Snow is a blessing to our valley. Not only does it make for great skiing, it is also a promise kept in our highest peaks that we will have water for the summer months to come. And during the storm, the fishing can be fantastic! Here are a few tips for winter fishing success: Like you dress for a day on the slopes, layering is key to comfort on the river. For flies, keep it simple; a trout’s winter diet is whittled down to just a few types of bugs. You will find winter fish concentrated in slow deep water conserving energy, and if you find one, there are bound to be more. And finally, if you want to maximize your time on the water, hire a guide. There is time for sitting by the fire when the sun goes down.
The Conservancy is closed for the season and will not reopen until the end of May; however, from the Fly Highway (Highway 20) bridge down through the Willows and the Point of Rocks the fishing will remain open until the end of February. This time of year there can be ice built up along the banks, but with the recent warming trend there should be plenty of open water. Find a good run with deep slow water and try suspending and slow drifting small nymphs or swing an olive or black bugger with a slow twitch.
THE BIG WOOD
This time of year the best fishing is close to town and down from the Warm Springs confluence. This makes getting in a morning of skiing and an afternoon of fishing incredible easy. The best days on the Wood are cloudy with snow flakes falling and there are plenty of these days in the forecast. The key is to find fresh water. Remember, with snow on the valley floor, some of the accesses can be limited, so those willing to park and walk will find better fishing. For safety purposes while walking the river, use Vibram soled wading boots with studs rather than felt soles to avoid frozen slush from building up underfoot and carry a wading staff to catch yourself when you slip. As for the fishing, the best window is from noon until the sun leaves the water. While you may find the occasional surface feeder, nymphing is the most productive this time of year. Try beaded red, black, or green Zebra Midge, Rainbow Warriors, or Bishop’s Dynamites in size 16 and 18. Larger nymphs will also work. Try Rubber Leg Stones in size 12, Beaded Pheasant Tails in size 14, or Prince Nymphs in size 12 or 14. Remember to focus your efforts where the fish live this time of year, on really slow water and the seams next to the deep moving water.
SOUTH FORK OF THE BOISE
The flows have bumped up a bit to around 430 CFS. The stormy weather over the next two weeks is going to make travel in to this canyon dicey. There is still the potential for a mudslide if we get excessive rain, and if it falls in the form of snow, the roads will be treacherous. If you go, take a 4X4 with studded snow tires and chains well stocked with food and blankets. No on to the fishing: While the hatch of midge and Baetis is sporadic, big fish can still be found during the warmest times of the day either rising or holding in classic winter water willing to rise. The nymphing remains productive as well with Red San Juan Worms, Rubber Leg Stones, Caddis Larva as well as small Zebra Midge and Baetis Nymphs both before and after the hatch.
BIG LOST BELOW MACKAY
The flows are around 60 CFS, and the fish are concentrated in the deeper buckets. It is a trek through Craters of the Moon and up to Mackay since Trail Creek is closed, but you should find plenty of fish and solitude if you decide to make the drive. Snow has come to the valley floor around Mackay, so traveling with a 4X4 and chains is advisable. As for bugs, you may find some Baetis and midge hatching in the late afternoons. Still nymphing will produce the most consistent action. Try a small beaded Zebra Midge, Bishop’s Dynamite, or Rainbow Warrior below a dry or small foam indicator and watch for the subtle winter takes. Once you catch a fish, rest the hole for a few minutes and get back after it.
South Fork of the Boise