The Owyhee River is just an hour away from the hustle and bustle of Boise, Idaho, but it seems like a world away when fly fishing for rising trout in a deep, desert canyon. This tailwater fishery has emerged as one of the country’s best, and the average brown is in the 20-inch range. Fish concentrations are also dense, which makes the Owyhee River a worthy destination for anglers from anywhere. Owyhee Dam, where all the ‘fun’ begins’, is ‘technically’ located in Oregon, but anglers come from all over the country to enjoy this ‘blue ribbon’ fishery.
The Owhyee produces fabulous fly fishing year round! It is common to encounter healthy hatches of Skwalas (a small stonefly), PMD’s, caddis, Blue Winged Olives (BWO), midges, Mahogany Duns and Callibaetis. While all of these hatches can be prolific, it seems like the Skwalas and PMDs really bring the big fish to the surface, and caddis nymphs along with midges are the best subsurface producers. Ants and hoppers are prevalent in the fall, and the thrill of casting towards tight, fish-lined banks with terrestrial patterns is undeniable. Throw some tumbling craneflies into the mix, and the Owyhee has all the makings for a late-season dry fly bonanza.
Because of the light gradient of the Owyhee, the river’s large browns are conditioned since birth to take advantage of emerging and adult insects along soft current seams, and this feeding behavior continues through their entire life. Rarely is there a need to wear out your arm throwing streamers on this river to target the bigger fish (unless you want to, of course). You will often find that fishing with the tiniest flies and the most subtle presentations reap the biggest rewards; this is what makes the Owyhee such a unique brown trout fishery.
If the sight of 20 to 24-inch browns rhythmically rising to size #20 Blue Winged Olives gets your adrenaline pumping, the Owyhee is a true “dream stream”; but perhaps the river’s greatest attributes are its diversity of insect life and abundance of holding water. Whether you are a dry fly fishing purist, or love fishing nymphs deep; both methods are extremely effective. Still, the prospect of hitting a hatch ‘right ‘on the Owyhee is a ‘lifetime’ experience worth pursuing.
The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife has estimated insect counts (please, don’t ask us how they do this) at 26,000 bugs per square meter on the Owyhee tailwater! Although this is great news for the river, it can be an enigma for fishermen, as anglers are continually putting their fly up against the real thing. The Owyhee is legendary for “masking” hatches, so it is seldom ‘easy’. Are those big browns taking the adult, the emerger, the cripple or are they even gorging on BWO’s at all? These questions – and many more – can frustrate fly fishermen new to this fishery.
Here’s where the experience of the OWYHEE FLY FISHER can save you precious time on the water. Dan Bofenkamp (Head Guide) has been fly fishing the Owyhee since 1985, making him a true veteran. He is passionate about the river, its fish, the native wildlife, area history and the entire eco-system. Dan is the perfect guide for getting the most out of your time on the Owyhee.
A day with Dan at the OWYHEE FLY FISHER can make the difference between a frustrating outing and having the time of your life. A guide is an investment in knowledge, and any time on the water with Dan is well worth the expenditure.