“I really can’t stay (Baby it’s cold outside),
I’ve got to go away (Baby it’s cold outside)”
— Frank Loesser
Sitting by a fire or sliding down a slope are fine traditional winter activities. But, when it is cold outside, it is time to go fly fishing. Here are some tips for winter fishing success: The key to comfort on the river is dressing in layers. Under your waders, using two or even three layers to protect your legs from the cold water is wise. The same applies to top layers; this way you can remove or add as internal and external temperatures change. Your extremities are the first to get cold. For your feet, oversize your wading boots by a size to allow wiggle room for your toes with an extra sock for insulation. And carry pocket warmers for your hands as gloves can become cumbersome while handling line and fish. For flies, keep it simple; a trout’s winter diet is whittled down to just a few types of bugs. Look for winter fish to be 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.
The Conservancy portion of the Creek is closed until opening day the end of May of 2018; however, from the Highway 20 bridge down through the Willows and the Point of Rocks the fishing will remain open until the end of February. Be careful, as ice has formed along the edges of the Creek making access tricky. But, if you focus on the warmest time of day, the late afternoon, the lower Creek will see some modest Midge activity on the surface. However, your best action will come on nymphs and streamers. For nymphs, try a beaded or non-beaded pheasant tail, a Zebra Midge, or a WD40 in size 20 or 22.
THE BIG WOOD
The best winter fishing on the Wood is close to town and down from the Warm Springs confluence. This makes getting in a morning of skiing and an afternoon of fishing a breeze. The best days, of course, are during a storm with snow flakes falling; hopefully there will be plenty of these days to come. The key to winter fishing success is finding fresh water. Since there is very little snow on the valley floor, access is good. Still, 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 on the ice along the river. 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 during the winter, on really slow water and the seams next to the deep moving water.
THE LOST BELOW MACKAY
Trail Creek Pass is closed for the season, so anglers heading to the Lost will need to go through Carey and over to Arco to get to Mackay. The flows on the Lost are holding at 400 CFS. It is best to stay on the Wood right now with the flows this high; however, check the current conditions on the USGS website in case they drop again.
SOUTH FORK OF THE BOISE
Not much has changed on the South Fork; flows are holding steady at 306 CFS. There can be a short window of decent dry fly activity, so have a good selection of midge and Baetis patterns in size 20 to 24 and fish long, light leaders down to 6 or 7X. There nymphing also remains productive with Red San Juan Worms, Rubber Leg Stones, Caddis Larva as well as small Zebra Midge and Baetis Nymphs. If you go, be prepared for winter travel. A vehicle with four-wheel drive, studded snow tires, and chains is advisable.
South Fork of the Boise
The Big Wood