Thursday we fished the Blackfoot River about eight miles below the dam. Flow out of the dam is only 67 cfs, and the impact on the river below is almost tragic for trout. This low flow concentrates them in deepest water. It was a bright, beautiful day so the normally sparse BWO emergence did not happen. Hoppers still abound, and trout will come up for them. Streamside cover where fingerling trout find refuge is high and dry because of the low flow. This puts them in deeper water where they are preyed on by larger trout. Need I say any more?
This time of year fishing gets tough on some of our small streams that have dropped to base level flow. That’s not the case for many though. The lower Teton River is an example where afternoon BWO activity, even on fairly bright days, bring fish up to the top. Try the river just below the Hog Hollow Bridge. The lower Blackfoot River is shaping up with flows down to around 100 cfs. Try nymphs and because no killing frost has happened, hopper patterns anywhere below the Dam where there is deeper water. Visit us at the shop for specific information.
We have been watching flow gauges on the lower Blackfoot River. With flows not much higher than 200 cfs, the river is in fly-fishing shape. Streamers would be a good bet, but with plenty of hoppers in the surroundings, some cutts may come up for your imitation. Look for best fishing to begin in a couple of weeks when water flows drop further.
Palisades Reservoir tribs are fishing quite well these days. Now that Labor Day weekend is behind us there will be fewer anglers on all these. Hoppers are out in abundance around all these streams, so are Mormon crickets, craneflies, ants, and beetles. Big Elk Creek could be an exception with respect to number of anglers because of the annual kokanee run and the anglers trying to catch them. Flavs are out there, and the kokanee do not inhibit the cutts from rising to flav emergers in the afternoon. McCoy Creek, being roadside for many miles, is most easily accessed, and easiest to fish. Bear Creek has beaver ponds (so does McCoy Creek) up and down its length, and these surely host the best fish in the creek. Also consider that any fly that works on these streams will also work on Palisades Creek below the reservoir.
Change your fly-fishing strategy a bit for any small stream that has an increase in flow because of our continued rainy weather. Increased flows tend to wash more worms, grubs, etc into the stream making it easier for fish to get these on the subsurface drift than going to the surface for floating food. Put a few San Juan worms in your fly box, or if you rather not, include some small wooly bugger types. I did better on Robinson Creek earlier this week with (OK, I’ll admit it!) with San Juans than with the dries I love to present. Certainly water levels will drop to normal, and the dry fly fishing that so many enthusiasts enjoy will return soon.
Fished Big Elk Creek up to the slide yesterday. The stream is in great shape with water temps climbing into the low 50s in deg. F by 3 PM. No flavs yet, but caddis and a few PMDs emerged. Best bet now is to fish hopper and ant patterns until flavs decide to emerge. We hear that McCoy Creek is fishing very well. Nothing really big being caught, but good surface action from fish seeking terrestrial insects. Traditional attractors in small (#14-16) sizes will work, too. Here’s a great place to take a youngster, entry level, or physically challenged person because of abundant roadside access and eager cutts. Add Palisades Creek to the list of those fishing well (terrestrial and traditional patterns again with a bigger share of caddis life cycle patterns), but it is brushier than McCoy Creek and requires a bit more walking to reach the best fishing.
The cool wet weather we have had for the last few days is just what is needed to sustain good fishing on many small streams. Any that do not have a healthy component of inflow from springs, or have lakes in their drainage are examples. Thus such as the Salt River tributaries, Robinson, Diamond,Beaver, Medicine Lodge, and Canyon Creeks will benefit. Don’t fish these streams right after a heavy or even moderate rainfall. Wait a day or two for flow to return to near normal, then because time of the year is right, consider presenting terrestrial patterns for the best dry fly fishing.
We are getting into the time of summer when care helps when choosing small streams to visit. Many of these are now at base level, but some are even lower because of our long dry spell, meaning warmer water. The upper Blackfoot River is a good example where flows are well below 100 cfs. This will warm the stream to where the resident cutthroat will have a tough time being revived after being caught, so early AM is the best time to fish if you are concerned about their well-being. On the other end Palisades Creek will always have a good flow of water. That is because both lakes in its drainage have underground as well as surface outlet flows into the creek. A stream with deep beaver ponds will be a good choice, because these offer cooler water. Such as Bear Creek and upper reaches McCoy, Big Elk, and Sawmill Creeks are some. Warm River near its spring, the Birch Creek Family Area above Lone Pine or any stream having a good component from springs will have cooler water. A tail water situation is another to consider if water is coming into the stream is from the bottom of the reservoir above. Big Lost River Below Mackay Dam is an example. So there are plenty of choice in enjoying some of our smaller waters.
Looking for another great small stream to take a youngster or physically challenged person to for a chance for a good fly fishing experience? For sure Birch Creek is a great selection, but McCoy Creek is another. It is currently in great fishing shape. Go south on US Hwy 89 from Alpine, Wyoming, then about three miles below town, take the McCoy Creek Road back into Idaho along the Palisades Reservoir southeast shore. After the road crosses McCoy Creek and closely parallels it going upstream, you will see a number of pull-out with the creek close by. Meadow and riffle-run stretches are present. This time of year dry terrestrial patterns, caddis life cycle patterns, traditional attractor, and on occasion flav life cycle patterns will bring cutts up. It will be rare to attract a cutt over fifteen inches, but you never know for sure. So easy to access, scenic country, and eager trout makes for a good selection!
Interested in fishing small streams? They offer solitude, scenery, and aggressive salmonids. Some are roadside, others require some effort and time to be enjoyed. Right now nearly all are in great shape and capable of offering a fun outing. With so many are in this shape right now, the best strategy here is to get in touch with us for suggestions.