Sunday was a day for either NFL Football or the USAF Thunderbird Demonstration Team at Mountain Home AFB right? Wrong! For me it was an opportunity to check out the Middle Fork of the Boise River near Atlanta, Idaho. So off I went. The temperature was hovering around 46 degrees as I left Mountain Home and bottomed out at 36 degrees near Featherville, Idaho. At one point on this September 14th, 2008 fishing trip the temperature hit 78F along side the Middle Fork.
My route of travel took me from Mountain Home through Pine, Featherville, Rocky Bar and finally to the Middle Fork Road near Atlanta, Idaho...
James Creek Road
At Rocky Bar, Idaho I took the right turn and headed up James Creek. This road provides some great views if you stop and look around. It also provides a narrow and sort of scary route as one long section of the road seems to be carved into a cliff. Not for the faint of heart driver. The road condition could be classified as rough, tumble and slow going. Don't expect to drive much faster than 15mph along most of this gravel road.
The James Creek Road enters a large old burn area at the half way mark and provides a contrasting view of Idaho forests. Fall colors are showing up with red and orange undergrowth mainly in the old burn areas. If you are thinking about taking this road, it can be done in a regular car but make sure you have a set of good tires plus a good spare tire. It's rocky and bumpy the entire length.
Middle Fork Road
Once you get to the Middle Fork Road a few miles west of Atlanta, the road becomes quite wide and much smoother. For the most part, the Middle Fork Road lives up to it name by closely following the bed of the Boise River. One bad part of the road is the washboard condition in many places. At times I thought the fillings in my teeth would rattle loose. The other bad part of this road is the fact that there are just so many great looking places to fish. You can look down on the Middle Fork and spot pool after pool after pool that are sure to hold at least 1 trout. It's hard to make a decision on which pool to stop at and which pool to pass up.
Fishing the Middle Fork of the Boise River
I like to get into my fishing and this means wading into and through the River. Being late in the year, the river was at a perfect level for being able to wade close enough to almost any pool you can find. You might have to get into water up to your waist to drop a spinner into it but it will be worth it.
I caught my first Idaho trout at the first fishing hole I casted into. Yes, it was small, but darn it, it felt great to get back to my favorite type of fishing after so many years of living in the southern US. As I waded upstream, I stumbled, slipped and scrambled through the Boise all the while keeping my eyes open for any small pool. I was rewarded throughout the day by catching many trout. I probably only caught 2 or 3 “keepers” but I released them for another day.
If there is one thing I learned, it is to always take some time to turn around to see where you've been. It's amazing the things you miss looking at the sights from only one direction...straight ahead. I was rewarded doing this as I watched a deer walk down the slope and into the Boise River. I would have missed it if I didn't take to time to turn around every few minutes.
Sometimes you come across a sight that just makes you want to get out and get into the water even though you know it's highly unlikely there will be a fish lurking in the waters. The picture below is one of the places. The white and black sand combined with the crystal clear bluish tinged water drew me in for at least 10 minutes of fruitless fishing.
I cut my teeth on trout stream fishing in Montana and I learned it's not a good idea to bring a camera while wading a stream. Eventually that wading will turn into a slip, fall and cold soaking. So I left my camera safely locked up in my truck while fishing. Digital cameras probably don't take well to being dunked in a stream. Plus, who has the time to drag a camera out of a bag when there is fishing to be done. But I certainly wish I had my camera on a number of occasions.
Overall, I caught 19-20 trout on this great day of exploring the Middle Fork. I likely could have caught more fish but I had to learn how to fish with barbless hook. Current regulations prohibit barbed hooks on this river and probably for a good reason. If I had barbs on my lures, I would have landed many more fish. Yeah...you know the old story of the ones that got away? Well it's a true story in this case. I swear to it. It may be all about the fish for some people but for me, it's all about the hunt. I'd say todays trout hunting trip was a success.
My weapons of choice on this fishing trip was an ultra-light fishing pole with 4 pound test line. I used only two spinners/lures the entire day.
Being so close to the historic mining town of Atlanta, this portion of the Middle Fork of the Boise River is pretty much gold country. And plenty of people have taken advantage of this fact. I'd say there isn't a square foot of land adjacent to the river that doesn't have a mining claim on it. In one of the prettiest fishing holes on the river, I found a floating dredge tied up. There were no miners around so I took that opportunity to make a few casts. I had no luck in the pool shown below.
I'm not an expert on mining but I suspect the picture below showing a long pile of rocks isn't the work of mother nature. I'll call this some type of mine tailing and it's located not too far from the intersection of Phifer Creek Road and the Middle Fork Road.
Back to Mountain Home on Phifer Creek Road.
I started my fishing day just west of the intersection of James Creek Road and the Middle Fork Road. I slowly drove and fished myself to Phifer Creek intersection through the day. When it was time to head home I decided Phifer Creek was the best way to go.
The Phifer Creek Road is similar to the James Creek Road in that it is narrow, rough and has some great scenery. But that is where the similarities end. Phifer Creek Road is a tad less wild and has many turn outs where James Creek has a lot less turn-outs and passing lanes. I'd say the James Creek Road would be the shorter of the two road to take if you are taking the route through Rocky Bar and Featherville.
I'm not sure what the cause was but I did get a flat tire on Phifer Creek road and was happy I found a flat, wide turn-out where I could change the tire. So my warning that you should have a good spare tire before heading down to the Middle Fork of the Boise River isn't without merit. I'm glad I did.
What to bring
- Drinks and food are a must for this trip. I'm sure you can pick up some food in Atlanta but you're here to fish, not go to the mall.
- A board to put under your car jack. I'm sure my jack would have done just fine in he hard packed dirt but I was glad I threw a small piece of wood in the back for this purpose.
- Shoes that have good traction on wet surfaces. The shoes I wore to wade in were terrible...like ice skates. I'm not the felts and waders type person. A good pair of old tennis shoes, shorts and a shirt if the weather dictates.
- Some handi-wipes would have been nice for getting the pine sap off my hands. The first place I stopped I had to use a few pine trees to drag myself up a near vertical path from the river to the road. Think about pine pitch on your casting finger all day long!!!!!!
- Barbless hooks are required and there is a two fish limit (14 inches or bigger)
- A slow and mellow attitude about fishing. I went into this trip hoping to catch a few fish but after my first sight of the Middle Fork, I knew getting skunked wouldn't be a bad thing.
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