River flow in the Shelley area is about 900 cfs below normal. That is good news for wading, but water remains cold at the high thirties in degrees Fahrenheit. Triploid rainbows are fairly active and respond to nymphing and small streamers.
Flows throughout the river are somewhat below normal for the time of year, and access for walk-in and wade fishing is plentiful. Float fishing is also practical as long as boat launch facilities are maintained for winter conditions. Presenting streamer patterns this time of year is the way to encounter large brown and rainbow trout as well as a few cutthroat.
By December 1st the South Fork Road will close to motorized vehicles not far above where the road intersects with the Kelly Canyon Road above Table Rock. This closure protects wintering big game. It will remain legal to ski along the road to access the river. With the low winter maintenance flow (currently 887cfs at Irwin and 1290 cfs at Heise) there are an almost a limitless number of locations to walk in and wade to fish along the river. Presenting streamers will provide the best chance for encountering the largest trout, but with midges being active during better weather some chances for fishing riffles will happen.
Fishing on a few of our small streams remains practical this time of year. But road conditions can determine whether it is practical to try certain places. For sure we will get enough snow to close some roads until springtime, but a few could remain open. These can become difficult because of daytime warming after nighttime freezing. So consider that, if you must try a location where roads are not usually well-maintained, it may be best to depart while roads are frozen and return after they freeze up.
Two closures will be made after November 30th: the river in Harriman State Park (Last Chance to Riverside) and from Ashton Dam down to Vernon Bridge (second bridge below Ashton Dam). Until then presenting midge life cycle patterns is a great way to fish the river in Harriman State Park, and presenting streamers is the best way to encounter the big trout between Ashton Dam and Vernon Bridge. Better Hurry! With low flow out of Island Park Dam, presenting streamers is a great way to fish just below down to the Buffalo River, but be ready for winter conditions. Cross Country skis can get you into the Tubs area where big rainbows are concentrating. If you try there, for sure you will need waders, and vibram soles will be better that felt soles (same applies to Box Canyon)! There is less snow along the lower river where presenting streamers is also the name of the game with some action available from fish feeding on midges.
Some hardy souls are ice fishing the lake now. Let’s hope they are being cautious enough to be safe as thin ice areas remain without a doubt. Consider that presence if you give it a try. Dress warmly and drive a winterized vehicle.
Flows are a below normal and browns are migrating on the lower river. Fishing success through presenting streamers has been OK, but not great. Again, a bit warmer conditions would help. If you do not mind trudging through some snow, Box Canyon offers good streamer fishing. Wading is relatively easy there with only 86 cfs being released from Island Park Dam.
Flows are a bit below normal in most locations. Browns are moving, but fishing success seems to have slowed a bit, in part because of our sub-normal temperatures. Pitching streamers under low light conditions remains the “name of the game.” With warmer air temperatures action would pick up.