Idaho has always been a Mecca for fly fishing. There are so many great rivers that one really cant go wrong when picking a place to fish. Idaho boasts excellent trout fishing in such rivers as the South Fork Snake River, Henry Fork of the Snake River, and the Boise River to name a few. It is also a great place to catch the journeying Steelhead that frequent the Clearwater and Salmon Rivers. But what about the lesser known rivers? This series explores five of our favorite Idaho rivers that deliver a great fly fishing experience for any angler. Chances are however, you will mostly likely be the only angler on them.
The Falls River
The Falls River begins its journey in the Southwest corner of Yellowstone National Park north of Beula Lake. It gains some momentum as smaller creeks dump into it, but really adds some flow when it meets the Bechler River right before it exits the Park. The Falls River then travels south out of the park where it waterfalls down an elevation drop forming the often visited Cave Falls. At this point it crosses from Wyoming to Idaho where another even more more spectacular waterfall exists called Sheep Falls. Falls River then passes through some pretty rugged country before flowing through the famous Idaho potato farms east of Ashton where it eventually dumps into the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River just west of Highway 20 above the Chester Dam.
Depending on where you fish along the Falls River, getting there can be a chore. I have fished just above the bridge along Highway 20 and had some luck, but the best stretch of the Falls River in my opinion is just east of Ashton, Idaho. To get there, take Highway 47 out of Ashton and as it heads north, go east on Marysville Road. A few miles east of the turn one may turn right on 4500E and access the Falls River off the bridge (which is great fishing, but many know that), but for complete solitude (and fantastic fly fishing) continue on Marysville Road. It eventually turns to a dirt road called Cave Falls Road (FR 582). You eventually notice the landscape drastically changed to very thick, rugged forest. After many miles, you will notice a road (FR124) that turns right. Take this road. If you get to the Bechler River Ranger Station turn off or entered Wyoming, you have gone to far. FR 124 starts out nice, but to reach the Falls River you have to traverse some pretty crappy roads. Once there, you can fish up or down the river. Down river is Sheep Falls which can be excellent fly fishing. However, it isn’t for the faint of heart. The hiking is pretty tough and your friends in the river could easily be Moose (Big Ones) or Grizzly Bear. I would definitely recommend taking the bear essentials (the bells, spray, etc) or just a buddy that runs slower than you. My couple of trips there only lent me to see Moose, but if you talk to the park rangers at Bechler, they will inform you to be careful because the Grizzlies to reside really close to this area
This is a unique river in that the farther upstream you go, the better the fishing is. The long hikes and off-trail access minimize fishing pressure, especially around the Sheep Falls area. Much of the Fall River drainage was devoid of trout above Cave Falls. It is believed that Sheep Falls and Cave Falls were the historic upstream barriers for trout. Most of the luck I have had fly fishing the Falls River has been sub surface with such flies as: Prince Nymphs, Hares Ears, Pheasant Tails, and Stone Fly Nymphs. The first significant aquatic insect to emerge is the pale morning dun. Beginning in July you’ll see stoneflies, and Brown and Green Drakes. I have also thrown leeches, streamers, and woolly buggers with some success as well. Just below Sheep Falls you get some nice deep runs with bigger trout. The average size trout in these waters is about 12 – 14 inches long, but many places along the Falls River it isn’t uncommon to land trout north of 20 inches. Also, fishing the Falls River near Highway 20 will produce some nice Browns as well.
If you are heading to Idaho and want to get away from the crowds then the Falls River could be your ticket. The wildlife and serenity are great. It is a backpacking, fly fisherman, and photographer’s nirvana.