Winter Fly Fishing on the Boise River- Urban Stretch

December-February– I have had excellent fishing days and others when I couldn’t even catch a whitefish. I have noticed fishing improves after two-three days of air temperatures in the 40s. This year Boise had a warm spell in late December. A friend and I hit the river just a few days before Christmas. We were able to land twenty fish using nymphs.

Another warm streak occurred towards the end of January. This time I tried my luck with streamers. Again I was able to catch some fish.

Boise Brown in January

However, I tried a couple of other times during colder temperatures and the fishing was slow. You can still land fish on colder days, but don’t expect it to be spectacular.

Tips for winter:

  • Fish slower runs. Walking pace-half the speed of a walking pace. Try large back eddies and deep holes as well. Rainbows will sometimes hold in slightly faster runs, but the browns will most likely be in the slower ones.
  • When fishing streamers try swinging the fly with occasional slow strips. Also, a sinking line will get the streamer down in the deeper holes and runs.
  • Pick up rocks and check out the bugs. The nymphs tend to be smaller this time of year.
  • When nymphing make sure you are fishing close to the bottom. If you are not ticking the bottom every three-four casts raise your indicator or add some split shot.
  • If you chose to fish somewhere between Linder and Middleton bridge know that you will often run into waterfowl hunters. They tend to be out early in the morning and a couple hours before sunset. Just be respectful and move past their blinds quickly. This should be obvious, but please give them space and don’t fish near their decoys. If you see them in the parking lot they might give you some good fly tying feathers if you ask nicely. 🙂
  • Fish during the warmer part of the day. 1:00-4:00 p.m. is usually good.

Winter Fly Patterns:

Small nymphs will probably be your best bet. Zebra midges (I like olive or black), pheasant tails, and red copper johns in sizes 16-20. Sometimes small caddis patterns do the trick as well. I have also seen mop flies hook a fish now and then.

If fish are rising it is most likely to midges or blue wing olives. However, dry fly action this time of year is less common.

I find smaller streamers are often needed in the chilly weather. Traditional wooly buggers seem to do the trick. Small sculpin patterns with weighted heads can also be effective. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different streamers.

Hope that helps

Fly Fishing Goals: Species, Techniques, and Destinations

At the beginning of each fly fishing season I write down goals for the year. I encourage other anglers to do the same. There are always new species to catch, techniques to learn, and destinations to be explored.

When I started fly fishing I focused on the basics such as learning to nymph with an indicator, fishing streamers, and fishing easier dry fly scenarios like stone fly hatches, hoppers, and attractor patterns on freestone streams.

After fly fishing for a couple years, I started to seek out more challenging dry fly fishing opportunities. This led me to exploring more technical water. I also started fishing for species other than trout.

FYI: Bass and panfish are generally easier to catch than trout, and are fun for anglers of all skill levels. Pound for pound smallmouth bass are one of my favorite species to catch on a fly rod. Now back to goals…….

I have been fly fishing for a little over a decade, and new goals bring new challenges and fun.

My invitation

Set one goal for each category this year.

  1. Species
  2. Technique
  3. Location (Could be by water type such as spring creek, tailwaters, reservoirs, salt water flats, etc. Or by a specific body of water you want to fish more often).

For example,

Last year I took my first trip to the saltwater flats. This required me to learn how to tie bonefish flies. It pushed me to work on my casting speed and accuracy.

The past couple of years I have been pursuing carp. I still need a few years to improve, but I have the basics down. Carp require me to present the fly to a “rooting fish.” No doubt this will pay off when I get the chance to fish for Redfish.

Lastly, the past two years I have been trying to spend more time on spring creeks. Fly Fishing spring creeks has forced me to be more delicate with my presentations and taught me to be quieter as I approach fish.

Again, please accept my challenge to set some goals for this upcoming year. It will pay dividends to your progression as an angler, and you will have more fun.

Warm River

This Eastern Idaho river starts as a large spring bubbling out of a mountain outside of Ashton, Idaho. The spring water maintains the river at a consistent temperature that just so happens to be perfect for trout.

The Upper section of Warm River has pocket water and can be swift. This area is beautiful and a fun section to check out during summer. There is too much snow to access it during the winter, spring, and late fall.
The lower section is slower and wider. It has many ideal riffle, runs, and pools.

I have fished Warm River in every season, and thanks to the consistent water temperature it always seems to be productive. Like most rivers out West, expect runoff sometime during late spring and early summer. However, other than that this river is a dream.

Winter Fishing

While I lived in Eastern Idaho this was one of my favorite winter destinations. If we could endure the air temperature we knew we could catch fish.

The coldest we tried fishing it was 18 degrees Fahrenheit. We learned it wasn’t worth it because the eyes of our guides kept freezing up with ice. If you plan on fishing it in the winter wait until daytime temperatures are in the thirties. You will have more fun and be more comfortable.

Also, if you fish this river in the winter fish close to the car. A slip into the water at low temperatures is dangerous. You need to be able to get out of the elements quickly.

Side Trips

Mesa Falls: If you are fishing Warm River during the summer or early fall check out upper and lower Mesa Falls. They are beautiful and a great place to take those who don’t fish (I know it is hard to believe there are people out there who don’t.) Note: these falls are not accessible most of the year due to snowpack.

Bread Fish- When you arrive at Warm River you will see a pullout with what looks like a gum/candy machines. It is filled with fish food. Take a few quarters and get some to feed the fish. These rainbows are ridiculously huge, but this stretch of the river is closed to fishing.

Warm River Overview:

Fishing Quality: Excellent. There are large rainbows, browns, and whitefish. You might find a brook trout too.

Skill Level: Fairly good spot for beginners. A great place to learn how to fish nymphs under an indicator.

Equipment: 5 or 6 weight. Floating Line

Family Friendly: Yes. As mentioned above there are a couple of fun side trips if the fishing is slow.

Fly Patterns:

  • Rubber leg stonefly nymphs– Black and Olive
  • Midges– Black and Olive
  • Salmon Fly Dries– (If visiting during spring or summer.) If salmon flies are hatching on the banks, and you don’t have a salmon fly pattern you will regret it. You can substitute a large stimulator if you don’t have a salmon fly on hand.
  • Other than that stick with the general patterns I recommend for a trip out to Idaho.

Notes: Robinson Creek and the Henrys Fork flow nearby. Hence why this area is called Three Rivers. If the bite is off at Warm try one of the others.

Hope that helps.

Louie Lake

Louie Lake. Outside of McCall, Idaho.

Jason (my brother in law) was in McCall, and we wanted to go fly fishing. We decided to try Louie Lake.

From the trailhead, the hike is approximately a mile. It is a consistent uphill climb, but if you are in decent shape you will handle it fine. I saw other fisherman hiking in with their float tubes, so it is definitely a doable hike for most.

Unfortunately, for me and Jason we only enjoyed the trail on the way down. Apparently, we did not start on the correct trailhead, and we spent an extra two hours enjoying the foliage.

A little extra cardio

We arrived at the lake behind schedule. Nonetheless, we had some success in a short amount of time.

I picked up a fish on a hopper pattern, but the wind picked up so we went subsurface. We fished black and olive cone-head wooly buggers. These worked well and most of our hits were near weed lines, drop offs, and boulders.

Next time I fish it I will bring a full sinking intermediate and type 2 or 3 line. We fished it in September, and the water was cool enough that the trout were not holding deep. However, a hot summer day in July or August could drive them deeper, so again take a sinking line just in case.

Overall it seems like a productive lake. It is also a good place to take beginners. Jason is fairly new to fly fishing, and he was able land a couple cutthroats in the short amount of time we had.

Louie Lake Overview:

Fishing Quality: Excellent. Cutthroats were a good size and fought hard.

Skill Level: Good place for beginners

Equipment: 5 or 6 weight. Floating Line and a full sinking line. A float tube would open up more fishing opportunities, but we fished the banks and caught plenty.

Family Friendly: Yes. However, the hike would be challenging for small children. If hiking with kids adults should be prepared to carry them for a good portion of the hike.

Notes: The surrounding area is beautiful and is a great place for fishermen or non-fishermen to enjoy a lunch by the lake.

Don’t Lift!

Many of us start our fly fishing journey focused on trout. However, there are a few things trout fisherman do that should not be done while fishing for larger species.

When landing a trout it is common to pull the rod back behind your head/over your shoulder while netting a fish. This allows you to pull the trout closer and extend your other arm with the net. However, doing this can be an issue when landing larger fish.

While fighting larger fish use side pressure, fight with the butt of your rod, and try to work the fish to the shallows where netting it is easier. DON’T LIFT the rod behind your head when landing larger fish.


I made this mistake while fishing during my lunch hour. I saw a carp feeding in a nearby ditch, presented the fly, and the fight was on. I couldn’t reach the fish because I was above it on a ditch bank. While landing it I tried lifting the rod behind my shoulder to get the fish up higher on the bank where I could net it. My rod was at an angle that put too much pressure on the top section of my rod and…… Snap!

Sometimes you have to put the rod behind you to get close enough to net a fish. However, try to use the entire length of the rod when dragging the fish to your net. If you manhandle the fish with the tip section you might end up like me. I have found that pulling my rod back by the side of my body (instead of over my head) makes it easier for me to use the entire length of the rod (not just the tip) while landing a fish.

Hope that helps.