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Less than an hour northwest of Bend, Oregon, the Metolius River, secreted away in the Deschutes National Forest, is little known since professional guides are not permitted and the ... moreriver is not advertised. The river begins at Metolius Springs, near the base of Black Butte, and is fed from cold spring water that keeps the river at an even flow and a near constant 48 degrees – ideal trout habitat. The river ends at Lake Billy Chinook.
While only 29 miles long, the Metolius is large in what it has to offer. Nearly half of the river is designated as a National Wild and Scenic River while another 12 mile run is a National Recreational River. In the estimation of many naturalists and conservationists, the lower 17 miles of river that run along the warm Springs Indian Reservation, are among the most gorgeous to be found in the lower 48. To maintain the pristine quality of the river, legislation was passed in 1990 and again in 2009 to limit development within 86,000 acres of the Metolius water basin.
Not just beautiful, this river is full of rainbow, bull and brown trout. Rainbow and brown can easily measure up to 24 inches, while bulls 15 pounds and over have been pulled from these waters. In the fall Kokanee can be seen in the river, ready to spawn. The upper Metolius is limited to fly fishing, catch and release and barbless hooks. This is a great choice for anglers seeking an authentic fishing experience, but be sure to pack your waders - fishing from boats is prohibited.
If you’re traveling with people interested in other activities, camping, rafting, skiing and horseback riding are widely available.
Starting at Little Lava Lake in central Oregon, this 252 mile, southward flowing River, takes a turn at the Wikiup Reservoir, defies gravity and flows north until it empties into the ... moreColumbia River. Archaeologists will tell that for eons, the Deschutes was an important route for Native Americans as they traveled to and from the Columbia. Later, in the 19th century, Historians will tell you that the river was an important marker for pioneers, eventually becoming part of the famous Oregon Trail.
Today the river is considered an important part of our national heritage due to its extraordinary beauty and bountiful fisheries. Over 145 miles of the river have been designated as a National Recreational River while another 30 miles are crowned with National Wild and Scenic River distinction. Typically thought of in three sections – upper, middle and lower - the river passes through high arid country, flower filled meadows, and steep canyons.
As an official “blue ribbon” river, the Deschutes is perhaps most famous for its Columbia River redband trout, known locally as redsides. These trout have an unusual, bright red stripe that covers the bottom half of their bodies; the spots on the upper body are darker than other wild rainbow. Depending on where you are on the river, there can be as many as 1,700 redbands per mile, ranging from 8 – 16 inches.
Warm Springs to Macks Canyon is the preferred stretch for catching redbands. There is good redband fishing along Warm Springs Tribal Land but special permits are required. The section from Pelton Dam to the River’s mouth has high concentrations of wild trout, including summer steelhead. The entire river is managed as a wild trout fishery.
Where can you find a fly fishing haven that is oddly urban in character yet runs through 3 ghost towns, is a winter home to migratory bald eagles and you have to take a train to get ... moreto some of the best water? Well the answer is Durango, Colorado where the Animas River flows right through it. Here it’s possible to successfully cast off a pedestrian bridge in the middle of town, wander down stream on well-marked trails to wade, or take a train through the mountains to fish.
High in the San Juan Mountains, at the ghost town of Animas Forks and the confluence of the North and West forks, this tributary of the San Juan River begins. It continues on past the ghost towns of Eureka and Howardsville and at Silverton, flows into Animas Canyon, a steep walled passageway. After Durango, the river flows south into New Mexico where it joins with the San Juan River at Farmington.
North of Silverton the Animas is more stream than river. It gathers momentum as it nears Hermosa but because of a steep gorge, getting to the waters above Hermosa requires taking a train, a route once used to transport ore from nearby mines. Past Hermosa the river opens up, and at times is more than a 100 feet wide with rifles, long runs and deep pools.
At Purple Cliffs, approximately 3 miles downstream from Durango, the river is regulated but very accessible and the boulders and rifles here provide ideal habitat for trout. In 1997, this section of the river was classified by the State of Colorado as a Gold Medal River, meaning it contains a minimum of 60 pounds of trout and more than 12 trout over 14 inches per acre. Fish ranging from 16-20 inches are not uncommon here.
This 241 mile tributary of the Colorado River begins its journey high (over 11,000 ft.) inside the boundaries of the San Juan National Forest, about 5 miles south of Lizard Pass. Initially ... morethe river flows southwest to the confluence with the West Dolores and then continues until it reaches the McPhee Dam. Eventually it is joined by the San Miguel River and keeps running through to Dewey Bridge where it empties into the Colorado.
Many consider the Delores a well-kept secret and wouldn’t mind if it stayed that way. It came to the attention of trout lovers after the completion of the McPhee Dam and the release of cold water created a world-class tailwater. In response, the Colorado Division of Wildlife introduced thousands of rainbow, brown and Snake River cutthroat and since then they have thrived.
The initial 12 miles down from the dam are limited to catch and release, lures and flies only, but the area is well signed and access is easy. The scenery here is also dramatic and beautiful, running through a steep, rocky canyon that is blanketed with Ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, juniper and majestic cottonwoods. Waders will find the low gradient water welcoming with rifles, pools and slow bends, although pocket water tends to be scarce.
Trout average about 10-15 inches although much larger fish are there to be caught. Water can be low in the winter months, depending on how flows are managed at the dam, and it’s not uncommon for the river to ice over. As a result, in contrast to many other tailwaters, the Delores is not a year round fishery.
About an hour’s drive from Durango, the San Juan River tailwater, a result of the Navajo Dam completed on Navajo land in 1962, is another happy accident for trout lovers. It originates ... morein Colorado’s San Juan Mountains on the western side of the Continental Divide, winds its way through northern New Mexico and Arizona, and ends in Utah where it empties into the Colorado River at Lake Powell. Although it crosses all 4 of the Four Corners, most agree the best place to fish is in New Mexico, below Navajo Dam at Navajo Lake.
While fishing is good for at least 10 miles below the dam, the most coveted area is a mere 3½-mile run. What this mileage lacks in length, it makes up for in fish. Known almost reverently as the “Quality Water,” many anglers consider this the holy grail of trout fishing. Releases from the dam keep the water temperature a near constant 42-45 degrees year round, and unlike the Delores, the San Juan can be experienced throughout every season.
Initially, New Mexico game officials stocked the river with brown, rainbow and cutthroat trout. Because the water is rich in nutrients and the conditions are so near perfect, the fish have flourished. Stocking rainbows has continued over the years although browns have reproduced on their own. This has resulted in one of the highest fish counts of any North American river, estimated at approximately 20,000 fish per mile in the Quality Water section.
Most of the year this section of river can be easily waded or fished from a drift boat, although it is strictly catch and release with a 2 fly limit on a single barbless hook.
As a tributary of the Colorado, and the Frying Pan and Crystal as its main tributaries, it’s no wonder that large stretches of the Roaring Fork are ranked as Wild Trout and Gold Medal ... morefisheries. Originating high on the western edge of the Continental Divide near Independence Pass, this steep gradient river is aptly named. During its 70 mile run, the river drops over 7,000 feet, generating speed, turbulence and Class I to VI rapids. The Roaring Fork Watershed is vast, draining over 1,450 square miles, an area comparable in size to Rhode Island.
Above Aspen, the upper waters can be waded and are flush with brown and rainbow trout. Located in the White River National Forest public access is plentiful and well marked. The distance between Aspen to Carbondale, a 4200 ft. drop, is a highly regarded section for fly fishers and is also easily accessed off Route 82.
From Aspen to Basalt, the river loses gradient with another 1300 foot drop but picks up volume from surrounding mountain waters. Most of this section is designated as Wild Trout Water indicating that the river can support trout through an entire, natural life cycle. At Basalt the Frying Pan joins the Roaring Fork and the volume of water increases significantly. The 28 mile distance between Basalt and the confluence with the Colorado at Glenwood Springs is the famed Gold Medal run. The Crystal River converges with the Fork near Carbondale and maintains the Gold medal moniker that started at Basalt.
Restrictions apply in the designated waters and vary from section to section and from season to season, so it’s important to obtain current information before casting off. The Upper part of the river is good for wading. Floating is best suited for the lower stretches but requires someone experienced in whitewater navigation.
Often overlooked by visitors to the area, the Crystal is an undiscovered gem worth finding. Starting at the confluence of its north and south forks, the river winds down from the alpine ... moremeadows of the Elk Mountains above Marble, Colorado and drains into the Valley of the Coal Miners. Because there are large shale deposits in its drainage basin, the “crystal” water can get muddy after a hard rain or during spring runoff, but if you catch it right it can deliver some great trout fishing.
Public access is quite good since most of the river flows through the White River National Forest and runs nearly parallel to highway #133. In the fall, brown trout come up from the Roaring Fork River to spawn, which can provide a great opportunity for anglers. The state stocks rainbow and cutthroat in the public sections between Marble and Redstone because hatches tend to be lower here than in other parts of the river. This is the only section that is stocked.
Higher concentrations of rainbow are found as you move toward the river’s confluence with the Roaring Fork. Because this is a swift moving river, the fish are known to hold out in current seams and banks where it’s possible for them to feed without exerting too much energy. Most consider late spring to early fall the best time to fish this wading river.
Between Crystal City and Marble, the river works its way through the Crystal River Canyon, a narrow valley with a challenging landscape. Fishing is known to be good here but the terrain is rugged and access is difficult due to seasonal mudslides, snow slides and rockfalls. If this type of adventure appeals to you, be sure to only go in with an appropriate, 4 wheel vehicle.
With a name like this you know there has to be a story. In fact there are several, but our favorite is the most obvious – that long ago there were so many fish (native cutthroat) they ... morejumped right out of the river and into your frying pan. It begins near Mt. Elbert as a stream fed, heavily pocketed, freestone river. From there the river turns northwest and flows into the Ruedi Reservoir, where since 1968, its waters have been dammed. This 14 mile, Gold Medal, section - from the reservoir to the Roaring Fork at Basalt - is considered one of the state’s best tailwaters.
By definition, Gold Medal in Colorado means the fish are plentiful – a minimum of 60 pounds of trout per acre with at least 12 fish over 14 inches in length. Together with the designated 28 miles of Roaring Fork water, this is the longest, continuous Gold Medal run in Colorado. The introduction of the dam brought an unintended side effect when Mysis shrimp were introduced into the Reservoir to support a Kokanee salmon fishery that was never completed. The result – big boys, pigs, hogs, giants, or whatever you call them - the shrimp diet produces monster fish.
Add abundant, year round hatches and it’s no wonder anglers flock here to fish. The Frying Pan is known for its fabled Green Drake hatch that typically starts in late July and extends through October, drawing even the savviest fish to the surface. In addition to Spring Blue Winged Olive (BWO) hatches, this tailwater is one of only three that hosts the Serratella ignitia, a flightless BWO that attracts fish like ice cream attracts kids.
The river above the reservoir is less crowded and less regulated. The Gold Medal run is catch and release, artificial lures only.
Nestled in rocky basin along side steep canyon walls, this 40-mile Feather River tributary is known for its great beauty and abundant trout. By car, it a short drive from Sacramento. ... moreThe Yuba River continues through the canyons until it flattens around Parks Bar Bridge then runs parallel to highway.
Species include wild rainbow trout, steelhead in the fall, and striped bass. While rainbows tend to average about 12 inches, there are recent reports of 18-25 inch trout being found.
The Flathead River represents the combined flow of hundreds of headwater creeks funneled from the glacial cirques of Glacier National Park and other wild places within the U.S. and ... moreCanada. This cold, clear water flows into the North, South and Middle forks of the Flathead, which merge together near Columbia Falls to begin a southward journey. Portions of the upper mainstem Flathead River are classified as 'Recreational' within the Wild and Scenic River Classification system.
About 20 miles into its journey, after flowing down the gentle, south-sloping gradient of the Flathead Basin floor, the river empties into Flathead Lake. The lower mainstem Flathead River drains from the southwest corner of the lake and draws waters from an arid valley basin throughout its 75-mile course. The Flathead River finally empties into the Clark Fork River at Paradise.
The Flathead River System offers hundreds of miles of pristine waterways, while Flathead Lake is a scenic and recreational mecca. A diversity of fish and wildlife complement the land and water resources, and contribute to both the natural and cultural values of the Flathead Basin environment.
The Smith River is nationally one of the most well known streams in the U.S., in large part because of the unique experience it offers. For visitors from all over Montana and across ... morethe country lucky enough to draw float permits, the Smith River float, with access to a 59-mile stretch of river only at its upper and lower ends, holds a pristine adventure. The river begins its 121-mile journey near the town of White Sulphur Springs where the North and South forks of the Smith merge. For much of its course, the mainstem runs through a broad valley between the Big Belt Mountains on the west and the Little Belt and Castle Mountains on the east.
From Camp Baker, the upper public access point to the canyon, the Smith carries rafters and canoers through a deep, rock-walled passage with great fishing, floating, and boat camping. Emerging at the canyon's lower end, the stream meanders on through rolling grass-covered hills until it reaches the Missouri, near Ulm.
If you like to fish for steelhead, and the Clearwater is best known for them, then you already know your ABC’s. Steelheads are classified as A-run or B-run fish depending on their ... moresize, spawning habits and time spent in the ocean. More precisely, they are rainbow trout that venture to the Pacific and back to fresh water. A-runs typically appear in Idaho early in the season, from June through August, most often spend only one year in salt water, and return to the Snake and Salmon Rivers. B-runs usually return to the Clearwater River although some do migrate to the Salmon. Because B-runs spend at least 2 years in the ocean they tend to be much larger, weighing in at 10-13 pounds and 31-34 inches long, compared with the A-runs that register around 4-6 pounds and are generally only 23-26 inches long.
Not surprisingly, the fly fishing seasons on the River are divided according to the A and B runs, and while the A’s tend to be smaller they are reputed to be aggressive and capable of putting up a hard, long fight. For those in pursuit of larger quarry, you’ll have to move upstream along with the fish throughout their season. Because Clearwater B-Run steelhead are the largest in the lower 48, anglers are happy to make this trek, coming from around the globe to try their luck and test their fly fishing acumen. As the river winds its way from coniferous forests to scrappy desert, the water mysteriously manages to remain clear, rarely affected by erosion or runoff, making it stable and highly predictable and thus easier to master after repeated visits.
The town of Orofino is a great base for fishing the Clearwater with a nice selection of hotels, motels, ranches, lodges and neighboring campgrounds for anyone who desires a genuine, outdoor experience. Just across the river is the Dworskak Reservoir where there’s great fishing for kokanee, bass and other trout. Water sports are welcome within the Reservoir where you can jet ski, rent a power-boat or take out a quiet floater, canoe or kayak. Winter sports include skiing, hunting and snowmobiling, all within a short distance of downtown.
Things to Know
The Clearwater River in north-central Idaho is renowned for outstanding fishing for B-run steelhead and chinook salmon, and to a lesser extent, native cutthroat trout in the summer. In the fall, the steelhead season kicks in with catch-and-release fishing in September, and then catch-and-keep from October to the end of April. B-run steelhead in the Clearwater average 12-14 pounds, but many of them go higher, in the 20-pound range.
During May and September, when the weather is cooler, dress warmly or in layers. It is always cooler in the morning.
During the warmer months, June through mid-September, the typical attire is shorts, t-shirts and sports sandals.
Bring along water, a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.
Be prepared to get wet and dress according to your comfort level.
Wear clothes that dry quickly and perhaps steer away from denim pants or shorts and leather footwear.
Life jackets are provided on outfitted trips.
Scenic and wild, the Little Salmon River is a tributary of the Salmon River which is the longest free-flowing river (425 miles) within one state in the lower 48. Resident species are ... moreBull Trout, Westslope Cutthroat, and Rainbows.
Things to Know
Fish species in the Little Salmon River: Steelhead, Chinook Salmon, and Rainbow. Consult the Idaho Fish & Game regulations for seasons, limits, and Special Rules for the region.
Any person 14 years of age or older must have a valid license or permit to fish in Idaho. Resident children under 14 years of age need not be licensed and may have their own separate limit. Nonresident children under 14 years of age if not licensed, must be accompanied by the holder of a valid fishing license and their fish must be included in the license holder's limit or the child may purchase their own license and have their own limit.
Fly fishers who seek to get far from the maddening crowd should consider the Clark’s Fork, as it offers ample fish, scenic beauty and alluring solitude. The river makes its grand entrance ... moreinto Wyoming from Montana through a rift in the jagged, glaciated Absaroka Mountains. Surrounded by soaring, snow-capped peaks, the river is bounded by the Beartooth Mountains to the northeast and the rugged Sawtooth Mountains to the southeast. Running for over 60 miles through the state, its upper waters are full of Yellowstone cutthroat, rainbow and brook trout while grayling and brown trout can be found below the famous Canyon section as the river makes its way back to Montana.
Designated as Wyoming’s first Wild and Scenic River, it flows through verdant, conifer forests, a stunning, 20 mile-long Canyon area, and open farm and ranch lands. The river descends from 8,500 feet at its headwaters near Cooke City to less than 3,000 at its northeastern crossing at the state line. The spectacular canyon portion of the river is as popular with hikers, kayakers and river rafters as it is with fishermen. Adventurers around the globe come here to experience its Class IV to Class VI rapids.
Technically the river is open year-round for fishing although the Colter and Beartooth passes are usually blocked by snow until late May. Public access can be gained from the highways that parallel most of the upper river through the Shoshone National Forest and anglers can, with a few exceptions, stop and fish at their leisure. Much of the lower river runs through private land although the Wyoming Game and Fish manage 4 public access points making it possible to enjoy fishing in these waters. Spring runoff can continue through June, sometimes even into mid-July, and then tends to remain steady from late summer and well into September.
The Wind River Indian Reservation, an area nearly as large as Yellowstone National Park, is home to the remaining Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapahoe, Native American Tribes. It ... moreis also home to a considerable portion of the Wind River before it reaches the Wedding of the Waters near Thermopolis and becomes known as the Bighorn. At its head, below the Boysen Dam, the Wind River Canyon appears narrow and formidable with rocky walls rising 2500 feet into the air. But don’t be intimidated. The Wind River Canyon is one of the West’s best-kept secrets, harboring excellent pocketwater fishing along its entire 15 mile run. Full of trophy browns and rainbows, it’s not unusual to net 18 to 26 inch trout while 30 inchers are infrequent but not unknown. Float fishing is available but professional guides are highly recommended since the river descends the canyon in a series of Class II and Class III rapids and conditions vary widely from season to season.
Wind River crosses into the reservation at the confluence of its East Fork, about 35 miles below its headwaters at Dubois, Wyoming. In continues in a southeasterly direction for nearly 75 miles where at Riverton, it abruptly turns north. About 20 miles downstream from this point, the river’s flows are captured by the Boysen Reservoir located outside the reservation’s boundaries. The open, high plain of the Wind River Valley is lined on the north by the Owl Creek Mountains and to the south and east by the Wind River Range. Strong winds which funnel down the valley from the northwest, give the river its name.
Wind River Lake, at the base of Togwotee Pass northwest of Dubois, is the source of the river. For its first 10 miles it is barely more than a trickle but it soon doubles in size as it merges with Sheridan Creek. Visitors can find lodging in Dubois, the social and recreational center for the northern Wind River and the eastern Absarokas mountains. Flows on the upper river fluctuate during growing season due to irrigation releases from tributary lakes. Experienced anglers say early spring, before the seasonal runoff, is the best time of year to fish, although April 1 to September 30 is the official fishing season. Fishing is good for rainbows, browns and cutthroats in the 12-16 inch range while it’s possible to hook a considerable number of larger fish.
Big Spring Creek, one of the largest spring-fed streams in Montana, originates 9 miles southeast of Lewistown, near the state's Big Springs Trout Hatchery. It runs northwesterly 30 ... moremiles, mainly between the Big Snowy and Judith mountains, and enters the Judith River west of Brooks, Montana. Enclosing the large spring at the head of the creek, giant willows and cottonwoods shade a park and wildlife viewing area. From the spring, cold, high-quality water flows over green mats of water plants and down between birches, willow, hawthorne, native shrubs and grasses.
The creek continues its first 20 miles alongside hay and grazing fields and US 191, passing through Lewistown. Above the town, Big Spring Creek averages 38 feet wide, 18 inches deep, below to the mouth, 45 feet wide, 24 inches deep. Water quality degrades going downstream, due to erosion and pollution. In its last 10 miles, from the mouth of Cottonwood Creek to the Judith, the channel migrates. Its silty bottomland supports dense stands of cottonwoods, willows, birches, and hawthorne. Considered by anglers to be the most important trout stream in central Montana, Big Spring Creek attracts large numbers of wildlife, including waterfowl and furbearers. Agriculture, municipal and recreation uses, hunting, and homesite development depend on or are associated with Big Spring Creek.
Averill Harriman, then Chairman of the Union Pacific (UP) Railroad, returned from Europe in 1935 impressed by the spread of luxurious ski resorts throughout the Austrian, Swiss and ... moreFrench Alps. Anxious to expand markets for his own trains, he set out to build American’s first high-end ski area near an existing UP railhead and hired Count Schaffgotsch, a famed Austrian skier, to scout the ideal location. The Count recommended Sun Valley as the perfect site, but there was a problem – the season was short, running only from December through April. In an effort to create an all year playground, Harriman invited Ernest Hemingway to hunt and fish from his lodge. Hemmingway loved it, wrote about it and encouraged his friends to join him and his son Jack as they hunted and fished along Silver Creek. Harriman’s Introduction of Hemingway to the environs succeeded, firmly establishing the valley’s reputation as a sportsman’s paradise.
In the early 1960’s the property was sold to a developer, and fortunately for fishing enthusiasts, the surrounding area including Silver Creek, was part of the transaction. When the property was again for sale in the mid 1970’s, Jack Hemingway stepped in and helped facilitate the purchase of the land by the Nature Conservancy, permanently insuring its preservation. Silver Creek is an ecological anomaly as it is part of a high-desert, cold spring system formed from underground aquifers and unlike typical freestone rivers, tends to maintain consistent temperature and water levels. These consistent conditions yield rich nutrients and provide model waters for trout to live in and thrive. Browns typically range from 14-16 inches although 17-20 inchers are not uncommon. Rainbows found in backwater sloughs can range from 22-24 inches. The creek is approximately 70% rainbow, 30% brown.
Several smaller feeder creeks with clean, gravel stream bottoms provide the breeding grounds for Silver Creek. Despite the fact that the browns and rainbows found today in Silver Creek are not indigenous, they have flourished and the Creek has not been re-stocked since the 1975. Ironically, native cutthroat trout are no longer present in the Creek, although the river continues to support a variety of other wildlife including songbirds, shorebirds, cranes, bald and golden eagles, mule deer, elk, coyotes and a rare mountain lion.
Within the Idaho borders, the most recognized section of the Snake River for fly fishing is commonly referred to as the South Fork, a 66-mile stretch that starts below the Palisades ... moreDam and flows through stark canyons, looming valleys and broad flood plains until it reaches Henry’s Fork near Menan Buttes. Ranked as the one of the most productive Blue Ribbon Rivers in the US, its last census counted over 5000 fish per mile. Since 1985, the River has been included in the nation’s Wild and Scenic River System, boding well for its preservation and future.
Home to the largest riparian cottonwood gallery forest in the West, it is considered by naturalists to be among the most diverse ecosystems in Idaho. In addition to the cottonwoods, it is also home to over 120 avian species, including raptors, songbirds, shorebirds and game birds, earning it a distinctive “National Important Bird Area” designation. Outside of Yellowstone National Park, the South Fork corridor also contains the country’s largest native cutthroat fishery and an extensive population of other wildlife including moose, deer, elk, mountain goats, mountain lions, black bears, bobcats, coyotes, river otter, beaver, fox and mink.
Famous for its large summer stoneflies, with Salmon flies often reaching 3 inches in length, the best dry fly fishing is during the months of July and August. The hatches in the first half of July are so prolific that fish readily come to the surface in great numbers to seize the appetizing display. By the first week of August many fish have already been caught and released and become more hesitant to bite. At this point experts suggest employing emerger and cripple patterns, especially if the fish are feeding in the South Fork’s riffles and back channels. Lodging and guided trips are widely available.
While it may seem nonsensical to think of Marilyn Monroe and fly fishing in the same breath, the Salmon River and the “blonde bombshell” are permanently linked together in American ... morefolklore. Given it’s wild runs and deep canyons, the river acquired the moniker of the “River of No Return, and was made famous when Monroe and Mitchum starred in a 1954 film with the same name. In fact, the Salmon runs unobstructed for 425 miles, making it the longest free-flowing river within one state in the lower 48.
Not only are its rapids wild and untamed, the Salmon also travels through two nationally designated preserves, the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and the Gospel Hump Wilderness areas. Recognized for its scenic importance, Congress declared the 46 miles of the river from North Fork to Corn Creek as a national recreational river and the 79 miles from Corn Creek to Long Tom Bar as a wild river. At points along the Salmon its granite walls are one-fifth deeper than the Grand Canyon and over 180 miles of the river is more than one mile deep.
Fed by several tributaries such as the Yankee Fork, South Fork Salmon and Little Salmon, the river supports both cold and warm water fish including smallmouth bass, bull trout, sockeye salmon, Chinook salmon, squawfish, sucker and catfish. Legend has it that white sturgeon over 12 feet long and over 100 years old also inhabit these waters. The Salmon and Snake rivers provide critical habitat for steelhead trout and Chinook salmon. These fish require both salt and fresh water and use these streams to navigate from the rivers where they spawn, to the ocean where they spend their adult lives. The river offers high quality sport fishing for resident populations of cutthroat and rainbow trout as well as steelhead and mountain whitefish.
Maclean may have been writing about another river, but the St. Joe certainly fits his description. Bordered by beautiful fresh water lakes, the river does not just empty into them ... morebut it literally runs through them. Located in the northern reaches of the Idaho panhandle, the St. Joe is thought to be the world’s highest elevation, navigable river, running for over 120 miles through Grade II and III rapids. Considered to be one of the cleanest rivers in the US, it is famous for its native West Slope cutthroat trout, incredible scenery and its proximity to the sophisticated town of Coeur d’Alene. Here you can find lodging that ranges from basic to luxury, restaurants that cater to every palate and a long, interesting list of things to see and do including rafting, cycling, horseback riding, lake cruises and sightseeing via sea plane.
Starting high in the Bitterroot Mountains, the river has benefited from measures taken to preserve its pristine allure. From its initial 26-mile journey to Spruce Tree Campground, it is a federally designated Wild and Scenic River. Beyond Spruce Tree to the North Fork, a run of about 40 miles, the St. Joe has been set-aside as a National Recreation Area. Efforts to safeguard the river have been a great boon to anglers. According to Idaho Fish and Game, the number of cutthroat trout in the St. Joe varies from 800 to 1,200 per mile with 30% plus measuring over 12 inches long. The river is very accessible as the St. Joe River Road runs along its banks for about100 miles.
Anglers can expect to find a variety of cutthroat when fishing in these waters. Pure strains of West Slope are thought to remain mainly in feeder streams where they were able to avoid spawning with state stocked rainbow trout, a practice that is now discontinued. One migratory type of cutthroat moves upstream from Coeur d’Alene Lake to spawn in early spring and summer before moving back downriver. Other cutthroat species travel from the upper river to the lower river later in the season. In order to keep populations thriving, the St. Joe east of Avery has been designated as catch-and-release waters and live bait is prohibited. Most of the river is welcoming to all anglers, from beginners to experts, and is suited to floating the rifles or wading through its many hidden pockets.
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