Fishing, Ashton Idaho
If you are looking for fishing, you have come to the right place! Mesa Falls Lodge is positioned perfectly for any fishing adventure. There are a lifetime of fishing opportunities within an hour of the lodge. For specific information, feel free to contact us or visit the outfitters listed at the bottom of the page.
The Henry’s Fork has been long famed as one of the greatest fisheries in the world and it is a real treat to hear its waters gurgling by right out the front door of Mesa Falls Lodge. Anglers from across the globe travel to test their abilities on this fabled water. Though sections such as the Railroad Ranch (Harriman State Park) and Box Canyon receive the most attention because of their large trout, they are only but a small part of this magnificent river. From its source at Big Springs, to its confluence with the South Fork of The Snake River roughly 50 miles downstream, nearly every imaginable water type can be found. Whether it is tight lining nymphs in pocket water, or the stealthy hunt of the "Ph.d" educated trout in the slow flat water, you can find it on this river. Rather than repeat what has been written about this fishery, we will give a brief summary of some access points and the type of fishing one can expect.
Henry’s Fork in front of the lodge
The water in front of the cabin is as good as anywhere on the river. The fishing up or down from the Lodge is mostly riffle fishing into long deep runs. Pocket water can also be found, and there is usually a fish behind every rock. The best thing about this stretch is that everything can work. Good hatches of stoneflies, mayflies, caddis, and midges are common throughout the year. The Stonefly Hatch in particular, which is sometime during the last two weeks in May can be spectacular! And don’t forget the streamer and nymph fishing. Here are a few things that I suggest for the serious angler staying at our Lodge. Avoid the main crowd. Now, this doesn’t mean on a cloudy day you should be on the deck while the fish are going nuts on a P.M.D. hatch at 2 in the afternoon. And yes, most hatches on this stretch occur between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. However, due to the fact you can measure how far you are sleeping from the river in feet, one really ought to consider how best to capitalize on the situation. To do this, first you must understand the schedule of the other anglers. You will see the majority of anglers from around eight in the morning til noon drifting by. It takes from few minutes up to an hour for the boats that put in at Warm River to make it down to the water in front of the Lodge, so this is why you usually won’t be bothered in the afternoon. The guides floating this stretch are off the water between 5-6, and their take out is at the reservoir many miles downstream, so you will typically see them come through in the morning. This means that from sun up until around 8 am, you will basically have the river to yourself. After 6, you can expect the same thing. Whether by boat or wading, fishing the hour before and after sun up with streamers is your best bet for a trophy trout.
The next thing to understand is the fish. The average fish you will catch are rainbows in the 8”-15” range with fish 16”-20” caught daily. Another thing that the lower stretches of water have to offer that can’t be found in the more famous areas above Mesa Falls are the brown trout. Not stocked since the 80’s in the lower river, a resident population has staked its claim. You can increase your odds and average size by fishing early and late when pressure is light and the bigger fish are less wary. And why not, when your done, you only have to walk a few hundred feet to fall asleep!
Big Springs to Mack’s Inn
Generally a put and take section that is open to both the fly fisherman and those armed with conventional tackle (spinners and bait). Mostly smaller stocked rainbows in general that can be great for the novice fly fisherman or the young ones. At the bridge at Macks Inn the river is easily wadeable, and one can make his way up or downstream looking for fish. Upstream from the bridge can be crowded in summer due to people floating in canoes, rafts, inner tubes and such, making the fishing difficult. Typically downstream is better. Another option would be to park near Upper Coffee Pot Campground and walk to the river. It is a short walk with fewer people around. To get there, turn off Highway 20 just south of Macks Inn at the sign for Upper Coffee Pot Campground and follow the gravel road to the campground. To reach Coffee Pot Rapids, continue past the campground to where the road dead ends.
Coffee Pot Rapids
Access here is at the end of a gravel and dirt road, then involves a short 2-5 minute hike into a scenic canyon. Fishing is mostly in pocket water though some riffles and runs are also available. Popular in the fall (September) when the Kokanee Salmon are running out of Island Park Reservoir. The fish tend to stack up right at the bottom of the rapids, and it is not uncommon for some large rainbows to be mixed in with them looking for an easy meal. Again, to get there go north on Highway 20 roughly 40 minutes, then turn left where the sign for Coffee Pot is (just before Macks Inn). Drive a few miles on the gravel road following the signs and you will find it. It is not well marked when you get to the dead end and you have to get out and walk to the canyon edge to see the river. Not a strenuous hike down, but footing can be shaky, particularly if wet!
Famous stretch of water that begins at the base of Island Park Reservoir. Special fishing regulations apply to this stretch so make sure to get an updated version when you buy your license. From Stonefly Lodge head north on Highway 20 for 20 minutes to Last Chance. At Last Chance you can get off the Highway by the A-Bar and follow a mostly gravel road along the river. There is a boat take out and large parking area just upstream from Last Chance and it marks the lower end of the Box Canyon stretch. The water is more flat here than in the heart of the Box, but excellent riffle and flats fishing can be found if you don’t mind walking upstream. After this parking area, you can continue upstream, but avoid trying to access the river through the subdivision as most land owners will not be welcoming. After you pass the subdivision you are welcome to park at any of the points along the way that you find. There are several turnoffs that will provide parking, with only short hikes to the pockets and runs of the Canyon. This road will take you all the way to Island Park Dam. You can also do this route in reverse by following the Highway a few more miles past Last Chance and turning west just after Ponds Lodge following the signs to Island Park Dam. Fishing below the dam is the most popular and accessible area in Box Canyon.
Railroad Ranch & Harriman State Park
A 15 to 20 minute drive north on Highway 20 will bring you to this great meadow section. This area is what made the "Fork" famous across the world. It has been said that if you can catch a fish here, you can catch a fish anywhere! The slow, clear, and wide river is easily wadeable and accessible here. Special regulations again apply as the Ranch waters don’t open until mid June, and it is fly fishing only. Access is good starting with a parking area off Highway 20 in Last Chance at the log jam about an 1/8 of a mile below the A-Bar. Many people park here and walk downstream in search of risers. A mile before Last Chance is another parking area. From here it is a mile long walk (or bike ride) on a gravel road to the heart of the Ranch. You can also park at Osborne Bridge (where Highway 20 crosses the river) and walk both up and down stream. And of course, Harriman State Park also provides access though there is a small fee to enter the park.
10-15 minutes from the cabin is a favorite campground and fishing spot. When traveling north on Highway 20 from the Lodge the signs for Riverside Campground and turn off will be on your right hand side. The water here is much different than the Railroad Ranch mentioned above. Big rocks, fast water, and tough wading is the rule of thumb. Mostly nymph and streamer fishing for the angler. It is also open to conventional tackle. The river starts its journey into Cardiac Canyon here and doesn’t seem to slow down for miles! Mostly smaller rainbows in the 8-15 in class though always the shot at a real lunker, as some large fish have come from this area!
Upper and Lower Mesa Falls
These scenic water falls are also great access points for the more adventurous fisherman. The 30-40 minute drive is well worth the trip if for nothing more than the scenery and the fishing isn’t bad either! For Upper Mesa, park at the overlook and bring yourself some water and snacks for the fishing. Heading upstream is by far the easiest choice, and the farther you walk, the more lonely it gets! Try big dries with bead head droppers or get down and dirty with stonefly nymphs. Both should produce depending on the day. If you are really adventurous, you can hike down into the canyon below the falls. This area is called Cardiac Canyon for a reason, so make sure you are up to the challenge before going. The wise angler will have plenty of water, food, and other supplies for fishing in these areas. There won’t be anyone floating by to bail you out if you get into trouble! At Lower Mesa the Canyon is even deeper. Though only a mile downstream from Upper Mesa, the hiking is even farther. To get here, drive through the campground that is adjacent to the overlook, and follow the dirt road at the end. It isn’t far to the parking area and trailhead from there, so if conditions are particularly wet, consider parking back at the overlook. The trail to the river is often used by anglers dragging down rafts and is thus very rough. Footing can be treacherous and more than one ankle has been twisted on the trip. Once at the river you have roughly a mile of fishing between you and the Lower Falls upstream. Wading upstream is often the best choice as guides with boats are obviously headed downstream. The fishing here is again mostly nymphing with stoneflies, though big dries with a dropper will also produce. Again, come prepared as weather and river conditions can change in a heartbeat.
25-30 minutes from the cabin on the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway is a turn out at an abandoned ski resort. This is only an access if you are in a four wheel drive vehicle or have four wheelers! There is a very rough two track road down into the gulch that after about a mile will bring you to within about 100 yards of the river. You can park here and easily walk to the water. If you make it (and you won’t if it is rainy, snowy, muddy etc, so don’t go if it is) then you will be down in one of the most spectacular canyons in the west. The water will be deceiving here as it is very flat and slow, but it is the exception rather than the rule. Depending on water levels, walking downstream can be almost impossible as the river tumbles quickly downstream at the bottom of this long slow pool. Heading upstream is much easier in comparison, but is still not a walk in the park. This area can be a good adventure with children as there is some good bait and spinner fishing at the head of this slow stretch. Above the pool is mostly pocket and riffle water with stonefly nymphs with beadhead droppers again being the ticket most of the time.
Warm River Confluence
Just a few minutes upstream from the cabin is another great access for fishing that you will drive by on the way to Meas Falls Lodge. Warm River to Ashton Reservoir is one of the best stretches for fishing variety. Frequent hatches will bring the trout to the surface, and if not, both nymphing and streamer fishing are productive. A spinning rod has also been known to work well on the browns that are in this stretch.
Directly west of Ashton and only minutes from the Lodge is one of the best tailwater stretches in the west. Flowing from beneath Ashton reservoir, the Henry’s Fork seems to pick up some type of steroid and pass it on to the fish. Ora Bridge is roughly half a mile below the Ashton Reservoir dam. The wading is fairly easy though crossing back and forth through the riffles and runs is still difficult. The average fish you can expect to catch here is larger than anywhere else on the river. 16”-20” fish are the norm, with 20”-22” fish caught fairly often. A lot of these fish will come up to the surface if there is a good hatch, and of course, like everywhere on the Henry’s Fork, you can’t count out stonefly nymphs with various droppers. To get there go into the town of Ashton and turn west at the center of town (the Frost Top restaurant is on the corner). Follow this road approximately 2 miles and you will see a parking area just before crossing Ora Bridge.
A few miles below Ora Bridge will bring you to this other highly popular access area. If you follow the road west out of Ashton (turning west at the Frost Top), and continue past Ora Bridge, you will soon find this bridge. There are currently some gravel roads that also parallel the river for short stretches both upstream and down from here. These roads fall on private property, so treat the land and its owners with respect. Obey all signs, particularly no trespassing if posted, as access is literally at the discretion of the owners and could be revoked at any time! The fish here are much the same as at Ora Bridge, Big! The numbers gradually decline as you go down from Ashton dam, but size in some cases, seems to get better if that is possible! Wading is again moderate with the water continuing to be riffles and runs.
Chester Back Waters, The Fun Farm, St. Anthony and beyond
The above information covers about 2/3 of the river, that’s right, only 2/3! There are many more access points, fishing spots, etc. than what we have been able to give. Below Vernon Bridge the fishing continues to be good all the way to St. Anthony. If you are interested in exploring some of those areas, please feel free to contact us or any of the shops and outfitters listed on our site and they can point you in the right direction!
South Fork of the Snake River
40 minutes to an hour and a half away. Famous in its own right!
Only an hour away in Montana.
25 minutes to an hour away. Known for its difficult access, rattle snakes and big Cutthroats. Get specialized advice before heading here.
The best big river that no one knows about! 15 minutes away. Overshadowed by the Henry’s Fork. Access is difficult, but can be reached at all the bridges that cross it.
Confluence with the Henry’s Fork 10 minutes upstream from the Lodge. Great smaller stream.
Also 10 minutes away. Runs into Warm River just upstream from its confluence with the Henry’s Fork.
25 minutes to the North. Highway 20 crosses it, and it runs into the Henry’s Fork just below Island Park Dam in Box Canyon. Good for smaller fish.
You’ll cross this beauty when driving from Ashton to Driggs. Fishing depends on the water year. 25 minutes away and aptly named for hiking and accessing!
45 minutes away to the north. Trophy trout paradise. This place is a fish factory, and one of the best trout lakes in the world. Start at Staley Springs on the northwest side.
Island Park Reservoir
Like everything else, overshadowed by Henry’s Lake, but good in its own right. Head to the south fingers.
Just west of the Lodge. Great little secret, though a motorized boat is needed to effectively fish it.
Grassy Lake Reservoir
A little off the beaten path, but some big fish are caught every year. Take the Reclamation Road east out of Ashton. After a few miles the road turns to gravel, for more specific directions please contact us or stop in at a local outfitter.
Local Fly Fishing Outfitters.
38 W Center
Victor, Idaho 83455
Ph: (800) 654-0676
Three Rivers Ranch
Highway 20 - Inside Premier Fly Fishing
Ashton, ID 83420
Henry's Fork Anglers
3340 Hwy 20
Island Park, ID 83429
Phone: (208) 558-7525
Toll Free: 1-800-788-4479
3327 N. Hwy 20
Island Park, Idaho 83429