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“Fishing a good spot under the wrong conditions is like lacing up your ice skates in July.” ~ David DiBenedetto

Now, lacing up your wading boots in December, that is the right thing to do. The best winter conditions to fish, of course, are during a storm, when the air temperature hovers right at freezing. There is something about a low-pressure system that stimulates bugs to hatch and fish to feed. In fact, seldom are there truly “wrong conditions” to go fishing, even in the dead of winter. That may sound crazy to some, but in Sun Valley, we lace up our skates in July too.
Silver Creek

The upper portion of the Creek, including the Nature Conservancy and the stretch through the Double R, will close at the end of November. However, below Highway 20 you can continue to fish until the end of March. Now that that the water has cooled down, the hatch activity has all but disappeared. On the cloudy, mild days you may still see some surface activity for emerging or adult midge. You will need your typical Silver Creek long leader down to 6 or 7x and approach these feeders with extreme caution from above. Nymphing the buckets in the Willows can also be effective.

Big Wood 

The first half of December is a great time to fish the Wood. The holiday crowds are still a few weeks away and early season forecast calls for more snow. It is hard to imagine a better way to spend a day than carving turns on Bald Mountain in the morning and then chasing trout on the Wood all afternoon. Don’t plan on finding a lot of surface feeders, although a persistent angler can find a few, as the prolific Winter Midge hatches are yet to get rolling. Also, don’t expect to find the fish spread out; focus your attention on the slower water next to or below the deep pools and the tail-outs.  The cold weather has concentrated the fish in the winter holding water. As a general rule, when winter angling keep your flies simple. Try a size 18 Zebra Midge in red or black, a Bishop’s Dynamite, a larger size 8-12 Rubber Leg Stone, or a Czech style nymph.  Dangle these bugs off a high floating dry or a simple pinch-on indicator or fish them Euro Nymph Style. The key is to find the right depth and where the fish are concentrated. If you do find feeding on or near the surface, try a midge cluster like a Griffith’s Gnat or fish a dry dropper; however, instead of a heavy beaded pattern try a non- beaded brassie in size 18 or 20.

The Lost Below Mackay

Before you attempt to drive up Trail Creek Pass be sure to check with us. The recent snow fall may have shut the pass down. Still, it is worth the trip through Arco and up to Mackay if you have a day to spend fishing. The river is low, which concentrates the fish in the prime water, but the fishing has been fantastic. It will fish a lot like the Wood with your best success coming to dry dropper rigs with both heavy and light small midge imitations. There will be a small window of decent surface activity and on cloudy days it can be very good.

South Fork of the Boise

The road is in good condition as of the writing of this report, but in general always travel to this river with a 4×4 and chains. The fishing has been fair and the crowds relatively light. On mild afternoons you may be able to find some heads up on midge with the cloudy days being best. If you just want to catch fish, try nymphing the slow dancing water right as it transitions into the slower deep water. You will likely pick up a good number of white fish.


As of December 7th, the steelhead fishing season in Idaho will be suspended pending a lawsuit from six different conservation groups and another year of poor returns of wild and hatchery fish. This includes the Clearwater, Salmon, and Little Salmon rivers, as well as all tributaries of the Clearwater. We will keep you posted concerning how this will impact spring fishing on the Upper Salmon.

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

Silver Creek
Big Wood
The Big Lost
South Fork of the Boise
98.3 cfs
170 cfs
135 cfs
304 cfs