Idaho Fly Fishers Blog

Big Y Fly Company

Big Y Fly Company
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Discussing fishing flies, trout flies, salmon flies, fly fishing gear and equipment, Idaho and Montana fishing rivers, NW rivers, fly tying and fly fishing trips. Over 50 years experience in fly fishing, best flies, fly tying, fly fishing techniques, fish stories, directions to rivers and lakes and great fly fishing tall tales with special communications from area guides.

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Friday, February 17, 2017

On Fire

Fly fishing can be "on fire" some days but not others. It's still winter in Idaho and there is a lot of ice fishing, but not a lot of trout fishing in the steams yet. It was 44 degrees this afternoon and although there is still quite a bit white out there, the possibility of stream/lake fishing is just around the corner.

Idaho Fly Fishers BlogThe snow will be melting soon so water is and will be high, but lake/stream fishing will be rapidly upon us. As soon as the lakes thaw, the chironomids will be out in mass. Some of the small mountain lakes will soon be boiling with fish and it will be time to dust off the rod and the pontoon boat. This time of year, I begin to think of floating a black crawler or chironomid deep and giving an occasional twitch. This technique will frequently initiate strikes, but they may be quite subtle.

Idaho Fly Fishers BlogAction though can be dramatic and the fish, once active, can be quite large. They will put up quite a fight and are usually thin, but give them a few weeks. They will fatten. If you are fishing streams/river, be careful of the "strainers" (trees that fall from snow and ice) for they may not be that visible sitting just under the surface. Always wear a PFD (personal floatation device) and never strap yourself in to your float tube or personal pontoon.

So go out there and catch 'em soon. Hard takes, tight lines, screaming reels and huge trout to all.

Idaho Fly Fishers BlogTags:    Antelope Lake, ID
     Moose of the Day
     Sinclair Lake - Idaho
     Spar (Big) Lake - Montana

Monday, February 13, 2017

Made of Money

Very few are "Made of Money". Most that do have it, have worked very hard for theirs but a few get it the old fashion way. Any way you slice it, no one wants to squander it.

I have said it before, fly fishing does not have to be expensive. Now we can make it that way, but we don't have to. Build your own rods. This is a simple process but does take some time and requires a little "trial and error" and small initial expense for rod building equipment. But you can easily build a really nice rod for half of the retail cost. Simply look online for deals on rod blanks at the fly shops that sell rod building supplies and there are many.

Fly lines and reels are a sunk expense, but you can get a really good reel for $100 or less and good line will set you back $50-75. Good waders $200 on sale. Boots another $75. You will also need a chest pack or vest for about $50. So let's see, we're up to around $500. Now with a $250 rod blank that you dress out yourself and $250 in flies, we're up to around $1,000. That's really it, so go out to your closest stream or pond and catch some fish. Remember there are other species than trout. Personally, I love to fish for smallmouth bass as well and they bite just about anything. Smallie equipment and flies are just about the same.

Save a little $$$ now by tying your own flies. This is a really good hobby, for remember the $250 you have invested in flies above is perishable. You will lose flies--and lots of them. You can really get into fly tying with all the frills for around $100. Over the years this can save you much money. The other option is to go to discount fly shop sites like Big-Y-Flies. They also have some great buys on some great rods like the Nano rod. Look it up. I'm impressed and you can buy a really nice 5 weight for only about $200 and they fish great! This is perhaps less than rod building costs.

Lastly, a word about trips. This is where you can really get burned. Do some research about trip costs. A good fly fishing trip, depending on destination, can cost upward of $5,000. But be frugal and you can go some great trips for the cost of gas, a cheap motel and a little food (and bourbon). I have gotten by, adding a tent in which to sleep, for as little as $150 for a 4 day outing and caught some great fish by wading. Or you can hire a guide or buy a drift boat or raft or buy a personal pontoon or float tube. Don't forget to also buy a local fishing license--the fines from game and fish can be steep.

So get out there and get in to fly fishing. It can be a life-long sport that you will really enjoy.

Hard takes, tight line and many lifetime fish caught on a fly rod. If you have questions about getting started, email me.

Tags:  Epoxy Streamer
Freshwater Scud
     Freshwater Shrimp
     Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear
     Grey Wulff
     Grizzly Wulff

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Year of the Spider

I believe, and I teach my students, that we can and should always read and learn. When one turns off their brains, they might as well give up and die. This is really the main reason I take the time to write for this blog. I am hoping to inform you and stimulate you to learn more.

Your brain has a huge capacity and we use only 10% of ours. I have been fly fishing off and on since I was 12 (> 50 years). I love to read about the sport and there is always something more to learn.

In his book "Larger Trout for the Western Fly Fisherman" Charles E. Brooks (1921-1986) says "The best flies were those which look the same from EVERY angle." I personally believe he was spot on. Mr. Brooks however fished Yellowstone and used large flies like Montana Stonefly Nymph, Black (Pheasant Tail) Caddis,  Black Crawler, Skunk Hair Caddis, and the Wooly Worm. These were tied
on larger (6-12) hooks as they should have been because the naturals are larger. To date, the Best Nymph I Have Ever Used has been by far the Black Crawler. If I had to do it all over again though, I would tie this particular pattern with a thinner body and on a smaller hook.

If you really take a close look at the "Spider" soft hackle, it actually mimics the caddis larva before it hatches. And they do look the same from "every angle". Which means these are mostly size 14-18 in their natural form, so tie them fairly small. The bodies should be thin and have a sparse hackle and no shuck (tail). They are a quick and easy fly to tie on vice. Note the two March Brown Spiders pictured here. They are distinctly different, but equally effective. Both are tied on #14-18 hooks.

By the way, the adult is also pictured here. Looks like a small Brown Drake to me. In Canada though, they are called "Flavs". The cutthroat eat them up.

"W. C. Stewart wrote The Practical Angler; W. H. Aldham A Quaint Treatise on Flees and the Art of Artyfichall Flee Making in 1876; T. E. Pritt Yorkshire Trout Flies in 1886 (which was re-titled North-Country Flies in a later edition). All these books featured extensive writings on soft hackled flies. But in 1857 the greatest influence on using these patterns in England occurred. W. C. Stewart was a renowned fly fisherman from the Scottish Border area and it was Stewart that put 'spider' patterns in the fly box of all the north of England fly fishers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries". Actually, these patterns are not too commonly found in fly shops here, but outside the US they are sometimes the ONLY flies fly fishers use. The current going name is the "Stewart Spider", but online, you may see multiple other imitations and names as well.

Why the "Year of the Spider"? Unknowingly I have always fished my nymphs as described in:

I have told many a fly fishing student that "the fish are biting on the swing" as emergers. And if you read the above short essay, you will see the technique I have virtually (and unknowingly) always used. The other technique that is very effective is to simply let the fly "hang" downstream for a few seconds and see what hits. Don't hit the fish hard though or you will pull the fly out of it's mouth. Well this year, while I still have time, I am going to fish mostly SPIDERS. And I am going to fish them the way they should be fished.

Hard takes, tight lines, huge trout and happy "Spider" fishing to all.

Tags: A "Perfect" Fly
     Black Crawler
     Montana Sparrow
     Montana Stonefly Nymph
     Skunk Hair Caddis
     "Skunk" Wolly Bugger
     Stonefly Nymph
     Spider Fly History
     Spider Fly Tied
     Spring High Water Winner
     Spring Perfection
     YSF Black Caddis
     YSF Salmon Slayer

Friday, January 20, 2017

Elk River, BC - 2017 Fly Fishing Rates

For those interested, here are some British Columbia guide and rental rates:

Elk River Fly Fishing Rates (I believe Canadian Funds) 

Float Trips:
Elk River: $650 / 2ppl
Bull River: $650 / 2ppl
St. Mary River: $695 / 2ppl
Oldman River: $695 / 2ppl
Kootenay River:
Bull Trout Safari: $850 / 2ppl
Walk ‘N’ Wade Trips:
Elk River & Tribs: $650 / 2ppl
Michel Creek: $650 / 2ppl
Crowsnest River: $650 / 2ppl (3rd Angler: $185)
Bull River & Tribs: $650 / 2ppl
Flathead River: $695 / 2ppl
Wigwam River: $850 / 2ppl
(1 or 2 Anglers Only)
Stillwater (Lake) Trips:
Local Lakes: $450 to $495 /2ppl
Gear Rental Rates:
Fly Rod & Reel: $25/Day - $10/Additional Day
Waders: $20/Day - $10/Additional Day
Wading Boots: $15/Day - $5/Additional Day
Full Package: $50/Day
(Rod/Reel/Waders/Boots) $25/Additional Day

Drift Boats:
Daily: $300
2 Days: $500
Extra Day: $150
(Includes Trailer & Free Shuttle)
Drift Rafts:
Daily: $275
2 Days: $450
Extra Day: $100
(Includes Trailer & Free Shuttle)
Single Pontoon Boat – Daily: $60 / Weekend: $100
~All Rates Are Subject to 5% Tax~

Elk River Guiding Company Ltd.
791-7th Ave. Fernie, BC
1-877-423-7239 or


~All Rates Are Subject to 5% Tax~

~All Rates are based on 1 or 2 Anglers per Day~

Hard takes, tight lines and huge trout to you all.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Moyie River Rainbow

The proverbial and illusive rainbow trout
Big Horn Gator
Somehow, a recent follower's email got deleted from my inbox and I feel terrible. I don't even recall the his name but I do remember his prior inquiry about Moyie River rainbow. I have a very simple answer. There are not that many good rainbow to be had in the Moyie. Rumor has it that there could be a state record brook trout in there, but those which I have caught have been small. I have been lucky enough to catch few really nice bows there and some good cutthroats, but they are few and far between.

There is also a few posts (by others) that below the mouth of Meadow Creek which dumps in about 1/2 way down the Moyie between the Canadian border and the Moyie River Bridge the rainbow fishing really gets good. Well I will tell you there is minimal access and it is hard wading. The water may be cooler, which the bows need in the heat of July and August, but I personally catch mostly cutties and again brookies.

Large saltwater rainbow
If the truth were to be known, in my personal quest for trout, I would float the Kootenai River in July or August hunting for rainbow. Now I don't really know why anyone would have a thing for the bow, but there are really only 3 rivers I know in the upper NW Idaho, Montana, Washington corridor that contains rainbows of significant quantities and sizes. These are the "redband" rainbow waters of the Spokane River and Kootenai River and the Big Horn River. The Spokane is very difficult to wade. The Big Horn is a long way away. And the Kootenai can fish really well or really not so well.

Platte River Brown
Missouri River Brown
The "dog days" of summer, July and August, aren't the best for trout fishing by any standards. So, if you really want a bow, and not some of those terrible brooks or cutthroats, go fish where they are. I would still suggest trying the Kootenai. Not the greatest place to wade, but good wading areas are accessible from the road. And if you are a little more adventurous, buy, borrow or rent a one man float tube (can be hard to escape if you capsize) or cheap inflatable raft or better yet a personal pontoon and float the stretch between the dam below Lake Koocanusa and the Osprey Landing. Perfectly safe to do and much fun. Remember always wear a well fitting PFD and never strap yourself in to any river vessel. Fish the deep runs and rocky shoals. Large dries with chironomid bead head droppers down about 2 feet should do the trick. If not, go with golden stones right on the bottom (9-10 feet) and a black crawler trailer. Use a float. You will catch 'em. 

Good luck, hard takes and tight lines catching those bows and non-bows. Go Idaho fly fishing.

Kootenai Redband Bow

Somewhere Bow
Tags:   Coeur d'Alene River Spring Fling
Cold Water Haunts (Part 1)
     Cold Water Haunts (Part 2)
     Continental Divide for Trout
     Death, Taxes & Fly Fishing 
     Dog Days

Wednesday, January 11, 2017