Sawtooth Mountain Area
In many ways, the Sawtooth Mountains and surrounding central Idaho country are the heart of Idaho both literally and figuratively. The Salmon River originates in the Sawtooth Valley above Stanley, while the headwaters of the fabled Middle Fork of the Salmon lie on the northwest edge of the Sawtooth Mountains. This is Idaho at its most spectacular.
Fishing in the Sawtooth country has three distinct seasons: steelhead fishing in the spring, rainbow and cutthroat fishing on the rivers and tributaries in the summer, and a high mountain lakes in late summer for native westslope cutthroat, introduced rainbow, and in certain lakes, Golden trout, and grayling.
The area offers many different fishing opportunities, stunning scenery, and a wide array of camping and hiking sites. Motels and restaurants are found in Stanley and Challis. Major fishing locations and opportunities are described below.
Valley Creek meanders through a scenic valley northwest of Stanley (along Hwy 21) that offers spectacular views of the Sawtooth Mountains and good fishing for rainbows and cutthroats with brook trout in the upper reaches. Valley Creek joins the Main Salmon River between Upper and Lower Stanley. Stream flows are usually high until the end of June, after which, dry fly fishing is good with Royal Humpies and Wulffs. Regulations require that all native cutthroat trout must be released.
Middle Fork of the Salmon River
This world-renowned river is home to a healthy and thriving native westslope cutthroat trout population that provides great angling from July through September. The Middle Fork lies in a fairly steep canyon and transects the largest wilderness area in the lower 48 states. It is most often accessed by rafters floating the 100-mile stretch from Dagger Falls to the confluence with the Main Salmon. Once the river drops from its spring flows (late June) the fishing can be exceptional, as cutthroat rise readily to attractor dries such as Stimulators, Royal Wulffs, and Royal Trudes. By late summer (end of August), cutthroat migrate into the lower portion of the Middle Fork and into the Main Salmon. Access the Middle Fork of the Salmon at Dagger Falls (the only road access) off Hwy 21 northwest of Stanley.
Suggested Flies: #6-10 Stimulators – Yellow and Orange, Deer hair grasshoppers in #8, Double Humpies in #8 & 10, and #8 Beanie Babies.
Marsh and Bear Valley Creeks
Marsh Creek and Bear Valley Creeks join to form the Middle Fork of the Salmon. Both creeks are fairly easy to access from a vehicle and both provide brook trout fishing in the upper reaches, and good early-season cutthroat fishing in the lower reaches. The best fishing in these streams is in late June and early July: by August, most of the cutthroats have migrated down into the Middle Fork.
Access is off Idaho 21 in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area 2-3 hours from Boise.
Suggested Flies: Stimulators, Ants, Beetles, Wulffs, Adams and mayfly nymphs.
High Mountain Lakes
The Sawtooth area is blessed with a wide variety of high mountain lakes that offer exceptional fishing in a truly stunning landscape. Fishing high mountain lakes in central Idaho in late summer takes you into a pristine environment where the mountain peaks watch over you as you cast to rising trout. The lakes contain a wide variety of trout, including native Westslope Cutthroat, Rainbow, Golden, and Brook Trout. A few lakes can be accessed by vehicle, but most require hiking. As always, the harder you are willing to work, the greater the rewards. Solitude, scenery, and willing trout await!