Idaho is blessed with trout waters and one of the best rivers are not far from Red Horse Mountain Ranch. Trout Unlimited called it, “the best cutthroat trout fishery on the west side of the Rockies, ” and we share the same opinion. the St. Joe River winds 130 milesfrom the Idaho-Montana border to Lake Coeur d’Alene. The upper river stretches are considered blue ribbon and anglers spread out along the 30-40 miles of this Wild and Scenic corridor enjoying catch and release wade fishing. On its lower stretches which resemble a typical western freestone river, anglers have their chance at fishing from drift boats and wading large cobblestone riffles well known by locals searching for the last rise during twilight hours.
From June through October the St. Joe is an exceptional catch & release fishery for cutthroat trout ranging in size up to 22 inches. For the most part, the trout readily come to a well casted dry fly presentation. When bright summer days persist, anglers will find other methods such as nymphing or streamer fishing also can be a successful fly fishing tactic. Anglers don’t have to have a well-seasoned cast, although it is helpful. Beginning anglers and novice anglers have good chances at success, especially with a fly fishing guide.
What to expect. Departure from the ranch typically occurs after breakfast. During the middle of the summer when temperatures warm, its best to get a little earlier start on the river and the morning chef will be glad to have something ready for an early take off. From the ranch, you’ll be driving along the St. Joe River in about a half an hour but expect driving times to be around an hour to the put in. Wading trips usually venture further into the Wild and Scenic canyon so expect a little longer drive. Once there, you’ll get in a full day of fishing, see some wonderful country, and be back to the ranch sometime around dinner. Lunches are cooked riverside and you’ll be treated to a hearty lunch. Beginning anglers should expect to learn the basics (how to cast, mend, catch, and gently release trout) along with a few hidden secrets picked up by the guides through their years of experience.
What to bring. Fly fishing anglers that want to bring their own gear will find that a 5 weight rod is best for all around trout fishing on the St. Joe. A 4 or 3 weight rod for dry fly work is also an excellent tool. If you’ll be taking a guided drift boat fly fishing trip, don’t be concerned about packing light as the boats have plenty of storage spaces. But if you’ll be doing a walk and wade trip on the upper stretches of the St. Joe, we’ll want to be careful on our gear choices. Bring your typical tippet weights, 3x – 5x; we tend to keep our tippet sizes in the heavier weights so as to release the fish as quickly as possible. Don’t worry about a net as your guide will have that covered. As for fly selections, keep it simple with your basic attractor patterns; the Irresistible, Wulff patterns, Caddis patterns and the Renegade are good for dry fly fishing in sizes 12-16. I also prefer to keep a few parachute adams, hoppers, and pmd’s in my box. A few of your bead-headed nymphs in sizes 12-16 are good to have as well; prince nymphs, pheasant tails, hare’s ears, and other standards will work just fine. If you’re not bringing your gear with you, not to worry. The ranch has plenty of fishing equipment to take care of you during your trip. Fly rods, flies, tippets, leaders, and other equipment is available from the ranch. We also have a few breathable waders and wading shoes, but it’s not usually needed during the summer months. If you’ll be fishing in early june or late fall, waders are recommended. A camera, sunglasses, sunscreen, quick-dry clothing, light jacket, and quick-drying shoes are all welcomed items to complete your list for a fishing trip on the St. Joe River. Besides your Idaho fishing license which can be purchased at the ranch, all other items will be handled by your guide including lunches, shuttles, and transportation.