“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul… I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball.”—Ishmael from Moby Dick
The best cure for the Shoulder Season blues is time spent plying our local waters in pursuit of trout. The trails may be too muddy to ride and the slopes may not yet be ready to ski, but the rivers beckon any angler seeking solitude. Grab your long johns, your fleece, your down filled jacket, your hat and your fingerless gloves. Fill up your thermos, top off your flask, and stuff your boxes with the bugs of winter. I account it high time to go fly fishing as soon as you can. Your Moby Dick awaits!
The Creek is still fishing well enough to warrant a visit and with the light pressure this time of year you can really have your pick of the water. In general, the surface activity is spotty with the best action in the late afternoons with Baetis and midge. However, milder days in November can produce short, but intense Baetis hatches. The fish are really eager to eat, so any hatch activity can get the fish active both on the surface and subsurface. Nymphing with small midge and Baetis nymphs is very productive and streamers are turning some fish. Because of the cold water temps, be sure to layer up under your waders. If you still want to tube, you should consider using your old 5mm neoprene waders. The Brown spawning activity has really picked up and it is best just to leave these fish alone and please don’t wade through the redds. Remember, this is the last month to fish the Creek above the Highway 20 Bridge.
Big Wood River
The Wood is your best choice if you just want to get out for a few hours. The fishing is still really good in the late afternoons even though the hatches are starting to wane. Look for the fish to be holding in the slower water as they transition into their winter holds. For bugs, have your usual midge and Baetis dries and nymphs as well as some attractors. A dry dropper rig is deadly for suspending your midge or Baetis nymph at the right depth through the slower water. Keep adjusting the length of your dropper until you find the fish. Streamer fishing or swinging large nymphs can also be a good producer this time of year.
Lower Big Lost
Before you go, check the weather and the road conditions for Trail Creek Pass. We have had some early season snow and rain and more is in the forecast. If you can’t make it over the pass, it is still worth the trip through Arco and up to Mackay. The river below the dam is flowing around 100 CFS and at this level the fish are concentrated in the deeper runs and in the riffles at the head of these runs. Expect to find some Baetis and midge hatching in the afternoons. If you find risers, you will need long leaders down to 6x and small flies to match. The most consistent action will come on small beaded midge and Baetis nymphs fished off a dry or small indicator.
This is a beautiful time to make the drive over the hill and gaze upon the Sawtooth Mountains dusted with snow. The fishing slows down as the river temps drop, but knowledgeable nymph fishermen will still find fishing opportunities. Plan on nymphing a double nymph rig with a combination of a Prince Nymph, King Prince, Copper John or Caddis Pupae (sizes 12-14) through the deeper slow water and pockets during the warmest time of the day.
If you are considering heading to the Grande Ronde, the Clearwater, or the Lower Snake stop by the shop for the latest information and to stock up on flies. With the recent rain and snow, these fish have started to move.
South Fork of the Boise
This river is really one of the premier cold weather fisheries in the country and will provide excellent fishing opportunities from now all the way until March when the river closes. Use caution when driving the road from the rim to the river as it is often a sheet of ice. Studded snow tires, chains, and four wheel drive vehicles are a must. It is full of whitefish, rainbows, cutbows, and bull trout and with the low flows these fish will be concentrated in the best water. Midge will be the dominate insect with a smattering of Baetis on the warmer days. Nymphing with small classic tailwater flies as well as caddis and stoneflies in the slow riffles can also be productive.
Everyone should believe in something. I believe I’ll go fishing.~ Thoreau
photo by Bryan Huskey