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Beautiful North Idaho Home in Hope

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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, November 19, 2010

Westslope Cutthroat

My New License Plate--What do you think?
This article is posted by YellowStoneFly aka Idaho Angler at Idaho Fly Fishers. The Westslope cutthroat is a native to western North America. The "CUTTY" (Oncorhynchus clarkii) is predominantly a freshwater fish populating the Pacific Northwest, Great Basin, the Cascade Region and can also be found throughout the Rocky Mountains. Some costal populations are andromous and live most of their lives in the Pacific Ocean, only to return to freshwater in the spring for spawning and feeding. Fly fishing in Idaho can be very productive for the "Cutty."

Montana cutthroat trout
The cutthroat has evolved over two million years or so and the trout of today probably came from a species which migrated from the Pacific up the Columbia and Snake Rivers. There are at least 10, and maybe as many as 14, subspecies known today. They can be found in rivers and lakes not located in the western states, but you can bet they were stocked in these bodies of water. Andromous, sea run, trout can reach up to 20 pounds, but the ones that are landlocked rarely get much larger than 2-3 pounds. Idaho fly fishing for big cutthroat predominantly centers around the Snake and little known (except to locals) St. Joe Rivers. Rest assure, both rivers are loaded with cutthroat.

These trout range from a golden to gray to green dorsally and they have a distinctive red or deep orange "slash" on the underside of the lower jaw--thereby the name "cutthroat." Length can range from a few to as many as 40 inches and weights as discussed above. In recent years, they have been cross breeding with the rainbow and look like a rainbow with a "cut throat." Thereby the name "cutbow." Biggest one I have ever caught was 16 inches, but we would love to here your stories. Try fly fishing Idaho and catch a "CUTTY".

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Bull River, Montana

Bull River Brown caught by IDFFA member BO
This article is posted by YellowStoneFly aka Idaho Angler at Idaho Fly FishersThe Bull River is a real jewel! High in a beautiful mountain valley above and between the Kootenai and Clark Fork rivers lays a mountain lake of indescribable grandeur. Situated in the Cabinet Mountain Range in Lincoln County Montana is Bull Lake. Spring fed and without a dam and naturally flowing into the Kootenai River, you would naturally think it is the headwaters for the Bull River. Well it is not. The river is actually a very deep, meandering naturally spring fed waterway arising in the mountains just west of Bull Lake. I do not know the exact depth, but locals say it is in excess of forty feet in points despite the fact the average width is only about fifty feet and it sports many shallow riffles.
The Bull flows for about twenty-five mile due south and ends in the Clark Fork River at Bull River Kootenai National Forest Campground. This is a beautiful float, but I must caution the last four to six miles is steep and treacherous. This section is not really floatable unless you are and expert kayaker. From where the lower section begins, almost up to the lake, there are several access points. Pitch is very gradual and it is easy to row. Fishing in the spring is in this section can be incredible! There are some huge browns and nice cutthroat as well.
Bull Cutty caught on a Brown Drake 6/14/2011
I own a twelve foot, two person raft in which I love to use in this river. My wife rows and I fish. Who could ask for a better arrangement? By the way, I bought my raft from Kootenai Valley Inflatables for a lot less than other places and the quality is excellent. Anyway, back to the float. I recommend putting in at the canoe access about milepost 11.5 and float to the eight mile bridge. DO NOT USE THE MORE NORTHERN ACCESS I PREVIOUSLY SUGGESTED. IT IS NOT SAFE AT ONE POINT BELOW THE HIGHWAY 56 BRIDGE. As much meandering as the river does, I would guess the actual float is about 5-6 miles and takes a good 4-5 hours to float  from the canoe access. The flow is mostly slow here, but it makes for good, easy fly fishing. The take out at the 8 mile bridge is very easy and I can load directly onto my trailer. 

The Brown Drake hatch is unbelievable in the spring. Insects are huge (size 6-10) and the trout are ravenous. The Bull is predominately known for its huge brown trout, but I have personally seen large schools of bull trout weighing on the average five pounds and perhaps more. I have also caught some really nice cutthroat trout in the 16-20 inch range and an occasional nice rainbow. The fishing seems to slow down in the summer with less prolific hatches, but fish can be had. If you see one other boat while you fish there, I would be very surprised. Out-of-the way and a little hard to find, this is really a great spring fly fishing river. Find highway 56 going north off scenic highway 200 along the Clark Fork River just 10 miles east from where it crosses into Idaho. The Bull parallels highway 200. If you can find no other person with whom to fish, call or email me. I will definitely go with you. 
Don’t forget, in the US bull trout are endangered and must be released as soon as caught. You cannot deliberately fish for a bull trout either, but if you do accidently catch one measure quickly, photograph and release quickly. Do not miss fishing this river if you are ever in western Montana in the spring. Now check out our most recent post "Bull River Hogs" for suggested fishing access points and flies.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Clark Fork River, MT/ID

IDFFA member OC with nice Clark Fork River Brown
This article is posted by YellowStoneFly aka Idaho Angler at Idaho Fly Fishers. The headwaters of the Clark Fork River begin at the confluence of Silver Bow Creek and Warm Springs Creek near the Continental Divide and Anaconda, Montana. The mighty Clark Fork flows north and west from there towards and through Missoula, Montana. This river is a main tributary of the Columbia River and was named after the famous explorer William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition fame.
Beginning in the Silver Bow Mountains (aka Highland), the Clark Fork passes south of the Garnet Mountains, through the Bitterroot Mountain range and the Lolo National Forest and eventually ends in the eastern panhandle of Idaho at the southern edge of the Cabinet Mountains and north of the Monarch Mountains. The Cabinet Gorge Dam sits at the intersection of these last two mountain ranges and during the Pleistocene (Ice Age) was the site of a huge glacial ice dam which formed Glacial Lake Missoula. Today the river ends at Clark Fork, ID and empties into Lake Pend Oreille.  At this point, David Thompson established the first fur trading outpost in Idaho on the Hope Peninsula for the North West Company, a company based out of Montreal, Canada, in 1809. Some on Mr. Thompson’s descendents still live in Hope, ID.   
This river, the largest river by water volume in Montana, is approximately 360 miles long and is divided into the upper, middle and lower sections. The history of this river is impressive but basically the upper portion from near Anaconda to Drummond, MT, which includes multiple feeder streams, had its fishery virtually destroyed by early day mining for Arsenic, Cadmium, Copper, Cyanide, Iron, Lead, Selenium, and Zinc. A massive cleanup has significantly improved the aquatic habitat in this portion of the river in recent years and most of this fishery has been restored below Rock Creek and Clinton, Montana.
The middle portion of the Clark Fork, from below Drummond to Paradise, Montana is a beautiful example of classical western trout fishery. At Paradise the Flathead River empties into the Clark Fork from the north and basically becomes a warm water fishery all the way to the eastern Idaho state line. The list of streams and rivers supplying this middle portion is endless but to name just a few of which you may have heard: Blackfoot River, Bitterroot River, Dry Creek, Fish Creek, Rattlesnake Creek, St. Regis River, and Trout Creek. St. Regis, MT calls itself as the “Trout Capital of the World”. Yes, there is another one. However, there are several good guide services in or near St. Regis who will show you a good time and help you catch some fish.
As stated, the lower portion is basically a warm water fishery with sun fish and some huge pike. There are however some very good feeder streams and rivers here which provide some good cold water, trout action as well. Just to name a few, there is the Thompson River, Trout Creek and the Bull River which all flow into the Clark Fork and hold some huge fish. Access however can be limited and difficult to each unless you have a raft or drift boat. Few people realize that below the Cabinet Gorge Dam above Clark Fork, ID, the Clark Fork is a cold water fishery most of the year and can provide some good trout fishing as well. Again, access here is limited. However, you can actually navigate a boat up from Lake Pend Oreille if you take your time and are careful.
I find fishing success on the Clark Fork is dependent on the time of year and water flows. Spring is definitely the best time to trout fish, with the fall (October) being a close second. Flies are dependent totally on time of year and conditions, but a good reference is the Orvis fishing report. Their report is predominantly center around the middle portion of the river, but is fairly representative of the entire fishery. The only caution I have for you is that the Clark Fork is a big river! Do not fish it alone unless you know what you are doing. The Bitterroot River in particular has much sunken structure and should not be fished without a properly outfitted guide especially in the springtime.
Have some great fishing on the Clark Fork River. It really is beautiful. 
Idaho Angler (IdahoAngler@live.com

Tags: Idaho Fly Fishers Association
           Idaho Fly Fishers.com
           Idaho Angler.com

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Monday, October 25, 2010

The Perfect Fishing Raft

"The Perfect Fishing Raft" posted by YellowStoneFly aka Idaho Angler at Idaho Fly Fishers blogspot. Well, I have tried them all. Hydes, McKenzies, ClackaCrafts, Willies, Jons, all kinds of canoes, float tubes and pontoons. All these have advantages and disadvantages. Canoes, float tubes and pontoons are easy. They are very maneuverable, but payload is small and they really make my knees and back hurt. Jons can be heavy, noisy, also hard on the back and they definitely are not maneuverable. All of the small crafts are inexpensive and can easily be transported between rivers and your home.

Larger fiberglass or wooden drift boats (those classically used on large western rivers) are great if you hire a guide to row them for you. They are, however, very expensive & heavy and can only be placed into the water from a ramp. You must have great upper body strength in order to row them and to me, they are hard to handle in rapids and high winds. They are very roomy though and tend to float high in the water. They are also quiet and have lots of storage. But, they can be very expensive ranging from $4,500 - $7,000. Sometimes this price includes mandatory trailer and sometimes it does not.

For my money, I’ll take a raft any day. Mine floats high, weighs less than 150 pounds even with fishing frame, and is extremely maneuverable. I prefer a trailer, but they can be inflated and deflated at will anywhere. Costs, with a used trailer, generally range from $2,250 - $4,000. About the only downsides are they do need a little inexpensive maintenance, they are not quite as roomy as a Hyde or McKenzie boat and they are a little difficult to manage when it is really windy. The boat I use is pictured here.

This 12 footer is made with incredibly strong glues. The quality is superb! The base price for this raft was around $2,000 but my fishing frame and trailer were extra. I probably have $3,000 total in my rig, but it has everything and is a really fun craft. It is available at Kootenai Valley Inflatables which is located in Troy, MT. Doug Etherington is the proprietor and a really great guy and very honest. His email is getwet@frontiernet.net and his phone 406-295-5001. You can see photos of some of Doug's other rafts here. I am sure he would ship to you for a reasonable price if you so desire. If you need another opinion, send a quick email to one of my fishing buddies at hsiglar@yahoo.com. Ask him what he thinks of rafts versus drift boats.

Good luck in making your decision. If you have any other questions you are welcome to email me as well at IdahoAngler@live.com.

Idaho Angler (IdahoAngler@live.com)

Tags: Idaho Fly Fishers Association 
          Idaho Fly Fishers    
          YellowStoneFly.com   

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

US Departments of Game & Fish (Links)

"US Departments of Game & Fish (Links)" is posted by YellowStoneFly aka Idaho Angler at the Idaho Fly Fishers blog. The internet continuously adds content. As a result, it is sometimes difficult to find the sites you need to access quickly. I have therefore compiled a quick reference for fish and game in states where trout fishing is big. If there are others which you like to see added, please email IdahoAngler@live.com and we will add for you. Appropriate links are listed below:
Alabama Fish & Game
Alaska Sport Fish Division     
Arizona Game & Fish             
Arkansas Game & Fish                       
California Fish & Game                    
Colorado Division of Wildlife
Connecticut Fish & Game
Delaware Fish & Wildlife
Florida Fish & Wildlife                       
Georgia DNR Wildlife
Hawaii Fish & Game            
Idaho Fish & Game
Illinois Fish & Game
Iowa Fish & Game
Kentucky Fishing & Boating
Louisiana Department of Wildlife                
Maine Fisheries & Wildlife
Maryland Fish & Game   
Minnesota DNR                      
Michigan DNR 
Mississippi Fishing & Boating                       
Montana Fish,Wildlife & Parks           
Nevada Department of Wildlife
New Hampshire Fish & Game
New Jersey Fish & Wildlife          
New Mexico Wildlife
New York Fish & Wildlife             
North Carolina Wildlife                      
North Dakota Game & Fish
Ohio Fish & Game
Oklahoma Fish & Game  
Oregon Fish & Wildlife 
Pennsylvania Fish & Boat
Rhode Island Fish & Game
South Carolina Fish & Game
Tennessee Wildlife
Texas Parks & Wildlife                    
Utah Fish and Game 
Vermont Fish & Wildlife                           
Virginia Game & Fish             
Washington Fish & Wildlife   
West Virginia DNR                 
Wisconsin DNR 
Wyoming Game & Fish                   
Hope these help and good fishing!

Idaho Angler (IdahoAngler@live.com)

Tags: YellowStoneFly.com
         Idaho Fly Fishers.com
         Idaho Fly Fishers Association.com

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The Flathead River System, Montana

The Flathead River System comprises a large area of northwestern Montana. Its drainage includes parts of the  Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex The three forks (North, South and Middle) and the main stem flow swiftly trough some of the most beautiful scenery in Montana.   
The North Fork Flathead River begins in British Columbia, and travels for 47 miles before spilling over into Montana. Throughout it's length in Montana, it forms the western boundary of Glacier National Park. Upstream of Big Creek, the North Fork Flathead River has a "scenic" designation. Below Big Creek, there are multiple rapids, twists and turns. This fork provides a really exciting and fun float. I have done it in September and am looking forward to trying it out when the water is higher. Maybe the fishing will be better too. The North Fork and Middle Fork meet at Blankenship forming the main stem of the Flathead.
“The Middle Fork of the Flathead River begins just outside the Great Bear Wilderness, which is located south of Glacier National Park. The Middle Fork emerges from the wilderness area near Essex, where it flows past a unique place called the "Goat Lick." Beginning in Essex, the Middle Fork Flathead River parallels Highway 2 all the way down to West Glacier, although the river is generally out of sight as it often flows hundreds of vertical feet below and well back from the road. Numerous designated and undesignated access points exist between Essex and West Glacier, allowing for easy access and countless potential camp sites. It’s also a very scenic section of the Middle Fork - with the towering mountains of Glacier National Park and the Great Bear Wilderness frequently visible. The middle portion of the river, between Essex and Moccasin Creek, only has moderate pressure from floaters and fishermen.
“The South Fork of the Flathead River begins deep in the heart of Bob Marshall Wilderness complex, one of the nation’s largest designated wilderness areas. Due to the fact that the South Fork of the Flathead River starts deep in the wilderness area and flows for more than 40 miles through the heart of the complex, simply getting to the South Fork is an adventure in itself. Backpacking gear will be needed for the angler without a horse to fish the South Fork above the Hungry Horse Reservoir, as the only access to the river is by trail.” *** This fork empties into the main stem a couple of miles below the Hungry Horse Dam and the main stem flows from here south into Flathead Lake,  which is the largest freshwater lake in the Western United States.
This river system does not have a prolific mayfly hatch, but does have large numbers of caddis and stoneflies. There are multiple places to wade fish this river, but most people access these spots via drift boats. Caddis and stonefly dries do fish very well. I have done excellent though with attractors such as the Royal Wulff particularly in the morning. Do not be afraid to use large flies, for they frequently work best here. Large streamers, hare’s ear nymphs, zug bugs, large terrestrials and hoppers will also do well here during the hotter summer months. Expect to catch rainbows, cutthroat, occasional brook and the rare bull trout here.  I have never caught a brown trout here—don’t think they were ever stocked. Remember the bull are endangered and must be released immediately.
The lower Flathead is mostly a warm water fishery, but I hear there is an occasional trout and some huge pike holding in these waters. Overall the Flathead River System is one that all US citizens should see, if for no other reason than to take in the breathtakingly beautiful scenery. Multiple rafting guides located here will take you on a beautiful day float or even overnight if you like. These floats can make for a great family outing and you can get in some great fishing as well. For a family outing (with children under the age of 8 and 100 pounds), I would suggest the Middle Fork of the Flathead which is a calmer river and there are multiple places to camp along the way.
* There are some special regulations for this river system with which you should be aware if you are going to keep any fish which you should read at the Montana Fish and Game website.
Idaho Angler (IdahoAngler@live.com)
If you like this article, please sign up to follow my blog at: Idaho Fly Fishers Blogspot.
*** Our thanks to Big Sky Fishing.com for much of the information in this article.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

The Kootenai River, ID/MT

"The Kootenai River, Idaho/Montana" is posted by YellowStoneFly aka Idaho Angler at Idaho Fly Fishers blogspot. "The Kootenai River has its origins in British Columbia's Kootenay National Park in Canada. From there it flows 485 miles into northwest Montana and through the towns of Libby and Troy. From there it flows into northern Idaho, then back into Canada and Kootenay Lake. Ultimately it joins with the Columbia River. Sixteen miles north of Libby, the river is held back by Libby Dam, creating a 90-mile long reservoir which reaches into Canada.

The Kootenai River is the second largest tributary to the Columbia River in terms of runoff volume, third in terms of drainage area. The major tributaries of the Kootenai River are the St. Mary, Bull Elk, Fisher, Yaak, Moyie, and Slocan Rivers. The Kootenai Basin is largely mountainous and dominated by three major ranges. The Rocky Mountain Range and its offshoot, the Flathead Range, constitute the eastern boundary; the Purcell Range roughly bisects it from north to south. The Selkirk and Cabinet ranges mark the western boundary. Elevations reach a maximum of about 12,000 feet with most summit elevations between 6,000 and 7,500 feet. Except for a few areas, the entire watershed is heavily forested.

The Kootenai River supports fisheries populations of westslope cutthroat trout, bull trout, Kokanee salmon, and rainbow trout, among other species. White sturgeon also live in river, mostly below Kootenai Falls. Libby Dam, completed in 1972, has impacted fisheries values and water quality, although to what extent is still undetermined. Water quality within the Kootenai River basin is generally considered high and the river is considered to be a Blue Ribbon trout fishing river providing exciting sport fishing action. The drainage contains a wide variety of insect life, resulting in prolific hatches throughout the season. The Kootenai and its tributaries are the only waters in Montana to contain a native strain of rainbow trout, called Columbia Redbands, which are indigenous to the head waters of the Columbia River, and known for their excellent fighting ability.

The river varies from big and broad to the rushing waters in the China Rapids Canyon and over Kootenai Falls. The waters between the falls and Libby Dam offer a variety of deep water, shallow rapids and mid-stream islands for fishing access. Many people fish from the banks and islands or use drift boats and float tubes. Boat launches can be found along the shores of the Kootenai. Consistent angling usually starts around the middle of June and lasts well into November." ***

In Idaho, the Kootenai is a wonderful trout fishery. The last three times I have fished here, I have only seen one drift boat each day. Floats are generally long and will take most of the day. My favorite access points in Idaho are the Yaak River ramp in the campground and the access at Twin Rivers Campground near Moyie Springs, ID. While there, check out the Moyie River which dumps into the Kootenai at Twin Rivers. After snow melt, throw Adams and Elk Wing caddis to trout in feeding lines below rapids. The action is frequently non-stop for hours. The bigger fish however are in the summer once the hoppers arrive. The larger rainbow and cutties are generally hanging everywhere along the banks, near structure and even in the "frog" water. A midge caddis dropper off of your large foam hoppers will also bring fish to the boat. Another suggestion is large foam, ugly stonefly patterns. PS-Don't forget to stop frequently, take in the beauty and fish the multiple rapids and shoals all along the river which are only accessible by drift boat or raft. 

The Idaho Kootenai is almost never fished and can provide just as much action as the Montana side. Also, do not forget your Montana fishing license if you put in at the Yaak. The first six miles of river is in Montana. Have a great time and do fish the Kootenai when you can.

Idaho Angler (IdahoAngler@live.com)

            Idaho Fly Fishers
            Yellow StoneFly.com

*** Our thanks to the US Forest Service for providing some of this information.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Big Horn River, Montana

Nestled in the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains and north of the Big Horn Lake and Yellowtail Dam lies one of the best trout fisheries I have ever experienced. The Big Horn River flows from the dam north to the Yellowstone River east of Billings, MT. The 525 foot dam is at an elevation of 3,664 feet and produces a pristine, freestone tailwater fishery. Water flows are good providing good year-round aeration and an abundance of trout food. Hatches can be prolific and, with thousands of acres of surrounding wheat fields, hopper action in the summer is incredible.

 
Big Horn Rainbows-2010

During the months of July, August and September the flows are low at about 2,500 cfs. This makes for great wade and boat fishing. Summer best bets are dries like the black caddis, all kinds of large hoppers, yellow sallies and other mayflies. The remainder of the year is predominantly boat fishing due to higher water flows and all kinds of nymphs and streamers are effective. High flow dry hatches can surprise you as well. Also, don't count out streamers and nymphs in the summer, which some days can equal the dries. The first thirteen miles below the dam holds the most and best fish.

There is easy access from Billings, Mt to the north and Sheridan, WY, which is an equal distance to the south. Accomodations can be limited so call ahead. I would definitely suggest a guide for your first outing. Dave and Zoe at Absaraka Fishing Bear Cabins near the 3 1/2 mile river access can provide you with both a place to stay, great shore lunches and a guide. Their cabins are clean, convenient and reasonably priced. Visit their website and take a look at some of the "hogs" they have pictured there.

After your first day or two with a guide, you can rent a local drift boat if you prefer. If you do so, prepare yourself for a hard day of rowing, particularly if you encounter a strong headwind. One person, unless the river is wadable, must row at all times, while the other(s) get to fish. Your other option is to bring your own raft, kayak, or pontoon boat. All will work here and all are safe if you know what you are doing.

  
Big Horn Browns-2010

Any way you slice it, if you are an avid fly fisher, you really need to make a trip to this fishery. Should you have any questions regarding this incredible river, please contact me at: IdahoAngler@live.com .

Enjoy,

Idaho Angler (IDFFA.com)

Tags: Montana

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Friday, October 15, 2010

The Moyie River, Idaho

"The Moyie River, ID" posted by YellowStoneFly aka Idaho Angler at Idaho Fly Fishers blog. "Flowing almost due south out of British Columbia, the Moyie River is a jewel of the northwest. The Moyie River originates in southeast British Columbia. It flows northeast and east, collecting many headwater streams, before turning south and entering Moyie Lake. The river exits Moyie Lake to the south, flowing south and west by the village of Yahk British Columbia and Yahk Provincial Park before entering Idaho at Kingsgate, British Columbia and Eastport, Idaho.

Moyie Spring Rafting
In Idaho, the Moyie River flows nearly due south for about thirty miles, emptying into the Kootenai River near Moyie Springs, Idaho (Home of the "Little" Mall of America) several miles east of Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Near its mouth, the Moyie River tumbles over Moyie Falls. Near the falls is Moyie Dam, which was constructed in 1949.


Summertime Swimming Hole
The river has several oddly named pairs of tributaries. South of Moyie the river collects the tributaries of Sunrise Creek and then Sundown Creek. Farther south, it collects Irishman Creek and then Englishman Creek. At Yahk, Hawkins Creek joins the Moyie River. Hawkins Creek has two tributaries that begin in the United States and flow north into Canada: Canuck Creek and America Creek. Another odd name occurring along the river is the town of Good Grief, Idaho, which houses only one tavern to my knowledge." ***
Great Wade Fly Fishing

During the spring, snow melt creates great brook trout fishing by float. Several access points along the river make access easy and a small raft or even pontoon boat will suffice if you are careful. CAUTION: Stay well above Moyie Falls though. Flies such as large, foam stoneflies, stimulators and wooly buggers are the ticket. Brookies are in great numbers but an occassional very large rainbow will surprise you as well as they rise out of the deep holes which abound in every river turn. Summer time produces obviously lower flows but PMDs and large foam hoppers can produce some good action. Throw in an Adams and fish just above the dam for some nice cutties as well.
Favorite Run for Brookies

Wading access can be tough, but the Moyie is well worth the trip. This is a breathtakenly beautiful but remote area of northern Idaho.

Thanks for reading.

IdahoAngler@live.com

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*** Our thanks to Wikipedia for some of the information contained herein.

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