Winter Campout: Idaho’s South Fork Boise River

It’s as easy as this—you get your winter-weary ass off that couch, tie a few Zebra Midges and Brassies, plus a few Parachute Baetis, and you drive an hour from Boise or as long as it takes from anywhere else you might be hibernating and you set up camp on the South Fork. And the reason you do this in the dead of winter? Because the South Fork Boise is a great rainbow trout fishery and it delivers all year, including days in late-February and, especially, March.

McCrystal throwing to a pod of risers.

I live in Montana, but I used to live in Ketchum and then Hailey, Idaho and I made frequent forays to the South Fork. The late winter/early spring fishing probably was my favorite of the year. I visited the South Fork again last March and found similar fishing, meaning lots of 12-to 17-inch rainbows.

Through March, expect a midge and Baetis show with afternoons producing best, usually the timeframe between 2 and 4 p.m. Technical emergent Baetis patterns and adult midge imitations work great, but a couple old standbys draw plenty of takes and I’m the kind of fisherman who still likes to throw the classic patterns, maybe because I think fishing can become too technical and intimidating at times and some of the pure joy and easy mindedness gets lost. I say that after spending a solid portion of six years fishing south-central Idaho’s Silver Creek, which is about as technical as you can get. I wanted the challenge back then and I’m not taking anything away from the creek or the challenge because I would happily fish it 200 days this year if I could. But, on the South Fork some basic patterns, such as the Parachute Adams and the Double Midge or Grffith’s Gnat work fine. Underneath the surface, Brassies and Pheasant Tails draw takes.

Payoff for a solid cast.

Another great thing about the South Fork is it’s located a ways away from things and it flows through a beautiful, rugged and wild canyon. A dirt road parallels a portion of the river and along that route there are several places to camp, some improved and others on BLM land.
I’m telling you—pack up the tent, sleeping pad and a bag. Fill the cooler with steaks and pork chops and potatoes and asparagus such. Set about four cases of the High Life in the pickup truck. Throw in the two-burner stove and roll.

Here are some more shots from last year’s trip, giving you some incentive to make the good choice.

We should have taken firewood splitting 101 in which the first rule is bring an axe and a maul. Lacking those tools, we did the best we could.

McCrystal, the owner of Jen's Garden in Sister's Oregon, whips up a tailgate delicacy.

While camping on the SF you're a long way from entertainment. So T.R. and I made our own.


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