The Boise River Urban Fly Fishing Revival

Understanding and evaluating the trophy potential of this unique resource

First of all, I promise everyone that I will not just write about Idaho and Oregon fisheries on this blog. Rather, I hope to mix things up and cover topics from a variety of locales. The reason I want to touch on the Boise River that runs through the heart of Boise is because there is very little information out there regarding this fishery. Before moving to Boise, I had read a few brief pages about this river, and honestly, I was a bit disappointed in the fishing I found. When you see the river, it just looks so fishy that it must hold hoards of trout. Unfortunately, a host of problems are confronting the Boise River and if these issues remain unaddressed, the fishery will continue to drop off with each passing year. As of right now, there are some great trout in this river, but they are few and far between.

Although my time in Idaho has been relatively short, I have taken efforts to learn as much about the Boise River as I possibly can. I’ve picked brains and picked up rocks, and one thing seems clear: there is a lot of love out there for this special resource. Apparently back in the 70’s, you could catch one nice wild brown or rainbow after another within blocks of Boise State University and the Capital. The water was clean enough that you could drink it straight out of the river, and the hatches were so thick that you could hardly breathe without a mask during the evening caddis emergences.

Since the hey-day fishing on the Boise River of the 1970’s, the city has experienced tremendous growth. The water on the Boise has become an extremely valuable commodity, and scores of agencies must coordinate efforts to ensure that no drop of water is wasted. Often during times of quick expansion, natural resources get neglected, and this has clearly been the case with respect to the Boise River. Subdivisions sprouted up along the banks and now erosion is becoming a problem in spots – silting is pretty well evident up and down the entire in-town stretch. In the early 90’s, the Boise River was dealt a “death blow” when winter flows were virtually cut off, and the river has not come close to recovering yet. Wild trout fisheries as prolific as the Boise used to be take many years to develop, and now the river must conquer several difficult hurdles before it can return to glory.

If you only trout fished in the Ozarks, you would think that corn and Powerbait were a major component of every coldwater trout fishery. In reality, conservation and managing trophy trout fisheries are taken very seriously in most western states, and Idaho is especially diligent. The state utilizes catch and release regulations and slot-limits to help fish grow large and to protect threatened species. Even catch-and-keep anglers in Idaho tend to just harvest just what they need, and almost everyone here understands the value of quality fisheries. Obviously, something like a change in management strategies for parts of the Boise River in town would be a hot topic, but the majority of the river’s users would likely see the benefit of a blue-ribbon urban trout fishery, even if it meant that certain tackle restrictions were implemented.

A slot-limit type of regulation from (the) Diversion Dam to somewhere around Municipal Park/ParkCenter would be the first step in protecting an amazing stretch of trout water. Of course, regulations mean nothing without proper flows and adequate habitat. Winter flows are now in the very healthy range for trout, but spring flows often come up very quickly; this stresses out habitat and scours the leftover rainbow trout spawning beds. A gradual increase would make more sense, and it probably would not be expensive to initiate a new flow regime.

The Boise River does hold plenty of food in the form of nymphs, insects, minnows and crustaceans, and some sort of morsel can be found under virtually every rock. Summer floating is a big thing in the city of Boise, and because there are so many people on the water when it gets hot, city officials clear out most of the natural root-wads and other hazardous structure in the river. In this day and age, resource users must work together in order to ensure the best experience for everyone. There are ways to improve structure on the bottom of the river that would not be noticed by floaters. Removing natural habitat with no plans to replace it reflects lack of forethought. For every fisheries problem, there is a creative solution if one looks hard enough.

Compared to some rivers in this country, the Boise is not so bad off, but this jewel deserves to get closer to realizing its potential. Big fish are caught on this river every year which is a testament to its strength, but every resource has a breaking point. Considering the relatively small problems facing the Boise, it is worth looking into innovative ways to enhance this river and the trout fishery. As long as there are a few of us who share the vision of the Boise River as a prolific urban trophy trout fishery, there will always be hope that change could happen. I’m too new here to be able to accurately assess the chances of significant changes on the Boise River, but I would guess that it could happen, as long as there was enough public support. Check out the link below to learn more about the Boise River and the effort to protect the fishery.

Steve Zerza’s Boise River Blog:


~ by troutdoctor101 on March 30, 2010.

2 Responses to “The Boise River Urban Fly Fishing Revival”

  1. Thanks for your genuine interest in the Boise River, Gabe.

    • Thanks buddy, and you better believe I appreciate what you do. Hopefully, we can spend another late summer evening chasing aggressive rainbows out your back door later this year. Knowing that someone like Steve is committed to making the Boise River the best it can possibly be gives me hope for the reemergence of what was once a marvel in the world of quality urban trout fisheries.


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