With ski season less than two months away our days with highs in the 70s may be numbered. The weather forecast is calling for much cooler temperatures for the weeks ahead, so if you plan to spend the day wading our waters, dress for the season. The cooler temps will continue to shorten our fishing window and the bugs of summer, like the Trico and the Callibaetis, will fade away until next year. The Fall Baetis will continue to build momentum and the Mahogany Duns down at the Creek may finally get rolling. The fall foliage should hit its peak over the next few weeks and the spectacular fall scenery will be matched with spectacular fall fishing.
The Creek is mostly empty this time of year allowing anglers the freedom to move about and pick the water they wish to fish. Choose from the Taylor “Bear Tracks” Little Wood stretch, Priest Rapids, Point of Rocks, the Willows, Kilpatrick’s Pond, Sullivan’s Slough, the Nature Conservancy walk and wade or the float tube only S-curves and you are sure to find fish and solitude. This time of year the choice of bugs dwindles to just a few options. Be prepared for lots of Baetis size 20 and 22 as well as Mahogany Duns size 16. You may find pockets of Tricos, maybe a few Callibaetis, even an occasional Damsel depending on where you are, but once the cooler temps take hold these will disappear. Terrestrials are still going to be a factor, especially on the windy days. The fish sense winter is coming and they need calories, so when the wind blows try hoppers, beetles and ants. You will find the big browns staging in preparation for the span in shallow water with gravel bottoms. When these fish are feeding they can be very aggressive; however, their passivity can be frustrating as well. Remember they have other things on their mind. Your best bet on these fish is a well placed nymph or streamer. If they are obviously in spawn mode (on redds), they can be fascinating to watch, but please don’t fish to them and always watch your step around the beds. The rainbows and immature browns are also very active and are feeding with abandon on any passing Baetis dry, emerger, or nymph. As with all our rivers this time of year, the best fishing will be from the middle of the day into the afternoon.
Big Wood River
This cold snap is really going to kick the Wood in to full fall fishing mode. The Hecubas are still making an appearance but their numbers are dwindling. This bug can be a great one to use if you are searching the water looking to bring a fish to the surface. Ants are a good option as well when searching likely water. The Baetis (size 20) are going to continue to be the best option and should continue to hatch throughout the warmest part of the day. To imitate this fly you can use any size 18 or 20 parachute or hackled pattern. I prefer the olive gulper special with an orange post or any of the Harrop Baetis patterns. Also, the nymphing continues to be outstanding. The best method is to fish a high floating dry, like an Parachute Ant, a hopper or a Hecuba, with a small Baetis nymph or Zebra midge (size 18) trialing behind. Target the shallow, dancing water at the head of runs and drift your dry dropper rig through the small depressions and behind any kind of structure. The fish are incredibly aggressive in this type of water and you should expect a strike the moment your flies touch the water. Many anglers miss these “induced takes” because they are too busy mending there lines. My best advice is too shorten your cast and your drift and pay less attention to line maintenance…simply get ready to “set the hook.” These fish are fast and they only give you one chance. Remember, with the cool mornings, the fishing has really been best from around noon till the sun leaves the water. And keep in mind, during these ideal fall conditions, the fish are spread out in every type of water with the biggest fish in the shallow riffles and tail outs.
Big Lost River below Mackay
This is a glorious place to spend a crisp fall day fishing. The Lost River Range seems to tower over the tops of the golden hued cottonwoods against the stark blue sky providing one of the most dramatic backdrops for fly fisherman anywhere in the world. Flows are now at 230 CFS and they may drop even more over the next two weeks. The fishing really should be good throughout the day once the air warms up enough to get the bugs going. Look for heads in the seams and in the slow tail outs sipping the Fall Baetis Duns and Spinners. And scan the shallow riffles for fish feeding on emergers. When the bugs are sporadic, be prepared to nymph. These fish should feed all day long in an effort to fatten up before winter takes hold of the river. As always, I would not be without the following bugs in my box: Crane Flies, Tricos ( size 22-24), Baetis (size 18-20) and an assortment of nymphs such as King Princes (size 12, 14), San Juan Worms, Flashback Pheasant Tails (size 14, 16), Bishop’s Dynamite (size 14, 16, 18), Zebra Midge (size 16,18) WD40s (size 18,20) and Rainbow Warriors (size 16,18,20).
Upper Big Lost
If you decide to fish this area be prepared to cover a lot of country. Persistent anglers will be rewarded with some glorious fish…just not very many. If it numbers you want go below Mackay or stay on the Wood. The water in this part of the Lost is low and cold, so focus your attention on the Main Stem of the Upper Lost from the North Fork confluence and down and plan on fishing from about noon on till the sun leaves the water. Since the river is low, the fish are spread out. You can expect there to be maybe one good fish per run with only one legitimate chance at getting a strike…so make it count. Take along an assortment of your favorite attractor dry flies and nymphs as well as your standard parachute patterns: Parachute Hare’s Ear, Turk’s Tarantulas, PMX, Royal Wulffs, King Prince, Flashback PTs and Zebra Midge.
Despite the fire, there are fishing opportunities in this area. Check with us about road closures if you plan on fishing beyond Stanley, but there are plenty of good access points along the river above the town of Stanley. For flies, I still like Yellow and Orange Stimulators even though the Stones are long gone and attractors such as Turk’s Tarantula as well as Hoppers work great. Nymphs, such as Tungsten PTs and Rainbow Warriors in size 16 tied of the back of these big bugs will also be good producers.
Warm Springs & Trail Creek
If you like stocking fish in shallow water, than you might give these two Big Wood tributaries a go. The water will be very low and the wild fish will be shy. During the summer Fish and Game stocks these rivers around the bridges and anywhere the rivers near the road and some of these fish will still be around. But, if you seek wild fish, just leave the beaten path and explore. Be stealthy. As long as the fish are not scared they will eat the usual attractor dries and nymphs.
South Fork of the Boise
Not much has changed here other than the fishing should continue to improve. The flows have dropped to around 300 CFS and are perfect for wade fishing. As always, look for Pinks and Flavs along with fall Baetis during the comfortable times of the day. Also expect to see crane flies skittering about followed by a vicious take. If you find no bugs about, you might try a hopper as well. Nymphing is also going to be productive with the usual suspects such as PTs (size 16-20), Zebra Midge (size 18,20), as well as stoneflies and caddis larva imitations. This is a great time of year to be on this water so get out there and take advantage of it!
It is that time of year when I begin thinking about spending some time on one of our local reservoirs again. Little Camas, Magic, Mackay, or Duck Valley are all going to be fantastic options this time of year. The fish are going to be anywhere from 2 to 4 inches bigger from this spring and just like their brethren in the river they will begin to feed voraciously to fatten up for the onset of winter. So grab some fins and a tube and hold on to your rods…reservoir fish are hot!
Everyone should believe in something. I believe I’ll go fishing.~ Thoreau
photo by Bryan Huskey