Southwest Idaho: An Overlooked Fly Fishing Destination

When most anglers think about fly fishing in the great state of Idaho, they often conjure up images of casting dry flies to selective rainbow trout on the Henry’s Fork or battling large, wild fish on the South Fork of the Snake. Truth be told, Idaho may be the best state in the country for trout streams with good wading conditions. The entire middle section of the state is mountainous and there are quality trout fisheries everywhere. One part of Idaho that does not get the trout fishing acclaim that it deserves is the southwestern region of the state.

Boise is ground-zero
Boise is a vibrant but isolated city located where a desert meets the mountains. There is no other location in the country with such geographical diversity. Within minutes of downtown, one can be in an alpine environment, and the arid areas to the west of Boise are characterized by some of the most dramatic canyon lands to be found anywhere. There are many flights into the Boise airport, and the city is even served by discount carriers like Southwest Airlines. Getting in and out of Boise is a breeze.

There are three main fly fishing venues located within 70-miles of the center of Boise, including a respectable fishery that runs through town. Staying at a lodging entity downtown opens up the possibility of taking advantage of a large host of amenities and services. During the day, fly fishermen can enjoy pursuing trophy trout on beautiful rivers, and at night, they can eat a fine meal and take in the culture of Boise. The diversity of experiences available is what makes this city such a unique destination. A rental car is required to make the most out of the southwest Idaho fly fishing experience.

The Lower Boise River in town
The Lower Boise River is an amazing resource, especially considering that almost all of the 500,000 people in the Treasure Valley utilize this waterway for one purpose or another. Lucky Peak Dam, where the lower Boise River begins, is just 8 miles outside of downtown, and this clear stream meanders through parks and neighborhoods before reaching the heart of Boise. The trout fishing on this stretch can be better-than-expected, but still, this river is not the main fly fishing attraction of the area. Large trout are caught out of the Lower Boise every year, but numbers of fish are not extraordinary high. The best wading conditions are available from early fall through mid-spring, and the water is gorgeous at low flows. Access to this river can be found at various parks and roadside parking areas and the Lower Boise is a great place to get a little on-the-water time before tackling the other, more productive area fisheries. The best fly fishing water can be found from Barber Park down to the ParkCenter Bridge.

The South Fork of the Boise
This gold-medal Idaho trout stream is located outside of Mountain Home, and the best fishing spots are just over an hour’s drive from downtown Boise. The South Fork of the Boise River below Anderson Ranch Dam is a specially-managed stretch of water intended to produce very large, wild rainbow trout. Most anglers prefer to wade the upper 5 miles below the dam, and a well-maintained road runs right along the river for eight miles. The best flows for wading occur from late summer through the end of March. Like many Idaho trout streams, the South Fork of the Boise is closed to fishing from April 1st until Memorial Day Weekend. Once the river reopens, flows are typically high enough to make a boat necessary in order to get on the fish. Do not expect to catch a lot of trout on the South Fork of the Boise, but the fish landed will be healthy and beautiful. These rainbows are smart, but the right hatch can really shake things up with respect to action.

The Owhyee River
If you have not yet heard about this brown trout fishery in far eastern Oregon, it is only because the word is not officially “out” on the Owyhee. This river, located below Owyhee Dam, can be waded year-round, which makes it quite an attractive option for fly fishermen during the western run-off months of spring and early summer. The water here is a bit green, and this actually makes the fishing easier than what one will find on the South Fork of the Boise. Anglers will encounter high concentrations of trophy-sized browns on this stretch of catch-and-release water, and there are some big rainbows that make for a refreshing change of pace after catching mostly browns.

It is hard to believe how much top-quality trout fishing is available in and around the Boise metropolitan area. There is always a productive option, and the three local rivers mentioned are perfect for wading. Sometimes, the best destinations are not overly utilized, but that does not mean that they are not worth exploring. The fly fishing opportunities around Boise are second-to-none with respect to ease of access, and the urban element of the city adds even more variety to the overall experience.