Idaho Fly Fishing

Henry’s Fork of the Snake River

Henrys Fork

Henry’s Fork of the Snake River, located in Eastern Idaho, is one of the most famous trout streams in all of the United States. It’s prolific hatches and large wild rainbows make it a tremendous dry fly fishery. The river flows for approximately 150 miles and within its journey passes some of the more classic dry fly water in the United States. Gentle flowing ranch land, quality pocket water, and spring creek like sections make up much of this tremendous fishery. Check the Special Regulations area’s before heading out.

From its source at Henry’s Lake, the river flows for almost twenty miles before reaching Island Park Reservoir. This stretch of river is interrupted by the joining of Big Springs approximately 12 miles from Henry’s Lake. The first half of this section, from Henry’s Lake to where Big Springs flows into the river is a good stretch of water that is not as popular as much of the water below Island Park Reservoir. The water from the mouth of Big Springs to Island Park Reservoir is cold and also a productive stretch. This tight section of river is characteristic of beautiful pools, long runs, and riffles.

Below Island Park Reservoir begins the one of the most popular stretches of river. A mile below the tail-water outflow of the reservoir the Buffalo River joins Henry’s Fork. The junction of these two rivers is the start of the Box Canyon which is famous for its huge rainbows that inhabit this section of tumbling pocket water. This section is approximately 3 miles long and offers excellent fishing especially with big buggy nymphs all season and Salmon Flies during the spring. The fishing here is especially good for anglers looking for an “easier” place to fish.

After flowing through Box Canyon the river slows down and widens once it emerges from its narrow tumbling course. Flowing gently past abundant weed beds this area resembles a giant spring creek more then the definition of a river would depict. This seven mile stretch through Last Chance and Harriman State Park is not only home to an abundance of large wild rainbows but also a diversity of aquatic life. Blinding hatches of mayflies and caddis come off during the spring, summer, and fall. Delicate and accurate casts are necessary here in order to be consistently successful. Some days it may seem like you need a six weight to reach the fish but a four weight in order to not spook them. A nine foot five weight rod is generally an excellent choice here. Don’t forget your light tippets especially when the flies get small.

Below the park the river flows for a few more miles before reaching Riverside Campground. After passing the campground it enters beautiful Cardiac Canyon. The canyon provides tremendous pocket water angling for nearly 8 miles before reaching Upper and Lower Mesa falls. These falls are from 65 to 115 feet in height.

After the river cascades over Mesa Falls it slows down in pace once again though not as slow as through the Harriman State Park area. The river flows for several miles before reaching the confluence of the Warm River. After joining the Warm River the Henry’s Fork flows for several more miles before reaching Ashton Reservoir. This stretch of river is characteristic of long riffles, runs, and deep pools. Brown trout and a small population of Yellowstone Cutthroats join the population of rainbows below Mesa Falls.

Below Ashton Reservoir is another tail-water section very worthy of recognition. This seven mile area from Ashton Dam to Chester Reservoir is an excellent cold water fishery. The river here is exceptionally prolific as well. Many insects hatch here with good dependability. Some anglers choose to fish this area because it is less recognized and crowded then the famous stretch upriver through Box Canyon and Harriman State Park. The section of river below Chester Reservoir is a good section of river but a little more limited to access. Some quality fish are found throughout this stretch of river.

Hatches are excellent on Henry’s Fork. It is one of the most prolific of all the first class rivers of the western states. Mayflies include Pale Morning Duns, Blue-winged Olives, Green Drakes, Gray Drakes, and Mahogany Duns as well as a few other less significant ones. Caddis are also extremely prolific along with stoneflies such as Golden Stones, Salmon Flies, and Yellow Sallies. These hatches, although not as diverse as the Delaware River in New York State, are extremely prolific. Blizzard hatches of these insects are possible on any given day during the season.

Access to Henry’s fork can be found along Route 20, Route 47, and other side roads along the river. There are several areas to fish along the river which are clearly marked.

Henry’s Fork of the Snake is a spectacular river and fishery. Many anglers come to this river every season to fish its diverse waters. The closest commercials flights are in Idaho Falls, Idaho and Jackson, Wyoming. If your looking for quality dry fly fishing or fishing for oversized trout, then Henry’s Fork is a superb choice.

South Fork of the Snake

South Fork of the Snake River

Giving birth to a huge and diverse waterway, Palisades Dam creates the lower half of the South Fork of the Snake River located in South-eastern Idaho. The river is known for being an outstanding tail-water fishery for cutthroat, brown, and rainbow trout. Quality hatches bring excellent numbers of hungry fish to the surface throughout the season. The area in which the South Fork flows through is also beautiful and very scenic. Bald Eagles are often seen along this dynamic river.

From Palisades Dam the river flows with great volume. Being a large river it provides tremendous habitat for its great population of cutthroat and brown trout. It also has a small population of rainbow trout as well. Many anglers consider it one of the finest trout fisheries in the country with the potential of being the best if it is not already. Trout to twenty inches are fairly common with brown trout in this river system at times breaking the twenty four inch mark. It has tail-water characteristics with deep pools, slick runs, and well oxygenated riffles along with many islands and braids.

The upper half of the river from the dam to Conant Valley Access at the beginning of a large canyon is characteristic of a narrow channel for approximately the first ten miles. Eventually the river widens as islands and braids become more prevalent on its course underneath Swan Valley Bridge eventually reaching Conant access. This section of river is approximately 15 miles long. Cutthroat trout are the most prevalent species here with a good population of brown and some rainbow trout as well. Access to the upper section can be found along Route 26 and side roads.

The lower river from Conant access to its junction with the Henry’s Fork is approximately forty nine miles long. The first part of this stretch (approximately 24 miles) is taken up mostly by a big canyon in which the river leaves Route 23. Here access becomes better for float fishermen as foot access is a little more difficult. Below Heise bridge, which is a few miles below the canyon, the river begins to widen even more as it flows through abundant farmland. Cottonwoods line the banks and provide some beautiful scenery along with the spectacular surrounding mountains. Brown trout become more prevalent through this stretch and the rest of the river to its junction with the Henry’s Fork, some of which are trophy size. Check the Special Regulations area’s before heading out.

Access to the river is generally best for float fishermen which is the case on most large tail-water and freestone rivers. Wade fishermen can find good fishing, however, where side channels exist, where angling from the bank is possible, or where wading is easy. Some areas are just too swift and deep for wading anglers to be successful. The fall, when water flows are generally much lower, is the best time for wade fishermen to have outstanding dry-fly fishing. Numerous boat and foot access points are found along its length from the dam to Lorenzo near the junction with the Henry’s Fork. Both wade and float fishermen are to be advised of this river’s dangerous potential. Swift currents, deep pools, irrigation diversion dams, and large eddies along with other threats are all capable of being a hazard to any angler. Wade safe and know the float you are doing along with its precautions.

Hatches on the river are not overwhelming with diversity but the flies that do hatch come off in tremendous numbers. Some of mayflies that exist on this river include Blue-winged Olives (baetis), Pale Morning Duns, and Mahogany Duns as well as a few other less significant hatches. Stoneflies include Golden Stones, Salmon Flies, and Yellow Sallies. Caddis are abundant as well and terrestrials are of extreme importance. Midges fish well from fall to spring.

The South Fork of the Snake is a large diverse river. The scenery is spectacular and the fishing is equal. Anglers come from all over to fish its waters for its large population of trophy trout. It is a quality fishery with a diversity of tactics that work effectively on it. This means that anglers off all skill levels can come here and enjoy its great potential. The closest commercial airports are in Idaho Falls or Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Silver Creek

Silver Creek

Silver Creek is arguably one of the best spring creeks in country offering prolific hatches and gin clear water. Set in a high desert valley flanked by mountains to the north and desert to the south, Silver Creek’s climate can range from the nineties in august to cool, crisp fifty-degree days in October. The season starts off with a bang in early June with close to hummingbird sized brown drakes and continues on through the summer and fall with consistent and mouth dropping emergences like tricos and baetis wards the end of July. July, August, and September offer exceptional hopper and terrestrial fishing during the warm mid-day lulls in hatch activity. The winter fishing can also be very good and yield large hungry trout. More often than not, the hatches come off like clockwork making it relatively easy to find pools of actively rising trout.

Renowned for its impressive population of brown and rainbow trout, this fishery boasts challenging and ever-shifting currents that can disrupt even the most precise drift you believe is right on target. The creek is blessed with prolific hatches and smooth waters, making it an exceptional location for dry fly fishing enthusiasts. Framed by picturesque farmlands and distant mountain vistas, this creek provides a breathtaking backdrop, perfect for capturing lasting memories through photography. Anglers can anticipate landing trout of up to 24 inches, with the potential for an elusive “big one” that may remain a tantalizing memory.

The Creeks headwaters are found just south of Gannett in marshy plains surrounded by ranches, brush and scattered trees. Several feeder creeks help to construct Silver Creek as they provide it with volume. The creek’s bed is lined with weeds which provides nutrients and a place for fish to hide. The weeds do make nymph fishing tough however when they are thick. Eventually it becomes a large spring creek meandering through Silver Creek Preserve, in the first part of its journey, which was established with the help of Jack Hemingway (Ernest Hemingway’s son) during the 1970’s. This area has helped to protect this creek which was being bombarded by both fishermen and farmers.

The fishing pressure the creek was receiving with the lack of catch-and-release regulations was detrimental to fish populations. Agricultural use fluctuated water levels and eroded the creeks banks as well. Today the creek is once again a tremendous fishery. The Silver Creek Preserve owned by the Nature Conservancy now offers anglers with good access and an exceptional fishery in which catch-and-release regulations have been placed within the preserve limits and down to Route 20. Check all the Special Regulations before going out.

The first part of the creek’s journey from its headwaters to the end of the Silver Creek Preserve is a few miles long. Within this section anglers can wade fish its waters for most of this section. Wading the lower stretch of the preserve becomes more difficult as the depths increase. Float tubers enjoy fishing this section in the vicinity of Kilpatrick Bride. Anglers are able to use float tubes in the creek but are limited to access in some areas do to private property. Fishermen may float into private property but can not use the surrounding land if it is private. Anglers will have to migrate back upstream or float through to where access is permissible. The tubes are especially good for fishing the “ponds” that exist as a part of the river. These are areas where the creek slows up and gets larger in the shape of a small pond. Fishing this section all the way down to U.S. Highway 20 is good but usually accessible below Kilpatrick Bridge to float tubers only.

Below U. S. Highway 20 the creek has some excellent angling potential. It is accessible in certain areas and offers quality fishing for big browns and rainbows. This area does allow anglers to keep two fish but none between 12 and 16 inches. Check regulations for more details. Most anglers choose to release the fish to keep this wonderful fishery healthy. From December 1st to February 28th this section of river from Highway 93 to U. S. Highway 20 (at highway milepost 187.2) Bridge is “closed to harvest.” This means that all fish must be released with no harm during this time. Below Highway 93 the river is not very accessible. It eventually flows into the Little Wood River.

Hatches on Silver Creek are excellent and very prolific. Mayflies include Blue-winged Olive, Pale Morning Duns, Callibaetis, Brown Drakes, Tricos, Gray Drakes, and Mahogany Duns. Caddis are not as significant but include a few in tan usually in the month of June. Mayflies are the most significant of the hatches. It is a spring creek with a silt bottom and does not harbor the amount of caddis and stoneflies that a freestone or tail-water river would. The mayflies that do come off, however, do so in big numbers.

Access to Silver Creek is best found at the Silver Creek Preserve. There are other access points along the river as well. Float tubes are a great way to approach and fish this creek. Highways 20, 93, and other side roads make access possible.

Fishing on Silver Creek is almost legendary. It is an awesome fishery that provides great angling for large trout. The Closest commercial airport is in Twin Falls. Some anglers come to Idaho for its great fishing and many come to fish Silver Creek.

The Big Wood River

Bigwood River

The Big Wood River, located in central Idaho near Ketchum, is a quality fishery with an excellent population of rainbow trout. Averaging seventy five feet in width, the Big Wood also holds a good number of brown and a few brook trout. Since it is a freestone stream it depends mainly on run-off from mountain snows or rain. High water usually exists through early June and subsides leaving the river at good fishing levels from mid-late June through the Fall.

The Big Wood’s headwaters are found just west of Galena Peak which is over 11,000 feet high. From there it flows southeast and then south when it reaches Sun Valley. From Sun Valley the river flows past Ketchum, Hailey, and Bellevue before reaching Magic Reservoir. Almost its entire length is traversed by Route 75. Access along Route 75 is easy providing many places to pull off and fish. Below Magic reservoir is a tail-water section that also produces some quality fishing as well.

From its headwaters to the confluence of the North Fork of the Big Wood, it is a tumbling rocky stream. The North Fork flows in approximately ten miles north of Ketchum and Sun Valley. From this junction the river gains volume and begins to slow down in pace over a beautiful stream bed littered with small rocks characteristic of a classic freestone river. Beautiful pools, riffles, and runs are to be found throughout its entire length. The most popular stretch of the Big Wood is from the junction of the North Fork down to Bellevue which is approximately twenty five miles. Rainbows are the most populated trout in this area. Check all the Special Regulations before going out.

A few miles below Bellevue a diversion dam often diverts water for the use of irrigation. This leaves the river from below Bellevue to Magic Reservoir very dry during years of heavy irrigation use. Although this does occur and the river is not as popular here it can be an exceptional stretch of river when the flows are appropriate. Browns also become more abundant below Bellevue where as in the stretch of river to the north they are more scarce.

Hatches on the Big Wood are very prolific. A good supply of mayflies, stoneflies, and caddis exist providing exceptional dry fly fishing from June till late Fall and even through the winter with midges on many years. Mayflies include Blue-winged Olives, Pale Morning Duns, Western Green Drakes, Tricos, and Mahogany Duns along with a few other less significant ones. Stoneflies are made up of Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies, and a less significant hatch of Salmon Flies. Caddis include a variety of species and fish well during the summer months. Terrestrials also fish well in the summer and midges in the winter.

Nymphs and streamers also fish effectively throughout the season. They can be exceptional during the end of run-off when water levels are still a little high and off-color. A sink tip line will sometimes keep your streamers in the “zone.”

The Big Wood River is an outstanding freestone fishery. It flows through scenic terrain on its way to Magic Reservoir and eventually the Snake River. Tough rainbows and browns provide anglers with great seasonal fishing. If your coming to the area be sure to bring along a camera and a nine foot four to six weight rod. A nine foot five weight is generally the most popular for this river and the many others in the area.

Clearwater River

The main fork of the Clearwater is world renowned for outstanding fall steelhead fishing. It’s famous B-run steelhead are prized by local anglers. Its location along U.S. Highway 12 allows for over a hundred miles of easily accessible fishing spots.

North Fork

The North Fork of the Clearwater starts high on the Montana/Idaho border in the Bitterroot Mountains before flowing into Dworshak Reservior just east of Orofino, Id. The river is noted for its outstanding trout habitat and its equally outstanding tributary-Kelly Creek.

Seasonal Activity

The last week in May usually sees the river completely blown out, when the river is fishable the same patterns produce all year long. This river has very aggresive cutthroats that love a well presented attractor pattern.

June brings the giant salmonfly to the river. Again, the fish don’t get to specific about pattern, they are very aggresive.

July is the start of the terrestrial fishing on the river, grasshoppers & ants can produce some fantastic fishing.

August is when the water can become very low, the fish will still take the standard patterns but usually in smaller sizes.

September follows suite with the rest of the season, attractor patterns and good presentations.

October iand November s when the streamer fishing can be productive

clearwater river ID map
Clearwater River Map

The St. Joe River

The St. Joe River originates in the Bitteroot Mountains and flows 150 miles before joining the St. Maries River at Lake Coeur D’Alene. Accessibility to the river is easy, but at peak times it can receive heavy fishing pressure, especially in the catch & release section. The St. Joe holds one of the finest native cutthroat trout populations in Idaho.

Selway River

The Selway River offers a variety of opportunity–from the easily accessible flats next to the road to the catch & release experience in the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness Area.

selway river map
Selway River Map click to enlarge

The Lochsa River

The Lochsa River originates in the Bitterroot Mountains bordering Montana. The Lochsa runs the length of U.S. Highway 12 between the towns of Powell and Lowell. Accessibility to the river is easy. Fishing pressure is relatively moderate considering its easy access. The Lochsa holds a healthy population of Cutthroat and Rainbow Trout. Its abundance of trout and ease of access make it one the the best places to fly fish in our region. The river is also an important nursery to young Chinook Salmon and Steelhead Trout.

Lochsa River ID map
Lochsa River Map

Teton River

teton river ID map
Teton River Map

Lakes & Reservoirs

Chesterfield Reservoir

At full pool, which it rarely accomplishes, Chesterfield Reservoir spreads its fertile waters across 1,600 acres in the foothills draining the upper Portneuf River and the Portneuf Range southeast from Pocatello. During years of good water supply Chesterfield grows some of eastern Idaho’s largest rainbows. A 20-inch fish hardly raises eyebrows and the reservoir offers fair numbers of 24-inch trout that grow ridiculously fat on a diet heavy in scuds and every other still-water staple.

Not covered by any special regulations, Chesterfield’s trout often end their days hanging from a stringer. Yet when chub populations are down and water levels up, fishing holds up throughout the season, which begins with ice-out in April. Late summer brings a lull in the action, but mid-September through October ushers in an unparalleled second season to Chesterfield. During the fall, the fish are fat, bright and ravenous. Generally Chesterfield fishes best during the morning hours.

The upper end of Chesterfield Reservoir lies within the Fort Hall Indian Reservation, so a tribal permit ($25/day $175/season) is required if you wish to explore by boat. Except to satisfy your curiosity, however,you needn’t bother with the reservoir’s upper reaches. Most anglers simply launch a tube or boat along the access road above the dam and find lots of room to spread out. Despite its size, Chesterfield is good float tube water. In fact, a float tube offers the distinct advantage of allowing anglers to troll at just the right speed to search for trout.

Dense Chironomid hatches occur during spring and to lesser extent during the fall. Callibaetis mayflies, damsels, water beetles and leeches abound. Scuds, meanwhile, probably rank as the top food source in Chesterfield and these abundant little crustaceans allow for the explosive growth of the reservoir’s rainbows. In the absence of any obvious hatch or feeding pattern, try trolling or retrieving a black leech trailed by a scud pattern or Zugbug. Use a fast-sinking line. Often Chesterfield’s trout spend an hour or two during the morning feeding in fairly shallow water close to shore. This is a great time to cast scud, beetle or damsel nymph patterns on an intermediate or slow-sinking line.

To find Chesterfield Reservoir, follow I-15 south out of Pocatello, 20 miles, exiting the freeway at the McCammom/Lava Hot Springs turn-off (Hwy. 30). Immediately east of Lava Hot Springs, turn north on Old Highway 30 and follow the highway about 10 miles to a left turn on Kelly-Toponce Road. Follow this road another 10 miles to a signed turn to Chesterfield Reservoir (Nipper Road).

Daniel’s Reservoir

Daniel’s Reservoir holds a long-standing reputation for providing some of southeastern Idaho’s finest still-water fishing. I lived in Pocatello during the 1970’s and Daniel’s ranked as the favorite destination for what was then a new breed of anglers armed with float tubes and flippers. If anything, Daniel’s fishes even better now, it’s rainbows and cutthroat typically spanning 16 to 24 inches in length. They feed on a rich diet of scuds, Chironomids, damsels, snails, water beetles and leeches.

Most float tubers head for the north end of the reservoir, where flooded trees divulge shallow water. Great damsel hatches occur here amidst extensive weed beds. The damsel hatch peaks during early July. Also, don’t rule out the prospect of night fishing on Daniel’s or any other Idaho reservoirs. Some of the most ferocious strikes and largest trout reward those who stay out after dark, trolling or stripping a big black leech pattern.

At 475 acres, Daniel’s Reservoir is perfectly suited to float tubes, pontoons and small boats. The reservoir offers a good boat ramp and a small, unassuming primitive campground. Motel space is available 15 miles south at Malad City. Expect the usual afternoon wind at any time of year. Daniel’s fishes best from May through mid-July and from mid-September until ice-up. To find Daniel’s Reservoir, follow I-15 south from Pocatello (or north 30 miles from Tremonton, Utah) to Malad City and then turn northwest on West Daniel’s Road, which leads directly to the reservoir–15 miles.

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