Thursday, October 8, 2015

General deer season opens Saturday; Try to squeeze in a fall cast-and-blast float trip

Hunting season is upon us! General deer season opens on Saturday statewide.
Scott Smay is pictured here on the edge of the Frank Church Wilderness. 
Put bright colors on your dogs if you take them in the woods
during hunting season. 
Rick Gerrard enjoys catching fish while soaking in the grandeur of Hells Canyon. 
Steve hauls in a fall chinook while Huck inspects the prize. 
Black bears scout for berries in the hackberry trees in Hells Canyon.
South Fork Snake River in summer mode ... 
Wendy on a side hike on the Middle Fork in October ...
We had the whole river canyon to ourselves for a week! 
Hi all,

Well, the endless summer in Idaho is coming to a close as the days get shorter, the temperatures drop more steeply at night, and the calendar clicks into October. Fall general rifle hunting seasons also are kicking in on Saturday, Oct. 10th, with the opening of general deer season in many parts of Idaho, and general rifle elk season will follow close behind on Oct. 15 (McCall unit) or Oct. 25 (Weiser unit) or Nov. 1st (Boise unit). See the Idaho Fish and Game regulations for details.

Summer-like weather in the afternoons in October can be marvelous, however, so it's tempting to continue your fall hiking, biking, backpacking, and mountain-climbing trips amid the throngs of hunters. Be smart and wear hunter orange and put some bright colors on your puppies to protect yourself.

I'd also recommend trying to squeeze in a late-season float trip on the Lower Salmon River, Middle Fork Salmon, Main Salmon or Hells Canyon to fish and hunt chukars, if you're so inclined. This has been an annual tradition for me since the late 1980s, and it's always a great time. In Hells Canyon last weekend, the fish were biting big-time, and there were lots of chukars running around on the Oregon and Idaho sides of the river. We caught tons of small-mouth bass and rainbow trout and four members of our group caught a big fall chinook salmon.

In a matter of days, the steelhead will be running stronger up the Salmon River and Snake River, so you could add these beautiful ocean-going fish to the list of fish you might catch. If you have people in your group who carry big-time fish tackle for sturgeon, that'd be another potential prize to pursue.

From the standpoint of trip logistics, it's easiest to put together a Lower Salmon or Hells Canyon trip in SW Idaho. For those who live near Stanley, Salmon or Idaho Falls, a Main Salmon trip would be easier to pull off, but it also would take more days to do the 80-mile trip. The South Fork Snake River is another great fall trip near Idaho  Falls, where you can fly fish for trout and maybe find a grouse in the woods above camp.

Here are some basics on the fall river trips:

  • Hells Canyon - Put in a Hells Canyon Dam and float to Pittsburg Landing, a distance of about 35 miles. This trip is easily doable in three or four days. Take as much time as possible. Only self-issue permits are required, available at the web site. Shuttles can be arranged through Scotty's gas station in Pine, Oregon for $160 cash. They do a marvelous job! 
  • Lower Salmon Canyon - Float from Hammer Creek to Heller Bar or arrange for a jet boat shuttle to Pittsburg Landing from the mouth of the Salmon. It's almost 50 miles from Hammer Creek to the mouth of the Salmon, and the river is running very low (3,500 cfs), so allow for plenty of time to do your float. Fishing is limited to small-mouth bass and steelhead in this section. 
  • Salmon River near Riggins - If you don't have time to do a longer trip, you could put in at Carey Creek or Vinegar Creek and float down to Riggins while fishing for steelhead and hunting chukars. 
  • Middle Fork Salmon - Arrange a fly-in to Indian Creek or Middle Fork Lodge area and float the Middle Fork in October. Pick up a river permit on I've done solo one-boat trip on the Middle Fork in October with Wendy, and also smaller group trips. Fly fishing for cutthroat trout really turns on in the sunny afternoons. Also can hunt chukars. Here's a previous blog post on a late-season Middle Fork trip. Keep an eye out for black bears! A floater got attacked in the last week by a hungry bear! We saw six black bears on our trip in Hells Canyon.   
  • South Fork Snake River - Put in at Palisades Dam for the long version of the float or at Swan Valley and float to the takeout at Heise. The South Fork Lodge in Swan Valley does shuttles.  Check with the experts on what kinds of flies the fish are taking. The cuts on the South Fork get fished very hard by a steady stream of outfitters every day. By this time of year, it's more locals than outfitters. Here's a blog post I did on the South Fork two years ago. The South Fork is also good for seeing moose and bald eagles.   

Have fun and enjoy the fall!
- SS

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