Photos and Story: A Big, Bad Idaho Bull Trout

Written by: Evan Williams


This is the bull trout that the author had been dreaming about.
All photos courtesy Evan Williams

A few weeks ago, my friend JR Maggard and I were looking for a new fishing zone and a new challenge, so we decided to head north from Boise in search of bull trout. The truck was packed with the usual camping gear, but when we arrived at a place that looked a lot like Middle Earth, the only gear that mattered was the fishing gear. Dramatic rock formations, tall pines, and gin-clear water was our backdrop, and the absence of another person was certainly the cherry on top. Equipped with some 5-weight rods, we dead drifted, twitched, and swung sculpin patterns through deep clear holes, waiting for that ferocious take that bulls are known for.


The northern Idaho scenery offers a stunning backdrop to the search for bull trout.

We walked the banks slowly and carefully, looking for these fish holding in the pools. Even in the clearest water, they can be hard to spot, until they start to chase your pattern. As a result, I found that sight-fishing with a streamer can be more fun than dry-fly fishing.


There were plenty of nice cutthroats along the way, as well.

Hooking these fish almost feels like you have snagged a tree trunk until a second later, when you’re into your backing and a rush of adrenaline kicks in. The weekend progressed with takes from bulls and cutthroats alike, trials and tribulations leading up to the big moment.


Drifting, swinging, and stripping sculpins through this water was an adventure.

A huge bull smashed my fly, and in the process of fighting the biggest fish I have ever hooked, I tripped, fell, and completely submerged myself. The only thing going through my mind after all I had been through was, Don’t lose this fish!


That’s a nice bully, but it’s not the bully.

I got up out of the water, the fish still on. He ran me about half a mile down the river, and after a long battle I was able to get below him and bring him to net. A missed fish the day before, two broken cameras (water damage), and a smashed toe didn’t even cross my mind while admiring that fish that has me day dreaming of the next time I get to go back.


This fish was worth a serious dunking.

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