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  1. Default Isolation and fly fishing--Bob Marshall vs Frank Church vs Thorofare? Or others?

    Hi. I've floated the S fork of the Flathead through the Bob a couple times. I really liked the isolation, but even there I saw more people than I would prefer. Once in July aond once in early September. I'm an experienced fly fisherman, just moved back to NC after several years in Colorado, but want to go back West for a week or so trip. Just me or me and one other. Experienced camper but knees won't allow lots of hiking anymore. So horses or boats, or basecamp. Going to Quetico again in 2022 so have that to look forward to but where to go out west in 2020?

    the Middle Fork of the Salmon looks interesting. But I am sorta concerned about lots of white water rafters--sort of ruins the wilderness ambiance. Also I read they even have jet boats going up and down? Anyone been there recently? Are those fears unfounded? How is the fishing? I know Cutties can be a bit smaller than Rainbows and Browns, even if eager. In the Flathead, 16 inches was a very good fish. How about the Middle Fork of the Salmon?

    And how is the fishing in the Thorofare of Yellowstone? I know there are horseback trips back there. Is the fishing as good as one would expect or have the problems with Lake Yellowstone Cutties or anything else negatively effected the fishery?
    My brother says you can get dropped off by boat on the other side of Yellowstone Lake and make your own way into the Thorofare. Anyone know about this?

    Any other suggestions. Isolation (within reason) and great fishing?


    I really want to avoid the Alaska option due to the potential for miserable weather--I have a friend of a friend who does yearly trips floating isolated rivers there. But about every other year it seems they float for 10 days through cold rain. Ugh. And it seems like mostly streamer or egg fishing. I did the big trout streamer thing in Argentina, fun but I prefer dries, terrestrials. Even in the Gunnison it was mostly nymphing unless you were lucky enough to hit Salmon Fly hatch.
    Thanks for any input.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Isolation and fly fishing--Bob Marshall vs Frank Church vs Thorofare? Or others?

    Boating on the Middle Fork inside the Frank Church is trip controlled by the NPS. Launch permits are limited and are even lottery controlled May 28 - Sept. 3. All this information to convey that you will not be overrun but you will also not be alone. If I wanted solitude within the Frank Church and given your description of your limitations and desires I would suggest taking a charter flight into one of the airstrips on the tributary streams. McCall Aviation (McCall, ID) runs Cessna 206 aircraft into these strips. When I last checked the cost was ~$800 to fly 1300# of people and/or gear into and out of those strips. It was several years ago so I am sure the price has increased somewhat. I would guess $1000-$1200 today but a quick call will confirm the actual cost. If you make a judicious choice you could well be alone the entire week.

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  4. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2019
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    Default Re: Isolation and fly fishing--Bob Marshall vs Frank Church vs Thorofare? Or others?

    Some of the loneliest days on the water I have spent were in urban streams and ponds, if you go to famous water, it follows that lots of people will be there- that is how water becomes famous.

    g'luck

  5. #4

    Default Re: Isolation and fly fishing--Bob Marshall vs Frank Church vs Thorofare? Or others?

    Re: Middle Fork Salmon. As previously mentioned, unless you go with an outfitter, you have to enter a lottery to get a permit to float the river, and they are hard to get. The MF Salmon also has a good number of big Class IV rapids, which can be very challenging, especially at higher water. So even if you were lucky enough to draw a permit, you would need good whitewater rafting skills. One option to consider (other than floating) is you can backpack up or down the river from Boundary Creek (where the rafting put-in is located), or you could set a up a base camp at Boundary or Dagger Falls and day hike from there (both have good campgrounds that are easily accessible by car). That might be your best bet for solitude on this river. Nearly all the rafting trips go at least 8 miles downriver on their first day, so you would essentially have that section of river to yourself after they all go by. Or if you waited until mid-August or September, most trips fly in to a launch site way downriver at Indian Creek, so you would probably not encounter many rafters (if any) in the upper section below Boundary. You may encounter other hikers and people fishing, however.

    If you do end up floating, be aware there are 6-7 launches a day permitted with up to 20 people on each launch, and the majority of those people fish. So as you've surmised, it's not exactly a lonely experience, and the fish see a lot of flies. That said, it's an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime trip that is well worth doing if you have the opportunity and means. The fish are large and plentiful, and there is a lot to be said for fishing for native westslope cutthroat trout in such a beautiful setting, even if you have to share them. The river and the country are absolutely stunning.

    As for other options, if you don't mind a bit of a drive, you can access the upper Selway River in Idaho by car and camp. This river, which is in the Clearwater basin, is also stunning and has wonderful fishing for large, native cutthroat trout and mostly flows through wilderness. There are no crowds and no endless parades of rafts and drift boats. You have 2 options to get there, and neither one is short or particularly easy. One way is from the Bitterroot Valley in Montana, which would be quickest and afford one the opportunity to fish the Bitterroot and West Fork Bitterroot Rivers on the way. The other option is to drive from Elk City Idaho, on a very long dirt road that bisects the Frank and the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Areas. This road is worth the drive just to see all this beautiful country, and you can also access some very good mountain lakes, which are just a short hike from the road. But it's very slow going, and I wouldn't do it without a 4WD. Or try to drive it all in one day. You would also have to wait until early or mid July because snow keeps it closed until then. But solitude abounds, and once you drop down into the Selway River after that long drive, it's like you just found nirvana...

    The Selway can also be floated, but it's even harder to draw a permit than the Middle Fork Salmon (only 1 launch/day), and it has more technical Class III and IV rapids. The permit season on the Selway ends on August 1, and it's definitely possible to float it then with a small boat, no permit needed. But FYI, even at low water it's still very challenging and should not be attempted unless you have good river and whitewater skills. I rowed it at low water in my 10' Outcast pontoon, and even with solid whitewater rafting skills and lots of experience I still ended up portaging 2 rapids and lining my boat through 2 others. Opportunities to flip or pin your boat on rocks are endless, and that's an understatement. Simply getting down the river safely and in one piece can use up one's energy for fishing. It was much more difficult than the MF Salmon, which I've also rowed. But again, similar to the MF Salmon, rafting the Selway is in bucket list territory, and if you have an opportunity to go, don't pass it up.

    Apart from floating, there are miles of river that flow next to the road in this upper section, and if you are willing to hike, there are endless opportunities for both solitude and fishing. There are also wonderful places to car camp next to the river. The river, fishing, and the beautiful country can be thoroughly enjoyed without floating, and you won't see many people.

    Hope this helps!!

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  7. #5

    Default Re: Isolation and fly fishing--Bob Marshall vs Frank Church vs Thorofare? Or others?

    Where in AK, were you folks floatin? If you haven't been to the upper Kenai, which i'm sure you probably have; just bring or get plenty of maribou muddlers. White maribou, and green, and black, brown. They will work just as good as the beads. October or sept. but in sept, they might like beads more but in October the fish know time is running out for their trip to kenai lake. they see a meal like a muddler and they will attack it. Nearly every cast, all week long I hooked bows and dollies. Had a lot of fun and not a lot of boat traffic in October if u can believe it! Cooper Landing, just below the ferry a few turns. can park along side the hwy there. and walk it in 10 min. Few bears around so stay on the trail.
    Sometimes you eat the Bear & sometimes the Bear eats you

  8. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
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    Default Re: Isolation and fly fishing--Bob Marshall vs Frank Church vs Thorofare? Or others?

    Owyhee river, Or, above the dam. Dreams on the fly outfitter.

    "Every [child] has the right to a first fish. On this particular planet, no man is granted a greater privilege than to be present and to assist in the realization of this moment". Bill Heavey

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