About an hour’s drive from South Fork Lodge, through the beginnings of some of Idaho’s productive barley and grain fields (the genesis of some of the best beer in the world), is the Cottonwood/Fulmer boat ramp, and the start of the float through the lower canyon stretch of the South Fork of the Snake River.
Just like in the upper canyon stretch, the river sports high cliff walls and a gorgeous cottonwood forest, but the landscape gives way to arid bluffs and high desert hills as the river works its way toward its wedding with the famed Henry’s Fork on its journey across southern Idaho. The fishing, too, is similar to that found in the upper canyon, with big, wild trout keying in on dry flies starting in June and continuing through later summer and “hopper season.”
As anglers work their way down the river and the water gets a bit warmer, the farther it flows from the cold-water output at Palisades Dam, the more brown trout start to show up in the net. And bigger browns, too.
Big Green Drakes show up on the water in June and into July, and they’ll rival the salmon fly hatch that starts in mid-to-late June. These big, awkward mayflies bring the lower canyon’s trout to the top and get them into the right frame of mind for the stonefly hatch that follows.
The lower canyon isn’t just for dry-fly anglers, though. Fly fishers who are happy to swing streamers through deep runs, under sunken cottonwood logs, and along grassy banks where the bruisers hang out might just latch into their brown trout of a lifetime. On overcast days in the lower canyon, the big browns like to come out and play, and serious streamer anglers are there to meet them.