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Best Fly Fishing in Idaho


Where’s the best fly fishing in Idaho?

Well, I’ll answer that question with one of my own: Is there really a bad place to fly fish in Idaho?

That answer, if you’ve ever fished there, is no.

Idaho is one of the last frontiers in terms of Western fly fishing and is one of the best destinations the West has to offer. And, with proper conservation, it should remain that way for our children’s grandchildren.

Idaho Fly Fishing Access

More than 65% of Idaho land is government owned, which means a lot of that land will continue to be protected as we move forward.

And much of that other 30-plus percent, can still be accessed thanks to the state’s water access laws, which, for the most part, allow anglers to fish below the high water mark (granted they accessed the stream legally without trespassing) -- in a similar fashion to nearby Montana.

Protecting Idaho’s Trout

The key here will be protecting those rivers and the species in them from pollutants that stem from mining and other man-made activities, along with keep non-native invasive species from harming those waters.

Idaho is no longer the sure-fire cutthroat haven it once was, thanks to the introduction of rainbow trout and brook trout among other species, but it’s still as good as it gets when it comes to Western river fly fishing. It’s right up there with Montana in my eyes.

Favorite Idaho Fly Fishing Destinations

It’s tough to pick a handful of favorite fly fishing destinations when it comes to Idaho, just because the state is so large and there are so many unique, amazing fisheries. So we’ll go region by region and list off some of our favorites, which don’t always mesh up to what the masses would suggest. Keep in mind, I like to not only catch big fish, but I like to get away from the crowds and enjoy the scenery as much as possible too.

So if there’s a favorite lake that puts out monster fish, but is also No. 1 on everybody’s list, keep in mind that one might not make my list.

Northern Idaho

In Northern Idaho, I love fishing out of Coeur D’Alene and Lewiston, just because those are such fun towns … and because there are other out-of-state options that are close as well, in Montana and Washington.

But in Idaho, I’ve really enjoyed my time on the Clearwater River, which is a great fall destination for big trout on terrestrials.

Closer to the Montana border, if you’re making it that way, are a couple of fun destinations in the St. Joe River and often-overlooked Kelly Creek. If you can find some time on any of those fisheries, there are some fun fish to be had.

Central Idaho

Then there’s the heart of Idaho, fly fishing big waters like the Big Lost River (East Fork, Lower River) and the Salmon River (Main, Upper and Middle Fork).

When it comes to the Big Lost rivers, check with the shops in nearby Sun Valley for the best bites, but you can’t go wrong fishing the East Fork near Copper Basin or the stretch below Mackay Reservoir On the Salmon, there’s nothing better than a spring fling. Get out on the East Fork below the City of Salmon, away from the crowds.

If you are up early, the confluence with the Pahsimeroi near the hatchery can be good, but it gets crowded in a hurry once the word there’s a bite gets out.

Eastern Idaho

But most of the fly fishing takes place in the eastern part of the state, below Yellowstone National Park.

Now the Park can get crowded in the summer, but the spring and fall are always great times to fish and there are guided trips that can get you away from the crowds in the summer.

Must-fish waters on this side of the state include Henrys Lake and Henrys Fork, Falls River and the South Fork Snake River.

I’ve written about the various stretches of the Snake River a bunch on this site, so you can tell what I think about it there.

Many believe the South Fork is the backbone of the state’s fly fishing waters, and with 60 miles of unbelievable fishing.

The most accessible section is probably the stretch from Swan Valley Bridge to Black Canyon, although if you can access Table Rock or downstream from Palisades Dam, by all means enjoy the ride. There are some monster brown trout down there that can surely take you for a ride.

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