Spring Fishing Options Within Blaine County, Idaho
In these days of social distancing it has become clear that “The Quiet Sport” has become the go-to activity in the Wood River Valley. Once Baldy closed to skiing, anglers flocked to the rivers. We are blessed with many, many river miles of fishable water in the Sun Valley / Picabo area. This has made great respite for many people. On April 1st the Big Wood River and Silver Creek will both be closed to fishing so the Rainbow Trout population can spawn for many uninterrupted weeks. It is an important time for our fisheries to reproduce as well as give these fish a break once a year.
The following is a guide for Blaine County residents that are isolating to help them get outside and fish on the waters that remain open within the Blaine County line. It is not an invitation for anglers, tourists and others not in isolation outside this area. This also needs to be read within the context of the isolation order. It is not an excuse to plan a fishing trip with friends, or even go to areas that already has an angler there. We have a lot of room, so please use it. If someone is in your “hotspot” move on. It’s a great excuse to explore and find new opportunities.
With the local river closures, there is still nearby fly fishing to be had. Picabo Angler wants to help you find new fly-fishing adventures through this time of isolation and social distancing. Fly Fishing is not only a healthy activity that will keep you in the sun and fresh air, it also is an unappalled soul soothing activity.
One of the best scenes we saw last week was a couple of friends fishing the Little Wood River, each on opposite banks. They were chatting back and forth across the river and enjoying the day together, yet they remained generally 80 feet apart and had driven there separately. The following are places to go and what to expect as runoff approaches.
The Little Wood River
The Little Wood River will offer some fishing before the runoff begins. The river itself, although a nice little summer creek to fish, is not known for great fishing in the spring. The fish population is always in flux as the trout have easy access to winter over in the reservoir. Yet, it is a beautiful place to go and cast flies. There are some fish around including a nice Brook trout population. Little black woolly buggers and micro streamers are a great way to fish when the waters are cold. Nymphing is an option as well. The fish here are not picky. If you go, be sure to aim for dry days. This is not an area to be in on rainy days as the road conditions can deteriorate quickly. If it’s dry and sunny you have no worries. Most access can be found around High-Five Campground a few miles above the reservoir. If you’re new to this area, DO NOT try to get there by driving over Muldoon in the spring. That can be very dangerous as the snow melts and spring rains begin. Take the long way around and access from the downstream reservoir road.
The desert section of the Little Wood is open as well, but it is not in Blaine County. So out of respect to our neighbors to the south we ask that residents remain in county and leave these areas for those more southern area residents to fish.
Magic Reservoir, Little Wood Reservoir, Fish Creek Reservoir
Each of these reservoirs are unique in their own way, but they can all be fly fished with the same techniques. All of them can be fished from the bank, so don’t rule any of them out if you don’t have a boat or float tube. (*Note: If you do put a float tube in these waters, take all necessary deep-water precautions, life preserver, warm clothes, no crossings due to winds, etc. Just stay close to a shore and contour it.) If you launch a boat, be sure the ramp is open for use and practice good social distancing in the parking areas.
Please keep in mind that the ice on these reservoirs recedes at different times. Currently Magic Reservoir has the most fishable water. The Little Wood Reservoir and Fish Creek Reservoir need a little more time for the ice to dissipate. Also, be CAUTIOUS when there is ice and open water in these places. If you launch a watercraft, the ice can shift. Even huge amounts, acres worth of ice, can move and trap you or worse. Be hyper aware and perhaps wait to launch small craft when the ice is fully gone.
We will keep you posted as the ice comes off the other Blaine County reservoirs.
Magic Reservoir is the Valley’s most overlooked fabled water. The reservoir grows a lot of big fish and they are not that hard to catch. Spring evenings here can present incredible dry fly opportunities and many an angler has been turned into a reservoir dog by this body of water. Fish the reservoir anywhere from the bank, any time of the day, by casting streamers on a dry line with a long leader, or an intermediate sinking line with a short leader. Move around and try to locate hot spots. Anglers will also nymph the banks either stripping large nymph patterns or fishing midge patterns under strike indicators when the fish are near the surface. Bass and Perch are in the mix too and can make for an incredible bite some days! These fish are also great table fair and wonderful in a smoker. Be aware in the Big Wood arm of Magic that you are fishing below the signage indicating where the reservoir and Big Wood River meet. The Rock Creek area is now closed and considered part of the Big Wood River. This is a Stillwater section, but the Big Wood canyon above the reservoir falls under Big Wood regulations and is closed until Opening Day, May 23. There is bank access all around the reservoir with plenty of access. Google Earth is a great tool to use when exploring this area. There are dirt roads all around the reservoir making it easy to find your own little area for the day.
Little Wood Reservoir has a large fish population although with fish slightly smaller in size than Magic Reservoir. This means more catching and fewer anglers. There is great shore fishing from the west side of the dam where it meets the mountains. If you want to make a wonderful hike and fish, go to the west side of the dam, there is a saddle behind the big peak where the dam meets the mountain. Go around that peak, over that saddle and you will drop into a glorious cove with a little seasonal stream, wildflowers and aspen trees. Put on some Zebra Midges and hang them under a strike indicator 4 or 5 feet and fish just off the shore. Careful, the bank is a bit steep and deep! There is also great bank access right from your vehicle near the campground and day use areas. This is also a great area to launch a float tube.
Fish Creek Reservoir can be a mud bog in the spring, but the fish in here grow stout. There are some decent Brook Trout in here as well. The catch rate can be slower than nearby reservoirs, Fish near the inlets and the points and be willing to do some walking. Be careful driving if any of the reservoir is exposed. What looks dry may not be! Fish streamers and nymphs from the banks.
We may not be near ice out yet on our mountain lakes, but in the coming months the explorers among you will be keeping tabs on these lakes with the warming weather. Bank fishing a lake that is half or ¾ covered in ice is simply a joy. The fishing is almost always off the charts good. Keep tabs of the biggest lakes first and as they begin to really thaw out, start making day hikes into your favorite lakes, just please stay off the ice! Take black buggers by the boxful and fish them slow!
This is our closest warm water fishery and a wonderful place to target bluegill, perch and bass. Small, non-motorized boats can be used and are a great way to explore the canals on this little lake just outside of Carey. Fishing from the banks near the boat ramp area is also productive. Use little nymphs and small streamers. These are delicious fish in the spring if you have a need for fish tacos! You can also take a canoe or little boat and enjoy the massive amounts of migrating birds here in the spring!
This is an excellent place to take a kid fishing when the conditions permit. This little stocked pond at the Hayspur Fish Hatchery can be fun in the spring with catchable sized fish that can be caught as kids learn to fly fish, or just fish with a worm and a bobber. They produce the same smile! It is a small body of water so practice good social distancing here and try to fish when isn’t not busy.
Lakes, Reservoirs and Canals all remain open in April and May. Take a smart approach to being on the water. Stay far away from your fellow angler and remember it’s an opportunity to safely recreate. Don’t let the end goal of catching a fish compromise your common sense and social distancing.
Basic Stillwater Fishing Technique for Moving Water Anglers.
If you don’t want to dedicate a lot of time and money into Stillwater fishing this spring, have no fear. You can still catch fish using the same gear you use everyday on the Big Wood and Silver Creek.
*A Fly Rod 4, 5 or 6 weight.
*Reel with matching line weight.
*Floating line, or if you do want to make a purchase. A basic intermediate sinking line is nice to have, but not necessary.
*A 10 – 12-foot leader tapered to 2X for streamer fishing, and 4X for fishing nymphs and the occasional dry fly. Most fish are found in the top 12 feet of the water column. In the spring before the reservoir turns over, fish can be found everywhere from the banks to the middle of open water.
*Flies: Buggers (Black or Olive), Attractor Nymphs (Like Prince Nymphs and Zug Bugs), Zebra Midges (Red and Black), Crippled Mayflies (like a Quigley Cripple Callibaetis)
Streamers: From the bank, simply make a long cast. Fish the clock face, so start casting nearshore and keep moving your presentation in 5-foot increments all the way around to the opposite shore. Do this until you hook up and then concentrate on those areas and depths where you get your hook ups.
If you are streamer fishing it is important to find the right speed and depth the fish want. When you make your first pass around the clock face, cast and begin to slowly strip right away. Each time you fish the clock face, count the fly down deeper. Increments of a 3 count is a good starting point. This will help you locate fish in a systematic manner and take some of the mystery away from large open still waters. Once you locate them, concentrate on that countdown and keep the fly at that depth until the fish move to the next food source.
It is also very important to retrieve your fly with the rod tip down at the water. You want ZERO slack between your hand and the fly. When the fish hit in this manner, they hook themselves.
Nymphing: Often trout will get on hatches in the reservoirs the same way they do in rivers. When this happens, they begin looking for a particular insect, or a particular way something is sized and moving. If you want to fish nymphs try tandem rigs with different color flies. Fish them with the bottom fly about 4 – 7 feet deep. And the next fly 18 inches above it. Use a strike indicator. What you may notice when a Stillwater fish takes the nymph is the indicator may go down very, very slowly. If you see this, set the hook hard, knowing your fly is deep and the more force you use to set the hook the better. Cast this set up different distances from the bank until you find the depth the fish are cruising in. Once you hook up concentrate on those successful depths and distances.
We have ceased our guiding activity at Picabo Angler for the time being. BUT, We are able to still help you with gear. We are blessed to have a post office within the walls of our Outfitting business. If you need flies, leaders, strike indicators, or even bigger items like rod packages or waders we can ship them to you quickly. Just plan a little bit. If you need to pick up a pre-selected assortment of flies or anything, please let us know and we will take payment over the phone and then a leave a fly tin or gear for you on our loading dock when you arrive. We will be sure to wipe down the tins with an anti-bacterial before we leave it for you. If you have questions, we will keep a shop employee next to the phone to help you in any safe way that we can. 208.788.3536 (ask for the fly shop.)
Be safe out there and as always Happy Fishing Everyone!