It looks like we are going to start the week with a cold snap and then move into a fairly snowy pattern through the middle of the month. While January was mostly dry with days reaching the 40s, it looks like February is going to deliver a dose of winter. We sure could use the snow in the mountains. I typically like to wait until March or April before I start predicting water flows for summer and the next few months are going to be critical for our snowpack. Now on to fishing…with winter weather making a come back and with some days never getting above freezing, my favorite tool for conditions like these is my Iwana 12′ Tenkara Rod. One of the biggest frustrations of winter fishing is frozen guides. With a Tenkara Rod this problem is eliminated; with a fixed line attached to the tip of the rod there is no need for a reel and traditional fly line. Also it is much easier to fish with full finger gloves since there is no line to handle. Combine a Tenkara Rod with a Ketchum Release tool and you never need to take your gloves off and get your hands wet and cold. The simplicity of the Tenkara Rod matches well with the simplicity of winter angling no matter the technique you use: dry dropper, Euro Nymphing, or traditional Tenkara style. On a side note, the Fishing Film Tour is coming to Sun Valley on the 19th of this month and is always a good time especially if you prefer to dream of warmer days.
The Big Wood
Access is still good on the Wood; however, I recommend a SIMMS Wading Staff and pair of SIMMS studded Vibram Rubber soled boots to contend with the ice build up on the edges of the river and the silt in the deposition zones. Go with a good supply of midge patterns from trailing shuck midge dries to beaded Zebra Midge and non-beaded Brassies in size 16-20. Typically in February and March the winter midge hatches gain momentum and you should be prepared for both surface and subsurface activity on all your outings. The super cold days will slow this hatch down, but we have plenty of snowy, cloudy days in the forecast which can be fantastic. Of course, you should have a good supply of Big Wood standbys: beaded red, black, or green Zebra Midge in size 16-22, Rainbow Warriors, or Bishop’s Dynamites in size 16 and 18. Fish these off of a High Vis Parachute pattern or pinch on indicator. I also like to toss large nymphs like Rubber Leg Stones in size 12, Beaded Pheasant Tails in size 14, or Prince Nymphs in size 12 or 14. These are best fished in tandem with a smaller nymph in tow beneath an indicator or European style. As is always the case with winter angling, there is no need to go early; the best fishing is from 12 PM to as soon as the sun leaves the water.
Silver Creek is still open below the Highway 20 bridge until the end of the month! Fishing a leech pattern low and slow can be effective. We also recommend a slow drift Zebra Midge and other beaded nymph patterns suspended beneath an indicator.
Lower Big Lost River
I love this time of year on the Lost. Cloudy days can bring really strong hatches of midge and Baetis. Is it worth the drive? I say yes. It is still mainly a nymphing game, but on those aforementioned blustery days, the fish will be on top. Fish this river with the same techniques you would use on the Wood, but I would use Trouthunter 6.5X to fool these tailwater trout. I recommend small Rainbow Warriors, Bishop’s Dynamites and Zebra Midge in size 16-20 and a small indicator or high visibility dry in the shallow water. Try a double nymph rig in the deeper runs with San Juan Worms, Large Stone Flies, or Prince nymphs trailed by a small nymph. For dries have a good supply of small midge and Baetis.
South Fork of the Boise
The South Fork is a testimony to the resiliency of nature. Despite the fire and mud slides, the fishing remains good. It will be interesting to see what happens to a lot of the loose rocks and debris in the river come spring when the flows increase. At the moment the flows are holding steady just above 300 CFS. For now, please travel smart in the canyon and always take a four wheel drive vehicle with studded snow tires, chains, some food and a sleeping bag when traveling in this area. While fishing, look for the deep, slow runs and the riffles leading into these runs to find the best activity and have a variety of beaded and non-beaded midge patterns, Baetis patterns, as well as caddis larva, stoneflies, and San Juan Worms. You may even find some fish feeding on the surface during the prime fishing window from 12 to 4.
The cold weather has slowed this the steelhead fishing almost to a halt. The action should pick up as the days get longer and we get closer to March and April. But there is no time like the present to get ready, so come on in and let us help you get set up. We have a complete selection of steelhead flies and Scandi and Skagit style lines.
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“If I fished only to capture fish, my fishing trips would have ended long ago.” – Zane Grey