Idaho boasts stunning scenery and some fantastic fly fishing locations that can rival anywhere in the US. With over 65% of the land owned by the state, there are plenty of easily accessible spots with thriving natural and stocked fish populations.
No matter where you are in Idaho, you’ll be guaranteed some excellent fishing all year round. From Teton River to Idaho Falls, you can catch brook trout, rainbows, browns, bass, panfish, and even salmon and steelhead.
Here’s your complete guide to Idaho fishing! From the fishing license you’ll need to our tips on the best locations to head to for some epic fly fishing for trout, bass, and even salmon, read on to find out more.
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11 Best Idaho Fly Fishing Rivers and Lakes
Not sure where to go for the best trout fishing in Idaho? Here are our tips and recommendations for the best spots!
1. Teton River
Teton River has two clearly defined and very different sections, but both are great fun to fish. Running along the border with Wyoming, this river is easily accessible from anywhere in the state. You’ll be met by stunning scenery and all four types of trout in abundant numbers.
If you choose to head out on the Upper Section of the Teton River, you’ll have the most success from a stand-up paddleboard or a drift fishing tube. The fish grow to monster sizes in this river, particularly in the Lower Section that is located deep within a canyon.
It’s also possible to wade this water, but you’ll cover more ground and find the best spots by boat. Terrestrial and stonefly patterns are some of the most productive on the Teton River.
2. Big Wood River
Big Wood River is a carefully managed freestone stream, with specific regulations introduced in the ’90s that have maintained the local fish populations in healthy numbers.
Right in the middle of the state, it’s easy to reach from anywhere in Idaho or the neighboring states. Plan your trips here to coincide with the mayfly, stonefly, or caddisfly hatches – you won’t regret it!
3. Kelly Creek
Located in northern Idaho within the Clearwater National Forest, Kelly Creek is an ideal spot to fish for cutthroat trout.
If you’re looking for a calm place to reconnect with nature and get away from the hustle and bustle, this creek fits the bill. While it’s Catch and Release only with artificial flies here, it offers some of the best fly fishing from spring until fall.
4. Hayden Lake
With over 40 miles of coastline, you’ll have your pick of the best spots on Hayden Lake. There are native pike and largemouth bass populations, plus regular stockings of Kokanee salmon and rainbow trout, making it rich pickings for avid anglers. Marabou leech patterns work wonders here – stock up on orange, red, and white variations.
5. North Fork Coeur d’Alene River
If you’re looking to escape the crowd and avoid the most popular Idaho fishing spots, head over to the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River. Remote, calm, and tranquil, you might not meet another angler here all day.
Terrestrial patterns perform well, and the fish aren’t fussy here. You can sight fish on the crystal clear water here, and the cutthroat trout will go crazy for your dry flies.
6. South Fork of the Boise River
The Boise River runs through southwestern Idaho, but one of the most popular spots among fly anglers is the tailwater fishery at South Fork. All sorts of bugs thrive in the conditions here, providing plenty of forage for the fish.
You’ll find both bull trout and rainbow trout at South Fork of the Boise River, and there’s lots of free public access by car or on foot.
7. Henry’s Lake
Fancy hunting down some trophy size fish? Head to Henry’s Lake, right at the headwaters of Henry’s Fork. This vast but rather shallow lake makes it the perfect conditions for all sorts of gamefish prey, including sculpins, baitfish, and leeches.
You’ll find both rainbows, cutbow, and cutthroat trout here, with regular stockings to boost the natural population. It’s rumored that there are some whoppers lurking around here, with many anglers catching 25″+ cutbows.
If you’re up for a challenge, get yourself down to Henry’s Lake soon. You can access the lake from Henry’s Lake State Park, where it’s possible to camp if you’re staying for a few days.
8. Silver Creek
A short drive from Sun Valley, you’ll find this amazing trout river where there are thriving populations of rainbows and big browns. The fly fishing is epic, particularly if you visit during one of the many mayfly hatches. (Try to find a local hatch chart before setting off, if you can!)
Pack plenty of Blue Winged Olives and Midge flies, plus a few scuds in case there’s no hatch on, and you’ll be reeling in fish after fish on Silver Creek. Just try to avoid all that vegetation at the bottom, or you’ll spend the whole day trying to retrieve your flies!
9. Salmon River
The Salmon River is an exceptional fly fishing destination all year round. But if you can visit during the winter or spring, you’ll get the rare opportunity to fly fish for salmon and steelhead, despite being nowhere near saltwater.
For those planning trips to Salmon River in the summer and early fall, dry fly and streamer fishing for trout and bass is effective and a lot of fun.
10. Henrys Fork of the Snake River
Famous beyond just the state borders, Henrys Fork draws anglers from all over the US and further beyond. Once you’ve experienced fly fishing here, you’ll soon understand why. The water here is full of healthy rainbows that grow to a whopping size, and you’ll also find big brown trout below Mesa Falls.
The dry fly fishing here is exceptional, especially if you visit during the salmon fly hatches which take place from May to June. Stock up on Blue Winged Olives and other classic dry flies, and you’ll have a fantastic time. You might even catch a trophy size fish, as they’ve been known to grow to 25 inches or larger in these waters!
11. Hagerman Trout Ponds
If you’re looking for the ideal spot to teach your kids to fly fish, check out the Hagerman Trout Ponds in the Thousand Springs area. Here, you’ll find plentiful rainbow trout, as well as bluegill, bass, and crappie.
There are special access docks which allow you to get up close to the water safely – perfect for kids, seniors, or anyone with a disability. It’s the perfect location to bond with your kids and share your love of fly fishing with them – they might even catch the bug too!
Idaho Fishing License and Regulations
Anyone aged 14 or older will need a license to fish in the rivers and lakes of Idaho, with resident and nonresident licenses to choose from. You may also need a special permit to fish steelhead and salmon.
There are specific regulations in certain areas that you should be aware of, such as Catch and Release, bag limits, and restrictions on the flies and lures you can use. For full details, check the Idaho Fish and Game website here.
Top Guides in Idaho
Idaho Fly Fishing FAQ
Here’s where you’ll find answers to the most common questions about fly fishing in Idaho!
Where is the best fly fishing in Idaho?
It’s hard to say where the best location in Idaho is because there are so many awesome fly fishing spots. Out of all the states, Idaho is the ‘best in the west,’ with amazing trout streams, lakes, and reservoirs all over.
Most of the well-known GPS spots are found in the east, including both Henry’s Fork and North Fork of the Snake River, and not forgetting Yellowstone National Park.
Where can I fly fish in Boise?
If you’re looking for a spot near Boise Idaho, you’re in luck. You won’t have to travel far from Boise to find excellent opportunities. There are plenty of local ponds dotted around Boise that are home to panfish and bass, plus regularly stocked with rainbow trout.
If you don’t mind a short drive, you can reach superb spots including South Fork of the Boise River, Arrowrock Reservoir, and Swan Falls Dam – all in less than an hour.
What kind of fish are in Idaho?
Idaho offers some of the best fly fishing in the entire US. In Idaho, you’ll find not only cutthroat trout, brook trout, rainbows, and bass, but also walleye, crappie, and bluegill.
But that’s not all! Idaho is the only landlocked state in the west where you can fish for salmon and steelhead. You may also find white sturgeon, mountain whitefish, and muskies.
The Wrap Up
Idaho has so much to offer to anglers, both residents and from out of state. Now you know some of the hot spots for trout, bass, and salmon fishing, it’s time to plan your next fishing trip! Where will you head to first? Let us know in the comments or share any great locations we missed off!