Fly Fishing Idaho’s Selway River. White Water with Dry Fly Action.

Dream Destinations

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.

Location
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.

The River
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.

The Fishing
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.

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18 Responses to “Fly Fishing Idaho’s Selway River. White Water with Dry Fly Action.”

  1. chubbsypeterson Says:

    Yetter was pretty dang good at manning the oars down this rowdy river. Such a cherry fishery that is so unknown. We need to hit it again.

    Reply

  2. Big Hoss Says:

    I will go as long as I don’t have to man the oars. You know what happened last year on the south fork. I don’t want to almost kill us again.

    Reply

    Dave Hancey Reply:

    I don’t remember the Snake River incident, but I did witness the Green River incident. “Dave, I can’t turn the boat, I can’t turn the boat…we’re going to hit the rock”! And sure enough, we went straight over the rock. Classic! You’re much improved though big hoss!

    Reply

    Big Hoss Reply:

    That mess of a row job was shared by none other than Chubbs Peterson and myself, which may I add Chubbs almost killed us as well on that float, oh ya and thanks for bringing up the green river incident.

    Reply

  3. tyler skeen Says:

    That sounds like an amazing fishing trip. Is it possible in the fall to float it in a single man pontoon?

    Reply

    chubbsypeterson Reply:

    You know what Tyler I dont know for sure, but my buddy Yetter will. I will have him reply tomorrow. It might be difficult because it is about a 4 day float and you need to pack all your goods in and out. I will find out though. Thanks for the comment.

    Reply

    Yetter Reply:

    No. This is not really a river for a single man pontoon. The river is very steep (average gradient of about 28′ per mile) and fairly technical, with some demanding rapids, even in low water later in the summer. It’s also about a fifty mile float which therefore requires packing food and gear. It is possible to hike in along most of the river and fish it that way. If you consider doing this, go in August when the water is low and crystal clear.

    Reply

  4. Bob Welter Says:

    Have you ever been up Martin Creek to the Hot springs? Sincerely Bob

    Reply

    Chubbs Reply:

    Bob, i never have. is that along this stretch? We usually stop along and camp at Moose creek one of the nights.

    Reply

  5. Wildderrick Says:

    I’m going to be backpacking from Selway Falls to the Moose Creek Ranger Station (airport) at the end of March. Any experience with the fishing that time of year?

    Reply

    Chubbs Reply:

    I havent fished there then, but i would imagine that would be before the runoff. if it is then fishing should be solid. i caught fish on top, streamers and nymphs so anyway should work. if there is runoff, might be a bit muddy downstream from moose creek.
    keep us posted on what you find out.

    Reply

    Wildderrick Reply:

    Do you know of any restrictions on that section of river for that time of year? It seems even the Idaho Fish and Game folks can’t answer that question for me, I’ve called a couple times and they have yet to get back to me…

    Just to be clear, it’s the 25 mile stretch down stream from the Moose Creek Ranger Station.

    Reply

    Chubbs Reply:

    i don’t believe there are any restrictions.

    i know the section and i couldn’t imagine there being issues. maybe even try the montana fish and game b/c the ranger station that services the launches is in montana.
    good luck

    Wildderrick Reply:

    Didn’t get to fish as much as I had hoped and ended up absolutely skunked. Fished all sorts of flies, and only had one hit on a bead head prince in a deep pool. Water temps were FRIGID, so I think the fish may have just not been all that active. Fished the Selway below Moose Creek as well as Moose Creek itself. I didn’t spot any fish either, which makes me believe they were holding in the deep slow pools. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring any streamers (DOH!). Have to make a return trip some time to check out some of the slower water and maybe try a warmer time of year.

    Reply

    Chubbs Reply:

    Sorry to hear that. We went and fished a few rivers in Montana last week and it was really slow as well.
    You should definitely go back when the temp is warmer because the fish are more active and a lot of fun.
    Props for heading out there in the cold!
    Keep us posted.

  6. 18650行動電源 Says:

    A motivating discussion is definitely worth comment. I think that you have to publish more on this topic, it might not be a taboo topic but generally people don’t speak about these subjects. Towards the next! Many thanks!!

    Reply

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