As slack season continues here in the Wood River Valley, large stretches of our local waters remain angler free. The fish, of course, are still very present and stocking up on protein before the true onset of winter. Although fishing can be less than productive, it is also a wonderful time to take in the beauty and serenity of our local ecosystems and to appreciate the chance that on any given day you may be the only fisherman on your river of choice. There is a subtle satisfaction in fishing waters that are free of other anglers even if the level of productivity is lower than many other times of year.
Big Wood River
The Big Wood (229cfs) is flowing at an average level for this time of year and will provide the mobile angler with ample opportunities to hook the wild Rainbows that make this river their home. Nymphing is the most productive technique at the moment as Midges and Baetis make a showing, especially in the afternoon. Covering large stretches of water is the best approach. Dredging runs, holes and pockets with Pheasant Tail nymphs (size 16) trailed by subsurface midge patterns such as Brassies, Midge Pupae and Zebra Midges (size 18-22) is definitely the best tackle set up. It is also possible to catch fish on the surface during the latter portion of the day with Baetis emergers and duns as well as with Snowfly patterns dead drifted downstream.
Anglers continue to find success in the lowest stretches of the Big Wood (above Magic Reservoir). Expect the Browns and Rainbows to hide out under obstructions such as log jams and drop structures as well as in the deepest pockets during daytime hours. Woolly Buggers and egg patterns will be best in the lower stretch of The Wood and you may be able to find some of the last monster fish before they head back to the reservoir for the winter.
The Silver Creek Preserve will close to fishing at the end of November which means there is just a little time left to enjoy the late fall/early winter serenity of the upper Creek. Above Highway 20, Midges and Baetis will continue to be the most important patterns for the fly fisherman. It is an excellent time to cover large stretches of water and bounce back and forth from the moving water of Silver Creek proper to the slough areas. In the still water, Callibaetis nymphs can be sight fished to moving trout and will produce either on the sink or the strip. It is best to target fish on the move, as this indicates a desire to feed, as opposed to trout that lie sedentary on the bottom. Below Highway 20 (where fishing will remain open until the 28th of February) streamers and Woolly Buggers in olive, black and brown will be the most effective patterns.
Big Lost River
The Lost (86 cfs), like the Big Wood, will offer its best fishing midday to late afternoon and nymph/pupae dropper setups will be the best producers. Prince Nymphs, King Princes, Hares Ears and Pheasant Tails (size 16) trailed by Zebra Midges, Brassies and gray or black Midge Pupae will find their way into the mouths of Rainbows. Or try afternoon dry fly fishing with Midges and Baetis drifted drag-free on the surface. Take caution when traveling over The Pass, make sure to check the local weather report daily and opt for the longer route through Arco if you feel unsure.
South Fork of the Boise
The South Fork of the Boise is flowing at its late season norm of about 300 cfs. With rapidly changing weather, inconsistency will be the name of the game on this tail water. Baetis often make afternoon appearances here although days can go by without a significant Baetis emergence. Fortunately, the trophy trout of this river are still susceptible to Woolly Buggers and streamers fished in a quartering down fashion in the deeper runs and boulder strewn sections. As with other river systems, cover as much water as possible and use the abovementioned Baetis/Midge dropper set ups to maximize catch rates.
Recently, The Salmon has decreased in productivity with the onset of the colder temperatures. Double nymph tackle such as Prince Nymphs, King Princes, Stonefly Nymphs and Caddis Pupae (sizes 10-14) are the best bet to entice trout and whitefish to take, especially downstream closer to Challis. Streamers and Woolly Buggers can also create success with the carnivorous Bull Trout lurking in the depths. Although the drive is simply unrivaled in mountainous beauty, take caution on the river road as the snow and ice begin to cover this thoroughfare from now through spring.