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South Fork Snake River

1824 Views 6 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  surfnsully
I recently had a chance to go along on a 3 day float trip with four friends from work on the South Fork of the Snake River in Idaho. Word had it the salmon fly hatch was starting and we wanted to hit it just right. It was too good of an opportunity to turn down. Besides, I had never fished a salmon fly hatch anywhere and I needed a way to celebrate my 40th, so I was all in. In truth, the South Fork of the Snake has been on my list for a while now, so I was giddy as a school girl being asked to the prom by the quarterback: 'Sure, I'd love to go!'

We took off from Twin Falls around noon on a Friday, and after securing all our camping gear etc., launched a Cataraft and a Hyde drift boat at the Spring Creek boat ramp near Swan Valley around 5PM.

This is fairly large water at this time of year and is controlled by the flow out of Palisades Dam. On this weekend levels were around 13,000 cfs (they can get up as high as 30,000 earlier in the spring):
Water Sky Water resources Mountain Fluvial landforms of streams

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We floated past the South Fork Lodge that first afternoon (some of you may have seen this featured in NWFF a few years ago). Looked pretty swanky even from this distance:
Water Sky Mountain Cloud Highland

This area is renowned for moose, and I did see one swimming across the river, but it was too far off to get a decent photo. Lots of other wildlife around though, but missed a shot of some sandhill cranes and an osprey with a fish in its talons:
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Sky Bird Branch Twig Tree

First campsite and a frosty morning (putting on 'iced shorts' was a fun experience - lesson learned)
Sky Plant Ecoregion Watercraft Natural landscape

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Plant Hammock Tree Terrestrial plant Grass

There was no salmon fly activity the first two days, and we mostly fished a sz 6 brown/black rubber legs with a trailing sz 18 beadhead flashback pheasant tail. That combo seemed to do the trick for much of the first two days.

Here's a shot of my first Yellowstone cutthroat. This was a pretty momentous occasion for me - I've become a bit of a 'collector' of trout via photos of fish I've caught. Still trying to get my hands on the fine spotted version (maybe next time).
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Some pretty amazing geology throughout the canyon section of the float:
Water Sky Mountain Water resources Lake

Water Sky Plant Fluvial landforms of streams Larch

Sky Water Mountain Water resources Plant

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No salmon flies on day 2, but yellow sallies (I think) were in the air during the afternoon:
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But by the morning of the third day, and a little farther downstream - JACKPOT!!!
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Insect Arthropod Plant Dragonflies and damseflies Dragonfly

Decisions, decisions...what to go with...?
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It was still early in the hatch, so I went with a salmon fly dry for fishing the edges of the bank, with a brown rubber legs trailing behind. That combo had some success, but it wasn't 'lights-out' fishing. We were still a little early for the full salmon fly bonanza dreams are made of. Nonetheless, we had a good time fishing the gravel bars, pulling over frequently to fish the troughs and drop offs:
Water Sky Boat Water resources Plant community

Plant Water Sky Plant community Boat

Around noon there was a large mayfly hatch (lots of them and they were BIG...nearly 'Silver Creek Brown Drake' big). The fish in the trough in the photo below starting going absolutely berserk for whatever was buzzing around. I saw a large cutthroat hanging out just below the surface, and as god is my witness that fish slurped up 3-5 flies at the surface in a matter of seconds and never went deep enough where I couldn't see him at all times. Feeding frenzy.

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We threw a variety of mayflies at them and they took nearly everything we tried (green drakes, BWOs, yellow sallies, you name it). I tied on a sz 14 parachute adams and moved to the head of the trough in the photo above to let the fly drift over the edge and over where the fishing were lying. Smart move. I pulled out a few whitefish (yes, on a parachute adams...crazy, I know! I didn't think that was possible), a nice 8 inch brown, a nice cutthroat, and a rainbow that made my reel scream! This rainbow initially took off for the pullout five miles downstream (it's not a pig, but it was strong).
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We had to get home at some point so we left this spot (despite moderate protests from me: 'you don't leave fish to find fish!'), but along he way the parachute adams caught fish the rest of the afternoon and I never went back to the salmon fly. Looks like I'll have to try and hit it just right again next year, but for now I'm very happy with the parachute adams. I've never had such good dry fly action. Here's few more photos:

Sky Water Mountain Nature Highland
Water Sky Mountain Plant community Plant
Water Sky Vertebrate Tree Lake
Salmon-like fish Fish Oncorhynchus Fisherman Recreational fishing


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Thanks for the report. This brings back memories of car camping in the fall.
Thanks for all the photos and detailed write-up. Sounds like a great trip!
Nice, I love the South fork. Last time I fished it it was high also. We used wooly buggers and still had fun. I got to fish it one July and it was awesome dryfly fishing with my Dad. If you want the fine spotted just head across to wyoming.
glad you had a good trip, Mems
Thanks for sharing. The SFS is still on my bucket list :)
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