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Idaho Rivers - South Fork of Snake River
Fishing The Famous South Fork of the Snake River

Article by Ben Arellano of Angler Guide
Photos by Spence Warner

Few rivers in America  provide fishing experiences to match that of the South Fork of the Snake River.  The Snake River begins high in Yellowstone National Park and flows through Grand Teton National Park into Palisades Reservoir which borders Wyoming and Idaho. Below Palisades Dam begins the stretch of the river , referred to as the "South Fork". The river flows through Swan Valley in a generally northwest direction until its confluence with the Henry's Fork before flowing west through Idaho. 
Fall fishing on the South Fork in Swan Valley, Idaho.
Fly Fishing the South Fork in Swan Valley

It is between the Henry's Fork confluence and Palisades Dam that the South Fork is known as one of the finest dry fly rivers in North America. All of the Fish in the South Fork are wild and fish between eight and sixteen inches must be released because they are the prime breeders. The South Fork typically becomes fishable for the fly fisher sometime between the first week of July and the middle of July, depending on the spring run off. This year (2001)  the run off was for a very short period, thus fly fishing was productive in the middle of June.

While dry fly fishing clearly ranks as the number one preferred fly fishing technique amongst anglers,  streamers and nymphing can be equally effective  if the larger trout aren't rising.  Hatches are normally in full-swing by late June and July. The floating angler should pay special attention to the banks, foam lines and structure, making a point to anchor or get out and fish these areas thoroughly. Caddis, mayfly and the stonefly hatches can produce top-water feeding frenzies that trigger hot action to those who happen to be on the water when its going on.
Moose are a common site on the South Fork.
Moose on the South Fork

On a good day  it's not unusual to catch twenty to thirty fish a day with many being over twenty inches in length.   When you fish the South Fork you are also exposed to an abundance of wildlife, such as moose, deer, elk, golden eagles, whopping cranes, many different water fowl and other species even bear.  There may be times when fish are simply not biting. This is a good opportunity to enjoy the float and admire the beautiful scenery and wildlife around you.

Most area anglers agree that their favorite season to fish the South Fork is late Autumn.  There are many days when hours past before seeing another soul on the river.  With autumn also comes,  lower water levels and the ability to wade more areas. It also a  good  time to use streamers, especially for large browns and cutthroats. A spinning rod and reel and a good lure are not out of the question neither. Running your streamer or lure along gravel bars and riffles is almost guaranteed success. 

Fall on the South Fork is really enjoyable as the fish are aggressive, hit hard and put up a good fight. In winter, some parts of the South Fork are not opened to fishing and you should reference the fishing regulations. Generally fishing is slow but there is always some good size fish taken out the South Fork.  If you have a jet boat chances are you can find some pretty good fishing holes. Seldom do you see someone floating the South Fork during the winter. At times you'll see fishing from the banks if no ice is present. 
 Ron Obendorf sporting a male German Brown caught on the South Fork.
Late fall fishing on the South Fork

Tackle & Gear:

For most fishing on the South Fork an eight to nine foot, four or five-weight rod is a good choice. The exception would be when fishing large streamers down deep for the large browns which are found in the river. For this a six or seven-weight system would be the wiser choice, keeping in mind that some of the browns can exceed 10 pounds. 




South Fork 

Note: The largest Brown caught in Idaho was caught on the South Fork. It weighted 26lb. 6oz. and was 36.5 inches

Swan Valley,ID Weather

Swan Valley, Seven Day Forecast


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