Wading the South Fork of the Snake

2 August 2006 By Dan Bachman • Day-Spent-Fishing • Comments (6)

South Fork Side Channel The South Fork of the Snake is one of the most popular drift boat rivers in the state. Drive by the many boat ramps and you will see the parking lot full of SUV’s and trucks with empty trailers this time of year. My last trip to the South Fork was on New Year’s eve when the the flows and temperature were much lower.

While returning from a couple days fishing in Wyoming last week I couldn’t resist stopping by the river even though the rear-view mirror in my car didn’t show that I was pulling a drift boat. Would I be able to sucessfully wade fish a river running at 10,000 CFS? I had to find out.

At the first bridge downstream from Swan Valley I pulled over just as the sun went behind an expanse of white clouds. While I donned my waders and strung my rod I surveyed the scene. Two jet boats were launching across the river and three drift boats were within site upstream and down. Several baitcasters sat in lawn chairs along the bank below me. And my chosen location downstream, a narrow side channel, was confirmed when I walked by the baitcasters who told me that a couple fly fisherman in a drift boat had pulled some nice fish from the water 15 minutes prior.

Harrop's BWO CDC Biot Thorax Fish were on the hatch of both BWO’s and PMD’s when I carefully approached the cut bank. The water was 3-4 feet deep, clear and running fast enough to just disturb the smooth surface. A half dozen fish were rising within casting range. I clinched on a Harrop’s BWO CDC Biot Thorax pattern and landed several nice cutthroats in the first dozen casts.

While moving upstream to cast to another rising trout, I was buzzed by a one of the biggest salmonflies that I have ever seen. A few salmon flies were still on the river. I pulled out a 2 inch salmon fly pattern that I last used on the canyon section of the Firehole and tied it on my 5X tippet that was grossly undersized for a fly of that size. I purposely cast to a section of the water where I had not seen rising fish to see if I could induce a strike with the large pattern. The first cast brought an violent strike from the biggest cuttroat of the day, a fat 17 inch cutthroat that pulled 50 feet of line from my reel on two seperate runs.

South Fork Cutthroat that bit the Salmon Fly South Fork Cutthroat that bit the Salmon Fly

The most productive water came from the riffles where the side channel joined the main channel. Nearly a dozen cutts were feeding along a long seam that was no more than a foot deep. I picked off the fish one by one starting downstream and working my way through pod. Two of the cutthroats caught here, that were both around 14 inches long, were the strongest fighters for their size that I have ever caught. They felt like small steelheads pulling line, swimming into the current and diving in and out of a back eddy. After 5 minute battles they each streaked back to deep water when released showing no fatique from fighting my line.

A Feisty Cutthroat South Fork Moose



  1. 3 August 2006 scot

    Love the site great photography. Going on my honeymoon next year to the Jackson hole area to fish for the week. do you tie your harrop patterns? If so do you know the recipe for the cdc hanging midge?

  2. 3 August 2006 Dan Bachman

    scot-I buy all my Harrop flies from the Trout Hunter. While you are in Jackson Hole you should check out the Gros Ventre and Flat Creek in Teton NP and Grey’s river near Alpine.

  3. 4 August 2006 scot

    Thanks Dan I will we will be there ten days and hope to fish eight. We are floating the Snake and the Green also had a day planned on Flat so we will take your advice and check out the others. Keep up the good work.

  4. 4 August 2006 yokoyam3

    Nice site! Your pix are excellent, too. What kind of camera and software do you use? Do you take them with RAW format??

  5. 5 August 2006 Dennis Zimmermann

    When I grow up I want my blog to be just like yours. My wife thinks I am crazy spending so much time on my Fish on Yukon blog for the Yukon Territory, Canada. She actually sat down and read yours. I think she gets it now. Thanks, I’ll be a regular.

  6. 7 August 2006 Dan Bachman

    yokoyam3-I currently use a Canon Powershot A610 that does not use the RAW format. As I have become more critical of my photography I am looking at several digital SLR’s as a replacement. I want to using polarizing filters on the water and need a better metering system. While the A610 does ok in most situations, it does struggle with bright light and reflections. I use Apple’s Aperture as a photo management system and Photoshop and Fireworks to edit the images.

    Dennis-thanks for the compliment although I’m not sure my blog is all that ‘grown up’ yet..still a lot to do to get it to where I want it to be.

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