Upper Blackfoot River (Idaho) Fishing Report:: Where Big Cutts Roam!

October 27, 2008

Blackfoot River, Frenzy, Reports, Reviews

When you hear about fishing the Blackfoot River, most of our thoughts probably head to Montana, where the Blackfoot River is famous for delivering trophy trout. However, there is another lesser known Blackfoot River that can also satisfy the hungry angler desires to catch big trout. About 30 minutes north of Soda Springs, Idaho lays an oasis for Big Cutthroats.

The goal of this post is to arm the serious angler with the tools and know how to have an unbelievable experience in one of the lesser known Idaho Rivers or the ‘other’ Blackfoot River. The Upper Blackfoot River is formed at the convergence of Lanes Creek and Diamond Creek (both great fisheries) about 30 miles north of Soda Springs. It meanders through pastoral valleys, alongside canyon-like walls and eventually dumps into the Blackfoot Reservoir. This section of the Blackfoot is only about 20 – 30 feet wide with a few ripples that slow to deep pools throughout this stretch. It then exits out of the northwest corner of the reservoir and eventually dumps into the Snake River south of Blackfoot, Idaho.

My fly fishing frenzy buddies (Frenziers) and I headed to Soda Springs Idaho this last weekend to experience rumors we had heard about the large cutthroat trout that inhabit the Upper Blackfoot River. We camped along the Bear River south of Soda Springs just across the county border into Bear Lake County Idaho. We weathered the cold temperatures and awoke Friday morning with the excitement of a child on Christmas morning. After awaiting the arrival of 2 fellow frenziers, we fished the Bear River until about 12noon and headed north to fish the Blackfoot River.

To arrive at the Blackfoot River, one must take Highway 34 north out of Soda Springs toward Jackson Hole, Wyoming. About 10 miles North on Highway 34 you will hit the booming metropolis of China Hat (There is one store that has an RV Park behind it). Turn right on Blackfoot River Road and stay, I repeat, stay on the Blackfoot River Road. There are some forks in the Road, but it is well marked with road signs. You will then go from paved to gravel and at that point you continue to the section of the Upper Blackfoot known as ‘The Narrows’, aptly named for the rock cliffs that adorn the left side of the road and the river that runs along the right side of the road. This journey is a mostly eastward jaunt that turns directly north as you enter The Narrows’. Continue north until you are steered east once again (just passed Rasmussen Valley Road) and look for the first Sportsman Access parking lot (equipped with Port-a-Potty) on your right. It is about 100 yards after you start east again. Be sure you get a license. I have been there 3 times and every time I have seen Forest Service or Fish and Game. Also, to keep the fish healthy and around for anglers pleasure, it is a single barbless hook fishery.

I am sure there are different methods for catching these elusive Cutts, but for this post I will focus on what worked well for me and my frenzying fellows. This is where the fun begins. Justin Pond aka “Yetter” and I went upstream as Brent Ramey aka “Big Hoss” and Sean Whalen went downstream. The key to this section of the river is being stealthy. There are grassy banks as well as reed lined banks that make noise as you step on them. Approaching the holes with caution and as quiet as possible are key. Yetter manned his rod with a dry fly, the Royal Wolf (or as we like to call them, A Wolf Royale).

I opted to go with a bead headed olive green/golden blonde colored woolly bugger size 12 with some black hackle on a reel with quick sink line. Now, sinking line is important if you are going to fish with woolly buggers because some of the holes are very deep.

Big Hoss and Whalen both started with the Royal Wolf. As we began our walks in opposite direction, it was only about 20 minutes into it when I heard some commotion coming from Big Hoss and Whalen down river. Whalen radioed into our 2-way that Big Hoss had a monster on. Hoss describes “I casted to the bank over a deep hole and as I looked away for a second I saw out of the corrner of my eye a huge Cutt moulth the royal wolf. Beacuse I had looked away for a second i was just a half a second late in the set which I know helped in setting the hook really well. As I was fighting the fish it came to the surface and I could instantly tell that it was the biggest trout I have ever caught”. As fortune would have it, Hoss had an estimated 24 – 25 inch Cutthroat that he landed up to the bank and asked Whalen for assistance for the final round of the bout, but as Whalen reached down to get the fish, the big Cutt rolled and caught the line on Whalen’s vest causing the line to snap and the monster Cutt swam back to his hole. There were a few expletive’s that were yelled and words that were said which later were regretted.

Yetter and I continued upstream. I came to a tasty looking deep pool and cast my woolly bugger into the middle of the river. I allowed the current to drift my fly into the deep pool and began stripping. I mixed up my strips, but the most effect strip I used was the long semi-hard strip, then wait 1 second and strip again. After my second strip, I saw a flash and felt my line go hard with fight, only to be disappointed as the fish spit my bugger to the curb. We continued on to the next hole, which is a strategy I wish we would have adhered to more often on this trip. The fish in this river are very smart. I found that you have about 5 – 7 cast per hole before you need to move on to the next hole, especially after you catch a fish. And, there are plenty of great holes. Then hit those same holes with the same 5 – 7 casts on the way back. Following this strategy will net you a lot of Big Cutts.

As Yetter and I came to a typical Blackfoot River hole (shallower on one bank with a deep hole on the other bank) the wind began to pick up. Yetter was still fishing with the Royal Wolf and began to have difficulty. I offered some limited casting lessons with the dry fly and began casting the Royal Wolf as close as I could to the opposite shore. As I was offering advice on the effective double haul method for longer casts, I dropped the fly gently on the water about 2 feet from the opposite bank. We began evaluating the cast when out of the corner of my eye came a slurping Cutthroat’s head that sucked the Royal Wolf in for a treat. My delayed hook setting was key to the proper set like Hoss had explained with his monster fish. I have found that when I set the hook fast on a dry fly take, I usually set the hook right out of the fish’s mouth. After a worthy fight, we got the 16 inch Cutt to shore, snapped a few photos, and gently released him back into the water.

We then journeyed to the prime spot just up from the previous hole to a place where the water flowed a little faster than normal and slowed to a nice deep pool. My first cast with the woolly bugger on sinking line was met with one of the most stunning ‘hits’ I have had fishing a river for trout. The fight was on! I worked the drag until it was just right and watched as the biggest Cutt I have ever caught on a river was rolling around the surface as its beautiful reddish golden color flashed in the sun. After about a 10 minute fight, I steered him to slower, shallow water and admired his grandeur. This Cutt was about 21 – 22 inches in length with a decent girth.

About 10 minutes later I caught another small one and hooked another big Cutt that got away. With this success, we radioed Big Hoss and Whalen notifying them to switch to woolly buggers and the rest of the afternoon we all caught some nice fish.

As we moved upstream, I heard a splash in the water thinking big Cutts were rising. However, as I looked upstream I saw something that I have never seen before, nor do I believe I will ever see again. It was a handcrafted paddle boat with a weathered, older local gentleman that had been trapping muskrats and beavers. He had about 10 muskrats and the largest beaver I have ever seen in my life. The beaver was the size of large golden retriever and the tail looked almost as deadly as the enormous set of chompers that rested inside the dead animal’s mouth. We had an interesting conversation about how Eskimos used to eat the beaver tail and it was considered a delicacy, through out the years he had been trapping and selling the animal’s hides. It was a welcomed quick break from the day’s fishing. He will forever be known as the Beaver Whisperer.

We continued to fish until dusk approached. Finally our stomachs beckoned us to find food. So we loaded up, shared success stories, and headed out. We satisfied our hunger at a local favorite in Grace, Idaho called Bergy’s where well crafted burgers, English chips, and rowdy Reese’s peanut butter cup shakes abound.

All in all, the Blackfoot River in Idaho can offer some of the best “Cutt” fishing a river could offer. However, technique, strategy, proper gear, and fall weather will be key to enjoying this fine river’s Cutthroat Trout.

I hope this post is helpful to those anglers that are looking for the lesser known rivers that can be just as enjoyable as the famous ones. Please give any feedback or comments.

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15 Responses to “Upper Blackfoot River (Idaho) Fishing Report:: Where Big Cutts Roam!”

  1. Mike Aydelotte Says:

    I am seriously jealous. I would have loved to go on this trip. The article made a great escape from programming. – Mike A


    bighoss Reply:

    It would have been fun to have you. When is the last time you went fishing? You want to hit the Provo?


  2. simmons Says:

    Good work on the river fellas. I wish I would have made the journey although with the new kid on the way and everything going on I could not push my luck. Although now that the little man is here I think it is time to hit the Henry’s Fork pretty hard in the next couple of weeks. Usually the big Browns are ready to pounce down in the Blue Hole and Bubble land. Jake (Unis) hit Rainbow lake the other night and his wife Jackie caught a huge tiger muskie with a brown wolley bugger.


    bighoss Reply:

    We need pictures of the Tiger Muskie and you will have to hit Henry’s Fork and give us a good write up, I wish I could come up and hit it with you.


    Dr Gillespie Reply:

    Big Running Browns!!!! Did I hear that right? Simmons if you hit it on a Friday or Sat in the next little bit. I might be able to make the trip up for a day or two…Email a day in advance if you want a partner in crime.


  3. Jake Says:

    Sorry no pics of the tiger muskie. I was kind of P.O’d at my wife for breaking my net that I’ve had for 13 years so I made her sit in the far end of the boat and change me and my little boys flies and pour hot chocolate.

    when she was done with her “time out” she cast in a brown leech toward the south end of rainbow lake. she had fish on & I thought it was a big bow because it was putting up a decent fight. when he surfaced he was a fat, fat muskie the size of my arm! the broken net was summoned to help bring him in (those teeth made me think twice about grabbing him by the mouth) but since it was broken and only half the size of the fish it was pretty useless.

    the muskie gave us the fin & took my leech back down the depths where he probably rules by force and terror.

    the bass were also biting on green leeches.


  4. Mike Aydelotte Says:

    Hoss, the last time I went fishing was the last time I went on the frenzy in 2007. It has been rough! I would love to hit the Provo with ya. I probably will not be able to go this weekend, however. Too many things to finish up around the house (fence, sidewalk, winterize the lawn) before the snow becomes permanent. I hope to hit the Provo on either the 22nd, 25th, 26th, or 28th. Not sure which yet.


  5. Chubbs Says:

    We missed you fellas on the Blackfoot. There are so many sweet little fishing spots up there so close to the Blackfoot. Stump creek, lanes creek, diamond creek, and the salt river is just around the corner. It is pretty cherry fishing area. We need to spend a few days getting redicalus in that area.


  6. Dr Gillespie Says:

    Yeah, Chubbs we seriously missed out…I love that area and haven’t fished it in years. I grew up fishing the lower Blackfoot with my Grandpa…It can produce some hog Cutts and a Bow or two or even a beaver, right? It just makes me mad writing about missing…next time I’m putting down my foot. Let me know if you go again before the snow flies and i’m spending all my time on the Mtn… Do anyone snowboard to?


  7. NA Says:

    great scoop on the blackfoot. i really enjoyed your pix and description. I own a ranch just downstream from the narrows (live in Ga, sadly) and have been amazed at the quality of fishing and scenery, and the complete privacy of fishing here. be happy to have you fish our property sometime. we are currently having a lot of habitat enhancement done instream. keep up the good (non)work.


  8. Bryan Says:

    I grew up in Bear Lake and the upper Blackfoot on the 1st of July was a must for me. But if you really want to have some fun fish Diamond Creek and the small creek that enters below it on that day. If the runoff is high you will have 4-6 pound cutthroats on a creek not 10′ wide. Then come back the first of August when the grasshoppers are out. Those big trout love grasshoppers!



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