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Winter Fly Fishing Part 2 - Coeur d'Alene River

Sean Visintainer - 01/23/14

Winter Fly Fishing the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River. Photo by Michael Visintainer

Most folks often think of fishing the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene only during the summer months, however, there is whole other side to the river that is completely missed... winter time. Now winter fishing is certainly a different ball game than the summer, and you certainly shouldn't expect to go out and crush fish, but if you pick the right day it can all be worth it.

Some of the major points for fishing the Lower NF of the Coeur d'Alene during the winter…

  1. Not as cold as the St Joe - The lower stretches below Prichard and closer to I-90 tend to be warmer and freeze less.
  2. Relatively close to home - At approximately 50mins from Spokane it makes is pretty easy to fish the lower river for a half day. Capitalize on the mid day hours... don't waste time early and late... nobody is home.
  3. Slower Current - As the river approaches Enaville (Snake Pit) and I-90 the river channel widens and the currents slow down, making it ideally suited for lazy, cold cutthroat. This is technically referred to as the Coeur d'Alene River below the confluence of the South Fork.
  4. Plenty of wading opportunity - A lot of anglers bypass the lower CDA because they are either intimidated by bigger water or don't think there is wade fishing access... there is... a lot.
  5. Floating is possible - There is a good portion of the winter when the river is floatable. You may have to run your own shuttle though.
Blizzard on the Coeur d'Alene River. Photo by Michael Visintainer

A few winter tips...

  1. Nymphing. Nymphing. Nymphing. Did I mention nymphing?
  2. Slow inside bends usually provide the right current speed and depth. Most of the current on the outside bend of the run that you would normally fish in the summer tends to be a little fast for winter (although there are a few exceptions).
  3. Streamers on sink-tips fished very s-l-o-o-o-o-w can produce... typically on the warmest days.
  4. While there can be a random fish up on the surface during the winter, the best dry fly opportunity won't happen til later February or March.
  5. Fish 2 nymphs... sometimes they like Mr. Stone... sometimes they like Mrs. Beadhead.
  6. Midge pupa are worth fishing this time of the year.
  7. If the water goes up... fish back eddies.
Fly Fishing Slow Currents on the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River.

Slowww Currents - Fish are cold blooded... the water is cold... their metabolism slows down and so should the current speed you fish.

Top Winter Flies for the Coeur d'Alene

  1. BH San Juan (try a hot bead one too)
  2. BH Prince
  3. 3 BH Crystal BWO PT
  4. Pat's Rubber Leg
  5. Double Bead Epoxy Stone
  6. Glass Bead Crystal Midge
  7. BH UV Midge
  8. Copper John - Black, Red
  9. Glo Bugs or Trout Beads
  10. Lead Eye Marabou Leech
  11. Big Bird Bugger

Get out and play... it's a great winter so far to fish!

Floating the lower North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River.

Floating is often doable, but not always the case. If it's been sub freezing for a bit during most of the day... probably not. This winter... floating is a good option.

Mark holding a nice cutty on the Coeur d'Alene River.

Mark Poirier enjoying the sunshine in January.

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