“You can’t be unhappy in the middle of a big, beautiful river”
– Jim Harrison
This opening weekend, it is time to reset your priorities. Put all your fringe pursuits aside and seek happiness, and a few trout, in a big, beautiful river.
The snow and rain the mountains received this week will help slow the runoff on the Wood and make for some fantastic fishing over the opening weekend. However, once we get consistently hot weather, expect flows to spike to around 1,000 CFS and then rapidly drop, much like last year. Despite the lower than average flows this weekend, don’t expect the river to be easily waded or crossed; it is high enough to be extremely dangerous. Be sure to have a wading belt on at all times and fish with a buddy. That said, most all access points should provide decent fishing opportunities. Search for fish in the side channels and along the banks. Be aware that some trout may still be spawning in shallower runs and should be left alone. And as always, please respect private property while moving along the river’s edge. For bugs, you may see a few golden stones, some PMDs, along with a smattering of caddis. It is also likely that you may not see any bug activity at all as the water is still quite chilly. When hunting the slow side water, a large attractor dry and a trailing beaded nymph should be sufficient. Indicator nymphing or Euro style will also be effective in the deeper runs.
Warm Springs and Trail Creek
These two Big Wood tributaries are very low and will be fishable on opening day. If you like small stream fishing, June might be the best time to explore these waters as come July they may be too low.
The Creek is often the epicenter of the opening weekend frenzy. Most all the campsites on the lower river will be occupied and cars will line all the access points in the Preserve. Please be respectful to all users if you plan to spend some time on the Preserve, Pond, Willows, or Point of Rocks access points. Also keep your eyes out from some changes in the upper part of the Creek. The Nature Conservancy is working hard to improve access and kindly ask that users stay on the designated trails and utilize the access points to prevent habitat degradation. As common courtesy, try to wade on the gravel river bottom and avoid stirring up silt as it can send waves of off colored water on downstream anglers. Also, the visitor center is being remodeled and remains closed. So look for posted information at each access allowing you to sign in via your phone with a QR code or by texting “Visitor” to (833) 593-0682. As for fishing, expect a few PMDs, midge, and some Baetis late in the day. Otherwise, a variety of flies and techniques will work until the trout wise up. Finally, the Brown Drake vigil has already begun. If the weather cooperates, this hatch may be early this year due to the low water conditions. Sometime between this weekend and the first week or so of June this hatch should get started.
The Upper Big Lost
Trail Creek Pass is open, and the upper Lost follows the same pattern as the Wood in terms of runoff and fishability. This would be a great place to explore if you are looking to avoid crowds and look at wildflowers. If you focus on the prime holding water, you are sure to find some quality trout. Still, the best fishing up here is yet to come as the flows stabilize and start to drop.
The Big Lost below Mackay
One day it is up, the next it is down. It is hard to say what the flows will be as they seem to change every day. At the moment they are hovering near 300 CFS which is very difficult to wade. Once the flows stabilize and drop the fishing below Mackay will be worth a visit. In the meanwhile, there are better options on opening weekend to explore.
The flows are half of what they normally are for this time of year and the river is running clear at the moment. Some expert oarsmen might consider floating this already. However, the better fishing is still a few weeks away once the big bugs start fluttering about.
Southfork of the Boise
At 1,600 CFS, the flows are right for experienced drift boat anglers to navigate, but the wade fishing is limited. Most of the trout are in the side channels or tight to the bank and many are still on redds. The Boise drainage fared better than the Sun Valley area in terms of snowpack, so we can expect this river to follow the typical summer flow pattern.
It is time to take the family to Lake Creek, Penny Lake, or Gaver’s Lagoon. All the ponds will be stocked for the opener and will receive regular stockings throughout the summer season.
Morman, Mackay, the Little Wood, and Magic can be fished either from the bank, a float tube, or a boat. Spring winds can be strong, so always follow safety precautions when floating. Another option, a bit farther down the road, is the Duck Valley Indian Reservation. This fishery has been closed over the last year due to Covid but has opened this spring to accept visitors once again. If you have a day or two, this is definitely worth the trip. This fishery is managed by the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes and has three different reservoirs to pick from: Mountain View, Lake Billy Shaw, and Sheep Creek. For a small fee, you can fish all three and camping facilities are available for an additional fee. As for techniques, try pulling a team of small leech patterns in black, brown, or olive on an intermediate or type 3 or 5 sinking line. Often spring trout are feeding on Daphnia, aka freshwater plankton, and a leech is a welcome meal. Sheep Creek Specials always seem to work in Duck Valley. Also, suspending a series of nymphs or chironomids at the right depth can also be effective.
Big Wood: Chubby Chernobyl | Stimulators | Bullet French Nymph | Lite Brite Perdigons | Sexy Walts | Perdichigons | Pat’s Rubber Legs | Bishop’s Dynamite | DB Zebra Midge in black, red, or olive
Silver Creek: PMDs | Baetis | Green Drakes | Brown Drakes | Bullet French Nymph | DB Zebra Midge in black, red, or olive | Pine Squirrel Leech
Big Lost: Golden Stones | PMDs | Sexy Walts | Perdichigons | Bullet French Nymph | TG Hide a Bead Baetis | CDC France Fly | Lite Brite Perdigons | Duracell Jig | Bishop’s Dynamite | DB Zebra Midge in black, red, or olive
South Fork of the Boise: Chubby Chernobyl | Caddis | Sexy Walts | Perdichigons | Bullet French Nymph | Lite Brite Perdigons | Pat’s Rubber Legs | Bishop’s Dynamite | DB Zebra Midge in black, red, or olive
Stillwater: Balance Leeches | Sheep Creek Special | Woolly Buggers | Seal Buggers | Chironomids | Damsel Nymphs | Prince Nymphs
|Silver Creek||117 cfs|
|Big Wood||408 cfs|
|The Big Lost||333 cfs|
|South Fork of the Boise||1610 cfs|
|Salmon River||2230 cfs|