By Hartt Wixom
I love the isolated village of Jarbidge, Nevada. No one I’ve talked with has ever heard of it. So much to the good. Quaint little one-time gold mining town, yet never ghosted. It is still very much alive and one of my favorite headquarters for trout fishing the local Jarbidge River.
Any publicity on the Jarbidge in northeast Nevada has been due to conflicts over preserving bull trout habitat. Locals who wanted to build a bridge were told it might silt the habitat of this hallowed (rare and endangered) species. Reading about it, I determined to fish for Nevada’s bull trout. But I found the best fishing to be (downstream a few miles from Jarbidge) in Idaho where the East Fork joins to provide more water. The Gem State’s Jarbidge flows into the remote and rugged Owyhee (undeclared) wilderness. Field and Stream’s Ted Trueblood, a native Idahoan, used to write about the region’s chukar hunting but I had never read anything about fly fishing there.
The beauty of Idaho’s Jarbidge is that there are no roads paralleling it. Hiking into Idaho means more neglected and larger trout. The trick is in getting there. But more about that later.
My last visit to the Idaho side was in August 2011when pan-sized rainbows met almost any small dry fly floated through the deeper riffles. One 13-inch bull trout was taken, a rare and endangered species which must be released immediately in either Nevada or Idaho. A sign on the Idaho side warns against keeping bull trout.
A friend and I first worked down the East Fork from Murphy Warm Springs (only sign of civilization around) to confluence with the main Jarbidge. From there the stream is unroaded real estate for dozens of miles to join the Bruneau River and eventually, the Snake River. Rafts can be floated down the Jarbidge but I saw none when I was there. A sign at the confluence indicates floating is a possibility if one can arrange pickup some 30 miles downstream. I prefer to just follow a good hiking trail.
Jarbidge was born of gold fever. A sign says some ten million in gold was taken from the local mines. You can fish the Jarbidge right in town, with a Nevada license obtained at the Outdoor Inn. The day I was there mule deer hunters parked their four wheelers right on Main Street and glassed for game.
We bought our non-resident Idaho angling licenses in Rogerson, Idaho on U. S. 93. Rogerson can be reached south from Twin Falls on 93, or north from Wells, Nev. The only gas station in town has several trophy walleyes displayed which were taken from nearby Salmon Falls Reservoir. (The lake apparently has no trout fishing and the stream below only runs intermittenly through a deep gorge.) To reach the Jarbidge, follow the signs west of Rogerson on a county road paved for some 50 miles. Watch for antelope.
Scenery is superb near and around the Jarbidge community, including a rugged mountain labeled The Matterhorn at nearly 11,000 feet elevation. Needless to say, drive a vehicle in good condition. There are no repair shops in either state for many miles. Each fall deer hunters bring four-wheel drive vehicles to scour the local mountains. Some big bucks have been taken.
I found no specialty fly shops in the area and no basic angling supplies available other than in Rogerson which has a gas station, grocery store, cafe and RV park. Jarbidge has some motel accommodations. There is a small public campground on the East Fork and one at the confluence. I found no access restrictions on surrounding land, as it is either U. S. Bureau of Land Management or U.S. Forest Service, save a small area near the warm springs.
Take binoculars and camera. And plenty of water. Idaho non-resident fishing licenses are $11.50 first day, $5 a day thereafter if purchased first day. For questions, contact the Idaho Fish and Game Dept. at (Southeast Region), 1345 Barton Rd., Pocatello, Idaho., 83204; telephone (208) 232-4703.