The powerful winter-like storm system that deposited 18 inches of snow on top of Baldy may be a harbinger of a cold and wet winter, but fear not, fishing opportunities still exist! With our weekly highs projected into the 40’s, it is finally time to start reaching into your wet fly box for nymphs and pupae, rather than relying on your dries. There will be small windows of surface activity with Baetis present, but spotty. Expect the bulk of the trout hooked on the fly to be subsurface, at least until the weather breaks, if it does…
Big Wood River
With the cold weather, the Big Wood (232cfs) has transitioned into winter-like fishing conditions with nymphing as the order of the day. As is always the case in October, midging, especially subsurface with Zebra Midge patterns (size 18-22), will produce in good numbers. A size 16 Pheasant Tail nymph positioned above the Zebra Midge will give anglers the best opportunity for consistent hookups. As the temperature drops, expect many of the fish to begin settling into deeper holes as they become more lethargic. Some trout will still be present in the smooth flats and back-eddies, so it is best to cover a lot of water and use your polarized glasses to help you sight-fish. Baetis may emerge in the afternoons on warmer days, so don’t completely abandon your dries. Large attractor patterns like Trudes, Wulffs, Parachute Adams, and H and L Variants may still convince fish to rise when the sun is high in the sky.
Although dry fly fishing becomes less productive on our local spring creek as the temperature drops, one can be reassured by the fact that daytime temperatures are usually higher in the South Valley, giving the fall Baetis and the Mahogany Dun a better chance of finding their way into the ecosystem. The other piece of encouragement is that the Browns are entering their spawning phase and tend to act on territorial instincts regardless of insect activity. Woolly Buggers in shades of black, brown and olive in addition to egg patterns can still entice these brutes to hit even if no bugs are flying in the air. When fishing the Browns, look to gravel areas, but keep your distance so as not to spook the fish or disturb their spawning beds.
Big Lost River
The Big Lost (210cfs) can be quite productive this time of year, even with low temperatures and cloudy skies. Blue Winged Olives and a few Tricos will make an appearance during the warmest part of the day. Expect the water to be low and clear, so try your hand at sight-fishing. When fish are not on the surface, try the Pheasant tail/Zebra Midge combo and expect good results. Copper Johns can also be effective on the Lost and will remain so throughout the winter. Trail Creek summit saw a foot of snow over the weekend, resulting in hazardous travel conditions. Without 4-wheel drive, travelers should opt for driving through Arco. Don’t forget to allow 2 hours driving time each way.
Upper Big Lost / Copper Basin
The high-alpine fishing has seen its last days of productivity. Our larger freestones will make for better fishing as the cold temperatures will shut down this fishery almost entirely. Combined with dangerous travel conditions, consider staying closer to home on the Big Wood River or adventuring down to the South Fork of the Boise.
South Fork of the Boise
The South Fork of the Boise will remain at about 300cfs and should offer consistent fishing, especially on sunnier days. Fall Baetis will emerge during the heat of the day, although somewhat sporadically. Nymphing is sure to produce and may help to pull out those monster Rainbows and Bull Trout. Large Woolly Buggers and Streamers are also good cold weather options.
If you think its cold in the Wood River Valley, try heading up to the Salmon River where it can be 10-15 degrees colder! The good news is that fish are still aggressively hitting nymph setups as the day warms. Many of the fish you hook between Stanley and Challis will be Whitefish, but don’t be surprised if you encounter Rainbows, Cutthroats, Cuttbows and Bull Trout along the way.