Due to the high pressure which has dominated the weather pattern in the Pacific Northwest for the last two weeks, most of the waters below 5000 feet are frigid. Fortunately for us, we are mostly above the bitter cold inversion in the Wood River Valley and will have relatively pleasant day time highs at or near freezing temps. We have lots of sunshine in the forecast with just a chance of snow as we get into February. For fishing, this means it will be best to stay on the Wood or the Lost and wait for the inversion to break before you try the South Fork of the Boise or Silver Creek. The benefit of the colder temps the last two weeks is that it keeps the angling pressure at bay. Still the usual spots along the Wood from the confluence of Warm Springs down to the East Fork Bridge will have packed down trails in the snow which will reveal the areas that receive the most pressure. For those intrepid anglers willing to walk a bit from the plowed parking accesses you will find fish that have not been pestered for months and plenty of solitude. As we get into February the Winter Midge activity will pick up as well as the feeding activity from the trout as they begin to fatten up for the impending spawn this spring.
Big Wood River
Above Warm Springs the water is still mostly covered with ice with a few open holes, but the ice along the edges makes it very difficult and unsafe to fish this water. Below the confluence of Warm Springs, the influx of warmer water plus the exposure to the sun has left this stretch of water mostly open with plenty of fishing opportunities. Don’t bother hitting the water until around noon and dress with layers so you can adjust to the changing air temps. You will notice the fishing begins to slow down around three and by five it can completely shut down. Fly choice this time of year is simple. When probing the classic winter water with nymphs use small (16 or 18) bead headed Zebra Midge, Rainbow Warriors or Bishop’s Dynamite. The fish also like a big meal this time of year so you might try a Rubber Leg Stone or a Prince Nymph in a 12, 10, or 8. When you find rising trout closely observe their feeding behavior. Many fish this time of year will be feeding just beneath the surface. Try a non beaded nymphs like brassies, crystal midge or a miracle midge trailed behind a high vis dry with 6x or 6.5x for these picky feeders. If they are on the surface, a Griffiths Gnat or a Trailing Shuck Midge in size 20 or 22 are a good choice. I like fishing these hard to see drys behind a larger dry to help with visibility.
The Big Lost
Next to the Wood this is also a good bet this time of year. It takes a bit of wind shield time through Arco and up to Mackay, but it would be worth the drive. Approach this water with the same tactics as you would use on the Wood. With the water levels as low as they are, you will find concentrations of fish in the classic winter water and once you get to the water you won’t need to walk every far to catch one fish after another.
Silver Creek below Highway 20
The Nature Conservancy is closed this time of year, but the fishing below the Highway 20 bridge will remain open until the end of February. With the cold temperatures of late, there is a lot of ice on the edges of the Creek and it is difficult to effectively fish the open areas. It would be wise to let the ice dissipate before attempting to fish here.
South Fork of the Boise
I am going to wait for the inversion to break before I go here. In late February the Boise Valley Fly Fishers sponsor a white fish derby which is always a good time. If you do go take your 4×4 and a set of chains. The fishing window is short down in the canyon, but you can expect your typical winter fare of midge and a smattering of BWO. As the days get longer in February and March this fishery really gets good again.
Less than a 100 miles south of Ketchum is the Hagerman Valley, considered the “banana belt” of Southern Idaho since the air temperatures are consistently warmer than the rest of the state. The two fishing opportunities that I would consider in this area include the Malad River and the private pond at the Clear Lake Country Club. The water in the Malad Gorge is a combination of water from Silver Creek and the Big and Little Wood Rivers and is a fun winter fishery. For a small fee, the spring feed 15 acre pond at the Clear Lake Country Club is a great place to go float tubing in the winter for stocked rainbows. Of course, I recommend calling ahead to check on conditions.
Many men go fishing their entire lives without knowing it is not fish they are after.~ Henry David Thoreau
photo by Bryan Huskey