Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Desert Waters and Trout

I've spent many hours with this river in the desert. I have braved frosty, silent winters and crunched through the ice just to listen to the little river bubble it's song. The rivers speckled inhabitants glide motionless near the bottom, surfing cold quicksilver waters, surviving.  Spring brings birds and buds and ticks. I pause often to admire the spring flowers that paint the banks crisp green, sulfur and pink. My waders disappear into muddy waters that scoured the bank, tearing down cottonwood trees in a rush to the Snake. Summer brings feverish growth but I pout in frustration as demand for water drops the river's flow to a trickle. My chunky speckled trout retreat or die and water become silent and warm. I must wait impatiently for fall and it's fading colors, for it's cool nights, for frost and the rebirth of my favorite river.  Each year I fear my desert trout will not return but with my gratitude..they do!  

Friday, November 15, 2013

Private Property Invasion Stifles Fly Fishing

A tranquil morning begins with fog lifting off the North Fork of the Payette ten river miles downstream from the namesake lake. Sadly, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to access beautiful places like this as river banks become private property, exclusive use by residents only or private recreation clubs. Gone are the days when you could stop a rancher in the field and ask for permission to fish through his land. Now miles and miles of Idaho river banks are owned or at least bordered by exclusive gated neighborhoods.
I spent 5 days in McCall, ID this summer. My initial excitement and hope of exploring the North Fork from Payette Lake to Cascade lake quickly turned into frustration as I encountered gates, signs, and warnings that made access to the river maddening. I found only two designated access points along the entire river, excluding bridges which provided just a handful more.

I hope the future of fly fishing is not, "Recreational fishing for the few and wealthy" while the masses are crammed into city parks and ponds. I better brush up on my bluegill and carp fishing I guess. Exclusionary trends like this remind me of western Europe where people have to pay private families or clubs for the access to fish. I value my public land. It is as American as apple pie. Should be not protect our right to access it?

Secrets don't make friends!

Someone once told me "secrets don't make friends," but secrets sure are handy when you have a favorite fishing spot, especially if one wants to trade secrets like fishing currency. I admit, I don't appreciate when the shoe is on the the other foot and I am the one being excluded by the good old boys in the know. It seems guarding ones treasure is a necessary evil.

I reached my little river at 2 pm today, leaving me just enough time to fish the short winter hours until sunset and make it home for dinner around 7 pm.

It's an all rainbow show as I crisscross the serpentine banks sight casting to rising fish. It's fall, 45 degrees and a light but continuous mayfly hatch keeps the fish popping the top water for more than 4 hours. On closer insecto-inspection, the mayfly was gray with a brilliant green sheen to the thorax. Honestly, everything I tried, (duns, streamers, stimulator's) worked to some degree but a simple Pink Albert seemed irresistible. I landed 40 fish, lost a few, and tickled some that splashed away. Most of the rainbows ranged from 14-8 inches but all were lovely, stout and great fighters. I did catch one that had a hint of cutthroat judging by the salmon-yellow slashes under the gill.

A special thanks to the rancher that I met last March on my secret stream. He told me to come back in the fall and he guaranteed results. I had a wicked good time flipping the fly on the foam lines and never saw a soul.    

Sunday, September 29, 2013

My New Fishing Buddy.

   With a bit of luck and three hours of planning, my baby girl and I finally enjoyed our first fly fishing day on the Boise. Sawyer did a great job blowing spit bubbles while I looked for fish rising for those annoyingly small tricos. In the pic below she spots a crayfish scurrying across the sand bar. That's my girl, already looking for potential bait choices. I hope she loves to fly fish as much as I do and we have countless adventures together. If her love isn't fishing, then I'll do my best to support her and I'm sure I can still find a fishing analogy for almost any hobby or occupation she chooses.  Whats working: the Boise is hot right  now with both nymphs and top water flies catching trout. My favorite two floating flies are the sulfur and black Comparadun, size 18 (to mimmick the tricos) and a Parachute Adams with a tented wing, size 12. I've had luck early morning, afternoon and evening probably due to the cloud cover. Feeding tends to die down for a few hours sporadically throughout the day but if you're willing to wait it out, another hatch will bring the fish up again. As a side note, browns are being stocked in the Boise river now and I am starting to see more through town. In the past, I found most browns down stream from Eagle. On 28th of Sept., I hooked a little 8 inch brown just above the Barber Park bridge so I know they have made up at least that far.    

Friday, August 2, 2013

Stalking the Bank for Brook Trout

Brook trout on a pink albert
Little, high altitude creeks in Idaho offer a unique challenge and amazing scenery if you are will to put some time into finding them. Lucky for we Idahoans, turning north at almost any intersection off Interstate 84 will land us in amazing high country, full of small and median sized streams. If you get lucky, you might even find a little gem of a creek full of hungry brook trout.
Grassy banks, submerged log jams, crystal clear water and tight spaces make small stream fishing a different beast and a fun new challenge in my opinion. I try to stay on the bank, walking on my knees and stalking my fish much like a heron. The on-the-bank technique helps me preserve these fragile ecosystem and prevents the stream from becoming murky with debris. I suppose I do my fair share of mashing the bank down...sorry little wild flower. Terrestrial fly patterns usually work great for these streams including, ant, beetle, hoppers and crickets.
 Generally, brook trout will take just about anything they can fit in their mouth if well presented. I like selecting flies with higher visibility (like the pink albert this little brookie hit)  or a colorful terrestrial and then go up in size until I can see it well between blades of grass or behind logs.  Small creeks require accuracy and stealth and some advanced fisherman prefer a shorted, lighter fly rods for these situations.  I caught this beauty on a tributary of the Payette River near Smiths Ferry, ID.

Owyhee's Browns are Hopping for Hoppers

Brown on a hopper
If you fly fish and live in or around Boise, then I can safety bet you've made the "way earlier than I want to be up" morning dash to the Owyhee river in Oregon. I've done it. In fact, driving nearly asleep at the butt-crack-of-dawn in order to beat my fellow fisherman to the river seems to be the modus operandi.  Unfortunately, no matter how early I leave and arrive there is always some guy with a felt hat, smoking a cigar, standing in what I claim as my favorite fishing spot. Damn it...again, does this old timer ever rest? Tardiness is the mother of invention the saying goes for procrastinators like myself. On this day my late arrival meant fly fishing where I normally don't, not because I had a choice but because all the "good" spots had bipeds standing in them.  As luck would have it my late arrival would actually pay off and I finally got my perfect day of fishing on the "O". The fish were generous and active, the weather, drizzly and overcast with a slight breeze and my fishing compadre (my father-in-law) was great company. The water was clearer than I am used to seeing this time of year, not the pea green I am accustomed to. The clear water did not make the fish any more picky however but rather made it easier for me to spot them  basking in the shallows. Another bonus is that the clarity provided for some amazing pre-strike stalking action. What a thrill it was to see fish rising off the stream bed to attack our flies or merely give them a sniff then glide back down.   I found it difficult to time the slow, deliberate feeding the browns exhibited today and my jitters probably cost me 6-8 fish.

Big and Ugly on Big Ugly flies!
 What worked. Honestly, just about anything that normally works on the "O" worked today. We started with zebra midges (red and black) and skwala off the bottom. then two PMD (18-20) hatches in the late morning,  provided fast action on top with rust colored flies or emerger patterns.

My favorite moments of fishing today involved casting big ugly hoppers onto lazy pool like stretches of the river, even in places where I didn't see fish feeding on top. I'd plop the hopper down near the far bank and give it 20-30 ft of natural drift and before I knew it a set of rubbery yellow lips would emerge to suck down the fly like a sinkhole.  It was a great day and I was nodding off on the ride home like a tired puppy. Thanks for driving Dave!

I added a link to the USGS river flow webpage. The Owyhee is easy to wade in all but the deepest holes at 150 cfs.  Get out there and enjoy casting big terrestrials for big fish (late summer is best).

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Carpe diem. CJ Strike Offers Thrilling Fly Fishing for Carp

Wait wheres the picture of a carp! Exactly, those lumbering beasts are hard to catch and even harder to hold with one hand to snap a picture.

Fishing for carp reminds me of the saying, "one person's trash is another person's treasure." Nothing more true can be said about the common European carp. The once loathed fish, God of muddy waters, Cyprinus carpio is making a gladiatorial comeback in the arena of fly fishing. The carp or what most Idahoans just consider "trash fish" are hard fighting, intelligent, and grow huge in our warm, shallow lakes and reservoirs. As luck would have it southeastern Idaho has some great options for trying your hand at carp fishing with fly rod. I hear it's the closest thing to salt water flat fishing for action and farthest thing from it by budget. Give me the chance to catch a 20 lb fish on a fly rod while on a cheap budget and I'll show up for carp fishing every time!
A great place to start any carp fishing adventure should begin with a visit to Idaho Angler in Boise,,. Several of the guides there specialize in carp fly fishing and should be able to point you toward the right carp catching paraphernalia. From what I've read, grab your 6-8 weight rods, 1X-2X line, and have plenty of backing for long runs. I've landed a few carp on my 5 weight and 4X line but it was a 20 minute ordeal.

I have decided to devote at least a few free summer weekends a year to chasing this denizen of the muck and see what all the hype is about. Having grown up in southern Idaho, I can recommend several great places to start but in general any large, shallow, permanent body of water should hold carp (fortunately or unfortunately). Because I live in Boise, I recommend CJ Strike (Bruneau arm), Lake Lowell, Brownlee, and Black Canyon reservoir due to their close proximity to home. I will update this  blog post  as I update my skills and knowledge base.
What works: who knows? You tell me and I'll tell anyone who reads my blog.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Fly fishing for Bass in Southern Idaho

Small-mouth  Bass taken from the Boise near Parma, ID
I am far from an expert on catching the frisky bass, small or large-mouth on a fly rod. However, I did do my fair share of it before I fancied myself a fly fisherman and perhaps the best thing about targeting bass on the fly is that you don't have to go very far in Southern Idaho to find them. I can tell you where I've been, where to look and even what to use and if you can't catch a bass, well then it's January and too cold. I hope that for anyone new to area or the sport that this fly fishing  blog will contain something of value.

A Ben Ross, Large-Mouth
Water temperature is the defining factor when searching for recreational waters that hold bass. Bass thrive in warm water and Southern Idaho, being a high desert environment, has hundreds of man made reservoirs used to collect our scarce water resource and they just happen to be perfect habitat for bass.  For example,  doing a quick search and one might start to notice that nearly every agricultural valley and region in Southern Idaho, Oregon, and Nevada is paired with a reservoir. It's a safe bet to assume that most major reservoirs in our area hold bass. In fact, I can't think of one large public reservoir that doesn't hold at least one species of bass.  If you live in Boise or the surrounding area you also don't have to go far to find bass. I can easily rattle off a quick list of ponds, lakes and rivers that hold bass within about one hour of Boise: Veterans Pond, Quinns Pond, Horseshoe Bend Pond, Lake Lowell, Lucky Peak, Swan Falls Res., Snake River, Lower Payette River, Black Canyon Res., Indian Creek Res., and the Boise River south of Star, ID. For the adventurous soul looking for a drive and someplace off the beaten path, I recommend Ben Ross, Crane Creek and Paddock Reservoirs which are located northeast of Weiser, ID. I highly recommend Swan Falls reservoir, below the dam on the Snake river, for anyone fly fishing for the first time bass. In late summer this stretch of the Snake river holds awesome numbers of hungry bass with frequent mega hatches making for fast and easy fishing. Take a friend there that you want to get into fly fishing and let the bass do the rest.
Catching bass of a fly rod can be easy if the conditions are right and the fish are aggressive. At these times big, ugly, colorful streams work great and allow you to break out the 2X leader in your pack. Early mornings and late evenings try a popper pattern on top or a mouse pattern and hold on the big one that might blast the surface.

 For all you bass fishermen  Cabelas is tempting this trout guy to become at least a part time bass enthusiast. Here's more info:

Monday, May 6, 2013

Camas Reservoir set to dry up.

Another fine weekend of fly fishing was had at Little Camas as the wind finally died down enough to allow for more delicate top water fishing. I had my limit (my smokers limit) packed nicely in my cooler by the first two hours of dawn. While I usually just catch and release my fish, the certainty of mass trout die-off this year has convinced me that a quick death by knife is better than slow suffocation as the lake drains.  At the rate the water is going down, I bet we have only two more weeks, then this great trout fishery ends it's six year run. The Idaho Statesman reported that IDFG has removed catch limits, so it was a free-for-all this weekend. I spied one man, who earned a sneered from me, fishing with 4 poles and a garbage can to hold his fish. The trout  are doomed I suppose and the hubris of that fisherman was just hastening the inevitable.  
Whats working: Still having my best luck with leeches which are working for trout and small mouth bass. I landed about 20 fish in 3 hours, more if I hadn't continued to try various nymphs in an attempt to learn more about the lake. Most fish taken were 12-15 inches, larger than a month ago. I spoke with the owners of Little Camas Inn again this week and they reported that a fisherman caught a 25 inch rainbow this weekend, with personal friend of mine reporting a 22 inch fish. Sad to see this great southern Idaho fishery die for the foreseeable future but good for feeding my smoker. All the trout seen here have already been smoked and most scarfed down at a Cinco de Mayo party.

When the wind settles down on this cleaver little shallow reservoir, I can not imagined a more perfect still water fishery.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Little Camas Reservoir Grows Nice Trout.

Little Camas rainbow on a Prince nymph
Thankfully, I have continued to dodge most of the blustery days on Little Camas and in general have paddled out during some ideal afternoon or morning fishing. The transition to late spring fishing is well underway now and I rarely find trout right off the shore but I am still catching most of my trout in 3 to 4 feet of water.  So far this spring has proved windy and cold, which is great for this lake as it promotes the trout fishery and delays warming. Sadly Little Camas is rumored to go dry this year (2013). Update: the lake was drawn down to a level that only small mouth bass survived, it will need several good years of water to return to the awesome trout fishery it has the potential to be. On the up side, the cooler weather at nights means we might get an extra week or two out of Camas before she heats up or goes dry...

Whats working: Flip just about any submerged rock over at Camas and you'll find leeches. I have had great luck with black and olive green leech patterns. Fish are hitting about 1 of 10 casts in the morning and evenings. I've tried numerous nymphs in tandem and the 14-16 Prince seems to be the snack of choice if nymphs are your fly of choice.. All my trout have been caught in 4 feet of water or less with a moderate smooth retrieve rate. Wading or float tubing has been great. I have enjoyed wading more lately as the 360 degrees of fishing, offered by floating, is overwhelming at times. I recommend wading out about mid-thigh deep and cast parallel to the shore or 30 degrees into deeper and shallower water. I caught 6 fish in knee deep water, only about 10 feet from shore this evening. I netted no fish over 15 inches but all were football shaped and fat. Local business owner and friend told me 22 inchers are lurking in the reservoir. I you want first hand knowledge of fishing activity and Little Camas try these links:

I also found a great link to an article about Pyramid Lake, for those dreaming of a monster cutthroat:

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Preparation and fly fishing

A key to success in any fishing trip is Preparation. My wife, "she who must not be named" swears that the only time I clean and organize anything is right before a fly fishing trip. This post is a reminder to myself and anyone who reads it that a few moments of diligent, purposeful preparation can save you from the ARRRGHHH moment later when you realize that an essential item was left at home. There is nothing more frustrating than driving 2 hours to your fishing destination only to find that you have left your wading boots behind.
I start with a gear check, something I learned from my Dad and Uncle who are both avid backpackers. For example, a clean truck with gas, a fishing license, my fishing stick of preference, waters, vest, newish leaders and tippet...etc. I like keeping a large Tupperware bin in my truck to throw in the waders, boots, flies, hats, snacks, water and sunblock. It is also great for the return trip when everything tends to be moist. I am still relatively new to the sport, with only 5 years of occasional fishing and 3 years as a fanatic but in that short time I have learned a thing or two, much like a child bumbles it's way into adulthood. I have broken 4 rods, not all during fishing and ruined multiple waders to barbed wire, thorns and crapping care. I  have lost 2 years worth of flies that I had collected and selected through pains taking trial and error while wading too deep. This February I drove 2 hours to a favorite fishing spot and forgot my waders! I've forgotten my boots, newly purchased flies and my even wife on an occasion or two. Don't forget your wife or your fishing buddy!

As a side note, practice with any new technology or new gear you get well before you take it on a fly fishing trip. I needed about 38 hours to figure out how to use my GoPro camera and format pics that can be posted on this blog.

Finally, finally... for God's sake check the weather. I hit Little Camas reservoir with week at gale-thirty and a quarter-past-hurricane with no chance of fishing.Weather underground has a cool site with temperature, wind and a few extras: Happy Fishing.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Shallow Lake Spring Fly Fishing.

Spring has sprung and my favorite winter fly fishing stream is a rough and muddy river. While an ice cold snow melt enema is good for the stream bed, it all but ends my days trout hunting on this little Idaho gem. With many rivers on the rise with snow melt or closed for spawning trout, Spring is the time of year I am lured to lakes and confronted with the annual puzzle of putting a fish on my fly rod.  A vastness of a lake can be intimidating. Hit a lake too early and all  you find is ice and the mess inconsiderate ice fishers leave behind, too late and the water warms, spurning trout to find cool deep water.

In the foreseeable future I hope to use this blog to recount and journal my journeys and adventures fly fishing the lakes, rivers and streams of Idaho and the surrounding states. Hopefully I'll throw in a random overseas adventure, budget willing. Today I was focus on the tortuous task of landing lake trout or rather, trout in lakes. I have, from experience and dumb luck, learned only a handful of tricks to aid me. First, hit a lake early, in the first month after the ice clears. Shorelines almost always melt first and these bands of free water act like feeding lanes for trout much like in a river. Hungry trout seems to cluster near the banks in 2-3 feet of water taking advantage of new aquatic food sources both above and below the water. Second, don't be surprised if the fish are in very shallow water near the bank where warmer water means a more diverse food menu and increased metabolism. Finally, explore and find a few nice shallow lakes or reservoir with enough depth in the summer to prevent warm water kill. In southern Idaho almost any reservoir with trout is worth a look. A nice sort cut is to find out where the ice fishers are and ask them when the ice starts to melt and ends their season. Being a Boise resident I recommend, in order of first thaw, CJ Strike, Blair Trail, Little Camas, Duck Valley, Cascade, Horsethief, and Upper Payette Lake. There are more hidden gems out there but you'll have to discover them yourself or puzzle them out in my posts.

The first stop this year was...a shallow 250 acre lake about 1-2 hours from Boise. Rumor has it the water Gods will drain it this year, so I fishing while the fishing is good. And boy was it ever.

If you read this blog and have a grub of information or pointers pertaining to fly fishing, drop it off in my comments  I'll start to compile a help list for other like minded trout chasers.

Thanks for reading,

Scottie on the Fly!