There always seems to be chatter this time of year about which ski town is the best. What makes Ketchum a great ski town? It is simple. The fact that you can ski in the morning on a world class mountain, fly fish the afternoon on the Wood, and still make it to the Pioneer for après cocktails by the early evening. There are few things finer than the Ketchum trifecta. December’s Arctic blast should loosen its grip by the end of the week and temperatures in the low to mid 30s will feel like a heat wave in comparison. This will make for fine afternoon fishing conditions. Keep in mind, when it is cold, the fish concentrate in the slow water and takes are subtle. It is primarily a nymphing game this time of year, so be prepared to switch from a light dry dropper rig to a deep double nymph rig with an indicator. If you dress for the conditions with proper layering, a December afternoon fly fishing can be the perfect way to round off the day.
The Big Wood
With the limited snow pack on the valley floor, access to the Wood is still quite good. You should easily be able to find some winter holding water to wile away the afternoon in pursuit of rainbows. Focus your attention on the river below the Warm Springs confluence this time of year to reap the benefits of the warmer water temps. 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.
Silver Creek from the highway 20 bridge up stream is closed. However, the river down stream remains open. The recent cold snap has caused ice on the edges to build and has made fishing difficult. With the warmer days in the forecast this should clear up. The long slow runs are ideal for swing a black or olive leech pattern or slow drift nymphs through the deeper buckets. On warmer days, you might see some fish surface feeding on midge. The browns are done with their spawn, but please avoid wading through the areas where there was obvious spawning activity.
Lower Big Lost River
Trail Creek Pass is closed; however, if you are looking for a full day fishing adventure, the Lower Lost is worth the trip through Craters of the Moon, Arco, and up to the town of Mackay. Pack a good lunch, a change of clothes, and a winter sleeping bag in case of emergencies and make a day of it. The flows are at 63 CFS and conditions are ideal for small nymphs and fine tippet. When sight fishing, try a lightly weighted Zebra Midge or a WD40 sans indicator and watch for the fish to make a move for the fly. Blind nymphing the slow buckets with small Rainbow Warriors, Bishop’s Dynamites and Zebra Midge and a small indicator works as well.
South Fork of the Boise
If you go, take a four wheel drive vehicle with studded snow tires and chains. The road down into the canyon can be treacherous this time of year. The fishing was very good before the Arctic blast, but has slowed with the frigid temperatures. Still, this is a very good winter fishery and worth the trip to both fish and to marvel at the powers of nature. The fire followed by the mudslides has left this area scarred, but through it all, the fish have survived. Expect to find fish in the classic winter water and midge is the main fare this time of year. These trout are seasoned and they will require your best game: long leaders, fine tippet, diminutive flies. There are also plenty of whitefish to keep you busy.
There are some steelhead in and around the Riggins area and Spey casters have been having success swinging flies. Come on in and let us help you get set up. We have a complete selection of steelhead flies and Scandi and Skagit style lines.
Shop our House of Harrop Fly selection!
Rubber Leg Stone
Lower Big Lost
San Juan Worm
SF of the Boise
“If I fished only to capture fish, my fishing trips would have ended long ago.” – Zane Grey