Pursuing wild trout with a fly rod in hand is the best way to spend Spring Break. This is our version of March Madness…only around here we refer to it as Midge Madness. Three factors contribute to this mayhem: First, the fishing season on the Wood and the South Fork come to a close at the end of this month. Second, the Rainbows are in pre spawn mode and need to feed as much as possible in anticipation of this event. And finally, the midge hatch increases in volume due to the longer, milder days. In addition to the spectacular midge fishing opportunities on some of our local fisheries, late March into April also means Steelhead on the Upper Salmon. March is a great time to be fishing in and around the Sun Valley area.
The Big Wood
On March 10th we had a substantial amount of rain below 7000′ which caused the Wood to jump from 150 CFS to over 400 CFS for a very brief period of time. The river has settled back down to around 240 and has begun to clear. The fine soot which entered the river after the Beaver Creek Fires last fall got stirred up again and has caused the lower river to go off color while the upper river has stayed clear. The weather forecast is calling for a dryer, colder weather pattern over the next week and the river should be in great shape to finish off the season, which for the Wood ends on March 31st. For flies, carry a variety of midge patterns in sizes 16 to 24. Must have patterns include the Trailing Shuck Midge, Griffiths Gnats, Parachute Adams, beaded Zebra Midge, non-beaded Brassies. If you find fish feeding on top, try a double dry set up with an easy to see dry trailed by a smaller midge dry. Late in March these fish may have seen some pressure, so try switching the small fly trailing fly to the non beaded brassie just below the surface film. Dropping your tippet from size 5 to 6 or 6.5 X can make a huge difference. If the water is a bit turbid and you can’t find any surface activity try a dry dropper rig with a beaded zebra midge, Rainbow Warrior, or a Bishop’s Dynamite in sizes 16 or 18. Euro Nymphing can be deadly this time of year. Try a large ancho fly like a Rubber Leg Stones, large beaded Prince or Pheasant Tail nymphs in sizes 8-14 followed by one of the aforementioned smaller flies.
The Creek is closed for the season. The “earthwork” phase of the restoration project is mostly complete in both the Purdy’s and Nature Conservancy portions of Kilpatrick’s Pond and the pond will be full by opening day.
Lower Big Lost River
This is our most consistent fishery right now with great midge and Baetis hatches occurring during the pleasant spring afternoons. With flows at around 80 CFS it is also our easiest river to wade, but I still recommend the new SIMMS Rivertread soles to grip the slippery rocks. Of course, this time of year it is not unusual to see fish already on redds in the shallows, so watch your step. There are so many fish in this river that you need to be careful how you approach the shallow runs. Often if you spook one fish you spook them all. While the fish in the shallows can provide a good challenge, the more catchable fish are in and around the deeper runs. My top flies on this river include small Rainbow Warriors, Bishop’s Dynamites, Zebra Midge, or a small Pheasant Tail in size 16-20 fished below a small indicator or high visibility dry. Try a double nymph rig fished Euro Style through the deeper runs. San Juan Worms, Large Stone Flies, or Prince nymphs trailed by a small nymph are always a good bet. For dries have a good supply of small midge and Baetis and use Trouthunter 6.5X to deceive these tailwater trout.
South Fork of the Boise
This is it…after March 31st, the South Fork is closed for the season. Come the end of May when this river typically reopens, the flows are on average ten times what they are now, from 300 to 3,000 CFS. With all the recent mudslides inundating the river, it will be interesting to see how the higher flows reshapes the river yet again. In the meanwhile, the Nymphing and streamer fishing has been productive and the persistent dry fly angler can find some action on the usual spring suspects, midge and Baetis. As always, when traveling in this area, use a four wheel drive and be prepared with a sleeping bag and extra supplies.
It is about that time when the biological clock inside these fish tells them to move up river and a few steelhead have already been spotted around the Stanley area. Still the best action at the moment will come between Clayton and Challis. The cooler weather in the forecast should slow down the early run off caused by last weeks warm weather and stabilize the flows making the conditions perfect. Still, before you make the trip over the hill, drop on by the shop and we can give you the latest information on the water and the fish locations. Also, we have a complete selection of steelhead flies, single handed, switch and Spey casting rods, as well as both 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