Classic fall weather is in the forecast as well as classic fall fishing. The mornings will be crisp with lows in the 20s and the high temps will reach the low 70s most of the week. You will also notice that they average water temperatures have dropped to toe numbing levels. For anglers this means there is no reason to get out too early. If you do go early, wear some layers that you can peel off as the day warms up. As for the fish and the bugs, they will wait until the air temp hits about 50 and then it is game on. The best fishing will be from midday until early evening. You will find the fishing will shut down just as quickly as it turned on.
This is a great time of year to go explore sections of the Creek that you may not have fished in a while. Maybe go checkout Priest Rapids or the Lower Little Wood, which is basically the Creek in the desert south of Carey. These areas have a ton of hoppers and fish eagerly eating them. While the fish are on average smaller in these sections they also hold the occasional trophy. Remember, the Taylor “Bear Tracks” section of the Little Wood closes the end of October. If you head to the Nature Conservancy or Kilpatrick’s Pond, expect to find the usual array of fall bugs. In the late morning we are still seeing some Tricos mixed with Baetis. Afternoons are a mix of Baetis and Callibaetis along with the occasional Mahogany Dun. Terrestrials are always a good bet when the wind blows, but the fish are getting weary of hoppers. Ants and beetles have been more consistent. Also small Baetis nymphs and Zebra nymphs are producing fish as well when all else fails. This is also a good time to start looking for big browns moving about in the early stages of the fall spawn. You will often find these monsters holding in shallow water with gravel bottoms. These aggressive browns are suckers for a well played streamer. Take your 6WT and rig it with a long fluorocarbon leader to 2x. Cast slightly down and across and allow the streamer to sink to the level of the fish before you start a twitch strip during the swing. I like to tickle the fish on the nose with the fly to initiate a chase. When you feel a take, strip to set the hook before you lift the rod. Streamers always get some kind of response from the fish…either they spook or they chase, so plan on covering a ton of water. If you find the browns on redds, leave them alone. Instead, target the fish just down stream.
Big Wood River
The Wood is fall fishing Nirvana. The Hecuba, the last big bug of the season, has been good on the middle part of the river up to Lake Creek. Even if you are not seeing any around, the fish are keying on them. The Baetis (size 20) are also very strong and should keep the fish occupied most of the day. To imitate this fly you can use any size 18 or 20 parachute or hackled pattern. I prefer the olive gulper special with an orange post or any of the Harrop Baetis patterns. Also look for a small ginger colored Crane Fly to be skittering across the surface. I have been using a tan Elk Hair Caddis brushed with Frogs Fanny to imitate this bug with good results. Cast it down and across on a long leader and with an elevated rod tip and skate it across the surface. On the lower Wood, flying ants have been abundant and any size 16 ant pattern will do. Also the nymphing has been outstanding. The best method is to fish a high floating dry, like an Parachute Ant, a hopper or a Hecuba, with a small baetis nymph or Zebra midge (size 18) trialing behind. Whether you are dry fly fishing, dry dropper, or straight line nymphing, a Tenkara rod can do them all…and the extra length of these rods really makes presentation a breeze. The Wood and Tenkara are a perfect match! I would recommend the 11 or 12 foot Iwana or the 13 foot Ayu. Two more bits of advice…with the cool mornings, the fishing has really been best from around noon till the sun leaves the water. And keep in mind, the fish are spread out in every type of water with the biggest fish in the shallow riffles and tailouts.
Big Lost River below Mackay
This is a great fall fishing option if you are willing to make the hour plus drive over Trail Creek. Flows are at 300 CFS and they have been holding steady, but they may drop even more over the next week. As the morning air loses its chill, there will be some Tricos and good numbers of Baetis through the middle of the day. Look for heads in the seams and in the slow tailouts. The big fish usually group together during these feeding times, so be on the lookout for them. When the bugs are gone, be prepared to nymph. Also when the bugs are gone it is harder to find the bigger fish. But a persistent nymph fisherman will find a few. Like the Wood, this is a great river to play with a Tenkara Rod. For the bigger fish I recommend the 13 and a half foot Amago, but a 12 foot Iwana is also good. These longer rods will really help you get a good drift on the seam sippers. And it is possible to land big fish with these rods; I have seen many fish in the 18 to twenty inch class tamed by a Tenkara rod. To successfully land these monsters, you will need to use your feet to move with the fish and utilize the incredible leverage the rods provide to turn a straight run from a fish into a curved one. As always, I would not be without the following bugs in my box: Crane Flies, Tricos ( size 22-24), Baetis (size 18-20) and an assortment of nymphs such as King Princes (size 12, 14), San Juan Worms, Flashback Pheasant Tails (size 14, 16), Bishop’s Dynamite (size 14, 16, 18), Zebra Midge (size 16,18) WD40s (size 18,20) and Rainbow Warriors (size 16,18,20).
Upper Big Lost
The water in this part of the Lost is low and cold, so focus your attention on the Main Stem of the Upper Lost from the North Fork confluence and down and plan on fishing from about noon on till the sun leaves the water. Since the river is low, the fish are spread out. You can expect there to be maybe one good fish per run with only one legitimate chance at getting a strike…so make it count. The fishing is best from the middle of the day into the late afternoon. Don’t expect to see too many bugs and be prepared to cover a lot of ground to find fish. The Whitefish are eager to eat a fly and a few quality Rainbows, Cutbows, Brook Trout, and Cutthroat can be found as well. If you are looking for huge numbers of trout, stick to the Wood, but if you want to search gorgeous water for that one fantastic trout, give this a try. And you are guaranteed solitude. Take along an assortment of your favorite attractor dry flies and nymphs as well as your standard parachute patterns: Parachute Hare’s Ear, Turk’s Tarantulas, PMX, Royal Wulffs, King Prince, Flashback PTs and Zebra Midge.
Despite the fire, there are fishing opportunities in this area. Check with us about road closures if you plan on fishing beyond Stanley, but there are plenty of good access points along the river above the town of Stanley. For flies, I still like Yellow and Orange Stimulators even though the Stones are long gone and attractors such as Turk’s Tarantula as well as Hoppers work great. Nymphs, such as Tungsten PTs and Rainbow Warriors in size 16 tied of the back of these big bugs will also be good producers.
Warm Springs & Trail Creek
If you like stocking fish in shallow water, than you might give these two Big Wood tributaries a go. The water will be very low and the wild fish will be shy. During the summer Fish and Game stocks these rivers around the bridges and anywhere the rivers near the road and some of these fish will still be around. But, if you seek wild fish, just leave the beaten path and explore. Be stealthy. As long as the fish are not scared they will eat the usual attractor drys and nymphs.
South Fork of the Boise
The flows have dropped to around 300 CFS and is perfect for wade fishing. As always, look for Pinks and Flavs along with fall Baetis during the comfortable times of the day. Also expect to see crane flies skittering about followed by a vicious take. The caddis in the evenings have remained quite strong and it is still worth fishing right to dark during these unseasonable warm days. If you find no bugs about, you might try a hopper as well. Nymphing is also going to be productive with the usual suspects such as PTs (size 16-20), Zebra Midge (size 18,20), as well as stoneflies and caddis larva imitations. I like nymphing with either a stone or caddis larva as an anchor fly along with a smaller midge or mayfly imitation when nothing else is going on.
It is that time of year when I begin thinking about spending some time on one of our local reservoirs again. Little Camas, Magic, Mackay, or Duck Valley are all going to be fantastic options this time of year. The fish are going to be anywhere from 2 to 4 inches bigger from this spring and just like their brethren in the river they will begin to feed voraciously to fatten up for the onset of winter. So grab some fins and a tube and hold on to your rods…reservoir fish are hot!
Everyone should believe in something. I believe I’ll go fishing.~ Thoreau
photo by Terry Ring