mountain whitefish. This trail guide covers the “where, when, and how: to fish in this region. You’ll get a full-page map and information on the known hatches, suggested equipment to bring, and the best flies to use.
Swan Valley, ID - Fly-Fishing
ADD TO BOOKSHELF

Related Regions