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Clayman with a nice coastal Oregon Chinook.

Topic: Cutthroats and whitewater on a 4-day kayak fishing trip on the Selway River  (Read 3960 times)

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pmmpete

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From August 7-10, Art Gidel and I kayaked and fished the Selway River.  The Selway runs through the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area in east central Idaho, in the area to the southwest of Missoula, Montana.  The 47 mile long roadless section of the Selway has great whitewater and scenery.  It also has great fishing.  We caught large numbers of Cutthroat Trout.  Here is a 15Ē Cutthroat.



Although we werenít fishing for bull trout, I did catch one.



We did most of our fishing from our kayaks.  We would run a riffle or a rapid and start casting.  After catching 2 or 3 Cutthroats each, we would stick our rods in our life vests and paddle down to the next good spot.  Fishing for Cutthroats is catch and release only, barbless hooks.  We were casting lures using spincasting reels, because they resist the abuse of being stuffed inside a kayak or a life vest better than spinning reels or fly fishing rods.  The water in the river is very clear, and as our lure returned to us we would often see one or two cutthroats following it and darting in to nip at it.

Art with a Cutthroat in Goat Creek Rapid.



Art continuing down through Goat Creek Rapid.



Paddling down to the next good fishing spot.











Towards the end of the trip we encountered some smoke from forest fires in the area.



Multi-day whitewater kayak trips are a lot like backpacking out of a kayak, except that you can carry about 50% more than most people like to carry in a backpack, so you can travel in comfort.

At medium and high water levels, the Selway has many big water Class IV rapids.  Our trip was a low water trip, at a water level which in some parts of the canyon was 10-15 feet lower than at high water.  At low water the rapids are rocky, technical, and with little push, but very fun.  There are actually more rapids at low water, because a spot which is a steep riffle at high water becomes a boulder maze with hidden sharp drops at low water.  Here are pictures of a few of the rapids.

The rapids in the upper river are tight and frisky.



Washer Woman Rapid, about 5 miles below the launch site.





Ham Rapid.



The upper portion of Double Drop Rapid.



The lower portion of Double Drop Rapid.



At low water, Ladle Rapid is a maze of boulders which are so tightly packed that there isnít any route through some areas of the rapid.



Scouting a sharp drop on a corner on the left side of Ladle Rapid for wood.



Looking up Ladle Rapid.



A drop at the bottom of Puzzle Creek Rapid.



Looking down Wolf Creek Rapid.



The bottom of Wolf Creek Rapid.



Looking up Wolf Creek Rapid.



Art setting up to drop into Jims Creek Rapid.



Jimís Creek Rapid.



Some information about the logistics of floating the Selway: In order to float the river between May 15 and July 31, you need to obtain a permit through a lottery.  The USFS only issues one permit a day, and some of those permits are reserved for outfitters.  During the high water period, most rafters and kayakers chicken out when the river gets above 6 feet on the stick gauge at the launch site.  Towards the end of July, the river is often too low to float in a raft, unless you are willing to spend a lot of time in the river pushing your raft over rocks.  The bottom line is that a Selway River permit during the prime floating season is one of the hardest permits in the country to obtain.  So for most people, there are only two ways to float the Selway: by floating the river before May 15, which usually involves going in over Nez Perce pass on the snow, before the pass is plowed, or by floating the River after July 31, and there is often only a week or so in August when the river can be kayaked.  Iíve kayaked the Selway about 15 times.  Iíve done low water trips as low as .3 feet on the stick gauge at the launch site, but I donít like to kayak the river at levels below about .5 feet, because you spend too much time pushing your kayak over rocks.
« Last Edit: December 05, 2018, 09:19:44 AM by pmmpete »


C_Run

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Great report and pictures. Is hiking possible where you went?


ndogg

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Great trip report.  I rafted the Selway in early July 2010.  It was one of the most beautiful trips I had been on.  The fishing was almost like shooting fish in a barrel. 
 


pmmpete

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Is hiking possible where you went?
Yes, there is a trail along the river, and various trails which head away from the river in various directions.  We saw a few backpackers and horse packers along the river, and ran into a couple of friends from Missoula who had hiked up from the takeout about seven miles and were going to float back down in little one-person pack rafts, portaging around the rapids.


pmmpete

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I rafted the Selway in early July 2010.  It was one of the most beautiful trips I had been on.  The fishing was almost like shooting fish in a barrel.
Yes, we got hits or caught fish on a large percentage of our casts.  This is partly because in a kayak or a raft you can move quickly from one really good spot to another.  If you were fishing from shore, you'd be struggling to get through the boulders and cliffs, you couldn't cover much distance, and you'd end up spending most of your time fishing in lousy spots.


micahgee

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Great pics n' report, thanks for sharing!
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Mark Collett

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  That trip looks to have been a lot of fun Pete. Appreciate your sharing all the pics and your narrative too. I have never floated the Selway but have run a lot of rivers in the Sierra Nevada Range. You can find some "virgin fish" that might have never seen a lure. And the adrenalin rush while traversing boulder fields and quick drops keeps you wanting to hit the next one asap.
   Sometimes I miss my whitewater adventures. I find myself being a bit more sedentary now. But oh... the memories. Those will always be there.
  Keep 'em coming Pete. Real pretty country up there. Always great to see.
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She has no wrath to vent. Nor does she have a hand in kindness to extend.
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Justin

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Thanks for the photos and the report.
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bb2fish

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That is epic beauty and adventure.  Thanks for sharing it...wow do I miss Montana when I see pics like this.


Lee

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Looks like an awesome adventure
 


pmmpete

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That is epic beauty and adventure.  Thanks for sharing it...wow do I miss Montana when I see pics like this.
Uh . . . the Selway is in Idaho, not Montana.  But in Missoula we joke that the Lochsa and the Selway (which are both in Idaho) have Montana's best whitewater.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2014, 10:54:47 AM by pmmpete »


Captain Redbeard

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That is quite the adventure! Thank you for taking the time to share the pictures. I don't know how you white water guys do it with the overnighting and fishing and shooting rapids. That's pretty hardcore.
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pmmpete

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I don't know how you white water guys do it with the overnighting and fishing and shooting rapids. That's pretty hardcore.
Surf launching, kayaking miles out into the ocean, dealing with tides, currents, storms, and fog, and fishing for great big ocean fish are also pretty hardcore.  They're just hardcore in a somewhat different way.


bb2fish

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That is epic beauty and adventure.  Thanks for sharing it...wow do I miss Montana when I see pics like this.
Uh . . . the Selway is in Idaho, not Montana.  But in Missoula we joke that the Lochsa and the Selway (which are both in Idaho) have Montana's best whitewater.
whoopsie...just (mis)remembering Selway-Bitterroot as the Bitterroot river of SW Montana.   Sorry to offend Idaho pride.  Still a beautiful place!!


 

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