Grab Your Fishing Rod and Enjoy Fall on the River
Slanted morning light hits the clear water and ripples like 1,000 shining diamonds, and the river bottom is a cobblestone street made of gold. Fall colors are starting to pop, and with a little luck, a hungry trout will make this a postcard-perfect morning.
I carefully wade into the Boise River looking for signs of feeding trout. Fall is my favorite time to fish the river. The flows are busy, but not pushy like when the river’s full of irrigation water rushing downstream to fill canals and grow crops.
The Boise River is the beating heart of the Treasure Valley, and it’s a backyard, blue-ribbon trout stream. It has healthy populations of rainbow trout, brown trout and whitefish. There’s virtually no spot along the river as it flows through Boise where you don’t stand a respectable chance of hooking a fish.
Fishing on the Boise River not only defines the character of Valley, but it’s also one of its iconic images. Rarely do you see a feature story extolling the virtues of Idaho’s capital city without a picture of an angler wading the river.
But let’s get back to cobble, riffles and rising trout. Knowing the fish are there, and their place in Boise’s DNA is all good, but it’s better when you feel a feisty trout writhing on the end of your line.
Why fish in the fall? Like I described earlier, the river is lower, which means it’s a series of riffles and it’s easier to discern where trout are likely to hold. As a rule of thumb, trout hold in slower water and seams (where fast and slow meet), and move into the faster current to feed unless there are insects hatching, which means they will be feeding near, or on, the surface. If you see bugs hatching and the feeding fishes’ tell-tale swirls on the water, your job just got a lot easier.
But rising trout are the exception, not the rule, especially considering the Boise River isn’t known for prolific insect hatches, but watch for them mid morning and evenings.
Fall also is cooler. Because the Boise River is fed by water from the depths of Lucky Peak Reservoir, it remains cool year-round, but in the fall it’s likely to be at a perfect temperature range for trout. The fish also instinctively know winter is approaching, so they’re packing on calories for those long, frigid months.
Fling Your Faves
The Boise River’s trout aren’t particularly finicky. That’s not to say they are pushovers, but one type of tackle or bait doesn’t necessarily work better than another. I’m a fly angler, so I prefer general “attractor” patterns. A small stimulator can imitate a caddis or a grasshopper. A parachute Adams looks close enough to a variety of insects that trout will usually grab it off the surface if it’s already feeding there.
If there’s nothing happening on the surface, I will drift nymphs, such as a pheasant tail, caddis or midge. Streamers can be effective, especially for the river’s brown trout because they’re as likely to eat other fish as insects.
Small spinners or spoons will also hook a trout. I’ve always had confidence in a black Roostertail spinner.
And if you want to dunk a worm, feel free. It’s a classic for a reason—because it usually works. But here’s a tip. Don’t sink it to the bottom and wait for a trout like you would in a pond or lake. Let it drift naturally through the current with just enough weight to get it out there and submerged. It will look more natural and attract more fish, and you will also get it in front of more fish.
Make It An Adventure
OK, an adventure may be a stretch, but explore. Use your fishing trip as an opportunity to learn the river. Walking the well-worn path to a deep pool and making a few cast might net you an occasional trout, but finding those tucked away places where fish lurk is a better strategy. Look for logjams, undercut banks, overhanging willows and cottonwoods or boulders and gravel bars. They all make good trout habitat, and they will typically produce more fish than the obvious places.
Finally, savor the experience. The goal is to catch fish, but the river offers much more. It’s common to a see a mink inch worming on the shore, ospreys and bald eagles watching from above or a deer browsing on willows near the shore.
The Boise River is more than a body of water—it’s an endless, natural, motion picture, and along with trout, caddis, eagles and mink, you get to become part of its cast.