S. Fork of the Snake in Idaho? [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: S. Fork of the Snake in Idaho?

Fly Dry
07-02-2003, 12:03 PM
I'm a novice rower but an experienced fly fisher. I am interested in floating the S. Fork of the Snake this August in a 18 foot Dory.
What are the best and easiest sections to float?
What is the most scenic section to float?
What class is most of the river and can a novice float it?
I want to float the river all day and have a shuttle for my truck, then car camp near the river, any suggestions for this?
Any lodges or cabins that you recommend in the area?
Any other info would be great! Many thanks!!!!

07-06-2003, 08:06 AM

I was stationed in Idaho Falls from 91 to 94 and used to fish the South Fork quite a bit. Used to be one of the great Cutthroat rivers in the U.S.
The Swan Valley area is a great place to float and down thru the canyon to Ririe or is it Rigsby ?
There are no major rapids that I remember, so, if you're experienced it should be no problem. As for lodges - the South Fork Lodge is fairly well known. I believe its owned by Mike Lawson of Henry's Fork Anglers Inc. fame.
One request - please, please, kill every Rainbow or hybrid you catch ! I know that we believe in catch & release, but, ironically this belief could be the biggest issue in this particular river's future. Since I left, the Rainbows are taking the river over at an alarming rate ! The last electroshock survey in 2002 yielded approx 1:1 ratio of Rainbows or hybrids to Cutts. Harvesting Rainbows is maybe the only hope to saving the South Fork's once great Cutthroat fishery.

Fly Dry
07-07-2003, 09:13 AM
Thanks very much for the info.
I will cetainly have to harvest any bows or hybrids we catch, that should not be a problem.

07-07-2003, 09:23 AM

Can you tell us more about the situation on the South Fork? I had always assumed that those two species did not totally "directly" compete with each other. Are the cutthroat endangered of being over run by a population of stocked rainbows? Any information you have would be greatly appreciated.


07-07-2003, 12:46 PM
Even this New Yorker knows the problem - the rainbows "interbreed" badly with the cutthroats, and all the cutthroats fisheries quickly become "rainbow or hybrid" fisheries. It's a real problem out there, and why the Upper Yellowstone (in the park) is so preciously guarded.

There's no easy fix to this, once it starts. Let's face it - both are beautiful fish, but it is nice to preserve the cutthroats as a distinct species. The "stock everything" mentality has fortunately come to a halt, and let's keep and preserve things the way it was, given that the fishery is capable of it! In the case of South Fork, it is VERY capable of it!


07-08-2003, 06:28 PM
Well, like someone said above, the Rainbows and Cutts hybridize and eventually the river will have no remaining Cutthroat. From what I've read the Rainbows were originally stocked in the '70's. Prior to 1996, the Rainbows averaged like 15-16% of the total population. Since then, however, the Rainbow numbers have exploded. Last year's survey found that Rainbows had increased and Cutthroats decreased so that there's now about a 1:1 ratio of Rainbows/hybrids to Cutts. Unfortunately, there's not much that can be done about it. TU and IDF&G have set up trapping stations on the some of the major tributaries - the Cutts are allowed to pass, while the Rainbows and hybrids get transported to other waters where its safe to stock them. There's a couple of problems with this:
1. The weirs have to be tended daily, and repaired when damaged. Obviously, this costs money and requires volunteers.
2. Fluvial Cutts tend to use the tributaries to spawn, whereas many of the Rainbows actually use gravel bars in the main river to spawn. So, this measure alone, will not stop Rainbows from displacing the Cutts from the river. It may slow it somewhat.
The river is far too big to treat it and kill the Rainbows (and all the other fish!).
Really, the only hope seems to be encouraging the use of the "catch and fry" technique on the Rainbows and hybrids. TU believes that this may be the only way to be able to return and control the Rainbow population to lower levels.
I am from California and I like Rainbows. But, I love native Cutthroats and Rainbows just do not belong there. As much as I enjoy wild trout, I enjoy native trout more. Besides, the Rainbows stocked since the turn of the century in most waters are a mix of 2 or more Rainbow subspecies - most hatchery Rainbows can trace their origin back to California Rainbows reared before the turn of the 19th century in San Fransisco or the McCloud River hatcheries. These fish are actually Coastal Rainbow Steelhead or a mixture of that and McCloud Redband. Its not like they are a representative of pure Rainbow subspecies.