Copyright 2013 James Marsh
Fly Fishing Guide to the Big Wood River Idaho
The river starts in the high mountains north of Sun Valley and is a steeply declining stream in
most places above the North Fork confluence. It is fast moving pocket water with smaller
trout. Below the confluence it begins to level out some and the flows become more normal.
The huge rocks become few and far between and the streambed is make up mostly of
cobble and smaller stones. The stream takes on a more classic freestone appearance with
long pools, riffles and runs and of course, its defining cottonwood trees along its banks.
The section of the river from the confluence of the North Fork downstream for about
twenty-five miles to Bellevue is the most popular area to fish. There is a diversion dam below
Bellevue that diverts the flow into a channel so that it can be used for agriculture irrigation.
This diversion takes a lot of the water during the hot summer and creates some very low
water conditions from that point downstream to the reservoir. This low water situation can
make this section of the stream unproductive at times.
Brown trout are more common in the lower end of the river below Bellevue. Above there,
rainbows represent most of the trout. There are only a few brown trout in the middle and
upper portions of the river.
Theres also a tailwater section below Magic Reservoir. Access to this water is very limited. It
is purely controlled by the amount of water diverted for agriculture irrigation. If the snow pack
is good and the rains come and provide what locals call a wet year, fishing can be good
below the dam. During dry years it is hardly worth fishing. This problem with the flows keep
the tailwater from being a prime destination.
The freestone section of the Big Wood is a very good trout stream with plenty of hatches and
plenty of trout. It has great access. It is not large enough for drift boats and most all of it can
be waded with ease. What more could anyone ask for.
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Big Wood River Idaho