Fly Fishing Idaho’s Lesser Known Rivers. The Bear River.

Part III of V

So far in this series we have we visited the Falls River and Bitch Creek, but for this segment we venture into deep southeastern Idaho for our next gem of river.

Fly Fishing Idaho’s Bear River

The River


The Bear River truly is a unique river. It is one of the only rivers that within a 45 minute drive you can be battling 18 – 20 inch rainbows and the next a 30 plus inch Carp all on a fly rod. There are parts to the Bear River that seem like a dirty old canal (those that pass it on I-15 North out of Utah know what I’m saying), but other parts that are crystal clear.

The Bear River rises in northeastern Utah in several short forks on the north side of the high Uinta Mountains in southern Summit County. It flows north cutting across the southwest corner of Wyoming past Evanston then weaving along the Utah-Wyoming state line as it flows north. It turns northwest into Bear Lake County, Idaho and flows through the Bear Lake Valley in Idaho, past Montpelier where it receives the short Bear Lake Outlet Canal that drains Bear Lake, which straddles the Idaho-Utah border. At Soda Springs, near the north end of the Wasatch Range, the Bear River turns abruptly south, flowing past Preston in the broad Cache Valley that extends north from Logan, Utah. It re-enters northern Utah, where it receives the Little Bear River from the south. From the west end of Cutler Reservoir it flows south through the Bear River Valley of Utah. It receives the Malad River from the north just before emptying into the mud flats of a broad bay on the east side of the Great Salt Lake, approximately 10 miles (16 km) southwest of Brigham City, Utah



There are two primary area I will focus on when fishing the Bear River. One, like i said will deliver up nice rainbows, while the other spot is one of the best carp fisheries in all of Idaho albeit only 45 minutes from each other.

Section 1

To arrive at the first section (we’ll call the trout section) head north out of Preston, Idaho home of Napoleon Dynamite on Hwy 36. As you descend down a large hill you will see a swimming area called Riverdale to your right and will cross over the Bear River. Continue on Hwy 36 (which will require a right turn) and just as you pass the over the Bear River again there is a turnout. This is the spot, where Mink Creek dumps into the Bear River. Now, there is great trout fishing all along the Bear River up to the Oneida Narrows Reservoir, but my favorite spot is where Mink Creek dumps in the Bear. One quick note about fishing below the Oneida Narrows Reservoir; if you are wading in the river, you better be in spot where you can easily retract back to the bank. Occasionally water is let out of the Reservoir rather quickly and you are alerted by a siren. I have only experienced it once, and it was a most interesting experience where the water went from just above my knees to my waste in a matter of minutes. Back to the spot. Just down from the confluence of Mink Creek into the Bear River is some unbelievable trout fishing. You can walk that stretch and find perfect riffles and runs all day. I do have to apologize that I don’t have many pics from this section, but as we do our follow up on these rivers this summer I will make up for it.

Section 2

To arrive at the second section for fantastic Carp fishing on a fly rod continue east on Hwy 36 until you reach the quaint town of Ovid, Idaho. At this point continue east on Hwy 89 (Hwy 36 just ended) to Montpelier, Idaho. Once there, head north on Hwy 30 towards Soda Springs, Idaho. Just before you cross from Bear Lake County into Caribou County and just before Road FR 216 (Fossil Canyon Road) is access to the Bear River through private property on a dirt road. Most property owners will allow you to fish the river if you ask. This particular property owner is me, so just ask. :) There are public access points just south of here about 5 miles at Dunn Rd near Georgetown, Idaho. This section of the Bear River is one that during most of the summer is somewhat off color due to the water being let out of Bear Lake so farmers can irrigate. That lends to the abundance of Carp in this River. I have never seen so many Carp occupy a river from bank to bank. You can walk the banks of the river and see some of these behemoths slurping the top of the water or darting into a covered area in the river.

One other side note: I have also fished the Black Canyon section of the Bear River just west of Grace, Idaho and found that to be a great little trout fishery as well. This section of the Bear River watershed is truly a hidden gem that can definitely satisfy any anglers need for fly fishing,


Fishing section 1 has always been an area that when I time it right (depending on flows) has been the type of day that has produced 20 – 30 fish before 12noon. I have never fished above the surface at this section. Nymphing has always seemed to produce the best results. The standard pheasant tails, copper johns, prince nymphs, and hares ears have been the rainbows favorite choice of fly. Just below where Mink Creek dumps into the Bear River there is a nice deep hole on the far side of the river that has some lunkers in there. One day I decided to go for the biggies that lay in that pool and switched to sinking line with a flashy muddler minnow. To my excitement I quickly landed a 20 inch bow. I released him and told him to tell daddy I was here. He did his job because after a few strips on the next cast I had a pig on. I battled hard for about 5 minutes before he just high tailed it down river and broke me off. I had to leave shortly after that and wasn’t able to pursue more pigs. I do know that that section has some decent size trout in there.

Fishing at section 2 for the rowdy carp is a ton of fun. As I mentioned before this section of the Bear River is stacked with Carp. I usually just walk the bank and sight cast for these rowdy chowsers. I mostly through woolly buggers, but have had a lot of success with San Juan worms as well. The water of this section has riffles as well, but slows into deep pools and back eddies allowing the Carp a great habitat. For many years I always considered Carp trash fish, but as I started to fly fish for them and read more about the growing trend of ‘Carp on a Fly’ I realized that these fish are a blast to catch. Carp are actually very smart fish and will actually warn other carp when they sense danger, so catching these boys takes some stealthy tactics and skill.

I have compiled a few pics and as I said before, I don’t have many pics of Section 1, but plenty of section 2.


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5 Responses to “Fly Fishing Idaho’s Lesser Known Rivers. The Bear River.”

  1. Big Hoss Says:

    That is the most beautiful fish I have ever seen.


    Dr Gillespie Reply:

    No, I would have to say that your Big A$$ Sucker you caught on the SF of the Snake was more beautiful. That was a huge fish Hoss…


  2. Alton Wilde Says:

    I liked your article. Having grown up and fished the bear river from state-line down to soda, I have always wanted to canoe from around Bern (Prescidero) to somewhere south of Soda. My wife and I and two sons want to come down the river at the end of September. I would like to know of some possible take out spots south of Soda North of eight mile. We were down there last Saturday and I was flabbergasted at how low Alexander resevouir was. I don’t think I have ever seen it so low.


  3. Steve Says:

    Thank you for your write up on Bear river. There are some guys who catch larege brown trout on the Bear River during October. Do you know where the brown trout spawn takes place? Also, are the Bear River brown trout in Wyoming, Idaho or Utah? Thank you.



  1. Carp-O-Gram | Fly Fishing Frenzy | blog | stories | reports - May 10, 2012

    […] made a quick trip last Saturday down some property on the Bear River south of Soda Springs, Idaho to do some fly fishing for carp.  This spot has some of the best carp […]

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