January 12, 2015 SF Boise River Winter Dry Fly Fishing Report: 34°/Overcast/Mild breeze upriver

Posted by Nate at 9:00 PM on Monday, Jan 12th, 2015

If we fish, we blog. Regardless of results, we have always expressed the true experiences of fishing a dry fly. We don’t write blogs only on those days that we are successful then elect not to write if the fishing is a little off. We do this to establish a theory: We believe you can hook a fish on a dry fly in any water condition at any time of year. Not only can you do this but in many cases, you can do it big. For those of you who follow our blogs, you have read every fishing experience we’ve had in a seven-year timespan. I would leave it to your own evaluation whether we have succeeded in our beliefs. With that said, it’s always a bit painful to have to fess up to the fact you got your butt kicked. Well today we ran headlong into a stone-cold river.

Geoff and I took a day off after the Boise WIFF Expo to breathe a little fresh air and maybe catch a hatch window on the South Fork. We were on the river fishing a little before noon and as normal, we never fish together. We would recommend to you that you always fish alone. You can go to the river with all the friends you want, but when the fishing begins, everyone has a separate run of water totally isolated from fishing partners. That ensures the fact that you can set up your own approach as stealthy as possible. Two or more people in the same run creates way too much presence to a fish.

There was a slight breeze upriver and no fish feeding so I started my day along a short rip-rap edge littered with boulders. My tie-on bug was a #22 Caddidge because I think the river turns a little “midgy” in late winter. There was a wonderful glow looking upriver and any fish that broke the surface could be easily marked. I started “Searcher” fishing upstream and carpet-bombing the lay of water ahead of me. The bottom of the run was a slick, fast-moving surface with a soft, deep edge on my side of the river. For 20 minutes I ran the Caddidge over some sweet-looking water without luring up a fish.

Midway through the run, the first fish of the day broke the surface about 30 feet away right against hard current. Seconds later my Caddidge was floating exactly over the fish’s location. I saw a big dark head with bright red cheeks break the surface at the hook and the first fish of the day was on. He was a frisky fellow as he jumped twice in succession then bolted to the other side of the river and down. I worked the fish back to midstream where a large cluster of boulders were submerged below the surface. The second the fish got in the boulders, he plunged deep. I high-rodded him as best I could but my line caught a boulder and in a heartbeat, the fish was gone. The fish was a big, smart son-of-a-gun and he’d probably used that trick before. It worked. My fly was gone and my tippet was serrated clear to the tapered leader.

I re-rigged and re-engaged the run. I didn’t spot a target so I ran my Caddidge in the foam lines, soft currents, and against fast water. I didn’t make 10 casts when a big ol’ rainbow ate my bug in the soft water about six feet in from hard current. I set the hook. The fish jumped and kicked the hook straight back at me. Darn it!!! He was another really nice fish you won’t see in a photo.

A bit higher in the run again right against hard current, another big fish ate my Caddidge. This time after a good fight and a small chase, I put that fish in the net. He was a spectacular 20-inch fish with ultra-bright cheeks. I fished the rest of the run without marking a target or hooking a fish blindly. I moved downriver to check in with Geoff. He had landed one fish blindly and had not seen a single fish rise in his run of water. We decided to move upriver.

At the next run, I worked a beautiful hatch riffle for about an hour without hooking a fish. I saw four fish rise in that time period. All  were way out of range for a delivery and their appearance at the surface never recurred. The hatch was not developing and it was only so often a BWO or a midge would appear. I never saw a single bug get eaten. I picked up Geoff at the run above me. He had a little better luck. He landed one fish and hooked another large fish that broke him off in a boulder patch.

It was around 3:30 when we moved upriver. To that point we had landed three fish, hooked three others, and there was no indication a hatch would develop today. We wanted to be home for the football game so we were running out of time. We decided to fish one more run.

We pulled into a long riffle and after viewing it for a few minutes, there wasn’t a single fish feeding for 250 yards of water. We decided to “Searcher” fish the riffle to see if anything could be lured up from the bottom. For 30 minutes neither of us hooked a fish. Geoff called it a day and I decided to move upriver and hit one last run.

I snuck in on the low side of a channel that swung around a small island and rejoined the main river. There was a deep hole and a chop riffle right at the confluence. I began working a #20 BWO Comparadun along the chop riffle without a fish finding my offering. I was about ready to quit when above me about 40 feet, I saw a big fish rise right against the center channel. I moved up about 10 feet and shot a cast. I was a little off-target inside and the fish didn’t eat. Next cast and I was on him. He did a gorgeous half-body out take on my bug. I set the hook and an epic battle began.

The fight started above me with the fish diving deep, fighting slowly and powerfully. I needed to keep him above me because if he reached the main current, it was a fast rapid that ran straight into a wall of brush and downed timber. I would never get him back if he broke out of the side channel. We brawled in the side channel for over 5 minutes, and the darn fish just kept creeping down toward hard current. He even entered hard current, but I was fortunate enough to retrieve him. I got him in to about 10 feet when he saw me, turned, and bolted straight downriver toward the brush below. I had no choice but to wade the river and chase. It was deep going in and fast at center channel but I plunged in and headed for the other side. I was in my backing and the fish had a big lead. I made the wade and was catching up down the far bank. I had enough leverage on the fish to keep him out of the brush on the other side. The fish and I reached the next riffle below us with the fish still in the lead and me closing ground. At the point when I was even with the fish, I put the screws on him and moved him out of heavy current into soft water. I got him close when he saw me and moved out and down. After hopscotching for another 40 yards, I finally put the bruiser into the net. Both the fish and I hovered against the far bank exhausted from fighting the good fight. I guessed the fish to be a little over 22 inches and super heavy—probably weighing a solid 5 pounds. I revived him long and admired him much then watched as he slowly swam away.

That fish ended a pretty tough day on the South Fork. We ended up landing four fish all day and never encountered a hatch to up the numbers. Well, I guess if you’re going to get your butt kicked, having a couple of 20-inch fish in the net helps reduce the pain. Just a postscript: This will be our final blog for a while as our show season takes us to Massachusetts and then New Jersey over the next couple of weeks. We will be back in touch and on the river!!

Flies that Caught Fish:

Caddidge #22
BWO Comparadun #20

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