Fly fishing the St. Joe River ID has always been on my to-do list. While making plans for the 2017 fly fishing road trip, I scratched it off the list because I chose other rivers to fish instead.

St Joe River Above Gold Creek |

It’s always good when a “plan B” comes together after discovering a bust. We had planned to fish the Kettle River in north-central Washington, but it looked like frog water when we arrived.

Kettle River WA |

I couldn’t imagine spending three days on the river at this water level.

Since we had plans to stay in Kellogg, ID a few days later, we decided to head that direction and ended up in Spokane, WA for a night. That’s where we decided upon “plan B”. 

All of a sudden, the St. Joe came back to the top of the list. Rial, our guide on the Upper Columbia River, had recommended we hit the upper reaches of the St. Joe River.

Ultimately, we drove to St. Regis, MT and stayed for a couple of nights. It’s about 28 miles up and over the mountains back into Idaho and the St. Joe River and the drive took just over an hour. We first saw the river at the confluence with Gold Creek.

When I saw this sign, I knew we were in the right place.

St. Joe River Sign |

Above the confluence with Gold Creek, the river is full of pocket water.

We tried to find water like this to fish.

St Joe Above Gold Creek |

Below the confluence with Gold Creek, the river volume and gradient increases as canyon walls narrow.

St Joe River Below Gold Creek |

The St. Joe is full of native cutthroat trout…beautiful cutthroat trout.

St Joe River Cutthroat |

I caught a handful of these.

Handfull of St Joe River Cutthroat |

Small, but beautiful fish.

St Joe River Cutthroat |

Here are a few other fish caught during the two days spent fishing the St. Joe. 

St Joe Cutthroat with Beetle Bailey |
St Joe Cutthroat |
St. Joe River Cutthroat Trout |

Looks like Beetle Bailey works here as well!

decided to take and fish my bamboo rod made by my friend Skip Hosfield.

Skip Hosfield Bamboo Rod on St Joe River |

We caught a lot of fish 7 to 11 inches long. A couple larger fish came to the net with the biggest around 14 inches. 

After moving to Kellogg, ID, we returned to the St. Joe taking the road from Wallace, ID to the small town of Avery, a distance of about 47 miles. It took us along the North Fork of the St. Joe River along an old railroad grade. I stopped to fish the North Fork and was able to find a few small fish.

North Fork St. Joe River Cutthroat |

After a stop in Avery, we drove upstream, stopping along the way to catch a few fish. Our last spot we fished was the same run from our first day.

Here are a few stats about the St. Joe River.

The river flows from the Bitterroot Mountains on the Montana border 140 miles into Lake Couer d’Alene at St. Maries, ID.

Like many of the rivers in Idaho and Montana, runoff affects the river flows dramatically. I’ve read where it peaks in July.

The main fly fishing section can found at the confluence of the North Fork of the St. Joe (at Avery) to Spruce Tree campground, a distance of 39 miles where the road ends.

We drove to the end of the road, past Red Ives Ranger Station and had lunch at Spruce Tree Campground, which is literally the end of the road.

Double Haul IPA on St Joe |

We chose not to hike upstream to check out more fishing because the campground was full and I thought many of those campers might have walked upstream to fish. There are 26 miles of river above Spruce Tree Campground.

During our trip, we found most of the fly fishers in the 15 miles from Gold Creek to Spruce Tree. I’d read during trip preparation this was the section fly fishers congregate to and they were right! WOW…lots of fly fishers. OK, we fished it on the weekend, so that was to be expected. There were so many fly fishers on the river from Spokane, WA and Couer d’Alene, ID. I’m not complaining because it is many of their home waters, but I should have counted the RV’s and tents in the campgrounds, on side roads, and even very small pull-outs along the river.

We were able to find water to fish, but it was crowded. And we were a long way from civilization.

In spite of the crowds, I really enjoyed fly fishing the St. Joe River ID.

St Joe River Cutthroat Release |

While in St. Regis, we did check out the Clark Fork River. Be sure to check out my Throw Back Thursday post about the Parachute Chernobyl and Joe Cantrell for a little information about fishing the Clark Fork River, MT.

Enjoy…go fish!

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  1. I have a good friend in Post Falls and we usually hit the St Joe during the week in the month of August. At that time hard to see a half dozen cars from Avery upstream.

  2. John. Great report felt like we were there with you.
    A mid Sept trip to Kelly Creek , the Clearwater below Kelly and the St Joe finds far fewer people. After a good rain the waters cools and it is much more enjoyable. Throw in a 6 mile hike up the Lochsa and you have a week’s worth of fishing

  3. Thank you for that virtual tour of the St Joes. Been about 10 years since I had the chance to go there. Such a wonderful trip ( except for the chigger bites). Camped at Spruce Tree. Did walk upstream from there about 2 miles ( mid week). Had wonderful fishing. Lovely pics.

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