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.
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.
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.
Above the confluence with Gold Creek, the river is full of pocket water.
We tried to find water like this to fish.
Below the confluence with Gold Creek, the river volume and gradient increases as canyon walls narrow.
The St. Joe is full of native cutthroat trout…beautiful cutthroat trout.
I caught a handful of these.
Small, but beautiful fish.
Here are a few other fish caught during the two days spent fishing the St. Joe.
Looks like Beetle Bailey works here as well!
decided to take and fish my bamboo rod made by my friend Skip Hosfield.
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.
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.
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.
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.