For some, the concept of winter fly fishing seems oxymoronic. For the rest of us, winter fly fishing is synonymous with solitude. The river in winter is a transcendent place, a place where anglers can experience the Emersonian “transparent eyeball,” observing the quietude of nature. However, nothing will end a winter fly fishing excursion faster than being ill prepared for the conditions. Often it is the little things that make the trip successful: a thermos full of coffee, a pocket full of hand warmers, a pair of waders that don’t leak, the proper layering, a change of clothes in the car, a flask full of whiskey. If you are heading out on a winter day, spend a little extra time thinking about the little things, so while you are on the water you can let your worries melt away.
The Big Wood
The Wood is our winter fishing jewel. This is the place to go if you want to ski the morning corduroy and fish during the warmest time of day. Access is still good with most all of the usual pull outs clear of snow. It is mostly a nymphing game this time of year and we are about a month away from the good surface winter midge activity. In the winter you can really streamline your gear and keep it simple. Dry dropper rigs or double nymphs with an indicator will let you cover all depths of water. For flies, try beaded red, black, or green Zebra Midge in size 14-20, 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. Remember the winter trout don’t like fast water, so concentrate your efforts on the slow water at the tail end of runs or in the slow seams. Also, winter trout need to be played and released quickly; please learn how to use a Ketchum Release tool. This also provides the added bonus of keeping your hands dry, which is essential in the winter.
Go to our fly fishing blog and check out the progress being made on phase one of the restoration project in Purdy’s pond. This is going to be awesome! If you plan on fishing the Creek, remember it is closed from the highway 20 bridge up stream. However, the river down stream remains open. 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.
Lower Big Lost River
This is a great option if you are looking for a longer fishing excursion. Remember, Trail Creek Pass is closed and it takes about two hours to make the trip through Craters of the Moon, Arco, and up to the town of Mackay. Still, the fishing is fun this time of year and with the low flows you will find plenty of fish in the slow buckets. Try small Rainbow Warriors, Bishop’s Dynamites and Zebra Midge and a small indicator in the shallow water or a double nymph rig in the deeper runs. I like using light 6.5 Trouthunter fluorocarbon tippet to fool these trout and help get the flies down quickly.
South Fork of the Boise
This is another great winter outing with plenty of trout and whitefish to be found about 90 minutes drive from Ketchum. If you go, take a four wheel drive vehicle with studded snow tires and chains. The road down into the canyon can be horrendous this time of year. The fishing window is short deep in the South Fork canyon; look for runs in the sun to find the best activity. You will find fish in the classic winter water and have a good selection of beaded and non-beaded midge patterns as well as caddis larva, stoneflies, and San Juan Worms.
The steelhead are 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