Dry Flies and Timber Bulls

Fly Fishing for Westslope Cutthroat on the St. Joe


I recently took a backpacking and fly fishing trip to the St. Joe River in Idaho.  This trip has been on my bucket list for a long time and I finally found the time to make it happen.  I made the trip with my cousin Jack.  We also brought our son’s along.  My son, Cooper is 7 years old and Jack’s son is 5 years old so we knew we had our work cut out for us.DSCN1493  We pulled my travel trailer over the Little Joe pass and down to the Spruce Tree Campground which is located at the trailhead.  This river is in canyon country and the picturesque views of the river and mountainsides at sunset and sunrise were worth the trip alone.  We stayed the first night in the trailer and left early the following morning.  The boys did exceptionally well as the trail parallels the river along the valley floor.  The first two miles showed noticeable foot traffic signs which diminished as we moved further upriver with horse shoe prints dominating the trail.  Five miles upriDSCN1505ver from the trailhead is an outfitter cabin.  I can only assume that the accommodations at the lodge must be nothing less than top notch as we observed a pack train of horses traveling to and from the lodge every day that we were there.  We set up camp next to the river in a little opening just before the second river crossing on the trail.  The trail crosses the river five times in the first five miles.  Once we were able to set up camp, we struck out to find some westslope gold.  The river is crystal clear wiIMG_0292th nice runs and pockets that hold willing cutthroat trout that would rise to a well placed dry fly.  Cooper and Jackson lost their focus on fishing but were easily distracted with catching the frogs along the banks.  If pressed about what they enjoyed more, the boys would probably go with the frogs.  While we found the fishing to be quite good, other fly fisherman whom we met were disappointed with the fishing versus their previous experiences.  The fish were definitely more inteDSCN1532rested in larger attractor flies.  Jack was able to catch and raise many cutthroat on a fDSCN1526oam stonefly with white legs.  I was also able to pick up some nice fish on a foam hopper pattern.  While I enjoyed the fishing, I couldn’t help but take time to sit and take in the scenery of the area.  Dark timber slopes running down the canyon to the river’s edge with brush fields and open parks at the ridgetops.  This is truly elk country and having a blue ribbon trout stream flow right through the middle of it seems to be icing on the cake.  I can just imagine venturing into these canyons in the Fall casting October Caddis to rising trout while listening to elk bugle on the slopes above the river.  If there was a place to label God’s country, this would be it.  I will be back.  If you decide to take a trip to the legendary St. Joe, I would recommend having an assortment of large dry flies and some streamers.  The hike is not arduous and I would recommend hiking IMG_0299beyond the outfitter lodge as the fishing seems to improve as you get deeper into the wilderness.  Bring your camera and be prepared for pristine DSCN1521breathtaking country.  See you on the river!


  1. Jack

    Probably the most memorable trip I’ve (cousin Jack) have been on. Great water, great scenery and most of all great company!!! Fishin was a bit slow till I threw on Kevin’s homemade flies then the bite was on!! Definitely going back!

    1. dryfliesandtimberbulls@gmail.com (Post author)

      Jack, Great Trip! We’ll do it again.

  2. Big B

    Looks like paradise in the mountains. Nice article.


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