As I descended the steep, switchbacked canyon road to the confluence of Cow Creek and the South Fork of the Boise River, feelings of yore crept in. I had spent much of my youth frequenting this region. Camping, motorcycling, fishing and rafting were all pastimes that have thankfully stayed with me into my 30s--largely due to the accessibility and ease of places like Anderson Ranch Dam to Danskin.
This 10-mile stretch of river frontage boasts some of the best trophy fishing and chukar hunting in the region, making it a prime candidate for a weekend-long or overnight "cast and blast" session with friends. Just more than an hour's drive from Boise, the South Fork provides a host of fun and scenic recreation opportunities spread across five distinct access points, many with public toilets and ample camp sites.
Rainbow trout measuring 20-25 inches are not uncommon in this area, however the fishing was miserly during my most recent visit. It's understandable considering the hefty contingency of day trippers who made the banks of the South Fork look like a Walmart parking lot on that particular Saturday morning. It is undoubtedly best to go mid-week if you can. If nymphing is your cup-o-tea, mountain whitefish are also abundant, according to area Idaho Department of Fish and Game signage.
A childhood buddy and I left Boise and ventured toward Mountain Home on I-84 before heading northeast on Highway 20, en route to the Prairie turnoff. Less than five miles in on the well-groomed dirt road, cellphone service and email became a thing of the past--much to our enjoyment. The beaten path took us straight into the canyon and the bridge at Cow Creek. All we had to worry about now was finding the rest of our group and taking in the fall foliage.
Tools of the trade included a 9 mm pistol for plinking, a buffet of weaponry for our guttural little chukar friends on the hillside, two precisely trained Drahthaar hunting dogs, an assortment of dry and wet flies and leader arrangements commensurate with the hatch, and enough whiskey to keep cool overnight lows at bay. The river is now below 300 cfs, making waders a useful addition and boats more of a hindrance.
Hobo dinners on the fire and a late evening "spirit walk" wrapped up an excellent day on the South Fork. We were back in Boise the next day by lunch time. All said and done, our group came home with one chukar, zero fish and all smiles--a disappointing catch on paper but a worthy experience, no less.