Fishing Wild Rivers

Standing on the boat ramp in the early light of dawn, I shimmied into a borrowed pair of long johns. According to my guide Brent, I couldn't rely on a wool sweater and a thermos of black coffee to keep me warm during a full day on the Salmon River. And so before we pushed off into the swift current, I slipped on another layer. Shivering through my first steelhead fishing excursion didn't seem like a particularly wise decision.

Two weeks ago I visited Idaho for the first time. Like many trips I've made over the years, this one ended too soon. Setting out from Lewiston near the Washington state line, I ended up more than 100 miles south in Riggins, a little town named after the area's first mailman. But I hadn't traveled to Idaho's whitewater capital to learn about western postal history. I was there to see the Salmon, the longest wild or free-flowing river in the lower 48.

Getting out on the water however, wasn't something I planned to attempt on my own. Especially considering the limited time and resources at my disposal. Fortunately, the night before I climbed into a drift boat with Brent, I had met with Amy Sinclair of Exodus Wilderness Adventures at the Back Eddy Grill. As I savored a bison burger and a bottle of rich Black Butte Porter, she talked me through the basics of obtaining a fishing license and dressing for Idaho's cool autumn temperatures, explaining that she'd have a bag of extra clothes waiting for me in the morning. 

The next day, wind whipped through the narrow gorge and John Day Mountain cast its long shadow over the river for hours after sunrise, but I remained warm. This, I discovered, was an important part of enjoying any fall fishing trip. Sure, hooking four good-sized steelhead in the first two hours added to the fun, but comfort was key. In fact, I think I'll pack my thermal underwear the next time I go to Idaho.

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