Fly Fishing Boise, Idaho 11 Great Places to Fly Fish


Boise, Idaho is a great area to fly fish. With plenty of reservoirs, rivers and trophy fish to catch, you will not run out of fish to find in the desert and mountain areas. Idaho does not disappoint when it comes to fly fishing. Below is a list of 11 places but there are many more that I will write about later.

  • South Fork of the Boise River
  • Horsethief Reservoir
  • Warm Lake
  • Boise River
  • CJ Strike Reservoir
  • Cascade Lake
  • Payette Lake
  • Mann Creek Reservoir
  • Magic Reservoir
  • Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir
  • Little Wood River Reservoir

Fly fishing is really picking up in popularity in Idaho and more places are becoming prime spots to fly fish. This article includes some of my favorite areas and the ones that are most fitting for individuals or groups. Check out which places I suggest so that you can get ahead of the game!

South Fork of the Boise River:

South Fork of the Boise River
South Fork of the Boise River

Types of fish: Rainbow, Bull, and Brook Trout

The South Fork begins in south-central Idaho’s Smoky Mountains north of Pine. Just a small freestone stream at its headwaters, it holds fair numbers of rainbow, bull, and brook trout.

There are lots of camping places all around Anderson Ranch Dam. But if you happen to be walking it or floating it there are lots of places to camp.

The South Fork of the Boise River lies about 70 miles east of Boise. It is one of the West’s most wonderful wild-trout fisheries. It offers heavily spotted and bright-sided rainbows that feed consistently on abundant mayfly, stonefly, and caddis hatches.

The river flows through a very remote and arid canyon, which abounds with wildlife. This includes mule deer, black bears, chucker partridge, ruffed grouse, and rattlesnakes.

You won’t see any second homes or no-trespassing signs on the banks of this stream. For most of its length, the South Fork flows through United States National Forest land or the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land.

Horsethief Reservoir

Horsethief Reservoir in Idaho
Horsethief Reservoir in Idaho

Types of Fish: rainbow trout, brown trout

Horsethief Reservoir is managed cooperatively by Fish and Game and the YMCA. Fish and Game manage Horsethief’s trout fishery, while the YMCA is responsible for campground management.

The reservoir is about 35 miles south of McCall.

This is a smaller reservoir that is stocked with lots of rainbow trout and brown trout. If you are a trout kind of person, I suggest going here.

The fish are a pretty good size here and you won’t find a lack of them. The area is beautiful with lots of trees and some hills that you can see out in the distance.

The only downside I can see to this place is the lack of variety in fish. Even that is not much of a negative point because trout are great for catching.

This is a great place to bring friends and teach new people the ways of fly fishing. This sport of fly fishing is growing and I think more people should try it out.

A few years ago, they had an invasion of bullheads and the fishery was drained. This was in the fall of 2015 when they drained the 500-acre lake.

They have restocked it and the fish are thriving again. The fish are not huge right now but they are growing some of the fish, I saw were over 16 inches.

This reservoir has everything for a memorable fishing weekend – a beautiful lake in the trees, good fishing and camping.

You can use a boat on this reservoir as there are no motor restrictions. But there is a 5mph no-wake speed zone.

It does have a ramp and boat docks.

There are also Handicapped accessible restrooms as well as ADA Access.

So with the boat allowance, this makes it nice for people who want to fish out in the lake. This is especially nice when the water temperature warms up and the fish move into the deeper water.

Warm Lake

Warm Lake, Idaho
Warm Lake, Idaho

Types of Fish: kokanee, lake trout, brook trout, rainbow trout, bull trout, mountain whitefish

Situated near Horsethief Reservoir is Warm Lake. The look of this place is similar to Horsethief with plenty of trees and hills to look at in the distance.

The main difference that I have found is there is a larger variety of fish here than there was at Horsethief Reservoir.

Besides the many different types of trout, you have the mountain whitefish and that is basically the only other type of fish besides trout.

I think this place has a similar feel to the last one. This is a good place for you to bring your friends and family. It is also a great place to bring someone who is new to fly fishing and wants to give it a try.

You can take motorized vehicles out on the water. And they have plenty of camping space if you plan on being there awhile.

This small campground provides campsites equipped with a picnic table, campfire ring and grill. Vault toilets, drinking water, and trash collection are provided at the campground, but electricity is not available.

They have plenty of fish to go around. If you find that you want a change of scenery or that there are too many people at Horsethief, give this place a look-see.

If you want to take a family trip out here for a weekend, there are a couple of places to stay. The North Shore Lodge & Resort is right on the lake.

They have cabins you can stay in. I know some people who have done this and really liked it. They really recommended it!

 Boise River

Fly Fishing Boise River
Fly Fishing Boise River courtesy of Bureau of Reclamation

The Boise River has all types of fish for you to catch, everything from trout to panfish.

The headwaters of the Boise River originate in the Sawtooth Mountains at elevations in excess of 10,000 feet

The Boise River consists of three separate forks that emerge from the Sawtooth Mountain Range. The North and Middle Forks of the river join together near the town of Idaho City.

The North fork is roughly 50 miles long. The Middle Fork of the Boise River is about a 52-mile stretch.

Once joined together, the river continues its flow until it reaches Aarowrock Reservoir. The South Fork of the Boise River is a 101-mile stretch that rises from the Sawtooth National Forest, out of the Soldier and Smoky Mountains near Fairfield, Idaho.

The South Fork flows into Aarowrock Reservoir and eventually joins the other sections at Aarowrock Dam.

Past the dam, the river flows west adding in the Mores Creek tributary as it passes through Lucky Peak Dam and into the Boise area.

Throughout the city of Boise, the river is lined with a 35 mile recreational and alternate transportation area known as The Boise Greenbelt.

The Boise River then winds west toward northern Canyon County, where it eventually meets up with The Snake River at the Idaho-Oregon border.

The Boise River is one of the best urban fisheries in the states, it is probably the most beautiful.  The South Fork is about an hour & a half away from Boise, an easy day drive.  There are many other spots to go camping as well should you want to fish any fork of the Boise River.

C.J. STRIKE RESERVOIR

CJ Strike Reservoir Idaho
CJ Strike Reservoir Idaho

Types of Fish are Large and smallmouth bass, crappie, perch, channel catfish, bluegill, rainbow trout, and even sturgeon. But you won’t catch them on your fly rod

Distance from Boise: One hour, 15 minutes.

CJ Strike Reservoir supports many different recreational opportunities. If you want to go camping at CJ Strike Reservoir, there are five campgrounds, the Bruneau Dunes State Park and various other Sportsman Access sites

The reservoir also offers some of the best pan fishing in the state, with perch, bluegill, crappie, and pumpkinseed all available. These fish can be a blast to catch on your fly rod.

There is also some very good large and smallmouth bass to be caught along with the rainbow trout.

The reservoir is regularly stocked with rainbow trout, which quickly grow to the perfect eating size. Fly fishing from shore or trolling with flies near the dam is some good ways to target rainbows.

 If you or your friends are tired of fishing, then there is boating, camping, swimming, water skiing, horseback riding, hiking and wildlife viewing. This reservoir is in the Snake River Valley with a view of the Owyhee Mountains.

The area is covered with sagebrush and tumbleweeds but holds a unique beauty that has made many people an Idaho fan. North Park, Scout Park, Locust Park, and Cottonwood Park are Idaho Power Company facilities and they are not reservable.

Lake Cascade

Lake Cascade
Lake Cascade

Types of Fish: bluegill, bullhead catfish, pumpkinseed, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, coho salmon, sunfish, kokanee, yellow perch, mountain whitefish, rainbow trout, white crappie

Lake Cascade is located in the Treasure Valley. This lake is absolutely breathtaking. On one side is a valley and the other is a large hill. This lake stretches on for what seems like forever. The sunsets here are amazing you will love to visit this place once you have done it

There is plenty of camping space here so bring your friends and family out for a weekend trip and see if they like it. I really enjoy fly fishing with others or even by myself. Either way, it is an experience I highly recommend.

One of the best things about fishing here is in the variety of fish. You can find over 10 species here. You probably will not ever get bored of this place. The lake is pretty big (47 square miles!) and it is stretched out. There are parts that offshoot and I suggest using that to your advantage.

A fun fact about the fish here is that Lake Cascade actually has a national reputation for their over-sized perch. The fish here also holds state records for their size.

You will not be disappointed by the fish here. Who knows, maybe you will catch the fish to hold the next record?

I know I mentioned it earlier but you can catch the fish while they migrate to warmer, areas as they are retreating from deeper areas.

Payette Lake

Payette Lake Idaho
Payette Lake Idaho

Types of Fish: kokanee, lake trout, cutthroat trout, rainbow trout

Payette Lake is one of those places that is seldom used, at least for ice fishing. It is kind of out of the way and it just has not been a hotspot for people to go.

This area is pretty unique because over thousands of years ago the lake was made from a massively tall 1,000-foot glacier. To add to the perspective, the glacier 2.5 miles wide and 8 miles long.

If you would rather fly fish alone, I recommend this place. Just because people do not go here often does not mean it is not worth your time. There are some pretty big trout here that are ripe for catching. What you will find here are different kinds of trout.

That is the haul here. Sometimes I want to practice in solitude and really pay attention to what I am doing. I want to be connected with what is happening in the water so I find somewhere quiet.

The people of this area love their lake and they have plenty of lore about it. There is a fictional monster that people talk about living in the water but it is probably just a big fish or folktale. Either way, make sure you take care of the place during your time on the lake. These people take pride in their lake.

Mann Creek Reservoir

Mann Creek Reservoir
Mann Creek Reservoir

Types of Fish: largemouth bass, redband trout, white crappie, rainbow trout

Mann Creek is a pretty solid place that you can always count on. The reservoir is stocked 3 times a year with your classic Idaho fish. The fish here are healthy and prime for taking.

I have gone here a couple of times. I like to go here when I just want to fly fish and I really do not care what I am getting. It has a good variety without being too much.

The thing about Mann Creek that stands out to me is that it is a two-story fishery. My first thought when I heard that was that they had a lower level and higher level separated by a dam or something to hold the water back. Not so.

It means that the reservoir is able to carry warm-water fish and cold-water fish. The top portion of the water column is warmer where the warmer water species can exist and the lower portion is colder for the fish that thrive there.

I think this is an amazing feat and it makes a single area able to inhabit multiple species of fish. That is why it has these different kinds of fish. I wanted to point that out because it will help if you are targeting certain fish.

If you want to warm-water fish you know to fish closer to the top of the reservoir. I hope that this knowledge will help you in the long run when you go to either Mann Creek Reservoir or any other place that has a two-story fishery.

Magic Reservoir

Magic Reservoir
Magic Reservoir

Types of Fish: yellow perch, brown trout, smallmouth bass, rainbow trout

A couple of hours away from Boise in Central Idaho is Magic Reservoir. This place is probably as you guessed, magical.

It is quite a majestic place it is mostly desert but there are a few trees where the big wood river comes in. The water is pristine and the few trees are green and thriving. The classic combo of trout and perch are here to be caught.

You can fry them out and have a good meal too. The fish will not grow as big as the Lake Cascade or some others but they will be big enough for a meal.

This is a popular destination for fly fishers in Central Idaho, plus the beautiful area brings in people year-round. Many younger anglers come to this place. Especially since the fly fishing sport is picking up in popularity with the younger crowd.

Something to be aware of: The water levels are changing often because of irrigation demands for the surrounding area. Because of this, some areas might be without fish because of the low levels.

Fortunately, during the winter there will not be as much of a problem with irrigation. It only really matters if a lot of water was taken before the reservoir froze over.

Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir

Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir
Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir

Types of Fish: cut bow trout, bluegill, smallmouth bass, walleye, yellow perch, white crappie, rainbow trout, bluegill, pumpkinseed, sunfish

Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir is a huge 14-mile stretch of water that starts at the top with the Salmon Creek Dam and ends just a little ways away from the Nevada border. Along with the massive size of the lake, there is a wide variety of fish.

This place is a great spot to bring your friends and family. There are plenty of camping spots for you to stay while you are here. There is not a shortage either because of the size of this reservoir.

There are a few sites up by the dam and boat ramp and docks. This area has some public restrooms and a few have fire rings and tables.

The fly fishing here and access points may vary depending on how the weather is. This is a high desert area so it can get pretty rainy and wet which can make it muddy.

You can use motorized vehicles out here, assuming you can get your vehicle in a good place to get on the water. This tends to be a popular area and you will probably find areas already laid out and able to be reached that were created by other people.

Salmon Falls has some huge walleye. Many trophy fish are found here. If you are itching to catch some big walleye, this is the place. Some of the biggest walleyes I have ever found were found here at Salmon Falls Creek.

Little Wood River Reservoir

Little Wood River Reservoir
Little Wood River Reservoir

Types of Fish: brook trout, rainbow trout

This reservoir is just north of the town of Carey, Idaho the sign is on the North end of town.

Little Wood Reservoir which is formed by Little Wood Dam is a major facility of the Little Wood Project. This area is managed by the Bureau of Reclamation.

This large impoundment offers a 360-acre reservoir with 9 miles of shoreline. Boating and fishing are some of the major recreation activities at Little Wood Reservoir. It is located in southcentral Idaho, about 70 miles northeast of Twin Falls.

The fishing opportunities are for rainbow, cutthroat, and brook trout. This area is open year-round and offers restrooms, boat ramps, campground, parking, picnic tables, and swimming.

Little Wood River Reservoir is filled with trout, that is why I like this place, it is simple. I know what to expect from it.

The Little Wood is just southeast of the Sawtooth National Forest. While you are here you should check out the Craters of the Moon National Monument. It is incredible, but that is not what I am talking about today.

I love to trout fish here. It is simple and one of my favorite places in Idaho is right nearby. The national forest is just up ahead and so is Bell Mountain. Little Wood is great to go to when you are visiting other areas as well during the summer.

Here are a couple of related articles here is one and here is number two

Dean Jensen

I started fly fishing in 1972 and I have learned quite a bit about this wonderful sport called fly fishing and I want to share some of the things that I have learned.

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