December Fly Fishing on the Big Wood River

22 December 2005 By Dan Bachman • Day-Spent-Fishing • Comments (1)

Inspired by my recent success winter fishing the Boise South Fork, I decided to tackle the Big Wood River near Ketchum and Hailey. The Big Wood is another Idaho river that has a winter fishing season from its confluence with the North Fork downstream to Magic Reservoir. Temperatures during the previous week had not broke the freezing mark with night time lows in the single digits. When the forecast showed temperatures nearing 40 for the day I threw my gear in my all-wheel drive Audi and made the 2 1/2 hour trip to the Wood River Valley.

I drove roads along the river until I found a spot that looked good. Trouble was—there was no where to park. The snow plows had pushed all the snow right to the edge of the road and not an inch further leaving no room for parking. I found a public parking lot that had not been plowed and thought I would be ok with my trusty all-wheel drive. It only took a couple of seconds and the pile of snow left between the road and the parking lot by the snowplow to prove me wrong. 5 minutes later a nice local lady in a truck with a tow cable pulled the stupid “out-of-towner” from the pile of snow.

The scene down on the river was surreal. The cold weather of the previous weeks had caused parts of the river to freeze over with thick ice. In places the clear ice was over a foot thick. With the warmer weather large slabs of ice that had broke free lay stranded on sandbars. Along the river banks ice jutted out and suspended inches and sometimes several feet above the water. In places the shelves of ice lay tilted in the water. Throughout the day I was startled on more than one occasion when a large chunk of ice would grind on rocks behind me sending me up on the bank to safety.

Big Wood River in December Big Wood Rainbow Trout Big Wood River in December

With the same stone fly rig I had used on the South Fork of the Boise, I fished a hole below a bridge for the first half hour with a couple bites but no luck in setting the hook. The sky was overcast and rain came and went as I fished less promising water on my way downstream until I came to a long deep run. Three casts later my strike indicator took a dunk giving me my first good hook-up and I landed a beautiful 14 inch rainbow.

Just below the run was a deep hole covered by the roots of a large tree. It turned out to be a gold mine and I pulled 4 nice rainbows from the water before an iceberg crashed through the hole sending all the fish for cover.

Before I left the river I tried the hole below the bridge again for nearly half an hour. I hooked a beauty that was as big as the first fish I had caught but quite a bit fatter. He threw the hook just as I was putting my net to the water. I told myself “one more cast” at least 15 times as it was getting dark. On number 10 my line had gone a couple yards through the hole when my strike indicator shot upstream a good 2 feet. I was so shocked that I didn’t set the hook but stood there stunned by how hard my fly had just been hit. The next 5 casts didn’t get so much as a nibble. I’ll be back to try again.

Release of a Big Wood Rainbow Trout Big Wood River Scene



  1. 23 December 2005 Craig

    Dan I gotta say you get to do the coolest trips around here. One of these days I am going to cut out of work at 5 in the am and head out somewhere. Congrats on another great fishing trip!

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