Duck Valley Indian Reservation - Lake Billy Shaw

12 May 2006 By Dan Bachman • Fishing-Spots • Comments (6)

On a recent entry I lamented the fact that Idaho’s fishing season hiatus from the end of March to the Saturday before Memorial Day would leave me with very few choices about where to fish in the state. Steve Hogan recommended that I visit the Duck Valley Indian Reservation. I have also noticed recently on Tattered Fly a considerable number of visitors have searched the site for “Duck Valley Indian Reservation”.

About a 3 hour drive from Boise, the reservation is due south of Mountain Home, Idaho on the Idaho-Nevada border. The Duck Valley Indian Reservation is home of the Shoshone Paiute nation and contains 3 lakes (Mountain View Reservoir, Lake Billy Shaw & Sheep Creek Reservoir) that are open from April 1 to October 31. Because the reservation is a sovereign nation they are not subject to the rules of either Idaho or Nevada’s fish and game.

Lake Billy Shaw is the crown jewel on the reservation and considered the reservation’s trophy lake. Built in 1998 the lake was opened to fishing in 2001 and is regularly stocked with large rainbows that approach 20 to 24 inches. Regulations on the lake allow you to keep one fish between 16 and 19 inches.

Tim Blount at the Idaho Angler was kind enough to set me up with streamer fly patterns for my trip including Stayner Ducktails and Lake Billy Shaw Specials and some advice, “fish the fingers”. A single day permit for just Lake Billy Shaw runs $25 and can be purchased at a few fly shops or on the reservation. Near the end of April I made the trip.

Lake Billy Shaw

The cold crisp air hits my face as I step out of my car to survey the lake. The sounds of water and song birds fill the air with their song and retort. Small wakes are left behind as several dozen pairs of mallards and pintails cruise near the willows along the bank pecking at this and that. On the distant shore a crane stands perched on almost imperceptibly thin legs cocking it’s head slowly from side to side searching for prey while a gentle breeze orchestrates dancing and flitting patterns on the water. A few wisps of white clouds sit in an otherwise empty blue sky.

Lake Billy Shaw Duck Valley Song Bird

The sound of an approaching truck on the gravel road rises gradually behind me before coming to a gentle stop. I turn to see a short, if not stout, Native American climbed down from his truck with an emblem on the door-Duck Valley Fish & Game.

“It’s looking like a real nice day for fishing.” he says with a soft lisp and adds quietly “If the wind doesn’t come up.”

“It sure does.” I reply while noticing the gentle weathering on his calm face and small patch on the pocket of his shirt.

“I’m just out checking permits.”

“I put it there so you would be able to see it if I was out in the water when you came around.” I reply while pointing to the dashboard of my car.

He walks over and surveys the unfolded piece of paper beneath the windshield for an unusually long time while I unscrew the cap on my rod tube and begin assembling the sections. His eyes scan up and down the permit before he finally seems satisfied with what he sees.

“How’s the fishing been?” I inquire.

“Since the ice broke up a couple weeks ago, the rainbows don’t seem too picky. People are catching a lot of 19 and 20 inch fish and I talked to a guy yesterday that caught a 23 incher.”

“It’s always good to hear that.”

“Yeah, well enjoy your day. I may stop by later to see how you did.”

I nod my head and wave goodbye as the warden climb into his truck and slowly drives off.

After tightening my reel to the rod and stringing up the line I pull out my streamer fly box and peruse the selections. The bright color of the Stayner Ducktail is the obvious first choice. While clinching on the streamer pattern I notice several mayflies bouncing on the water near the shore. The prospect of some dry fly action on the lake makes me reconsider my choice of flies. I grab my vest and move closer to the shore to a rock where I sit down to watch the action.

This finger of the lake is maybe a quarter mile long and just 100+ yards at the widest. Within 15 minutes the hatch becomes much more serious and several flies land close enough to determine what they are. Callibaetis, both duns and spinners. But the action does little to entice any trout to the surface. Most of the hatch action is within 15 feet of the shore in the shallower water. Very few Callibaetis are over deeper water where the trout are sure to be.

Callibaetis Spinner Callibaetis spinners litter the water like confetti when I finally move from my rock and decide to test a streamer pattern. Twenty five feet from shore a dense willow casts shadows into four foot water on the near side. Casting deliberately across the shadowed water I slowly strip the streamer near the willows and through the dark water. With each cast I strip the fly faster and vary the length of the pause between strips trying to entice the trout that I know are watching the display to strike. After a dozen or so casts I am pulling lengths of line long and fast—pausing between for more than a second. As the streamer leaves the shadowed water I see a flash of silver and orange emerge from the willow stand, pause and dart back for safety.

My rod pulls straight with the line leaving the end of my rod as I pull back hard to set the hook. Desperately I lean back on the rod to keep the rainbow trout from tangling line in the willows. When I am unable to move the line and the thrashing stops, I fear I have failed when the line suddenly tears in the opposite direction towards the main channel of the lake. The run ends 70 feet later in a spectacular leap from the water where I see a beautiful and thick rainbow that has to be a good 18 or 19 inches. Quickly I lower my rod tip and then pull hard to my right to keep the fish from running further in the same direction.

Small groups of sparse willows line most of the shore where I stand. Quickly scanning the shore line I realize that the closest ideal spot to land the fish is another 150 feet towards the main channel. I release tension on the line and reel and let the rainbow run cautiously while I move along the shore high-sticking my pole to keep the line off the willows. Head thrashing and a second, smaller jump, tells me the fish is tiring as I reel in line and move as fast as I can towards the fish.

Passing a final group of willows I reel in faster and the rainbow protests only when close enough to see me. Reaching back for my net I remember that I forgot to hang it on the back of my vest in my hurry to get down to the water. I’ll have to land the trout without a net. I back up to the shore and the big fish makes one more small attempt at a run before laying over on its side letting me reel him and grab the tail.

Lifting the rainbow gently from the water and measure it against my pole. The nose is just shy of the 20 inch tape band. The trout looks healthy and I am amazed at how thick he is as well. Maybe 5 pounds.

Lake Billy Shaw Rainbow Trout Lake Billy Shaw Rainbow Trout Lake Billy Shaw

Holding the trout upright in the water I revive it by pushing and pulling it through the water to move the water over the gills. After a few seconds and a tail flip the rainbow moves off a couple feet, sits on the bottom for a second and then streaks into the deeper water.



  1. 13 May 2006 Craig

    I really appreciate this article. I have been wanting to check out the duck valley area but haven’t had the time while school was in session. Now that I am done for the spring I might try and make a day of it. One question, are the access roads to the water pretty easy to navigate… for example I drive a PT Cruiser or a Focus are the roads good enough that I can get to the water with them or should I hit up my brother for his Jeep?

  2. 15 May 2006 Dan Bachman

    Craig-I drove a sedan without any problem. The roads are groomed dirt and gravel. I understand that they can get a little tricky if it has rained a lot.

  3. 18 May 2006 phil castillo

    Is it bank access only or can you float tube? I am interested in checking it out. I am also curious about places to stay nearby and ideas. thansk for the post.

  4. 18 May 2006 Dan Bachman

    Phil-Yes, you can float tube. In fact most of the anglers I saw were in tubes. I only saw one other walking the banks besides myself. You can camp at the lakes for $5 or $12.50 for RV w/ electric hook-up. I don’t know what camping or hotels there may be away from the lake.

  5. 22 May 2006 Ruth

    How is the road going into Mt. View, how far is it off the highway, and is there camping facilities there? Just wondering, we are going up for the weekend. Also, are boats allowed on the reservoir?

  6. 22 May 2006 Dan Bachman

    @ Ruth-I am not familiar with a Mtn. View in Idaho. If you are referring to Mountain home then Highway 51 is your standard paved highway. As for camping see my May 18 comment. Boats are allowed on Billy Shaw, but gas powered engines are not. When you make the turn off of 51 it is roughly 8 miles on a dirt road to the lake.

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