Part IV of V
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. Some of the biggest Cutts I have ever caught when Fly Fishing Idaho
FLY FISHING IDAHO’S 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.
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.
Here I will relate a time a few Frenziers and I went this last fall.
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 maul 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 we can’t utter on this family blog :).
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.
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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