As we venture further into Winter and the weather gets colder, local trout still remain active and hungry. One notable difference in our Winter tailwaters is the composition of insect hatches. The winter marks the period with the least amount of diversity of aquatic insects present in a trout’s diet. This can both help and hurt an angler’s day on the water. The benefit of fewer bugs means that a lot of the effort in fly selection is eliminated. The downside of this means that we are often forced to focus on smaller sized insects such as midges and BWOS. Imitating these small bugs often demands using #18-#24 hooks and smaller tippet. Another downside of winter fishing is a lack of consistency for surface feeding. While you can still find some good hatches and responsive fish, this seems to become scarcer the further into winter we progress. Long story short, much of our winter angling success means scaling back our tippet and fly size while also focusing on subsurface strategies.
Boise River (In-town) (261 cfs)
Winter fishing has been chugging along through town with consistent good reports coming through the shop. While most folks have been achieving success through nymphing, there have been some thick BWO and midge hatches that have been drawing a few fish to the surface. If you want to catch them on top, keep your eyes peeled for noses poking up. Otherwise, using standard double nymph rigs underneath an indicator or euro nymphing will more than likely be your best bet. Streamers are still finding some good browns, although we should start to see a decrease in aggression after the spawn and a decrease in temps. This means scaling down the streamer size and slowing down your presentations. Focusing on natural colors over brighter patterns can also help entice a chase. Stocked steelhead are also still present in the system and can be found at some of the stocking points with leech patterns and nymphs. They are also working away from these stocking points and some will “accidentally” get hooked while folks are trout fishing which provides for an exciting time. For those anglers looking to target the remaining steelhead- remember you need a steelhead permit. If you catch one of these steelhead (rainbow over 20 inches with clipped adipose) without a steelhead permit, the fish must be immediately released.
Recommended flies: Zebra Midge Blk/red #18-22, UV Z-Midge pearl/black #18-20, Medallion Midge Pupa #20-22, Two Bit Hooker light/dark olive #16-18, FB Pheasant tail #18-20, Perdigon NY Black #14-18, Tung. Jig Quill Body Baetis #16-20, Tung. Juju Baetis black/purple #16-20, Sculpzilla natural/olive #4-8, Lil Kim copper & gold #4-8, Wooly Buggers black/olive/brown #4-10
S.F. Boise (304 cfs)
Fishing has remained fairly consistent through the transition of fall to winter. The hatches to focus on are going to be some of our winter regulars- midges and BWOs. Fish will still regularly come to the surface for these bugs when they are present on the water, so be sure to carry a couple of your go to midge and BWO dry patterns. When the hatches and fish aren’t active on the surface stick to your go to sub-surface strategies. Using a couple smaller attractor style nymphs underneath an indicator is a popular method for picking apart inactive water. One appealing aspect of this river is its healthy population of stoneflies. These stoneflies have longer life cycles (up to 4 years) which means that the nymphs are always present in the river regardless of season. Another popular method of nymphing the SF in the winter is running a smaller midge/BWO/attractor nymph behind a larger stonefly nymph. Other larger flies like leeches can be nymphed in place of a stonefly if you are looking for another alternative to smaller flies. Streamers can still produce some quality rainbows and the occasional bull trout but require some dedication to covering water and finding cooperative fish.
Recommended flies: Pat’s Rubber Leg black/brown/coffee #4-12, Spanish Bullet #16-18, Zebra Midge black/red/brown #18-22, Lucent Perdigon #18-22, Juju Baetis black/purple #16-20, Pheasant Tail Hot Spot Jigs #16-18, CDC Midge Adult black #18-22, Bunny Midge #20-22, CDC Hanging Midge black/gray #18-22, RS2 olive/gray #18-22, Last Chance Cripple BWO #18-20, Parachute Ext. Body BWO #18-22, Sheila Sculpin #4, Dolly Llama olive/white #6
Owyhee River (22 cfs)
Reports as of late have included sections of shore ice and slower fishing. Some of the swifter water is still ice free but is also a prime location for spawning browns–be sure to watch your step when wading in riffles and tail outs so you do not areas with eggs. This time of the year we start to see high periods of mortality in the river so we ask you to treat the fish well and use good catch and release practices. We typically avoid the Owyhee in the winter to give the fish a well deserved break and explore some of our other local tail waters that have excellent conditions. With the low flows, fishing can be pretty touch and go. Shallow nymph rigs in the moving water and deeper rigs in the pools will help find some fish. If you do venture out to the O, bring selections of midges, BWOS, leeches and bloodworms.
Recommended flies: Zebra Midge Blk/red #18-22, UV Z-Midge pearl/black #18-20, Medallion Midge Pupa #20-22, Juju Baetis black/purple #16-20, CDC Midge Adult black #18-22, Bunny Midge #20-22, CDC Hanging Midge black/gray #18-22, RS2 olive/gray #18-22, Last Chance Cripple BWO #18-20, Parachute Ext. Body BWO #18-22
Winter steelhead fishing can test the patience and mentality of the hardiest of anglers out there. Conditions absolutely depend on success. The Salmon, little Salmon, and Clearwater can all provide opportunities for success throughout December and January. Watching flows, water temps, and weather all play a huge factor. If you venture North, and plan on swinging with two handed rods, skagit heads, heavier sink tips, and Intruder style flies are key to moving a laid up steelhead. If you plan on nymphing, hot bead stones, egg sucking leeches, and a variety of egg patterns will work. Remember, when its cold, steelhead don’t want to move to eat a fly, so you need to hit them on the head!
Stop by or call our Boise Fly Shop at 208-939-6065 for up-to-date information on conditions and to inquire about our Fly Fishing Guided Trips!