Boise, Idaho Fly Fishing-My Reflections so far

By Gabe Cross

I must admit, after nine year of guiding fly fishing on the White River, I was completely burnt out. You know it’s bad when you would rather sit at home than take people out on the water. By the end, I did not care if I ever fished any Ozark waterways again in my life. Of course, I still love my beloved southern trout fisheries, but I needed to explore other venues if I was ever going to regain my love of the sport. Guiding can really take the fun out of fly fishing. Before moving to Boise, I did research the nearby fly fishing opportunities in Idaho and Oregon, but there were so many bigger worries I had to contend with at the time that I did not give the trout much thought.

My cousin took me on a drive my first morning in town, and I was eager to see the Boise River that runs through the heart of the city. We must have crossed the river a dozen times that day, and each spot looked unbelievably fishy. I had been in town less than a day, and already I was eager to put my nymphing skills to the test on this remarkable urban fishery. A week later, I was finally able to get a license and catch some fish – or so I thought. As it turns out, the Boise River is blessed with a rich food base, and the layout is perfect for wading during low winter flows, but there just are not a lot of holdover fish most years. After catching several whitefish, I became a bit discouraged, but I decided to try one more area. Right before dark, I managed to hook and land a gorgeous 16-inch wild rainbow in the heart of Boise. The fight of this fish coupled with the unique surroundings from which it came made that first fly fishing day in Idaho a true success. Ironically, I caught that first Boise River trout on a dead scud tied for the White River. I guess the past is never too far away from the present.

I have fished the Boise River in town a few more times since that first outing, and I am always amazed at the quality of the trout and whitefish I find within close proximity to such a large metropolitan area. The Boise is a great diversion fishery perfect for hitting after work or for a few hours in the evening, but I was itching to get into the “Blue Ribbon” waters I was starting to hear so much about. When a new fishing buddy invited me to the fish the South Fork of the Boise, I jumped at the chance. I had read many great things about this tailwater fishery where the rainbows average 17-inches and the beauty of the South fork blew me away –I was sure to tear up some fish. And I did, just none of the 25 I landed were trout; they were all big whitefish. My buddy landed a pig of a rainbow – perhaps 23-inches – so I was a bit miffed. The day was a blast, and I learned that I would need to adapt my techniques and fish different water if I was going to target trout. I have fished the South fork of the Boise River four other times since that first day, and I have done very well on both the trout and whitefish. There was one day where I found a sweet spot and landed close to 40 rainbows (and no whitefish). Many were over 16-inches, and a couple of pre-spawn fish that I caught that day were over 20-inches. I feel extremely blessed to have such a challenging and prolific wild rainbow trout fishery just over an hour from downtown Boise, my part of town.

Last April, I got an itch one day to head west of the city and fish the blossoming brown trout fishery on the Owyhee River below Owyhee Dam. This river is flat out loaded with 18 to 22-inch browns, and the habitat is absolutely perfect for this species to prosper. Brown were only introduced eight to ten years ago, so this stretch is a “work in progress”, but many of us ‘locals’ expect great things in the future as the fish population evolves and strengthens. I had quite a few expectations as I pulled into the lower Owyhee River Canyon, but I did not expect to find so much fun water to explore. The layout reminds me of a narrow Norfork and the water is slightly green tinted. Releases had just been bumped from winter flows (17cfs) to early spring flows (170cfs), so I really did not know what to expect. I started in a good looking spot, and within a few minutes I hooked and landed a solid 20-inch brown. People dog the way these Owyhee fish fight, but this guy gave me several leaps and a few strong runs. I was impressed. After I broke the ice, I explored for awhile, but could not find another honey hole right away. Then I found ‘the’ honey hole, and I proceeded to hook one big brown after another on San Juan Worms. From that point forward, I was hooked on the Owyhee, so I took every chance I could to get out there – it’s an easy drive that takes just over an hour from downtown Boise. There have been good days, bad days and great days, but nothing has yet topped that first experience. I’ve landed browns up to 23-inches, but there have been fish that ran me into my backing instantly before getting off. There are some 10 to 15-pound browns that inhabit the many slow, deep pools, and I’ve also come across a few rare rainbows that fight meaner than any I’ve encountered. The Owyhee is my new “home” river, and I will be getting out there in the next month. It’s too bad Oregon raised their out of state licenses by almost $50, but I’ll find a way.

Now that I’ve lived in Boise for just over a year, I am really looking forward to see more of the incredible scenery and fly fishing in Idaho. This may be the best trout fishing state in the Lower 48 from a wading standpoint, and there may be no better place to find seclusion. The fisheries close to Boise can be crowded, but the experience is nothing like the hoards that are encountered in the Ozarks. This is reflective of the fact that there are just so many good places to wet a line; anglers do not need to congregate in one spot. Please let me know if you would like more information on the fly fishing around Boise, and I am open to any tips that you may have. It feels great to have that spark for fly fishing again, and I look forward to staying involved in the sport for the rest of my life.


~ by troutdoctor101 on March 28, 2010.

3 Responses to “Boise, Idaho Fly Fishing-My Reflections so far”

  1. R.I.P. Gabe. A.E.K.D.B.

  2. I went fly fishing many times with Gabe Cross, at the Owyhee Dam in, OR. I have a few misc. video’s and pictures, and would like to share them with his fishing friends, but I don’t know how exactly to upload them or where to post them so that they may be seen and enjoyed by his friends and family. Gabe lived to fly fish, and write. He introduced me to the sport, and for that I am thankful. I only wish he were still with us, so that we could fish again and share stories about a “slow day on the Owyhee Reservoir, where we only landed a dozen 20-23″ Brown Trout.” R.I.P. Gabe

    • Gary, I knew Gabe half my life. We have tons of fishing memories and I’m sad to see him go. If you have pictures I can post them here. I actually would like to see them too. Thanks for sharing your story.

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