The most prolific and unspoiled westslope cutthroat trout fishery in the world, the Middle Fork of Idaho’s Salmon River offers what many consider the finest multi-day wilderness float trip in America.
While the fly fishing is excellent throughout the season, the early season favors big white water, and the late season favors fly fishing. From July through September, low flows offer non-stop dry fly action for anglers of all skill levels. Late season fly fishing-only trips are limited to eight anglers and begin with a fly-in to the middle river allowing ample time to thoroughly fly fish this remarkable wilderness river.
Our preferred outfitter, Solitude River Trips, is owner-operated and boasts a superb staff, incredible Dutch oven cuisine, comfortable camps that are fully set up upon arrival, and a safety and service record that is unequaled in the field. For group members interested in more than fishing, hiking and paddling inflatable kayaks are daily options. Add to that the natural hot springs, native pictographs, and abundant wildlife of the area, and you will quickly see why we consider this trip through the lower 48’s largest contiguous wilderness area a never to be forgotten experience for family groups and nature-loving anglers alike.
The Middle Fork of the Salmon River flows through the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in north-central Idaho.
Middle Fork of the Salmon Fishing Program:
Solitude River Trips has been operating on rivers in Idaho and Oregon since 1972. The ages of their guides range from the mid 20's to the mid 50's, with 5-35 years of experience guiding on the Middle Fork. Solitude's owner, Willi, is on every trip. Their guides are cheerful, courteous, professional, and attentive to personal service. They go out of their way to assist you in any way they can. Fly fishing from specially designed drift boats and rafts allows access to the most remote fishing spots.
Summer Fly Fishing on the Middle Fork
Cutthroat trout were once the dominant trout species of the western United States. In fact, cutthroat were the first salmonid chronicled by Lewis & Clark on their historic journey west. Among the angling cognoscenti, cutthroat hold a warm spot. They are a beautiful fish, often sprouting intense yellow, orange and red shades. And they are very willing to take a dry fly.
While progress has not been kind to the cutthroat, the Middle Fork remains one of their great strongholds. Since 1973 a catch-and-release, single barbless hook only policy has allowed the trout to thrive. Middle Fork cutthroat average 12 to 15 inches in length, with some up to 19 inches. Framed by the Sawtooth and Salmon River Mountains in the heart of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in central Idaho, the Middle Fork provides a stunningly beautiful backdrop for pursuing this great fish.
The cutthroat of the Middle Fork are very surface-oriented; in fact, we only fish with dry flies! Standing in the bow of a Solitude River Trips drift boat, you'll cast easy-to-follow attractor patterns -- Stimulators, Schroeder's Hoppers and Parachute Adams - against granite walls, behind mid-river rocks and along the seam lines of back-eddies. More often than not, your casts will bring a vigorous rise. The crystalline waters of the Middle Fork often let you follow the action from when the fish begins to move for the fly to when it takes. Because the fish are very opportunistic, they're willing to take flies on top throughout the day, whether there's a hatch on or not-and in summer, the hatches of caddis flies can be so prolific that you can barely open your mouth, unless you want to taste what the trout are eating!
Thanks to the cutthroat's cooperative nature, there are few better places to introduce newcomers to fly fishing than the Middle Fork. It's a wonderful thing to watch a spouse or son or daughter make a cast, set the hook, and land their first fish.
Feeder Creeks: An Added Bonus
While most of the fishing on the Middle Fork is done from inside the drift boat with one angler casting from the bow at a time, there are several feeder creeks in the course of the 106-mile float-including Loon and Camas Creeks-that offer excellent pocket water fly fishing for cutts and native redside rainbows. These creeks provide a special treat for the angler who enjoys wet wading and the intimate dynamics of creek fly fishing. You will generally camp at a few of these creeks in the course of the float, so the angler who can't get enough can fly fish before/after dinner and breakfast. When floating, both anglers can cast at the same time if experienced.
Solitude’s fly fishing guides have years of experience fishing many different rivers in many places and are truly fishing guides, not just raft guides. They are skilled at both skills and are second to none for their all-around abilities. Whether it's showing you a new presentation,
one of their favorite dishes, playing an instrument or just general conversation, you'll find them knowledgeable guides … and wonderful companions.
September Fly Fishing Adventures
Come September, the clear waters of the Middle Fork begin cooling down from the summer heat, and the river sees a lot less traffic. Cooler weather means that the fishing picks up considerably as the native cutthroat trout begin to pack on weight for the difficult winter ahead.
September can be one of the most special times of the year to be on the Middle Fork, and Solitude River Trips leads several fly fishing excursions at this time. The nights are cooling down, but the days are still quite comfortable. With the cooling nights the aspens that intermingle with the Lodgepole pines begin to put on a riotous show of color-the river in fall is beautiful beyond words! Because the water is lower at this time of year, we begin our float downstream from our normal put-in point, making the trip roughly 70 miles. This provides more time to focus longer on productive fishing spots!
At this time of year, rafts are used instead of drift boats, as they allow the guides to maneuver the Middle Fork's many rapids more smoothly. The small rafts allow Solitude to run all of the rapids, where as the drift boats would at times require anglers to walk around some rapids and thus cut into your fishing time. Their rafts are extremely maneuverable, allowing them to hold in eddies and other good water longer than possible with a "conventional" white water raft. These specially designed rafts have a sturdy platform floor in the stern and transom, with a casting brace and a comfortable seat back.
While the craft are slightly different than in mid-summer, Solitude’s seasoned fly fishing guides are still present, ready to help novice anglers master their cast … or lead skilled anglers to where the lunkers lie.
The Middle Fork of the Salmon is known as one of America's premier rivers for native West-slope cutthroat trout. The trout average 12 to 15 inches in length, with some up to 19 inches. In order to preserve this fishery, regulations are very strict. The river and tributaries are catch and release only with single barbless hooks and no bait fishing.
By mid July and throughout August and September the Middle Fork is at its "summer prime", which means hot weather, warmer water, and lower flows ideal for fly fishing.
The Middle Fork float goes through the Frank Church, River Of No Return Wilderness area. This is the largest contiguous wilderness area in the Lower 48. The scenery and wildlife are remarkable and the river has some great side hikes to native sites and hot springs.
Middle Fork of the Salmon Accommodations and Meals:
Solitude River Trips provide everything from quality camping gear to gourmet meals, and all is top notch. Their large supply raft runs ahead of the groups and carries the camp supplies and most duffels. Each night's camp will be waiting for you when you arrive after a day on the river. Large four person tents are provided for every two people, and chairs are set out to relax in while you gaze at the spectacular vistas surrounding camp. In fact, all you need to bring is your personal clothes. Everything else is provided, including the sleeping bag and pad.
Solitude has built a reputation for outstanding food, and guests never go away hungry. There is always plenty! The meals feature fresh vegetables, lunch and dinner salads, salmon, chicken, New York steaks, two inch thick pork chops grilled over mountain mahogany coals, and Dutch oven cooking (biscuits, rolls, desserts) that is second to none. The best part is that the guides do all of the work, and they even do the dishes!
Day 1: Arrive Stanley. Meet with outfitter and overnight.
Days 2-6: Full days of guided floating and fishing.
Days 7: Float / fish to takeout. Transfer to Stanley and travel via air taxi to Boise.
Day 8: Depart Boise.
2019 Rate: $3,490 per person for a 5 night/6 day fly fishing package
$3,590 per person for a 5 night/6 day September fly fishing package
$2,590 per person for a 5 night/6 day rafting package
Included: All meals while on the river, including lunch the last day, round-trip ground transportation from Stanley to the river and return to Stanley at the end of the trip, sleeping bag, deluxe soft pad, life jacket, roomy four person tent for every two people, camp chairs, dining table, complimentary water resistant duffel for your personal gear (size: 12"x 24"), waterproof container for your day use items, eating utensils, drink cup, water bottle, plenty of ice, wine with dinner only, and an ample supply of cold beverages, and fishing gear. Two guests per boat and guide (when fishing package is purchased). If you have a favorite rod and reel, please feel free to bring it along.
Not Included: Transportation to and from Stanley, Idaho, meals and accommodations in Stanley, personal items, alcohol and additional wine (please bring your own), gratuities, licenses.
Species: West slope cutthroat trout
Season: June – September
Capacity: 8 – 10 anglers
Map: Stanley, Idaho
Time: The time in Idaho is Mountain Daylight Time.