“I salute the gallantry and uncompromising standards of wild trout, and their tastes in landscapes.”
– John Madson
If it is true that your surroundings shape your thoughts and emotions, then choose to surround yourself with water, snow, mountains, and trout. This is the best cure for seasonal affective disorder, light deprivation, cabin fever, and holiday stress; grab a rod and go fly fishing. As Ishmael, from Moby Dick, declares, “This is [your] substitute for pistol and ball.” Trust the trout’s taste in landscapes. It is high time to get to the river!
The Nature Conservancy and the Double R Ranch portion of the Creek down to highway 20 is now closed for the season and will reopen the end of May. The Creek from the Highway 20 bridge down through the Willows, Point of Rocks, and Priest Rapids will remain open until the end of February. With the cold temperatures, ice has formed along the sides of the river making access difficult. If it warms up a bit or you simply want to experience the Creek in winter, nymphing dry dropper style or with an indicator will be most effective through the slow deep buckets. Try size 24-16 Pheasant Tails nymphs or olive and red Zebra Midge. Swinging black and olive leech patterns deep and slow can also be productive.
Snow has come to the valley floor which will limit the parking access along the river; however, once in the river, you should easily be able to find some winter holding water to while away the afternoon in pursuit of trout. Focus your attention on the river below the Warm Springs confluence this time of year to reap the benefits of the warmer water temps. Above Warm Springs and below East Fork, the river can be choked with ice. Generally, if you find slow deep water or the shallow water next to deeper runs you will find fish. If at first you don’t get a strike but are confident fish are present, try lengthening your fluorocarbon tippet and sizing up your bead head to get the fly down. Also, downsizing your tippet from 5X to 6X or even 6.5 X will help get your fly down more quickly. For flies, try beaded red, black, or green Zebra Midge in size 16-20, Rainbow Warriors, or Bishop’s Dynamites in size 16 and 18. Larger nymphs will also work. I like Rubber Leg Stones in size 12, Beaded Pheasant Tails in size 14, or Prince Nymphs in size 12 or 14. Also, winter trout need to be played and released quickly; please learn how to use a Ketchum Release tool.
THE BIG LOST – MACKAY
Trail Creek Pass is closed. You will need to go down to Carey and through Arco to get to Mackay. This is a beautiful drive, especially around Craters of the Moon, and a great way to spend a full day fly fishing in December. The flows are now at 85 CFS, and should stabilize for the remainder of the winter. At this flow and with the cooler temperatures, the fish will be concentrated in the deeper runs below shallow riffles. Expect some Baetis, but mostly midge hatching late in the day. If you find surface activity, utilize long leaders down to 6 or 7X and small flies to match. Nymphing is the most effective technique at the moment and at these flows the sight nymphing is really good. Try a small beaded midge or Baetis below a dry or small indicator or bi-colored sighter built into your leader.
SOUTH FORK OF THE BOISE
Snow has come to the lower elevations making travel into and out of the canyon hazardous. Be sure to take a standard winter survival kit in the car including chains, a sleeping bag, and plenty of water and food if heading to the South Fork. As for fishing, there can be a few midge and Baetis hatching in the afternoon and persistent anglers will find some fish on top. That said, nymphing, Euro Style or with a Dry Dropper, is the most productive for trout and whitefish. For nymphs, try small Baetis nymph patterns, Zebra Midge, caddis larva, stone fly patterns, or San Juan Worms. Streamers are also effective.
South Fork of the Boise
The Big Lost