June 2006

Rafting and Angling the Selway

A quick recap of my very first run of the Selway River in North Central Idaho...

Until recently I really never believed I would be so fortunate as to get an invite on a private prime time Selway ticket; with experienced friends and good water, no less! I am very lucky, indeed. The Selway winds through the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness near the Montana border. The run is 47 miles in lengh and with an average gradient of 28' per mile.

We put in at Paradise on a sunny late June day. The whole week was perfect... clear and mild. The gage at Paradise was at 2.65', a fine level right away for the big boats; even better as many creeks along the way boost the level. Moose Creek added an impressive 3/4 the flow of main channel at its confluence. Levels both higher and lower would be more difficult. Sweet! We were a raft/cat-intensive group at eleven rafts/cats, moderately loaded; two fine kayakers spotted and ran safety at major rapids. We did a layover at Moose Creek (mile 26) and scouted a couple miles downstream thru the chaos of Double Drop, Wa-Poots, Ladle, Little Niagara, Puzzle Creek and No Slouch. There are certainly many other rapids worthy of careful attention, but this rapid-fire chain of class IV drops... holes... rocks... drops will make you a rowing believer. The gradient in this stretch jumps to 50' per mile. For me, Ladle was intimidating, but once in its grasp it seemed to become more forgiving than it looked from above.

With the Selway twisting and dropping thru the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, it promised a fine piscatorial experience. Aside from the 'too many for me' cabins, lodges and airstrips in the upper stretch, the water appeared pristinely clear. A fly rod was kept ready while camped every afternoon and evening; was able to snatch a cast here and there while tending to camp duties in-between. Due to swift flow, most casting was from rocky banks as far above and below camps as was possible to hike. The Selway demands a boatman's complete attention, so rowing alone, it was just not possible to fish and row this river at once. Sight fishing with polarized sunglasses became the next best thing while floating. Store-bought #8 stoneflies and home-tied #12 caddis and adamses were among the most productive flies with most of them netted around 12", but a few handsome and colorful 16" cutthroat were fooled. The dry flies worked so well, I never tied on a nymph all week. Catch and Release only above Meadow Creek, just upstream of Selway Falls. Watch for rattlesnakes! I gave several their due space. They've got a nasty rep for aggressiveness.  


Selway photo album

Selway - Ladle Rapid Video, Run on Right @ YouTube (Turn up the sound)

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Updated: 08/03/2008