The fish from our reservoirs to our rivers sense the changing seasons. There is a kind of “now or never” approach toward feeding this time of year, and a successful fall angler knows how to take advantage of this, from the right fly, to the right tippet, to the right presentation. But there is more to it than that…success can also hinge on the anglers comfort level. A successful fall angler knows to dress in layers to adjust to the temperature swings a typical fall day presents. I am reminded of the Chinese proverb, “A man with a toothache cannot know love.” The same could be said of an angler that is too cold or too hot. So even though Mother Nature has played some tricks on us of late with fire followed by excessive rain, the treats have been plentiful as well. It is time for anglers to plan for success and take advantage of the treats of fall.
The Big Wood
Idaho Fish and Game monitored the river during the worst of the blowout on the Wood caused by heavy rains on the newly burned area and found temperatures and dissolved oxygen content were not an immediate threat to the resident trout population. The impact the settled soot will have on spawning fish remains to be seen, especially in the lower Wood where the browns are spawning right now. At the moment the Wood has cleared enough to fish but will remain sensitive to blowouts anytime it rains.
We have settled into our typical fall pattern on the Creek. Baetis and Mahogany Duns are the main fare. Look for bugs during the warmest time of day in the early to late afternoon. You will need some Harrop’s Baetis in a size 18, 20, and 22 as well as Mohagany Duns in a size 16 and 18. Inclement days are better than the bright, calm days. Hoppers can still take fish if the wind blows. I love fishing streamers this time of year as well. The pre-spawn browns are very aggressive and will chase a well played streamer. Of course, if you find browns on redds, leave them alone. The restoration project on the Lower Pond is in full swing and if you go over the next few days you can watch the dredging portion of the project. The weekend of the 25th, the Lower Pond will be drained and diverted into the bypass. Shortly after that is complete, the dam will be removed and replaced. In early November, much of the silt will be moved into an island 600 feet long and 100 feet wide.
Upper Big Lost River
The Upper Lost is gorgeous this time of year. Like the Stanley area, there is no need to go early. In the afternoon you may find a few Red Quills fluttering about, but you would be better off searching the water with a flying ant trailed by a small nymph like a red or black Zebra Midge, beaded Pheasant Tails, Copper Johns, or Bishop’s Dynamites. The key to success…stay mobile and find fish. It seems obvious, but don’t fish barren water. At this water level, the fish are concentrated around the good holding areas. If you are not turning fish right away, move on.
Lower Big Lost River
This has been by far our most consistent fishery this fall and should remain so over the next several weeks. The nymphing has been good all day and there is a short window for decent dry fly fishing. The flows are holding steady at 170 CFS, but may drop any day to its late fall/winter flows. If you see surface activity, more than likely the fish are eating Fall Baetis in size 18 and 20. Harrop’s parachute Baetis as well as olive Gulper Specials are a good choice to imitate this hatch. Even with the off color water, it is a good idea to use light tippet for these selective trout. I like Trouthunter 6.5 fluorocarbon. For nymphs, try an Egan’s Frenchie, an Iron Lotus, or a Bishop’ s Dynamite in size 16 or 18 trailed behind a easy to see dry fly as an indicator. Straight up nymphing with an indicator and a San Juan Worm or Prince Nymph followed by a smaller nymph is also productive in the deeper runs. European nymphing helps you stay in contact with the subtle hits, and is by far the most productive method right now using the same flies mentioned above.
The Stanley Area
It is getting cold up here! But, good fishing can still be found. With the Sawtooths as a backdrop, this area is hard to beat. Just don’t plan on fishing early or late. Hit the warmest time of day and focus your attention on the riffles that roll into deeper water, and you will find fish. Nymphing is the best method right now. Try Rubber Legged Stones, King Prince Nymphs, or Bishop’s Dynamites with a bobber or go Euro Style. You are sure to find a mixed bag of rainbow, cutthroat, and white fish. Swinging a streamer may produce a bull trout.
South Fork of the Boise
The South Fork remains closed and it is difficult to predict how long it will take to reopen. For a great overview of the mud slides that inundated the South Fork, go to www.southforkboise.org.
Both Magic and Mackay are fishing very well right now. Whether fishing from the bank, from a boat, or tube, try dangling nymphs off a bobber or stripping buggers or leeches on a slow sinking line. This is a great time to find a trophy lake fish crushing in the shallows.
Shop our House of Harrop Fly selection!
Upper Big Lost
Lower Big Lost
Olive Gulper Special
Rubber Legged Stones
King Prince Nymphs
“If I fished only to capture fish, my fishing trips would have ended long ago.” – Zane Grey