South Fork of the Snake River

2 January 2006 By Dan Bachman • Fishing-Spots • Comments (0)

On the way back from Utah after spending the Holidays with family and friends I drove over to the South Fork of the Snake. I recently read Mike Lawson’s article about the South Fork and he mentions how good the winter fishing can be. The fishing season on the river is open year round and it holds browns, rainbows and cutts.

The weather on the last day of 2005 left a little to be desired. Drizzly rain turns to snow and back again several times throughout the day. I fish near the bridge just downstream from Swan Valley and find a few bait-casters sitting along the bank as I work my way upstream. Using a Kaufmann’s Stone Nymph that has performed well for me on both the South Fork of the Boise and the Big Wood River I fish along the bank. I make the mistake of not fishing it deep enough for the first half hour. I realize I haven’t caught the bottom on a single cast. Moving my float indicator about 6 feet above the nymph I fish a 4 foot deep run along the bank. On the second cast I rouse a bite from nice brown that is sluggish from the winter water. He slowly lumbers out into the channel and I bring him to shore. Only when he sees my net does he wake up enough to put up a fight. Two line peeling runs and he finally tires. A nice fish at 20 inches.

South Fork of Snake River South Fork Brown Trout South Fork of Snake River

I land another smaller brown and a couple of whitefish before icy winds make me question whether I really want to be outside. As I work my way back downstream to the bridge in the early afternoon the weather warms back up and I find a nice midge hatch in full bloom along a slow section of the river. Fish are rising gently in only a foot or two of water. I switch over to a 6x tippet and take a #22 House of Harrop CDC Hanging Midge from my fly box. The cold weather has taken it’s toll on the motor-control of my fingers. I stab at the fly a good dozen times with the tippet before I am able to thread the eye of the hook. After I add a small foam float indicator I cast upstream of the closest fish in the pod. The fly fools the first fish it passes over and my line tears upstream from the pod. The fish puts up a good fight, but I can tell its nowhere as big at the first brown I caught. It turns out to be a 12 inch cutthroat. After releasing the fish gently back into the water I turn my attention to the remaining fish in the pod. They are still rising and over the next 30 minutes I land another 3 from this pod and 2 more that are rising downstream. All are cutthroat except for one rainbow/cutt hybrid.

A bait fisherman makes his way over to me and confesses that I have landed more fish in this one area than he has landed all day. He ask what I am using and when I show him the very small fly he examines it in unbelief and mutters something about wanting to learn fly fishing as he walks away.

Harrop's CDC Hanging Midge Yellowstone Cutthroat from Snake SF

When the weather turns cold again the hatch stops almost immediately and fish stop rising to the surface. I try in vain but can’t entice another victim and my fingers are much too cold to attempt tying on a different setup with nymphs. I was hoping to take a rainbow and complete a SF grand slam but leave the river one shy. I caught browns, cutts, hybrids and whitefish but no rainbows on this trip. But I’m not complaining.



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