Maggie Mae with a Tiger Trout caught on Silver Creek.
Drakes and Stones…The big bugs of summer have arrived. Normally when these bugs make their early summer appearance, the local rivers are still busting the banks with spring runoff. As predicted, this winter’s lower snowpack has set the stage for some spectacular early season dry fly action. However, don’t be fooled by the clear and lower than average flows; many of our rivers are still high enough to make wading tricky. But no matter what direction you head (over the hill to the Upper Lost, out Warm Springs, down to the Creek, North to the Salmon, or closer to home on the Wood) you will find plenty of great fishing opportunities.
There has been decent hatch activity on the Creek and some good fishing for those anglers willing to be flexible. You might have to switch up to different techniques and different patterns depending on where you are and the time of day. You can search for sippers with small size 18 or 20 Baetis, swing streamers in front of monster browns, float ants and beetles along the reeds and banks, drift a PMD, Callibaetis, or even a Green Drake over likely trout lies. If you go, you will want to have a good selection of Harrop’s Baetis in size 18 and 20, PMDs is size 16, Callibaetis Duns, Spinners and Cripples in size 14 and 16, and Green Drake Duns and Cripples in size 12. Have a good selection of ants and beetles from size 12 to 16 for when the wind puts a chop on the surface. If you stay late, have some tan and olive Caddis is size 16 and 18. You might try a Damsel nymph if you fish the Pond. So get on down to the Creek before the crowds of July and August and enjoy the variety of fishing opportunities. Don’t forget to take your bug spray; the mosquitoes are early this year too.
The Big Wood
The flows are below 500 CFS, thanks to last weeks cool weather. With this weeks warming trend, we may see one more spike in the flows before it begins its steady drop into the low flows of summer. To put this in perspective, the average flow for this time of year is 1300 CFS. We are currently experiencing the early stages of the Western Green Drake hatch on the Wood. The clumsy, crawler Drake nymphs are migrating into the edges of the river, making them very vulnerable to trout and staging for their emergence. The hatch is typically a late afternoon occurrence, and with the warmer temperatures slated for next week, we will really see this hatch explode. The fishing is at its best during these early stages of the hatch when there are just enough bugs to get the fish excited and before the bugs get so thick that the fish absolutely ignore your imitation. I like to fish bigs Drake Drys in size 10 and 12 during these early stages. As the hatch progresses, I use more Cripple Patterns and shrink my flies down to size 14s. Before the hatch, I like to nymph with beaded Green Drake Nymphs trailed behind a big, high floating dry. Also try a Rubber Leg Stone trailed by a Green Drake, Pheasant Tail, Hares Ear, or Prince Nymph if you don’t see any Drakes in the air. Remember, this is one of those bugs that starts on the lower to mid river and moves up river over its progression.
Big Lost River Upper & Lower
The Upper Lost is definitely worth the trip right now. I would focus your attention on the water above Wildhorse Creek and up into the Copper Basin as well as the North Fork. Take your favorite attractor drys, like Stimulators and Royal Wulffs and an assortment of nymphs and have some fun. Below Mackay, the flows are just above 500 CFS. I would recommend keeping your eye on the Idaho River Flows page (use the link on our website) if you decide to go. The current flows are fishable for very strong waders, but it is difficult to move around the river which limits the access and you should always respect private property. If you go you will find Yellow Stones size 12 and Yellow Sallies size 16. Still, nymphing with a big bug trailed by a small will be most productive. Try a large Prince Nymph, San Juan Worm, or Rubber Legged Stone trailed by a size 16 or 18 Zebra Midge, Rainbow Warrior, or Bishop’s Dynamite.
South Fork of the Boise
Not much new here. A few Salmon Flies have been sighted in the Canyon Stretch of this river and the fishing here will get better over the next couple weeks as this hatch makes its progressive march up stream. The flows are holding steady at 1600 CFS which is a good level for floating. If you go, have an assortment of heavy rubber legged stone fly nymphs for the riffles and some big foamy drys for working the banks. Streamers might pick up a big Bull Trout as well. And have some caddis for the evening hatch.
Magic, Mackay or Duck Valley are good options whether you want to float tube, pontoon, our fish from a boat. Be sure to always have a safety whistle and a life jacket. In June, I like to pull Seal buggers and Pops buggers in black or olive off of a sinking line like a type 3 or 5 or suspend a team of nymphs off an indicator like Prince nymphs, Copper Johns, or classic Chironomids with a floating line.
Warm Springs is good option right now, and while still a bit high, is more wadeable than the Wood. There is a good population of wild fish in this river right know and if you catch one please return it to the river. Fish and Game does stock this river around the bridges and these fish are put there for you to take. Try fishing big dries like Turk’s Tarantula, Royal Stimulators, or Parachute Hare’s Ears with a large beaded Pheasant Tail, Prince Nymph, or Green Drake nymphs. Streamers, like Black, Olive, or Brown Woolly Buggers in size 8 or 10 are also very effective this time of year. Of course, double nymph rigs with an indicator, like a Thingamabobber, will produce. Go with a big and ugly Rubber Leg Stone followed by a Green Drake Nymph, a Prince Nymph, a Rainbow Warrior, or Bishop ‘s Dynamite.
If you like throwing big, bushy drys to wild Cutthroats, Rainbows and Cut-bows while drifting through some gorgeous country, then this is a great option. The flows are perfect for floating and decent along the banks for car hopping and wading certain stretches. If you go, take an assortment of large Stimulators and Salmon flies. These fish also love standard beaded nymphs is size 16 to 12 and large Stone Fly Nymphs.
Lake Creek, Penny Lake and Gavers Lagoon have been stocked and are a great option for a family outing.
Shop our House of Harrop Fly selection!
Green Drake Dun
The Big Wood
Green Drake Nymph
Rubber Leg Stones
Parachute Hare’s Ears
Green Drake Nymph
Woolly Buggers 8,10
Rubber Leg Stone
Lower & Upper Big Lost
Yellow Stones 12
Yellow Sallies 16
San Juan Worm
Rubber Legged Stone
Zebra Midge 16, 18
Rainbow Warrior 16,18
Bishop’s Dynamite 16,18
Beaded Nymphs 16 -12
Large Stone Flies
South Fork of the Boise
Heavy Rubber Legged Stone Fly Nymphs
Big Foamy Drys
“If I fished only to capture fish, my fishing trips would have ended long ago.” – Zane Grey
photo by Skooter Gardiner