Every Monday, we’ll post fishing writer Jordan Rodriguez’s weekly report in the Playing Outdoors blog. His column appears three Tuesdays per month.
Payette River (Mixed Bag)
I’m still hearing good reports on the Payette, which typically fishes better in the fall when flows are down, access is easier and rafting traffic is gone. There are some nice rainbow trout in the stretch that follows Highway 55 from Horseshoe Bend north to Cascade, and they are hard to find in the summer months when the water is up. Look for deep pools behind rocks and slower-moving water at the tail end of rapids, as fish will hold where it’s easier to find food and conserve energy. Spinners, spoons, bait or a small nymph fished underneath a dry fly or indicator will do the trick. Pay attention to the fins of trout you catch, and try to release wild rainbows with full, white-tipped fins. Hatchery fish will usually have less colorful or worn-down fins, and those are the keepers. I’m still hearing some good things from smallmouth anglers on the Payette, too. The bass fishery hits its stride as you head west through Emmett and New Plymouth. Crankbaits, jigs, spinnerbaits, leech patterns or live worms work best.
Getting there: Fish between Horseshoe Bend and Cascade if you are targeting trout. Fish further west toward Emmett and New Plymouth if you are targeting bass.
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The river dropped to winter flows a few weeks back, and fishing really slowed down. But it’s starting to pick back up, with anglers catching some trophy-sized brown trout on a variety of patterns. Brown trout are in their spawning season, but unlike salmon, they will continue to feed. Stripping minnow, sculpin or even mouse-pattern streamers can elicit an aggressive strike. Fish also will chase big spinners, spoons and Rapalas, if you’re fishing with traditional gear (barbless hooks are recommended, as browns are catch-and-release only on the Owyhee). On the surface, the hatch pattern has included tricos and midges early in the day, and BWOs in the afternoon. If you are wading, be careful to avoid the spawning beds — some are built in much shallower water than you’d think. Late October is a perfect time to get an Oregon day license and chase some big browns. Enjoy!
Getting there: Fish downstream from Adrian, Ore.
Swan Falls Reservoir
Fall fishing is still good on the Snake River, and the area around Swan Falls Dam provides great variety. Above the dam in the reservoir section, fishing is good for smallmouth bass in the 12-to-16-inch range. I’ve noticed folks don’t tend to catch as many fish above the dam (you can really pile them up in the river below), but the average size is better. You might also find largemouth bass, bullhead catfish and yellow perch — on one bass trip, I stumbled onto a huge school of jumbo perch, which was a pleasant surprise! Tube jigs, crankbaits, soft plastics and jerk baits are the best lures for bass. Bank access is limited above the dam, so it’s best to fish from a boat or even a kayak. Below the dam, anglers are still catching channel catfish, sturgeon and plenty of smallmouth. There is plentiful shore access, and a boat launch to get out and fish the deep sturgeon holes. Fish crayfish-pattern lures for smallmouth, worms or chicken livers for catfish, or cut bait for sturgeon.
Getting there: Take Meridian Road to Kuna, drive through town and take a left on Swan Falls Road, which winds out through the desert about 22 miles to the dam.
Up for a bit of a drive? Heading east to fish Henry’s Lake is usually a good bet this time of year. The lake — about a five-hour trip from Boise — is renowned for big cutthroat trout, with a chance to catch once-in-a-lifetime sized rainbow/cutthroat hybrids in excess of 10 pounds. Trolling or casting spinners and Rapalas, floating bait near the bottom, or stripping scuds, streamers and leech patterns are all popular fishing methods. The nearby South Fork and Henry’s Fork of the Snake River are blue-ribbon trout fisheries, too, if you want to make a weekend out of it. Bring warm clothes! The weather is colder and more unpredictable on the eastern side of the state.
Getting there: Take I-84 east toward Idaho Falls. Henry’s Lake is another 90 minutes north along Highway 20 on the way to West Yellowstone.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at outdoors @idahostatesman.com.