Idaho Fly Fishers Blog

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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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Monday, July 23, 2012

St. Joe (ID) means Cutties

Not many fishermen up high!

"St. Joe (ID) means Cutties" is presented by YellowStoneFly of the Idaho Fly Fishers Blog. I have lived here for 2 1/2 years and never fished this great river. Reputably the foremost cutthroat trout stream in the country, I had to see for myself.

17" Cutthroat - Sorry, flopped as I took photo.
This river is located in the St. Joe National Forest, which is a U.S. National Forest located in the Idaho panhandle and is one of three forests that are aggregated into the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. Its headwaters begin in the mountains bordering Idaho and Montana and flows for over 90 miles though some of the most beautiful forests anywhere. I fished it in July, just after snow melt and spring rains as the water had just begun to fall. The only fish we caught were cutthroat which were numerous, fat and plentiful.

We fished about 35 miles above the town of Avery, ID. The river here is about 50 yards wide and fairly shallow. We caught most of our fish in just 2-3 feet of gin clear water. In the morning, the fish would hit just about anything on top including yellow Crackle-Backs, Male Adams and Royal Wulffs. In the afternoon, we were more successful with size 14-16 Stimulators with yellow bodies and orange or red heads. Most of our many fish were in the 12 inch range, but we landed one of at least 17" and lost another that would probably go 20" or more.

Even though shallow, there are some large submerged rocks and they were very slippery. A wading staff really helped with the wade for flow was strong. My understanding is that once the hoppers begin the actions really picks up. This year they are late due to the long and wet spring. Dave's hopper is a good choice designed on the vise of Dave Whitlock. Others swear by Prince Nymphs. Any way you slice it, this is one of those rivers all Idaho fly fishers and others should definitely fish.

Nice fat female.
Probably the only disadvantage to the St. Joe is its location. Below Avery, the locals say there are mostly "junk" fish particularly in the late summer. I can definitely recommend the stretch above there. There is a good 40 miles of accessible river upstream. Getting there, well can be a chore. There are only two ways in and out. If you go through St. Maries, ID it is an hour and a half up to Avery, then another 27 miles (45 minutes) to the best fishing area. By the way, there is an RV park and cabins in Avery and primitive camping above there (about another 29 miles). In the summer, I believe it is easier to get to the upper portion of the river by going to St. Regis, MT on I-90 and taking the Little Joe Road (ask anyone how to find) over the mountains. 29 miles and about 45 minutes with about 12 miles of good gravel on the Montana side. Turn left when you hit the river road. Remember, you will be in Idaho, so license accordingly.

So go enjoy some great Idaho fly fishing on the St. Joe the next time you are up this way.

Dave's Hopper
Tags:  Furled Leaders by Jamie
           "YSF Stinger" Perfected
           Adams Male

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