n a June day in 1805 near Great Falls, Montana, Meriwether Lewis recorded the Corps

f I)iscovery's first encounter with a cutthroat trout:


'Itiese trout are from sixteen to twenty three inches in length, precisely resemble our moun-

tain or speckled trout in form and the position of their fins, but the specks on these are of a

deep black instead of the red or goald colour of those common in the U.' States. These are

furnished long sharp teeth on the pallet and tongue and have generally a small dash of red

on each side behind the front ventral fins; the flesh is of a pale yellowish red, or when in good

order, of a rose red.

—Meriwether Lewis, The Journals of Lewis and Clark


Cutthroat trout hold a warm spot in the hearts of anglers. They are a beautiful fish,

s Lewis described. And they are a very willing fish. A valid scientific study showed cut-

hroat the easiest trout to catch by angling methods, followed in difficulty by brook, rain-

ow, and brown trout.

Progress has not been kind to the cutthroat. Today's distribution is a fraction of what

t once was, and two of its subspecies are extinct. Extremely sensitive to changes in water

uality, cutts have been hurt by stream degradation brought on by logging and livestock

grazing. They've also been harmed by the introduction of nonnative trout species. The

iddle Fork of the Salmon - framed by the Sawtooth and Salmon River Mountains in

hr heart of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in central Idaho - remains

stronghold for native west-slope cutthroat. Anglers could hardly hope for a prettier

lace to pursue this most becoming salmonid. Bryce Tedford agrees.


"There are few if any other rivers in the lower forty-eight where you can float a hun-

red miles of pristine, roadless wilderness, with ever-changing terrain, and cast to free-

ising cutthroat trout through the whole trip. The fish are opportunistic, as the Middle

ork isn't especially rich in food. They're willing to take flies on top all day long, whether t

here's a hatch on or not."

Fishing is not complicated on the Middle Fork. A larger attractor pattern like a

timulator, Schroeder's Hopper, or Parachute Adams in size ro, dead-drifted against a

ranite wall, behind a midriver rock, or a back eddy, will often bring a rise. Surface action

an become especially vigorous in early July, when hatches of salmonflies and golden

tones are prolific. Cutts here are not particularly large (they average 12 inches to 14 inch- e

s, with the occasional fish to 20 inches), but they are plentiful enough to provide steady

ction throughout the day. An angler with modest skills can expect to hook thirty to fifty

ish a day during the high season. The culls' cooperative nature is one of the Middle

ork's charms.

"We have quite a few families on the river, because there's something for everyone,"

ryce explained. "The anglers in the family can take a drift boat and fish all day, while

ther family members can raft and hike and swim. As a guide, it's really wonderful tak-

ng a father and child duo out on the river, where the child can't really cast yet. On day

ne, we focus on teaching the rudiments of casting. By day two, I can sit back and watch

he child make the cast, set the hook, and play the fish in. Being able to watch the father

atch his child get his or her first fish is just fantastic. Another thing I really enjoy aboutt

he Middle Fork is the clarity of the water. You can spot a fish, cast to it, and watch it comeu

p and roll on the fly. The whole process unfolds before your eyes."

On a Middle Fork trip, the path is the goal. The scenery is spectacular; at the

oundary Creek put-in the river is small and fast, hemmed in closely by thick forests of

ouglas fir and spruce. As you proceed downriver, the canyon opens up to expose jaw-

ropping crags of Idaho batholith. Bighorn sheep and mountain goat practice their

crobatic routines here. Several natural hot springs present themselves along the river's

c)6-mile course; Sunflower Showers, a hot spring that includes natural pools and a

akeshift shower, is especially nurturing for sore casting shoulders. You can also hike

nto the canyon at certain points to view Native American pictographs and pioneer home-

teads. Oh yes, there's also a bit of white water on the river. Most rafting enthusiasts place t

he Middle Fork in the top ten white-water rivers of the world.


ni a typical float day, a hearty breakfast is served at seven-thirty. You'll be on the river

hailing by nine, and in the coming evening's camp by five, ready for a cocktail or two fol-

'towel I by a steak, pork chop, or salmon dinner Nearly all the fishing on the Middle Fork

ill limit. from a drift boat, though several feeder streams along the course of the trip pro-

.11),,lers with an opportunity to walk and wade on their own. The pocket water Loon,

Ind Big Creeks offer is a pleasant contrast to the bigger water, and the same

.11, ,, ui patterns yield good results for redband trout and cutthroats. Gray wolves were

„Iiuduced to the Frank Church area several years ago, and in the upper stretches of

livvr their howls can be heard in the evening. There's perhaps no better sound to

punt tuate the western wilderness trout-fishing experience the Middle Fork affords.

ION TEDFORD began guiding fly fishers around his native Puget Sound when he was

ighlren. Since that time, he has guided steelheaders on the Deschutes, John Day, and

an& Ronde rivers in Oregon, and trout anglers on the rivers of Patagonia and the

Iddle Fork. His fishing adventures have taken him throughout the Pacific Northwest.




Prime Time: Flow and weather conditions are ideal in July, though the river gener-

y fishes well from June through September.

Getting There: Middle Fork floats begin with a bush-plane flight from Boise to a put-

one on the river. Salmon Air (800-448-3413) is a reliable air taxi service that can spir-

you to any number of remote airstrips along the river corridor for about $125. The only

et way in is by horseback, or hiking trail.

Accommodations: While a number of outfitters run white-water-oriented trips on the

iddle Fork, Solitude River Trips (800-396-1776; focuses on fly

hing. They run the Middle Fork in drift boats (which facilitates casting) and are Dutch-

n wizards come mealtime. The rate for a six-day/five-night wilderness float is $2,500.

lquipment: A 9-foot 5-weight rod outfitted with a floating line will accommodate all

ations on the Middle Fork. 9-foot leaders tapered to 4x, with tippet material in 4x and

will be fine. Standby flies: Elk Hair Caddis Light & Dark (itio-it14); Schroeder's

1' 'lute Hopper (ko-#12); Royal Wulff (Itio-It14); Parachute Adams (tho-#14);

,,,11.itors in orange, yellow, and green (#8-#12); and Royal Trades (i*To-k4).



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