I love the Middle Fork of the Boise River. There are several area rivers that can make you feel foolish, but the Middle Fork is not one of those. No pretenses or false advertising. The Middle Fork is what it is. A place you can take a minimalist approach to fly fishing and still expect to hammer fish all day. Nothing large but feisty 10-12 inch rainbows are the norm. My brother landed one that surely would have went 15 on this trip and that was a real trophy here. I could have left my fly box at home on this trip and just stuffed a couple foam hoppers in my pocket and hit the river because that was all I needed for a great day on the river.
And the Playing Field
You would think we would have done this float about a hundred times by now. Since we live within two hours of a great trout stream with summer flows that are great for floating a drift boat. However yesterday we took the drift boat down the South Fork of the Boise River below Anderson Ranch Dam for the first time ever. It was a bit of a learning experience that went something like this.
Due to some other obligations we did not even put in until 4:00pm. We arrived right in the middle of a great Pink Cahill hatch but floating from a drift boat is not the optimal way to present small dry patterns to pockets of feeding fish. You only get one shot as you drift by and being as this was our first time floating this river we didn't want to do too much stopping, not knowing how long our float was going to be. After having a few flashes and a strike and a miss but relatively little action we were a little discouraged. Then the sun dipped behind the hills and almost all surface feeding activity halted on the river. With a still fishless boat of three frustrated anglers Kelly suggested I tie on one of my streamers. Fishing streamers from a boat is a blast as often from your elevated perch you will witness some of the most violent takes as a fish comes flying out of nowhere to attack the fly. I tied on a Zonker and we continued down the river. Action continued to be slow for a while until we drifted into a small side channel and I threw the fly up against an undercut bank and watched a torpedo blast it. Finally the skunk was off.
The Skunk Buster
It turned out we were very near our takeout and when we took the boat out with an hour and a half of daylight remaining we decided we could fit in an abbreviated float and give the streamers another go.
Reshuffling vehicles and the boat upstream about two and a half miles we shoved off into the current again focused on streamers. It didn't take long for this to prove a very wise move. As I was on the oars I noticed the opposite bank looked very promising and I didn't remember hitting it on the first float down. So I pulled a couple times to cross the narrow channel and Kelly and my brother Todd began working the bank with searching casts. It only took a couple seconds for the action to start and it came quick. Bang, Kelly got a strike, but it was gone, then wham...Todd had a hookup with a good fish. As we shuffled the net back to him Kelly set the hook on a healthy fish. After fishing for 4 hours for one fish we suddenly had a double. With all the action and the net passing back and forth we didn't get a picture of either fish as we wanted to get them both back in the water healthy, but both fish were pushing 20 inches without a doubt. It wasn't long and Kelly hooked up with another fish of similar size.
One of Kelly's bows
Then darkness settled in on us fast and by the time we pulled into the takeout again fishing was tough but it had been an action packed final hour that made for three happy faces on the drive home.