“There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”
– Sir Ranulph Fiennes
Rain, snow, sleet, inversions: we have seen it all this winter. Fortunately, when the weather is bad, the fishing is good. But having the appropriate gear makes all the difference between success and frustration on the water. The Chinese have a proverb: “A man with a toothache cannot know love.” If one aspect of your clothing or gear is not functioning properly, it can be difficult to enjoy your time fishing. To illustrate, be sure to have the right wading boots for the wintery conditions. Always wear a Vibram sole boot with carbide studs for the best traction in and out of the water as felt-soled boots easily freeze and collect ice on the bottoms when moving from the river to the bank…completely inappropriate and slippery.
Silver Creek below the Highway 20 bridge remains open until the end of February. Not much has changed down here; with the inversion and cold temperatures of late, there is a lot of ice on the edges of the Creek and it is difficult to effectively fish the open areas. It would be wise to let the ice break up before attempting to fish here.
There is a lot of snow on the valley floor making access to the river limited to a few plowed pull outs. If you are creative in how you approach the river, you can find water that has not seen any pressure in weeks. Focus your attention below the confluence of Warm Springs. The influx of warmer water plus the exposure to the sun has left this stretch of water mostly open with plenty of fishing opportunities. Don’t bother hitting the water until around noon and dress with layers so you can adjust to the changing air temps. You will notice the fishing begins to slow down around three and by five it can completely shut down. Fly choice this time of year is simple. When probing the classic winter water with nymphs, use small (16 or 18) bead-headed Zebra Midge, Rainbow Warriors or Bishop’s Dynamite. The fish also like a big meal this time of year so you might try a Rubber Leg Stone or a Prince Nymph in a 12, 10, or 8. When you find rising trout, closely observe their feeding behavior. Many fish this time of year will be feeding just beneath the surface. Try non-beaded nymphs like brassies, crystal midge or a miracle midge trailed behind a high visibility dry with 6x or 6.5x for these picky feeders. If they are on the surface, a Griffiths Gnat or a Trailing Shuck Midge in size 20 or 22 are a good choice. Try fishing these hard-to-see drys behind a larger dry to help with visibility.
THE BIG LOST – MACKAY
This is another winter fishing gem and February and March can be fantastic. It takes a bit of wind shield time (two hours) through Arco and up to Mackay, but it is worth the drive. Approach this water with the same tactics as you would use on the Wood. With the water levels as low as they are, you will find concentrations of fish in the classic winter water and once you get to the water you won’t need to walk far to find fish. For flies, try small Rainbow Warriors, Bishop’s Dynamites and Zebra Midge and a small indicator in the shallow water or a double nymph rig in the deeper runs. Sometimes these tail-water fish can be selective and often dropping down in tippet size can make all the difference. I like using light 6x or 6.5x Trouthunter fluorocarbon tippet to fool these wily trout.
SOUTH FORK OF THE BOISE
Hatches can be hit or miss this time of year, but should become more consistent as the sun hangs above the canyon rim a little longer each day. Seek out deeper runs with ample structure or seams along dancing water and you may find fish looking up. Standard Baetis and adult midge patterns work well. For nymph fishermen, try dry dropper or Euro Style rigs in the seams and tailouts. If this doesn’t get you into some trout, you will certainly be able to find a multitude of whitefish to keep your rod bent. As always, travel with a winter survival kit including a sleeping bag, chains, extra food, water and whiskey when venturing into this canyon.
South Fork of the Boise
The Big Lost