When people think of the western United States, the first places to pop into their minds are often Montana, Colorado and Wyoming, and rightfully so. The national parks in these states are beautiful and amazing to visit.

There are, however, a few states that often get left off the list due to a lack of national parks. Idaho is one of the most beautiful states in America, and the fly fishing there is top notch. Since it’s primarily national forest land, tourists don’t have it at the top of their list to visit.

I made my first trip to Salmon, Idaho a few years ago and I couldn’t believe that I’d never bothered visiting before. It’s beautiful, the fish are a nice size, and I had a wonderful time exploring all that the state had to offer.

Fly Fishing Salmon: Why Go?

When you think of fly fishing in Idaho, you think of the Salmon River. Salmon, Idaho is located in the Salmon River Valley conveniently located right near the Main and Middle Fork of the Salmon River.

fly fishing Salmon, Idaho

You’ll find a bit of seclusion you might not find on other western rivers due to the more work it takes to be successful when fishing on the Salmon River. It’s a true western fly fishing experience!

Species for Salmon Fly Fishing

You’ll encounter a nice variety of fish that you’re able to catch when you visit Salmon and target the surrounding waters. Anglers won’t get bored by landing only one species.


Yes, you can even target steelhead on the Salmon River in Idaho. It’s the only inland western state that has ocean-run fish like this! You can find them at the Bonneville Dam Fish Ladder and even around the Lake Creek Bridge. These fish are found in late September and early October.

Steelhead fishing on a fly

Bring along your 7 or 8 weights! You’re going to need them with these fish.

Rainbow Trout

Rainbow trout are another common species that anglers will find near Salmon, Idaho. These fish grow upwards of 25 inches and can put up an impressive fight. Look for them throughout the Main and Middle Salmon Rivers. They’re quite active.

fly fishing rainbow trout

Bring along those Pheasant Tails and Clouser Minnows when targeting these fish.

Cutthroat Trout

Cutthroat is one of the fan favorites in Salmon, Idaho. These fish are beautiful and some of the harder fighting trout that you’ll find. Look for them throughout the Salmon River along the cut banks.

Wild westslope cutthroat trout caught in Montana.

You can land them on Prince Nymphs, Pheasant Tails and Elk Hair Caddis.

Brook Trout

One of the best parts about fishing near Salmon, Idaho is the opportunity to land some brook trout.

fly fishing Brook Trout

Try to identify the coldest water possible because this is where the fish flourish.

Best Spots for Fly Fishing Salmon

Since there’s so much water surrounding Salmon, Idaho, anglers should spend multiple days in the area targeting fish. The majority of your time should be spent on the Salmon River, however.

Cottonwood Recreation Site

If you’re staying near Salmon, travel south towards the Cottonwood Recreation Site. This is right between Challis and Salmon. This is a BLM site with a drift boat launch, and you also have ample access to bank fishing.

fly fishing Cottonwood Recreation Site

Bring along those Pheasant Tails, Elk Hair Caddis and Salmonfly patterns. You’ll find that these will produce the most fish. You’ll most likely be swinging streamers, high-stick nymphing, or throwing those dry patterns at the rises you see.

Sawtooth Fish Hatchery

Downstream from the Salmon Fish Hatchery, you’ll run into Idaho 75. Idaho 75 contains numerous pull-offs for anglers searching to take a beautiful drive along the river and wade fish along the road. You can even stop at a few of those public campsites if you want to take a few days to fully explore the area.

Take along your 5 or 6 weight, floating line, and quite a few dry fly patterns. Pheasant Tails, Clouser Minnows and some terrestrial patterns will do the trick in late summer.

Lower Pahsimeroi Hatchery

The Lower Pahsimeroi fish hatchery is another location anglers often start when targeting fish on the Upper Salmon. Here, you’ll have access to some of the steelhead that run throughout September and October.

Lower Pahsimeroi Hatchery

The hatchery is located right where the Pahsimeroi River connects with the main portion of the Salmon. Bring your steelhead flies as well as some caddis patterns.

Best Flies For Salmon

The hatches on the Salmon River are phenomenal. You’ll need a wide assortment of flies for your time in Idaho. Since the hatches are so prominent, don’t be married to one pattern!

Chernobyl Ant

The Chernobyl Ant is a perfect pattern for the Salmon if you’re fishing it late in the summer.

Terrestrial flies are active especially up along the banks covered in vegetation. Let them drift through the middle of the river before you cast again.

Elk Hair Caddis

Elk Hair Caddis patterns work throughout the morning and evening hatches. Use these patterns in sizes 14-18 if at all possible.

Don’t make it too complicated, just cast to the rises!

Wooly Bugger

The Wooly Bugger is a classic pattern that’s always worked regardless of where you’re fishing and what you’re targeting. Fish these through the deeper pools.

Pheasant Tail Nymphs

BWO hatches are prominent on the Salmon in the spring. Fish these Pheasant Tail Nymphs through the ripples.

Rabbit Fur Leeches

Leeches are another pattern that anglers need to have in their box. If you’re fishing in the middle of the day, go ahead and toss these through the deep portions of the river.

Salmon Fishing Season

The Salmon River can be fished year round. Steelhead run late in the fall, but the trout will feast from late June through October.

Salmon Fishing Report

The Upper Salmon was fishing wonderfully in late July of last year. Terrestrial patterns were just starting to work and Wooly Buggers were fishing well near the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery.

Also, don’t miss our complete guide to fly fishing around Rhode Island.


Salmon, Idaho offers anglers some of the most extraordinary fishing experiences in the country. Landing steelhead and salmon hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean is rare. Take advantage of the scenery and the fish!