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Flies for upper Salmon river, Idaho

6937 Views 8 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  Mark Vegwert
Plan on fishing Challis or Salmon area late march/ early april. Fished last year using a big 1" long Yellow nymph, wooley bugger, and egg sucking leech. Had a few hook-ups. Was wondering if there is any different fly strategy for fishing so far up river. These fish have had every kind of gear imaginable thrown at them.

(Anyone speying in this area?, never saw a spey caster in 6 days fishing there last year)

On another note, does anyone know if it is legal to use a 2 fly dropper in idaho steelhead waters. I like to fish for trout this way with one fly an obnoxious attractor, one fly realistic nymph. Iv'e found most days that all fish are on one or the other.

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Idaho Fishing Regulations

Here is a link to Idaho Fish and Game.
Link to general regulations
Link to Steelhead regulations

Make sure you are using barbLESS hooks (crimped barbs are allowed).
The general hook regulations state that a line can have up-to 5 hooks. There is nothing in the Steelhead regs that prohibit the use of more than 1 hook.

I have used small nymphs as a dropper and have been pleasantly surprised when I hook into an 'ol ironhead. Use a beefy nymph hook.....
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This fall..

I had good luck this fall with marabou spey style ties, black bodies seemed to be the key, AJ hooks size 1.5 and 3.

I once asked a friend who has been swinging flies there for many a year, if he could only take 4 flies to fish the Salmon with, what would they be, and the response was: A Green butt skunk, a Green butt skunk, a Green butt skunk and maybe another Green but skunk!!!
PS:My avatar is from there this past fall.:hihi:

Jon and Ryan,
Last year I got mixed opinions on the legality of the dropper. I was using that rig and someone said that was a no-no (towards the end of my trip). Definitely not legal in NY state. But your right, i read the steelhead regs and no mention.
Will start tying some flies as soon as the skiing slows down here. Maybe try for some big Idaho trout soon if winter 2006 is as warm as 2005 was here in Wyoming.

Happy new year
You would do better to target winter run fish that time of year.

Most of the fish are paired up and beginning to spawn in late March and early April. Most people use egg flies or egg sucking leaches with split shot and cast to visible fish. Many fish are foul hooked i.e. snagged.

If you are coming from the Northeast and you are coming to ski, then I would suggest fishing the Big Wood or the SF Boise for trout before the end of March (season closes for the spawn). If you are coming to fish, then I suggest that you would be much happier fishing for winter runs in Oregon or Washington. These are fresh fish that are everything you expect from a steelhead.

The Salmon between Challis and Stanley is easier fishing but keep in mind that these fish are 2-6 weeks away from being dead and only resemble steelhead genetically. They have lost half their body weight and look like black snakes.

If you hook a wild fish, it may use up it's last reserves of energy fighting to keep from being landed and may not have enough energy to last another month and go through the rigors of spawning. They haven't eaten anything in 9 months and have absorbed most of their internal organs, flesh and fat.

It might be a better choice to go trout fishing and let the steelhead spawn unmolested. Some people enjoy catching these snakes this time of year. Not me. For the life of me, with the depressed levels of our wild fish, I cannot imagine why the F & G doesn't close the season in March to protect the spawning fish, as they do on trout streams.

Hope you have a good trip. Sorry to be so vociferous. One of my pet peeves.
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Where else to go?

Hello Mark - I live in western WY for the winter and fish the south and henry's fork when it is warm. I went to challis last year because of driving distance. Where else could i go that might be better? From fishing in NY, I noticed the difference between a fish that has traveled 20 miles vs 600 miles. Is clearwater canyon any better?

Hi Jay:

The easy question first. No, the Clearwater is not any better. These are summer run fish that enter the freshwater in June-August and stop eating, living off of their fat, flesh & organs. All they want to do is get a little fin (I hear the B-runs are the best) and die.

The hard question: Where to go? Well that kind of depends whether you have time or money. Most of us have one or the other, but not both. So, I am going to assume that you have a week and NSF to do S. America or New Zealand so:

If you want to catch a steelhead you've got to go to the coast. Start making friends with the guys here (see threads on the OP), on the Oregon Board at Westfly and Flyfishing the State of Jefferson. Basically, almost every short run watershed from N Californika to Alaska has winter run steelhead. If you can't get to New Zealand I assume you can't get to coastal BC, so I would start with the Rogue, Umpqua, Siletz, Alsea and the OP (plus the Skagit/Sauk if they have any run this year).

Steelhead in April is going to involve a 6-700 mile, one-way, drive if you live in Jackson, and further if you don't (I'd do it. In fact, I've done it many times but I'm not that bright). So let's think trout. In March & early April you can do Rainbows. After early April you have got to think of Browns as most Rainbows are trying to git a piece of fin just like their brothers, Mr. Metalhead.

I'm a dry fly guy so take what I say with a grain of salt. Better hatches the latter in April you go, but not always. Idaho streams close at the end of March except S. Creek that closes at the end of Feb.

SF Snake
NF Snake
Green below FG (you already know these three if you live in WY-Awesome Baetis on the right day plus midges and bobber fishing on the other days)
San Juan
Big Wood
SF Boise

You've go more fishing that you can master in the next 20 years within 500 miles of you. Have fun.

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Hey Mark...

You've go more fishing that you can master in the next 20 years within 500 miles of you. Have fun.
I pretty much agree with you but Hell man those are "just" trout.:eek::saevilw:
MJC said:
I pretty much agree with you but Hell man those are "just" trout.:eek::saevilw:
I know. I know. But when you can't have the one you love, love the one you are with.
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