It is extremely rare to find a place that offers Class IV and V rapids while at the same time delivering beautiful Cutthroat Trout to non-stop dry fly action. The Selway River in Central Idaho is just one of those places.
Most folks haven’t heard of the Selway River, and if they have, they have heard of it because of the great white water that attracts numerous rafters and kayakers every year. The scenery is unbelievable! You start in the Mountain Time Zone surrounded by booming pine trees and end your journey in the Pacific Time Zone with the smell of enormous Cedar Trees towering along the river’s edge. The combination of scenery, white water, and dry fly action make this trip one that should be placed on the avid fly fisherman’s list of fly fishing vacations.
The Selway River is located roughly 50 miles West of Darby Montana (SE Montana) in the Bitteroot Selway Wilderness. From Darby travel south to West Fork Road (HWY 473), then when it forks stay right on Nez Pearce Road (FR 468). You will traverse some rugged country, but after a scenic route you will arrive at the Paradise Campground/Paradise Guard Station where White Cap Creek enters the Selway River. This is where the boats are put in the river and launched. This is where I slashed my truck’s tire as we were backing the boat to the dock. Fortunately I had a spare, but one of these tires just doesn’t look like the others. And you should of seen us jacknobs trying to change the tire. Classic.
As I previously mentioned, the Selway River is more widely known for it phenomenal white water rapids that attract thousands annually. It is a float and camp experience like no other. The Selway can be one of the most challenging whitewater rivers in the United States and it’s probably THE toughest for which to get a permit. From Paradise Guard Station to Selway Falls the river drops for 46 miles an average of 28 feet per mile creating a most technical whitewater experience. The many Class IV rapids will challenge any boatman at any level. This river requires a high level of whitewater skill and experience. The number of launches are regulated from May 15 through July 31. Post-season August runs are possible in high-water years. Most years this is virtually impossible for rafts due to the lack of moisture and snow pack received. However, with the abundant snow in the winter of ’07 – ’08 we were able to launch with just enough water to get by. The river heads north for about 20 miles then does a sharp turn west and continues that direction until it and the Lochsa River meet to form the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River. Just before that confluence at Selway Falls is where one ends one’s Selway Journey.
Dry fly fishing the Selway has been to date, the best trout action I have had on a dry fly. It was amazing! I probably caught 40 – 50 fish a day most ranging from 8 – 14 inches with a few pushing the 16 – 18 inch range. The takes were awesome. Some of the Cutts would come completely out of the water. They especially enjoyed, Elk Hair Caddis, Parachutes, Renegades, and Royal Wolfs. My friend, Justin “Yetter” Pond, manned the oars while I manned the fish. We camped each night at the river’s edge fishing until we couldn’t see any more, then retired to the tent only to start again the next morning.
If you have a list of Dream Destination and the Selway River isnt on there, then do yourself a favor and get it on.