As we come to the end of one of the most beautiful Septembers in recent memory, October will be arriving with inclement weather and notably lower temperatures. Forecasted snowfall as well as significantly lower daytime highs and nighttime lows will dramatically affect all the hatches, greatly limiting the productive windows for angling. For the persistent angler, fishing can be productive if timed with the warmer afternoon temperature windows and by covering large stretches of the river.
Big Wood River
The Big Wood River (167cfs) has been a delight to fish this Fall, but in the upcoming week, we’ll see a switch to more seasonal October weather including rain, snow, wind with only occasional periods of sunshine. The daytime temperatures will only be in the 40s and 50s, severely limiting the dry fly presence within the system. Baetis are the real stars of the show at the moment, appearing in the afternoon for a few hours and then trickling out and Red Quills may be found during warmer afternoons. In the evenings it may be possible to find a good midge presence, which is a true indicator of the quickly approaching winter season. During this time of low insect activity, fish can still be enticed to bite with large attractor patterns. Wulffs, Trudes, H and L Variants, Hoppers and Stimulators are all reasonable choices as fish try to bulk up for the upcoming season. Overall, nymphing may be your best bet as fish tend to stay down low during stormy weather.
Recently, there have been mixed results from the Creek, with most anglers reporting difficult conditions and spooky fish. Baetis, a recurring theme on local waters, are the favorite food source of rising trout with the Mahogany Dun a close second (particularly on sunnier afternoons). If there is a breeze strong enough to add wind-chop to the water’s surface, fish are more likely to take the fly as four months of fishing pressure have made the local Rainbows and Browns wary and leader shy. Hoppers are still an option here when the wind is up but less effective on calm days. The large Brown Trout will soon be moving onto the gravel as spawning season begins. If you encounter spawning beds, please keep your distance to ensure another season of world class trout!
Big Lost River
The Big Lost (354cfs) is a great destination in October. Even on fairly inclement days, Blue Winged Olives can be present in rather large sizes (size 16) along with significant midge emergences and a trickling of Tricos. Rainbows in the Lost, like Rainbows in the Wood, will be stocking up aggressively for winter. When fish are on the surface in the midday hours, present Hackle Stackers or Parachute BWOs with light tippet and drag free presentation. Before and after the heat of the hatch, try Pheasant Tail Nymphs (size 16) followed by Zebra Midges (size 18-22). Look for some of the larger fish in the skinniest water as you move from pocket to pocket.
Upper Big Lost / Copper Basin
The beautiful sunny days of summer and early fall are now behind us and along with the passing of these seasons goes the productive period of fishing in the Alpine region. The Alpine remains exceptionally scenic and if a day away from civilization is desired, try fishing large attractor patterns while covering good distances of river. You will see very few fishermen if you go “over the hill” and you will likely see very few fish. The lower one fishes in the system, the more luck one will have catching a fish.
South Fork of the Boise
The South Fork of the Boise (304cfs) is transitioning to slower productivity, but Baetis patterns offered to risers can still deliver good results. In the afternoons, it is still possible to see late season PMDs (sizes 18), but nymphing is probably the best option for higher productivity. Patterns such as the Pheasant Tail, King Prince and Zebra Midge should be the first pick out of your fly box.
The Salmon continues to offer walk and wade fishermen excellent angling. Although few fish are coming to the surface, nymphing is producing very well between Stanley and Challis. King Prince and Prince Nymphs (size 12) trailed by each other or smaller midge imitators like the Zebra Midge (size 18-22) will produce high numbers of fish. Expect the majority of hookups to be Whitefish along with some Rainbows, Cutthroats, Cuttbows and Bull Trout. Although some anglers still hang on to a previously negative stigma of the “Whitey”, this indigenous fish is not only an indicator species for the remarkably healthy Salmon River, but also a pleasure to fight on a fly rod as they can often exceed 20 inches.