Copyright 2018 James Marsh
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Fly Fishing The Upper Salmon River
The Upper Salmon River begins in the Sawtooth
mountains of Idaho and flows generally north to
Challis where highway #93 and #75 join. From there
the river flows north with highway #93 following nearby
all the way to Salmon, about 145 miles from its
beginning. It continues north for 45 more miles to
where it joins the North Fork of the Salmon River. The
North Fork flows westward and picks up the remote
Middle Fork about 30 miles from there.
The entire Upper Salmon River contains wild rainbow
and cutthroat trout. Their numbers are generally not
considered to be equal to the other prime Idaho
rainbow trout fisheries, but there are plenty of them in
The steelhead are a completely different thing. They
come into the Lower Salmon in the Fall most years but
everything is dependant on the water temperatures
and water levels. It isn't every year that they even
make it to the Upper Salmon. Some years they don't
make it beyond the confluence of the Middle Fork.
When the fresh sea run steelhead are in the upper
river fishing can be fantastic. They will move upstream
until ice stops them. When it begins to thaw in late
February and early March, they continue on up the
river. The faster the water warms, the faster the
steelhead move upstream to their spawning grounds.
Fly Fishing Guide to the Upper Salmon River:
Fly fishing the Upper Salmon River depends first
and foremost on what you are fishing for. We will start
with the steehead and then discuss the trout. Again,
provided the steelhead are in the river, when you are
fishing the spawning run in the spring, the best time is
usually during April. There are many things that can
affect the fishing, most importantly is the condition of
the water. At that time of the year the feeder streams
can be muddy for melting snow. When the Salmon
River gets muddy, it is difficult to catch the steelhead
because they don't tend to stay in their normal resting
places. Everything is left to blind casting. Fly anglers
want be the only ones fishing for them. Most of the
guys and gals will be using hardware. When they start
to catch steelhead, you should be able to catch them
on the fly. Otherwise you may want to stick to trout
fishing. The steelhead season ends April 30.
When conditions are perfect, the water is clear and
you can see the steelhead, most of the fish caught
are actually caught when they are spawning or on the
redds. The fish are caught using sight fishing
techniques. That would normally be a terrible thing
except in this case, the steelhead are hatchery raised
steelhead that don't produce eggs that hatch. I guess
you could say they fake the spawning process. They
are released as smolts. They return from the ocean
as partially wild steelhead. A true wild steelhead is a
rare fish and should be handled with care. They
should be released quickly when caught. They do not
have their adipose fin clipped. All hatchery steelhead
do. The adipose fin is the fin on the top back of the
fish behind the dorsal fin about half way to the caudal
fin or tail fin of the fish.
A-run steelhead are at sea one year before they
return to their spawning grounds. B-run steelhead are
at sea for two years prior to spawning. Of course, they
are much larger. The A-run steelhead, which are
mostly all of what you may catch, average about 5 or
6 pounds. The B-run steelhead probably average 12
to 15 pounds but get even larger. They come into the
Upper Salmon River only rarely.
You need full sink lines although sink tip lines work in
some cases. The fly needs to get down to the bottom.
You can fish with a strike indicator, but it is usually
better to fish down and across. We will cover the
tackle and flies in our gear section.
The rainbow and cutthroat trout in the Salmon River
are not necessarily in every pocket, run and riffle in
the river. Unless you know some likely holding spots,
you will have to do a little searching. It usually doesn't
take long to find them, just don't expect one to be in
every nice looking place you come across.
100% Satisfaction Guaranteed
Recommended Tackle & Gear
5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 & 12 ft., 5 or 6X, Nymphing:
71/2 ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly Superb Five or Ultimate Six
For 5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
Recommended Tackle & Gear
for Steelhead and Salmon
7, 8 , 9 or 10 weight for appropriate type
rod, sinking, sinking tip and floating
10#, 12# in 9 to 15 feet lengths
10# and 12#
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly 7, 8, 9 and 10 ft. single hand
For 7 to 10 weight lines
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
KISS Strike Indicators, Lanyards, etc.
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
Fish can be taken just about year-round
depending on the species your after.
Most of the stream will ice up during part of
the winter. Some steelhead fishing may be
Springtime can be good for trout except
during runoff, but steelhead is off and on,
depending on many factors.
Upper Salmon River Hatches and
Our information on aquatic insects is based
on our stream samples of larvae and
nymphs, not guess work. We base fly
suggestions on imitating the most plentiful
and most available insects and other
foods at the particular time you are
fishing. Unlike the generic fly shop trout
flies, we have specific imitations of all the
insects in the Blue River and in all stages
of life that are applicable to fishing. If you
want to fish better, more realistic trout
flies, have a much higher degree of
success, give us a call. We not only will
help you with selections, you will learn
why, after trying Perfect Flies, 92% of the
thousands of our customers will use nothing
There's few aquatic insect hatches that take
place before late June, but there's are some.
Little Black Caddis hatch in late April and
early May. There's also some winter
stoneflies that hatch in the March and April.
Of course midges are always important during
months of the year. There's hatches of
Blue-winged Olives that take place in March
In late June, you may find some small
Blue-winged Olive species that hatch, but
small ones, not the larger baetis species.
The runoff usually has a huge effect on the
stream levels during the month of June and
it's usually the first week of July before
everything settles back down to normal. This
strictly depends on the snowpack.
Pale Morning Duns are the most important
mayflies during the Summer. They hatch
mostly during the first couple of weeks in July
but the hatch will extend on into the early part
Spotted Sedges start hatching in late June
and will continue through the month of August.
They are the most plentiful species of
caddisflies on the Upper Salmon River.
Species of Green Sedges hatch during July,
August and September. The Green Rock
Worm, or larva stage of life of this caddisfly is
a great fly to use anytime during the year.
There are a few Salmonflies in the fast
water sections of the Upper Salmon River.
The hatch occurs the first part of July.
There's hatches of Golden stoneflies that
take place during the month of July,
mostly the early part of July but it
depends on the location of the river.
There's also good hatches of Yellow
Sallies (Little Yellow Stoneflies) that occur
from the middle of July to the middle of
September and October provide the best
Blue-winged Olive hatches. These are
normally good hatches that provide some
excellent dry fly action, even after
inclement weather begins. October
Caddis also hatch in September and the
first part of October.
From late July through the month of
September, terrestrial insects play an
important part in the diet of the trout in
the Upper Salmon River. Imitations of
grasshoppers, ants and beetles usually
work great during this time. There's lots of
grass and trees along the river that
provide an excellent habitat for these
Don't forget to have a good selection of
streamers. They work anytime there's low
conditions or when the river is stained
from rain. Sculpin are plentiful and
imitations of them work great at times.
Steelhead and Salmon Flies;
We have a complete line of flies for the
steelhead. We have selected them as the
most popular flies from thousands of
patterns that have been developed over
the years. They imitate the nymphs,
caddisfly larvae and fish roe or eggs that
are found in the river at various times of
the year. We also have a full line of
popular wet flies and streamers that are
very popular on the Upper Salmon River.
We hope you will give our flies a try.
Summer can be great for rainbow and
Early Fall is usually good for trout but late
Fall can have very low water
temperatures. Steelhead fishing can be
okay but again, it depends on many things.
Upper Salmon River Fishing Report:
11/30/13 Customer ordering midges for trout,
cream pupa and larva size 22 reported trout
doing okay late afternoon but steelhead
fishing all but come to a halt due to cold
weather with on a few being reported caught.
01/02/13 No reports of steelhead caught.
Highs in the low thirties and twenties and lows
in the teens have the water near ice cold.
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge
Fishing Report Updated 09/15/18
(Bottom Of Page)
01/16/14 According to our local contact,
here have been a few fish caught this
01/30/14 More fish caught but conditions
are changing and some very cold
weather is going to slow the catching
02/06/14 There is snow in the forecast
every day with highs from 10 to 26 and
lows from 5 to 14. The water will still be a
little too cold but fish can be caught.
02/13/14 Rain is in the forecast every day
with much warmer weather expected. This
should improve the fishing conditions.
02/20/14 Our local contact reporting a
few fish were caught during the past
week by himself and others. Water will be
a little colder this coming week.
02/27/14 No reports from anyone came in
the past week. Flows are low but normal
but there is a lot of rain and rain/snow
forecast for the coming week.
03/06/14 There are very good water
levels at this time with some more rain in
the forecast. No reports from last week.
03/13/14 Stream levels continue to be in
good shape and warmer weather
continues. Let us have your fishing reports.
03/20/14 Two good reports from anglers
trout fishing the tributaries came in. They
ordered more BWO nymphs and midges.
No reports came in on other species this
03/27/14 Right now the stream is at a
good level and the weather is cold but
reasonable. There is rain in the forecast
so that may soon change.
04/03/14 We did not receive any reports
from anyone fishing this past week.
Stream levels remain about normal.
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (email@example.com)
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.
2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.
3. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them
to you in time for your fly fishing trip.
All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $50 are shipped via
04/10/14 Levels have been about normal
but are headed by up. The water is still in
the mid forties and fishing slow.
04/17/14 Level at Salmon is at 2900 cfs
and 2.95 ft. or a little on the high side
and still very cold, in the low thirties.
04/24/14 The stream is flowing high and
we have no reports from anyone fishing
this past week.
05/01/14 Stream levels are back down
about normal. Warmer weather is in the
forecast and fishing for trout should
05/08/14 The stream flows are still high
but that is normal for this time of the year.
No reports from anyone fishing this past
05/15/14 Stream levels are back about
normal and decent weather is in the
forecast. Remember, if it gets very warm t
this time of the year, you can expect
high, muddy water.
05/22/14 The upper river is high but the
current discharges on the lower river are
still reasonable. This changes fast, so be
sure to check the levels.
05/29/14 Stream flows at 9050 cfs
(normal is about 5,000) and 6.06 ft at
Salmon. It will probably remain high for a
few more days.
06/05/14 Stream levels are down some
but still higher than normal. We don't have
any reports from this past week.
06/12/14 Stream levels are back down to
near normal levels for this time of the
season. The water is warming up and
conditions improving but we have no
reports from anyone fishing.
06/19/14 Water levels are way down and
conditions improving fast. Some insects
have started hatching. Expect Salmonflies
and Golden stoneflies. Two customers
reported catching trout this past week.
07/03/14 Stream is in great condition with
lots of Golden stoneflies hatching. Two
customers reported catching some nice
trout this past week.
07/17/14 Customers reporting catching
some nice trout. Little Yellow Stoneflies are
hatching along with some Green Drakes,
Pale Morning Duns and lots of caddisflies.
07/24/14 Lots of anglers are fishing the
Salmon, ID, area and some are catching
trout and others are not doing so well. We
suggest moving around to different areas
until you locate some fish.
07/31/14 Stream levels are in good shape,
plenty of insects are still hatching and trout
are being caught. Two customers ordering
flies reported good results this past week.
08/14/14 We have mixed reports the past
week. Some are catching some nice trout
but others aren't. We think it is to do with
exactly where anglers are fishing. Move
around, trying different areas of the river
until you find some fish.
08/28/14 We have received several good
reports from customers. Plenty of trout are
being caught and conditions remain good.
09/11/14 Trout fishing has continued to be
very good for the past 2 weeks. Stream
flows have been high at times, otherwise,
conditions have been good.
09/25/14 As long as stream levels have
been good, the fishing has been good. It is
low right now and anglers are catching
plenty of trout.
10/09/14 Stream levels are in excellent
shape and plenty of trout are being
caught by the few anglers fishing for them.
Blue-winged Olives will be the main thing
to imitate for the next few weeks.
10/16/14 Conditions are still very
good, good stream levels, weather and
10/23/14 No reports from the past week
but the weather and stream levels are still
in good conditions.
10/30/14 Stream levels are good and
anglers have caught some nice trout this
12/25/14 Sorry for the lack of reports.
Stream conditions are good (a little low)
but water temps are very cold. No reports
this past two weeks of fish caught.
01/01/15 Happy new year. Still no
reports. It has been very cold but
warming some this next week.
01/15/15 Two good recent reports from
customers. Conditions are much better
with warmer weather forecast.
01/22/15 No reports from the past week but
conditions remain very good.
02/05/15 Still no reports from the river as
such. It is mostly ice free and trout are the
only options. Steelhead will move into the
Stanley Basin area to just above Challis as
soon as the weather starts to warm up some.
02/12/15 The weather has been nice and
there is less ice, but still no steelhead. We
didn't get any reports from anyone fishing
02/19/15 No reports from anglers fishing
last week but conditions were not that bad.
02/26/15 Still no reports from anyone fishing.
03/05/15 Stream levels are back normal
and the weather forecast is great with
highs each day in the fifties.
03/19/15 Stream levels are very high due
to rain and warm weather melting snow.
04/02/15 Still no reports from anyone
fishing. Stream levels are still high.
04/09/15 One good report of trout caught
on our Brown sculpin streamers. Stream
levels are gradually falling and getting in
04/23/15 Stream levels have remained good
and three good reports from the past two
week. Streamer, Little Black caddis, BWOs
05/07/15 Stream levels are running a little
high for wading, not for boats. Little Black
Caddis are showing up. Get ready for
06/04/15 Two good reports. Anglers
catching trout. Salmonflies hatching. Watch
the stream levels. They are high right now.
07/02/15 Golden Stoneflies are hatching big
time. Little Yellow stoneflies are hathcing
along with PMDs, Green Drakes, Spotted
Sedges, Green Sedges, and other insects.
07/09/15 Cooler weather but good
conditions continue. Shoot us an email and
let us help yu with your fly selection.
07/16/15 Two good reports from customers
this past week. Conditions remain good.
07/23/15 The stream is low, so fish the
deeper pools and pockets. Lots of caddis.
08/06/15 The conditions have improved
lately and a good report came in yesterday.
Good stream levels.
08/13/15 Rainbows and cutthroat are being
caught on PMDs, Spotted Sedges, Yellow
Quills, Little Yellows stones and others.
08/20/15 Conditions remain excellent but
there is a lot of smoke in the area to deal with.
08/27/15 Hatches are still occurring and ants,
beetles and hopper are also producing.
09/03/15 Lots of flying ants falling. PMDs still
hatching along with Little Yellow stoneflies and
lots of caddisflies.
09/10/15 We are getting some good reports
from customers. Good conditions top to bottom.
09/17/15 Great conditions with normal stream
levels and lots of trout being caught.
09/24/15 Excellent conditions exist. Great
stream levels and great cooler weather. Some
nice trout are being caught right now.
10/08/15 Trout fishing continues to be
excellent and steelhead are making their way
up the river as far as Salmon.
10/15/15 The river is still low but fishing very
good. It is mostly nymph fishing with few takes
on dries. There are some October Caddis.
10/29/15 The river is at its normal level right
now but there is rain in the forecast every day,
so watch the levels. Blue-winged Olives are the
main insects to match in sizes 20 and 16.
11/05/15 Low levels makes it more important
to stay low and hidden as much as possible.
Longer, lighter leaders and tippets. BWOs are
hatching and some nice trout being caught.
11/12/15 Conditions have remained about the
same with good, mild weather. Few anglers are
fishing but more should be. Rain is on the way
the first of next week.
11/19/15 Snow and colder weather has kelp
most anglers on the couch. Fishing midges is
about the only viable option.
11/26/15 Happy Thanksgiving. We didn't get any
reports from the past week. Water temp is about
41. Midges, larva /pupa combo should work.
12/03/15 Chance of rain through Friday and
again Sunday through Wednesday. Stream
levels normal. Water temperature now 39.
12/10/15 Stream flows are at 1440 at Salmon.
Snow is in the forecast for the next week with
air temps not going above freezing.
12/24/15 The snow is letting us some after
tomorrow but the water is very cold with ice
around the banks. Water temperature is about
36 to 38 degrees and that makes it tough.
01/07/16 Quite frankly, the water is too high
and too cold at this time. Keep in touch.
01/21/16 The weather has warmed up a little
but that just melts snow on the banks and
keeps the water cold. It isn't worth your time.
01/28/16 Stream levels are in good shape
right now but there's lots of rain and snow.
The water is still too cold.
02/11/16 Stream levels are in good shape and
wading possible many places. The weather is a
little warmer and some trout are being caught.
02/25/15 The weather has been much warmer
but it is melting a lot of snow and ice in the
watershed and keeping the water temperature
down in the mid thirties. In other words, catching
trout is very tough at this time.
03/10/16 Stream levels are in good shape but
there is a lot of rain in the forecast. The water
is cold and midges and winter stoneflies are
the best fly options.
03/17/16 Steelhead are in the river but mostly
in the lower river and Challis area. Swinging
and nymphing are catching fish. Stream levels
are in good shape.
03/24/16 Good reports are coming in of
steelhead being caught well upstream from
Chalis. It hasn't reached the Salmon area yet.
03/31/16 More good reports of steelhead being
caught. Stream levels are normal and the water
clear. Nymphing and swinging are both working.
04/21/16 Stream levels are still very high and
likely to remain high for a few more days.
05/05/16 The steelhead season is closed but
trout fishing will get better as the water warms.
Right now it is about 45 and need to get to
about 50 degrees for the Little Black Caddis or
Mother's day hatch to begin.
05/19/16 The river is very high and muddy, in
the full runoff mode. You will just have to watch
the stream levels to see when it ends.
06/02/16 The flows are at 3790 cfs at 4.06 ft.
This is high but not too high to fish with a drift
boat. The small tributary streams may give you
a better shot at trout until the levels fall.
06/23/16 Stream levels are down and in good
shape. Trout fishing should be good. This
includes the small tributaries.
06/30/16 Lots of Golden stoneflies are
hatching and trout are being caught on the
nymphs along the banks and the egg layers in
07/07/16 The weather is turning a little cooler
but it shouldn't have much effect on the fishing.
The Golden stoneflies are laying eggs in the
afternoon and bringing trout to the surface.
07/21/16 There are lots of little Yellows
stoneflies and some Goldens left in the upper
and middle sections. Three species of
caddisflies are also hatching along with the Pale
07/28/16 Stream levels are a little low and in
places you can sight fish for trout. Just make
sure you stay low and don't spook them.
08/04/16 The river is still low but the cooler
temperatures should make it much better.
There are a lot of PMDs and caddisflies
hatching. Little Yellow stoneflies are plentiful.
08/18/16 The upper river is still a little low and
clear but anglers are catching trout early and
late in the day. Terrestrials are working good.
Hoppers, ants and beetles. Caddis are hatching
good. Fish the last two hours of the day.
09/15/16 Two good reports from customers
wading and fishing the upper salmon. Stream
levels are a little low but in good shape
otherwise. October caddis should start to
hatch soon. BWOs, Tricos, little Yellow stones
Mahogany duns and spotted sedges are
09/22/16 Lots of October Caddis are
hatching along with BWOs, Mahogany duns
and other insects.
10/06/16 Trout fishing in and around the
Salmon area has been very good the past
two weeks. Good stream levels and weather.
10/27/16 The conditions look pretty good but
we haven't received any reports from anyone
fishing. Let us hear from you.
11/24/16 A few steelhead have been caught
from the North Fork to Lemhi River. River
levels are just a little high.
12/08/16 Steelhead fishing on the upper
Salmon River remained fairly good last
week. The water temperature is in the high
thirties making it tough. Most fishing took
place between the Middle Fork confluence
12/22/16 Same story, meaning cold water
temperatures and slush ice is the problem.
The steelhead are there, just tough to catch.
01/05/16 There is a lot of ice in the water.
We haven't received any reports from
anyone catching fish.
01/25/17 The river is very cold with lots of
slush and bank ice. Conditions are poor.
02/09/17 Conditions are much better with
warmer weather and a lot of the slush and
bank ice melted. We should start getting
some good reports.
02/16/17 That didn't last long. More heavy
snow is forecast everyday this coming week.
03/23/17 The river is flowing at 3540 cfs at
Salmon and normal at this time is 1170 cfs. It
will take a few days to fall back out.
04/27/17 The stream is flowing at 3580 cfs at
3.89 ft. Normal for this time of the year is
about 1870 cfs. Check back with us.
05/18/17 Steelhead season is closed. Trout
can be caught when the runoff is over. River
is at 7680 cfs, about double the normal flows.
06/15/17 The flows are at 8160 cfs at 6.50 ft.
That is still very high and we hope about to
reach the peak of the runoff. Check back in a
week and you should see a big difference.
06/29/17 The flows are still very high and
not safe to wade anywhere. There are lots of
Golden stoneflies hatching along with other
insects. It shouldn't be much longer.
07/27/17 Stream levels are still a little high,
too high to wade most places. Trout are
being caught on Little Yellow stoneflies,
PMDs and Spotted Sedge Caddis.
09/07/17 The stream levels are just a little
above normal but in good shape. Trout are
being caught in the upper river in good
09/21/17 Trout fishing is still good. October
caddis are starting to hatch.
10/19/17 Trout fishing continues to be
good. There has been a very few
steelhead caught below the Lemihi river.
10/27/17 There are more steelhead being
caught. Trout fishing is still good as well.
11/25/17 Trout are being caught in the
Stanley area. Midges, creams with the larva
and pupa in tandem. Brown sculpin are also
working good. Steelhead are being caught
near the North Fork confluence.
12/23/17 Trout are being caught by the
few anglers fishing for them. Most of the
water is the Salmon area has slush ice.
01/26/18 Steelhead should be in the Challis
area and upstream in the coming month in
good numbers. No reports yet.
03/02/18 Sorry for missed reports.
Steelhead are being caught in good
numbers. This coming week should be a
03/23/18 Good numbers of steelhead are
being caught. Fish above Lemhi River.to
East Fork. Send us an email for a fly list.
04/06/18 Lots of steelhead in the river.
Fish the area around Challis. Steelhead
nymphs like our Giant Black stonefly and
eggs like our Estaz patterns are working.
04/13/18 The water is cloudy above Challis
and muddy below it. Steelhead are still
being caught in the upper sections.
05/06/18 The river is blown out, too high to
fish anywhere. All you can do is check
back with us. We will keep you up to date.
05/27/18 The river is blown out from heavy
runoff. This situation is likely to continue
for a few more days. Check back with us.
06/10/18 The flows are still at 5560 cfs
which is high. Trout fishing will be good
when the flows drop some.
06/17/18 Stream levels are still very high.
06/24/18 High stream levels but lots of
Golden stoneflies hatching below Salmon.
07/15/18 Trout fishing has been good the
past week, with good stream levels and
good hatches. Send us an email for a fly
09/15/18 The river is in good shape. It has
been a little too warm but cooling off fast
and in okay condition now.