The South Fork of the Snake River in Idaho is a river every fly angler should experience at least once in their lifetime. When the epic hatches are going off, you won’t find better dry fly fishing anywhere, and nymphs are consistent producers any other time, enticing the stream’s healthy rainbow, brown, and Yellowstone Cutthroat trout.
The best way to experience the South Fork is by booking a stay at the Lodge at Palisades Creek (TLAPC), located where Palisades Creek merges with the Snake River. But before you head to the lodge, use the following tips to help you arrive fully prepared to make the most of your trip.
Practice Casting and Consider Taking a Lesson or Two
While the guides at TLAPC are extremely knowledgeable and patient, it never hurts to put in some hours of casting practice before you show up for a day on the water.
If you have a decent sized yard, string up your rod, tie and on a piece of yarn to your leader and get acquainted with the casting stroke. If you need to brush up on your technique, check out some of the instructional casting videos on Orvis’ website.
If you’re brand new to fly fishing, it’s a great idea to invest in a few casting lessons with a professional casting instructor. Learning the fundamentals the right way from a pro will go a long way towards building confidence in your casting. That way when you get to the South Fork, you can focus more on fishing and less on wondering where your fly will end up.
Need help finding a casting instructor? Ask around at your local fly shop or Orvis store.
Learn How to Mend
Perhaps equally important as learning how to cast a fly rod is learning how to mend your line on the stream. Mending line is a simple maneuver in which you flip your line upstream to reduce drag on your fly and achieve the most natural presentation possible.
Unlike casting, however, you can’t really practice mending in your yard like you can casting. But don’t worry — mending is something you’ll have to do constantly, over and over, while fishing the South Fork of the Snake so you’ll get lots of practice in. And chances are, your guide will prompt you to mend when needed. The trick is to mend before your guide has to remind you.
What to Expect While Fishing from a Drift Boat
If you’ve never fished from a drift boat before, it can feel a little intimidating the first time you climb aboard. So to help you mentally prepare for your trip down the South Fork, here are a few drift boat specifics you can expect to encounter:
- You’ll be facing and fishing downstream exclusively. If you’re in the front position, your job is to fish as far downstream ahead of the boat as you can, giving the angler behind you plenty of room for them to fish.
- Use the knee locks so you don’t fall overboard. The braces extending from the bottom of the drift boat are there for you to lean into — don’t forget to use them.
- No studded wading boots. It’s OK to wear your waders and wading boots while drift boat fishing, especially if you want to get out of the boat for some wade fishing. However, do the Lodge a favor and remove any studs in your wading boots before you get there. That way, you won’t be “that guy” (or gal) who scuffs up the floor of the boat.
- Follow casting instructions from your guide. If it’s your first time fishing from a drift boat you might not know what to do. That’s where listening to your guide comes into play. When they tell you “cast over there” don’t hesitate to do so.
Bring the Right Gear or Rent from the Lodge
If you have a favorite trout rod you love fishing with, by all means, bring it along to fish the South Fork. The guides there recommend using rods in fairly common trout sizes — 5 or 6 weights 8 1/2 or 9 feet long. Weight forward floating lines are the only lines you need.
If you don’t have your own fly rods and reels or simply don’t want to worry about traveling with them, the Lodge has everything you could possibly need for a successful day on the water available for rent. They also have a full-service fly shop with all the best gear from Orvis available for purchase. So if you want to go on a fly fishing shopping spree before hitting the water, they will be more than happy to accommodate you.
For your fly selection, you can bring an assortment of your favorite trout nymphs and dry flies, but be prepared to tie on whatever your guide recommends. Unless you’re married to the idea of using your own flies, you’ll often have more success if you stock up on the local favorites at the Lodge’s fly shop using their expert advice.
The clothing you wear on the river will depend on the season in which you visit. In the summer, plan on staying “sun-safe” all day long. That means a hat, polarized sunglasses, a neck gaiter, and lots of waterproof sunscreen. Shorts and T-shirts are fine, but you may want to bring a few warmer layers and a rain shell just in case.
In the early spring and fall when temperatures are colder, you’ll likely be more comfortable in a quality pair of breathable waders with insulating base layers. Add a fleece or puffy jacket and a beanie and you’ll be well equipped for a full day on the South Fork.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Lot’s of Questions Before and During Your Trip
If you have any questions about specifics related to your fly fishing trip at TLAPC, don’t hesitate to contact the staff. They’ll answer any questions you might have about weather, gear, or things you can do to before you arrive. Then, all that’s left to do is book your stay and get ready to experience some of the finest fly fishing the West has to offer!
Author: Patrick is a freelance outdoor writer. He started fishing at four years old and has been “hooked” ever since. The childhood fun has turned into a writing career and lifelong hobby which has led him to cast his line in many rivers and streams across the country.