Our hot and dry summer has impacted fishing on many of our smaller waters. For example, flow in the Blackfoot River above the reservoir is almost half of normal. That means high water temperatures which make it tough for trout to recover after being caught and released. Below the reservoir high and discolored water of varying flow prevail and will continue until the first of October. Thanks to Warm River Spring inflow, Warm River offers very good fishing for miles below where brookies, browns, and ‘bows are responding well to caddis life cycle and terrestrial insect patterns. Teton River in the basin is fishing well if you are willing to put up with the recreational boaters. You can get away from most of them by fishing downstream of the State Highway 33 Bridge. There is not as much water here as above the bridge, but enough to be a destination. Terrestrial patterns will be your best bet for action. The afternoon flav emergence on Big Elk Creek continues to offer good fishing with kokanee entering the creek in good numbers. Palisades Creek is another good bet to try with caddis fly life cycle, traditional attractor and terrestrial insect patterns bringing action.
Are you looking for a small stream sure to produce reliable action during these warm, dry summer days? If you are, Warm River just below Warm River Spring should be at the top of your “to-visit” list. Here’s why: the spring provides an abundant and constant inflow of quality water in the low fifties of degrees Fahrenheit. That temperature is about ideal for trout living conditions which includes feeding. With caddisflies, PMDs, and tricos emerging and ants, beetles, and hoppers falling in from banks a variety of food forms is present. Brookies, browns and rainbows make up the trout roster here. True, they do not range as large as those on the nearby Henry’s Fork, so scale your tackle accordingly. In addition, most fly-fishers in the area will be on the Henry’s Fork (or around Three Rivers downstream), so add a good chance for solitude as a plus when trying this great small river.
To get there turn right on the Warm River Road off the Mesa Falls Scenic Highway just above Upper Mesa Falls. Then turn right onto the Warm River Fish Hatchery Road, aka Warm River Spring Road. After this road drops down to the river there are a number of pull-outs before reaching the spring and hatchery. Park, then walk downstream to fish as much as time permits and you should have a good outing.
Palisades Creek is fishing quite well where terrestrial insect, traditional attractor, and caddis life cycle patterns are producing best almost throughout the creek. The flavs are emerging afternoon hours from Big Elk Creek. Two-nymph rigs and terrestrial patterns will work well earlier in the day until the stream warms to the point where the flavs emerge. Blackfoot River on the WMA is also fishing well. Try terrestrial insect patterns and concentrate presenting them on the faster portions of the river there.
The Teton River is fishing very well throughout. In Teton Basin PMD spinner and terrestrial insect patterns bring good action mornings and evenings. During daytime hours recreational boaters flock to the river here, so best fishing is early and late. To fish with less daytime disturbance, try below the State Highway 33 bridge. There is plenty of easily wading, but because of no boat launch-take out facility, except at the bridge, recreational and fly-fishing boaters are greatly reduced. Access to Teton Canyon above the dam site is somewhat limited. The river can be reached with the least effort at the Felt Dam, from Badger Creek, from the Bitch Creek Slide and from the Spring Hollow Road. Beware of rattlesnakes when you are not within the high water level. Gray drakes will soon be emerging during afternoon hours. Caddis life cycle, traditional attractor, and terrestrial patterns bring most interest from resident trout. All these patterns work well on the lower river which can be waded at the dam site, at the Hog Hollow area, and above Teton City where it splits into the north and south forks.
To eliminate boaters altogether try Big Elk, Bear, and Palisades Creeks. Caddis life cycle, terrestrial insect and traditional attractor patterns are currently working well on each. The flavs (western green drake?) should begin any day, with that event on Big Elk Creek being the “star of the show.” Want a real “get away from it all” stream? Try the South Fork of Tincup Creek. Trying to fool cutts there with lightweight tackle there is a blast. There are others in this category. Come into the shop and ask where they can be found.
It looks like our hot dry weather will continue indefinitely. This will impact fishing on many of our small streams for weeks to come as flows drop and waters warm. Resulting reduced cover contributes to less fishing success, but the overlying reason is that higher water temperatures mean less dissolved oxygen. Less dissolved oxygen means fish cannot be as active, and larger fish are impacted particularly. Reduced dissolved oxygen also impacts aquatic insect activity. Here are some thoughts that may help in making a choice in small streams. Any stream with a good component of water coming from springs will be less impacted by the current weather. Birch Creek, Big Elk Creek, Tom Creek, Warm River, and the Fort Hall Reservation spring creeks are good examples. Palisades Creek has a good flow throughout the season for an unusual reason. That is the two sizeable lakes in its drainage having a good component of (lower Palisades Lake) or total (Upper Palisades Lake) subterranean water in their outflow to the creek. There others that are good candidates for a visit this time of year. Come in and talk to us. We can help in making a small stream selection for a good fly-fishing experience.
Now begins the season to think terrestrial patterns for best dry fly fishing on small streams, especially when trying their meadow reaches. Examples include Bear Creek, Birch Creek in the Family Area, Jackknife Creek, McCoy Creek, South Fork of Tincup Creek, Upper Crow Creek (too bad absentee landowners dominate the lower part), Sawmill Creek, Blackfoot River in the Wildlife Management Area, and Teton River in Teton Basin. Some of these will host decreasing PMD hatches, and almost all have caddisfly activity on-going. Traditional patterns will always work, especially those that imitate horseflies and deer flies which take over from mosquitoes as pests on many streams. Fishing on some streams will begin to slow a bit as their run-off component drops to zero. Include Boone, Conant, and Robinson Creeks in these.
Any small stream with a campground nearby will be heavily fished this holiday weekend. One exception might be the upper Blackfoot River. The river within the Blackfoot River Wildlife Management Area is the best water above Blackfoot River Reservoir and likely will not be crowded because of the South Fork turning on and the lure of the upper Henry’s Fork and the Madison River. Camp at Mill Creek campground to enjoy the evening brown drake emergence which may be relatively sparse during this low water year. PMD and caddisfly life cycle patterns and patterns to simulate the few gray drakes during afternoons will bring some action as will patterns to simulate a growing terrestrial insect population.
Palisades Reservoir tribs are in good shape now with PMDs, caddis, and sallies providing hints for effective patterns. South Fork tribs are also now open and in good shape with same insects as in Reservoir tribs providing food for trout and pattern ideas for fly-fishers. In fact, all area small waters not impacted by irrigation diversion are offering good fishing. Now may be the best time to fish small waters during the next several months because of the low water year we are having. So consider visiting a small stream now, then get in touch with us to see which may be fishing best at a given time.
Some of our small streams including South Fork tributaries and the upper Blackfoot River will not open until July 1st to protect spawning cutthroat trout. But now is a good time to try other small streams, and here is why. June of this year had much less than normal rainfall throughout the region and its remainder looks the same. We are entering the driest part of the year with most small streams already at or near base level.
There is an increasing demand for information on fishing out-of-the-way waters. We therefore stay tuned to conditions on these waters and report here what we learn. Mornings and evenings are good times to enjoy PMD activity on the Fort Hall Reservation ( be sure to have a Reservation license!) spring creeks. Currently, we can recommend trying any of Idaho’s Salt River tribs, Palisades Reservoir tribs, Warm River, Portneuf River, and Sinks drainage streams. On all these caddisfly and yellow sally life cycle and traditional dry and wet attractor patterns always work well. Mayfly life cycle patterns are more effective on some streams than on others. We can provide information on this condition. Anyway, it appears that the upcoming weeks could be a great time to fish many of our smaller streams, and we can help you make a choice!
It appears that most run-off is over meaning that many of our small streams are in good fishing conditions. That points to these as being alternatives to the present crowded conditions on the Henry’s Fork, and the upcoming same conditions on the South Fork.
Do you want to get a bunch of fish for an upcoming 4th of July fish fry? Try Robinson Creek and tributaries, Upper Warm River, Partridge Creek, Camas Creek, Conant Creek, Sawmill Creek, and Birch Creek for brook trout. These non-native fish rolled in corn meal then fried in olive oil are fit to feed a king, and with a daily bag limit of 25, a few anglers can harvest enough to feed a party.
Some large Palisades Reservoir cutthroat remain in Bear and McCoy Creeks. The upper Blackfoot River and its drainage open to fishing on July 1st, and the same applies to South Fork tributaries. Idaho’s Salt River tributaries (Crow, Jackknife, Stump, and Tincup Creeks) are in great fishing shape. Warm River below the spring will feature a good combined caddisfly-PMD hatch with resident browns and rainbow responding.
So for those of you wanting to escape the crowds, but wanting some quality fishing, suggesting these makes a candidate waters sampler. There are more, and if you come to the shop, we can point them out for you.
Run-off remains in all streams draining high country. This includes Palisades Reservoir tributaries, although Bear and McCoy Creeks can be fished with some success. Sucker spawning runs in these creeks attract large trout from the reservoir, many of which are also spawning. This also applies to Salt River tributaries (Crow, Jackknife, Stump & Tincup Creeks) where sucker runs also attract large trout from the river. Variable flows in the lower Blackfoot River make for tough fishing, and the river above the reservoir is closed to fishing until July 1st. Warm River offers good fishing for those presenting caddisfly, PMD, and yellow sally life cycle patterns. Don’t overlook trying an adult golden stonefly pattern near the cascades. Birch Creek is in ideal condition, and the family fishing area above Lone Pine is a superb location for taking an entry level fly-fisher to accumulate experience in a hurry. Fish are not large here, but they are very active during mid-day hours looking for caddisfly, yellow sally, and PMD emergences, so their life cycle as well as traditional attractor patterns bring plenty of action.