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 fly fishing spots with thriving natural and stocked fish populations.
No matter where you are in Idaho, you’ll be guaranteed some excellent fly fishing all year round. From the Teton River to Idaho Falls, you can catch brook trout, rainbows, brown trout, smallmouth bass, panfish, and even chinook and steelhead.
Here’s a complete guide to Idaho fishing! You’ll find everything from the fishing license you’ll need to great 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.
11 Best Idaho Fly Fishing Rivers and Lakes
Not sure where to go to find the best fly fishing rivers and lakes in Idaho? Here are our tips and recommendations for the best spots to cast your fly rod!
1. Teton River
The Teton River in Eastern Idaho has two clearly defined and very different sections, but both are great fun to walk with your fly rod.
Running along the border with Wyoming and flowing into Henry’s Fork, this river is easily accessible from anywhere in the nearby area. You’ll be met by stunning scenery and all four types of trout in abundant number, and be fishing one of the best trout fisheries in Idaho.
To know more about the different types of trout, see our post Trout Species here.
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. You’ll find big rainbow trout and cuuthroat trout in this river, particularly in the Lower Canyon Section that is located deep within a gorge.
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 will give you some of the most productive dry fly fishing on the Teton River.
Where To Fish On The Teton
While access is excellent all along this river, the best place for catching trout, and large trout at that, in my eyes is just up from the confluence with Henry’s Fork. You’ll find it on the map below, and hopefully, some big fish too.
Best Flies For The Teton
- Purple Chubby
- Grey Drake
2. Big Wood River
Sitting in Central Idaho, the 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 as the fish go crazy on these consistent hatches.
You’ll find some great sized rainbow and brown trout in this river but to catch fish you’ll need to wait for the snow melt to pass which usually happens by mid to late June.
Where To Fish On The Big Wood
Fly fishermen can find easy access along the whole river on your fly fishing trip on the Big Wood. But, I would start fishing on the confluence on the mao below where you’ll also find easy parking.
Best Flies For The Big Wood
- Pheasant tails
3. Kelly Creek
The Salmon River is an exceptional fishing destination all year round. But if you can time your visit for some winter fly fishing or in spring, you’ll get the rare opportunity to catch steelhead, despite being nowhere near saltwater.
You also have the option to fish this river year-round and go for chinook salmon in the fall or hit the brown trout and smallmouth in spring and summer.
For those planning trips to the Salmon River in the summer and early fall, dry fly and streamer fishing for trout and bass are effective and a lot of fun.
You can fish this river on foot but there are also multiple boat ramps and it’s a great river to drift too.
Where To Fish On The Salmon River
Some access to this river is limited due to private land but there are lots of other spots where you can get to the river. A great place for fly fishermen to base themselves while fishing this river is in the town of Riggins where you’ll find easy access and great accommodation options too.
Best Flies For The Salmon River
- Egg patterns (Steelhead)
- Egg sucking leeches (Steelhead)
- Intruder (Steelhead)
4. Hayden Lake
Famous beyond just the state borders, Henrys Fork of the Snake River in Eastern Idaho draws anglers from all over the US and the rest of the world as it’s one of the top blue-ribbon trout streams in the state.
Once you’ve experienced 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 too.
The dry fly fishing here is exceptional, especially if you visit during the salmon fly hatch which takes place from May to June. Stock up on Blue Winged Olives and other classic dry flies, plus salmon flies, of course, 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.
Where To Fish On The Hayden Lake
Fly fishermen can drift or wade fish this amazing river and I’ve pinpointed a great access point for you below with easy parking and access.
Best Flies For The Hayden Lake
- Salmon Fly
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 upper reaches of the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River in north-central Idaho. Remote, calm, tranquil, and left unchanged, 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.
This is one of the best rivers in the state as you’ll find crystal clear water, amazingly beautiful wild surroundings, and unpressured trout that are willing to play the game.
Where To Fish On The North Fork Coeur d’Alene River
The further into the wilderness you go on this river, the more rewards you’re going to find. I have highlighted a great spot to start from in the map below where you’ll find easy parking and excellent access. It’s nature left unchanged and is stunning!
Best Flies For The Coeur d’Alene River
- Elk Hair Caddis
- Pheasant Tail
- Prince Nymph
- Copper John
6. South Fork of the Boise River
The South Fork of the Boise River runs out of the Sawtooth mountains and through southwestern Idaho, and 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 can also find some good fishing on the Middle Fork but the South Fork is the place to be.
You’ll find both bull trout and rainbow trout at the South Fork of the Boise River, and there’s lots of free public access by car or on foot.
Where To Fish On The South Fork Of The Boise
You’ll find a ton of great access on this river so the choice is yours. Here’s a great place to start and an easy place to park too.
Best Flies For The South Fork Of The Boise
- Copper Johns
- Zebra Midges
7. Henry’s Lake
Fancy hunting down some trophy size fish? Head to Henry’s Lake, just outside of West Yellowstone, 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. 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, Silver Creek, where there are thriving populations of rainbows and big browns. The angling 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 Olive 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
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 fishing from spring until fall.
10. Henrys Fork of the Snake River
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.
If you’re really into fishing for Pike, then check out our Pike Fly Fishing post here to have a more in-depth guide.
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.
If you want an in-depth guide on how to teach your kids to fish, see our Teaching Kids To Fish post here.
There are special access docks that 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 to share your love of 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
Starting with a guided trip in Idaho is a great way to learn everything you need to quickly before heading solo on the other rivers in the area. Here are some great Idaho guides that can hook you up.
Recommended Fly Shops In Idaho
You’re always going to need some advice and local flies when heading out on new rivers and lakes. There is nowhere better than a good fly shop to get everything you need and here are some great ones.
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 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.
The big lost river, Mackay Reservoir, Anderson Ranch Reservoir, big creek, Joe River, and palisades dam are good spots too.
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 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.
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!