The Trout Fishing Guide to Idaho
Trout Fishing Near Me: Idaho Edition
Trout Fishing Near Me is a blog series that highlights trout fishing opportunities and resources in particular regions. Our goal is to provide you with a comprehensive summary to get you started with your trout fishing journey – we want to help you spend more time on the water and less time on the road by highlighting some of the best trout fishing opportunities the state has to offer.
Table of contents
- Regions for Fly Fishing in Idaho
- Seasons – Best Time to Go
- Idaho Trout Fishing Regulations
- Stream Access Laws of Idaho
- Books and Other Resources
- Fly Fishing Women of Idaho
Idaho Trout Fishing
Overall Ranking: 9 / 10
A lot of times when you ask someone what the first thing to come to mind when you say Idaho is, you’ll be met with a response of “potatoes”. Now if you ask a fly angler the same question, you’ll likely be met with “incredible trout waters”. It is clear that the state of Idaho is one of the most under-the-radar states in the entire lower 48 when it comes to outdoor recreation. Idaho seems to be often overlooked when planning a trip for states like Montana and Wyoming, when in reality Idaho may have some of the best fishing opportunities of all three! Take the roads less traveled and explore all that Idaho has to offer, you won’t regret it.– Matthew Mendini, TroutRoutes
Want to skip this guide and jump to the maps? Click below.
The allure around fly fishing for trout in the West drives people to states such as Montana and Colorado on a regular basis. One western state that is often overlook is the great state of Idaho. From unforgettable fly fishing opportunities to the the incredible scenery along the way, we’re going to show you why Idaho needs to be on your list of trips to take.
Whether you are searching for cold spring creeks that run through desert parries, or high elevation small streams in the Sawtooth’s, there is no shortage of water to explore. Follow along as we dive into fly fishing in the state of Idaho.
Regions for Fly Fishing in Idaho
When planning a fishing trip to an area you have never visited, it is common to ask yourself, “Where should I go to catch fish?” Well, when it comes to Idaho, there is no “bad” place. Idaho is unique because of the fact the government owns about 65% of the land in the state, which they work to keep protected for fishing. And, while there are well-known places all across the state, the Eastern section, home to the South Fork of the Snake River and the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River, seems to be the most popular. Let’s take a look at the rest of the state.
When it comes to western Idaho, the South Fork of the Payette River is a must fish. Supporting populations of wild rainbow trout, this area can be a dry fly purist’s paradise. But just because the dry fly action from spring through fall can be incredible, don’t sleep on the winter fishing opportunities on the Payette as they offer some of the best in the state. Alpine lakes within the western part of the state are also stocked with rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, cutbow (rainbow-cutthroat hybrids), golden trout, and arctic grayling which only adds to the fun that can be had.
If you are looking to get far away from other people when fishing in Idaho, the northern part of the state is going to be your playground. Kelly Creek is another gem, which is located in the northern part of the state. Home to the Clearwater National Forest and waterways such as Kelly Creek, this area of Idaho is home to a multitude of west slope cutthroat trout. Catch and release regulations are in effect in many areas of northern Idaho, so make sure you are aware of the regulations where you are fishing. Just like most areas in the state, fishing in northern Idaho can be enjoyable spring through fall, but August and September tend to offer the best conditions for anglers in this part of the state.
If you are looking to fish still water for trout, the southern section of Idaho will be your go-to as there are lakes and reservoirs galore. Be that as it may, there are still moving waters to be found, most notably the Lower Malad River below Malad George State Park which has become known for big, beautiful rainbow trout.
As mentioned, eastern Idaho is, without a doubt, the most notable section of the state for fly fishing. Outside of the Salmon River, the Teton Valley is largely responsible for this area being so memorable. People come from all over the world to venture through the valley and trout fish one of the many spring creeks that hold some of the most beautiful cutthroat you can find anywhere in the country. The most memorable section of river in this area of the state is along the Teton River outside of Victor, Idaho, flowing for 64 miles in totality.
Seasons – Best Time to Go
When it comes to fishing in the state of Idaho, while you can find fish willing to play at almost any time of the year, there are certainly specific times of the year that you can focus on to have a better chance at success.
The first season to consider is the spring if you are in search of rainbow or cutthroat trout. During this time, these fish are coming out of the spawn and actively searching for ways to replenish the nutrients they lost during the spawning season. As summer rolls around, the hoppers come out and will make the wrong jump into the water giving you the opportunity to tie on a big dry fly and watch fish come break the surface for big bugs. The final season to key in on is the fall for big brown trout. Brown trout in the pre-spawn are territorial. They will vehemently defend their territory against intruders.
The opportunities in Idaho to explore and learn about the fish, seasons and how they behave are endless.
Idaho Trout Fishing Regulations
The Seasons and Regulations for trout in Idaho, as in many other states, can be complex. We strongly encourage you to check out the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s (IDFG) Fishing Seasons & Rules booklet.
All angler in Idaho age 14 and over must purchase a fishing license. Idaho residents under age 14 do not need a fishing license. Non-residents under age 14 do not need a license if they are fishing with an adult who has a valid Idaho fishing license. A non-resident child’s catch counts toward the licensed adult’s limit.
Both residents and non-residents are required to buy special permits for salmon and steelhead fishing, or if fishing with two poles.
Licenses can be purchased online, at a vendor (click or tap here for a map of businesses that sell licenses), by phone at 1-800-554-8685, or in person at any Fish & Game regional office.
In Idaho, it is unlawful to fish in any waters with more than one handline or pole with a line attached, except a person with a two pole permit may use two poles; or with more than five lines while ice fishing; or by archery, spearfishing, snagging, hands, and netting except as permitted. Not more than five hooks may be attached per line. The line or lines must be attended by the person fishing.
*It is illegal to use chemicals, poisons, electric current, or explosives for fishing.
Idaho General Fishing Information
Stream Access Laws of Idaho
Disclaimer: We are not lawyers, and this is not legal advice. If you are in doubt, always respect and abide by private and posted lands. By reading this, you acknowledge we are providing our own understanding and do not guarantee the legal accuracy of this information (aka don’t sue us).
Great, now that we got that out of the way. Here is the summary on public access to trout streams in Idaho, an incredibly important issue.
Summary: Navigable streams are defined as any stream which, in its natural highwater condition, will float logs or any other commercial or floatable commodity, or is capable of being navigated by oar or motor propelled small craft for pleasure or commercial purposes. Navigable streams are recognized as public transportation corridors, thus members of the public have the right to use the corridor, provided they enter and exit the corridor at a public right of way, and remain within the corridor.
*Many navigable streams flow through private property, thus it is important that anglers know their rights and responsibilities when fishing in navigable waters that flow through private property.
When fishing in navigable streams bordered by private property:
• You must stay within the normal high-water marks of the stream, unless you have landowner permission to get out on the bank, or have no other means of getting around an obstruction in the stream (such as a fence or diversion dam).
• When getting outside of the stream to go around an obstruction, take the shortest, most direct route around the obstruction to get back in the stream.
• Do not allow pets or children to trespass on adjacent private property, without landowner permission.
• You may enter and exit navigable streams at other public rights of way, such as county road bridges.
• ASK FIRST! Always get landowner permission before crossing private lands outside of a public right of way.
Find a PDF explaining the Navigability and Public Access rights of Idaho here.
How to find fishing easements?
In general, fishing easements in the state of Idaho are rather difficult to find information about. The TroutRoutes app eliminates the headache of spending hours online instead of on the water by quickly and easily showing you the few easements that do exist around the state. With TroutRoutes, you also get many other features such as GPS, real-time stream conditions, and tons of other layers like camping, parking and bridge locations, trail access, and more.
One main advantage of TroutRoutes from an easement perspective is that the maps are moving towards being nationwide. We spend an incredible amount of time making the maps cross state lines. So for Idaho and Montana trout stream easements, there is no second resource you need to find with the Montana FWP.
Books and Other Resources
There are a ton of resources out there to help you on your trout fishing journey, especially in Idaho. To start, try one of the many high-quality fly shops in the state. Stop in, shop around, buy some stuff, and ask questions. Secondly, if you are new to the sport or an area, hiring a guide is an incredibly valuable investment, particularly for fly fishing. If you plan to fly fish for more than a year, you’ll want to learn the basics without spending years learning on your own. Hire a guide.
Beyond that, there are many resources for you to dive into, ranging from books to public government resources to professional map offerings like TroutRoutes. We’ll break these down below.
Books for Trout Fishing in Idaho
Fly Fishing Idaho’s Secret Waters
Chris Hunt, 2014
Idaho’s clear flowing rivers are world famous for fly fishing, but finding that elusive perfect spot to land a trophy in the vast wilderness requires a lot of time and knowledge. Fortunately, writer, angler and conservationist Chris Hunt has traveled to some of the state’s most idyllic areas to find the best fishing the Gem State has to offer. Adventurous anglers can follow his directions off the beaten path to enjoy excellent scenery and even better fishing. Brimming with expert tips and seasonal strategies for each location, this handy guide will find its place in a dry pocket for every successful excursion.
Where to buy: Most local fly shops and Amazon
Idaho Blue-Ribbon Fly Fishing Guide
John Shewey, 1999
Famous for its fly fishing waters, Idaho has a lot to offer the trout angler. In the Idaho Blue Ribbon Fly Fishing Guide, learn the great destinations, fish species, the best flies and techniques, hatches and more.
Where to buy: Most local fly shops
Fly Fishing Idaho: A Quick, Clear Understanding of Where to Fly Fish in Idaho
Bill Mason, 2001
This guide gives you a quick, clear understanding of the essential information you’ll need to fly fish Idaho’s most outstanding waters. Why No Nonsense? The No Nonsense approach means you won’t waste time. In a few moments you’ll know how to fly fish the most enjoyable and rewarding waters in Idaho. Detailed, hand-drawn maps annotated by the author show you where to fish and how to get there. Read this guide and you’ll want to go fly fishing in Idaho. Read this guide and you’ll know how to go fly fishing in Idaho. Pack this guide in your car or take it stream side (or lake side) for ready reference and fly fishing fun. You’ll learn about the Salmon River, Silver Creek, Henry’s Fork, the Teton, and many more.
Where to buy: Most local fly shops and Amazon
Flyfisher’s Guide to Idaho
Ken Retallic, 1996
In the Fly Fisher’s Guide to Idaho, Ken Retallic and Rocky Barker have put together most everything you need to know about fishing in the state.
Covers over 40 rivers with detailed maps showing access points, mileage and camp sites, stream data on each river including seasons, special regulations, trout, river miles, river character, water flows, hatches, insect patterns plus much more.
Where to buy: Most local fly shops
Idaho River Maps & Fishing Guides
Greg Thomas, 2015
Idaho River Maps & Fishing Guide features Idaho detailed river maps and that is only the beginning.
Whether you are casting from the bank or fishing from a boat, Idaho River Maps & Fishing Guide tells you where to be and when to be there.
Where to buy: Most local fly shops and Amazon
USGS Stream Gages
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) maintains thousands of in-stream flow gages that provide real-time data from streams of interest to trout anglers. Data typically comes in the form of flow height, flow discharge and sometimes temperature. If you know where to look and have the time, this can be a useful resource in researching timing of when to head out on your next trip. For example, in the Spring during snow melt or during the summer after major rainstorms, the discharge of a stream can fluctuate dramatically and have a huge impact on fishing. Some anglers target these times for darker water streamer fishing, while others avoid it for the more stable dry fly fishing tactics. Regardless, it’s critical to know stream levels and flow. Below is a screen shot of the USGS output of a trout stream in South-West Idaho.
The downside of the USGS interface is its quite difficult to navigate and interact with. We personally end up typing in a specific gage location or ID to find the charts, and the output is a static image. For this reason we integrated the same functionality into TroutRoutes where you can view the gages within the map, tap the gage for current conditions and view charts that are interactive. One downside of the TroutRoutes charts is we currently don’t have averages displayed, which is a key piece of insight that we’ll be adding soon. The screenshot to the left shows the same chart as the USGS chart shown above, to give you an example.
Fly Fishing Women of Idaho
According to United Women on the Fly, there are currently six active groups within the state of New York focused on women in fly fishing. The groups are:
Luckily for the Idaho trout fishing angler, there is a variety of mapping resources available. The good folks at the Idaho Fish and Game have done a great job managing and administering their IDFG Fishing Planner. If you’re looking for something more when it comes to maps, we of course have to recommend TroutRoutes.
IDFG Fishing Planner
The IDFG Fishing Planner is an advanced tool to explore fishing opportunities in Idaho. You can find detailed information about Idaho’s waters, stocking reports, species, facilities, maps and rules. With more than 75 data layers available, it is a powerful application that shows both environmental quality monitoring and natural resource information together in one place.
*Within the IDFG Fishing Planner you can find “Recommended Fishing Waters”. Regional fisheries managers have selected these rivers, lakes and streams as good locations for catching fish with reasonable access. Amenities, including restrooms, docks, boat ramps and motor restrictions have been inventoried at these locations.
Full Disclosure: Yes, we work here 🙂
Our mission at TroutRoutes is to provide a comprehensive mapping platform that has all the information you could need integrated into one platform. We do this across state lines, providing one system for over 35 states currently. So while the IDFG Fishing Planner can be incredibly useful (and always free), our goal is to make that information (and a lot more) available for every state in one useful tool.
Our system is an interactive map that has a variety of features, many of which are not available on other resources mentioned before. TroutRoutes shows your GPS location, provides you directions to anywhere in the map, is available offline, and helps you identify and navigate private and public land boundaries. We also have new layers for things like camping, boat ramps, parking, trail heads, and many more. The caveat: its not free, but there is a free 7-day trial to check it out for yourself. The table below shows a summary of the main tradeoffs for the various mapping resources available for trout fishing in Idaho.
Want to try TroutRoutes Pro? Get started with a free 7-day trial at the link below!
We hope we’ve made the case that Idaho is one of the most slept-on trout fishing states in the country. If you are a Idaho trout angler or have the opportunity to make the trip, we highly encourage you to check out some of the many resources outlined in this article. If you’d like to add content or request a change, always feel free to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributors: This article was written by Matthew Mendini in November of 2022. Matthew is the Content Marketing Specialist for TroutRoutes. Additional contributors include Idaho BLM and Idaho Fish & Game.