“You can’t be unhappy in the middle of a big, beautiful river.” ~ Jim Harrison
While December is a magical and serene time to be in the middle of a river fly fishing, if you are freezing, it is difficult to enjoy the moment. A successful winter fly fishing outing begins with preparation and planning. To begin with, there is no need to hurry to the river. With morning temps hovering in the teens to single digits, it is best to wait for it to warm up to somewhere near or above freezing. Also, layering is critical. On the bottom, double up on the long underwear and fleece pants. On top, layer with long underwear, down-sweaters, Windstopper fleece, and wrap yourself in a Gore-tex shell. In addition, there are some other items that a winter angler should not be without (that also make excellent stocking-stuffers): fingerless gloves, pocket warmers, extra clothes, balaclava, neck gaiter, Ketchum Release tool, thermos, flask. Remember, when winter fly fishing, the more prepared you are the more you will enjoy the big, beautiful river.
Effective January 1st, the Creek has some new regulations: The catch-and-release season will be lengthened to March 31 on two sections (between Highway 93 upstream to bridge near milepost 187.2 on Highway 20) and implement a catch-and-release season from December 1 through March 31 on one section (bridge near milepost 187.2 on Highway 20 upstream to Kilpatrick Bridge). This is certainly good news for members of the Double R. For the general public, it might be a good idea to ask Santa for some 4mm neoprene waders if you want to go float tubing in the dead of winter.
Fishing the Wood in winter is a treat, especially on cloudy, snowy days of which there are plenty in the forecast. The bugs this time of year are simple; have a variety of midge nymphs and adults. Your best bet on sunny days is running a dry dropper with a beaded Zebra midge in red or black, a Rainbow Warrior or a Bishop’s Dynamite in size 18 or 20. On cloudy days, look for heads in the slow runs where the fish like to concentrate in the winter and fish small brassies beneath a high-vis dry. Big, ugly bugs like rubber leg stones, King Princes, or Woolley Buggers can lure fish to feed as well. Remember to handle winter trout with care. In fact, the best method is to not handle the fish at all, but to release them quickly with a Ketchum Release. The fish stay in the water and your hands stay dry.
The Lost Below Mackay
It is official, Trail Creek Pass is closed. If you are willing to make the trip through Arco to Mackay, the Lost fishes very well this time of year. The flows are low and the fish will be concentrated in the prime lies. Fish it much the same way you would approach the Wood. Small flies like a WD40, DB Midge, Rainbow Warrior or Bishop’s Dynamite will produce fish. You can also expect a decent number of fish feeding on the surface on cloudy days.
South Fork of the Boise
This is another great winter fishery for the more adventurous angler, especially since snow has come to the lower elevations. Be sure to have the appropriate vehicle to make it down and back out of the canyon now that winter weather has taken its hold. Again, this river is going to fish well with small midge imitations or large ugly bugs. If you hunt around you will find feeders on the surface during the prime time in the afternoons.
The December 7th closure on the steelhead season has been suspended! According to Eric Barker of the Idaho Statesmen, “Members of the newly formed Idaho River Community Alliance, environmental groups and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game forged an agreement Friday [12/7] to stave off the closure and keep most of the state’s rivers open to steelhead fishing.” The rivers that remain closed include the Salmon River from Warren Creek to the Copper Mine Boat Ramp upstream of Riggins and the South Fork of the Clearwater River upstream of the Mount Idaho Bridge on State Highway 14. Good news for anglers, but a reminder that our native steelhead population is endangered.
Silver Creek Flies: Harrop’s Beatis | Zebra Midge in black, red, or olive 16,18 | Pheasant Tails 16,18 | Baetis Nymphs
Big Wood, Big Lost: Rubber Legged Stones |Iron Lotus | Pheasant Tails | Bishop’s Dynamite | King Prince | Streamers
South Fork of the Boise Flies: Baetis | Adult Midge | Rubber Legged Stones | Zebra Midge | Caddis Larva | Flash Back Pheasant tails | King Prince | Streamers
The Big Lost
South Fork of the Boise