Summer is just around the corner and it's time to get organized for those incredible multi-day journeys that sear memories in your head. Remote river canyons have a way of creeping into your soul. The nerves and unsteady feeling moments before you push off, the feeling of acceptance as your oars dip and push against the water, and the journey that follows are addicting.
There is an emotional release from perceived reality the moment you realize the river is your only course. You learn to respect its path and accept the rhythms of focus and observation as you course along it's energized currents.
Here are few of our favorite summer floats to get lost, catch fish and recharge with a heavy dose of nature.
Middle Fork of Salmon
There is no question that the Middle Fork is a bucket list trip. The remote river flows through the Frank Church Wilderness and has limited launches during peak seasons.
It requires a permit through the lottery system so fill out an application and cross your fingers. You can also opt for a guided experience and enjoy great meals and camps setup in advance.
Expect whitewater and fast action for cutthroats. You can fish a dry fly all day and do just fine. Drop a nymph or throw a streamer to find the few bigger cutthroats.
The Owyhee is overlooked by many floaters but it's worth the trip. It cuts through very remote high desert country and has great fishing for smallmouth bass.
Spring and early summer are best as flows will eventually become too low. Bring some shade because there isn't much along this river. The lower Owyhee is the common choice and will last 5-6 days with some class III rapids.
The middle section is 5 days with some more advanced class IV and V rapids. Dreams on the Fly runs a great outfitted trip on this river.
Smith River Montana
Montana's Smith River is another lottery system river that requires advanced planning. You must apply before March in most years and the floats begin in April.
April is a little risky in terms of weather but the draw odds are decent. May and June are prime flows and you can expect better conditions. You can take the outfitted route and have a guide row while you catch brown trout or DIY and take a few friends along for the ride.
Either way, the Smith is an incredible multi-day float through sluice box canyons and a remote section of Montana.
South Fork of Flathead
Another Montana option, this one requires a significant horseback journey to reach the starting point.
You will float through some wild grizzly country and catch cutthroats on dry flies.
You can also legally target bull trout with a catch card from the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks. Bring some big streamers and handle them gently.
Snake River - Hells Canyon
This 4-6 day Idaho float is often overlooked by fly fisherman but it's a great option. Bring your fly rod and gear outfit for a multi species experience.
You might catch rainbow trout, smallmouth bass and even sturgeon in continent's deepest river gorge. Bring your shotgun in the fall and make it a cast and blast trip for Chukar.
Gunnison River Gorge
The Gunnison Gorge cuts through narrow canyons and has great fishing for brown and rainbow trout. It's a 2-3 day float with first come, first serve registration for the campsites.
You can either pack your own gear gear down the Chukar trail to the launch or hire mules to carry everything down. It's not a long hike but packing rafts and gear will take several difficult trips.
The Gorge has a great salmonfly hatch, intense caddis hatches and good streamer fishing.
Oregon's Deschutes River is a great choice with some flexibility in dates. You can go for trout, steelhead or do a combination of both.
Steelhead trips start in August and run through November. You can start trout fishing in May. There are several multi-day float options and several great outfitters running trips as well.
For a multi-day Deschutes River steelhead trip, get in touch with Lockyer Fly Fishing and Caleb will set you up.