Fishing & Rafting
Contributors: Amanda Reynolds
The past two weeks have been a learning process, but more about that in my next post! For this Throwback Thursday, it is only fitting that I share one of our many “learning experiences” in the wild and on the water.
Summer of 2016 was eventful for us. After finishing my masters program I gave myself a well-deserved summer off and dove into the adventures that awaited with our new home in southern Idaho. After going through the whitewater rafting program and training with MHAFB Outdoor Adventure Program, Wes and I were ready to take on our own rafting/fishing expedition down the Snake river with our good friend Mac.
So, we bought our first raft and cataraft, did a bit of research, mapped out our float, prepped our gear, and got ready to set off!
The section of the Snake river we decided to float was mostly flat and runs through farmland and the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey conservation area. The Snake river system is mostly known as a year-round small mouth bass fishery and a seasonal steelhead fishery below the Hell’s Canyon dam. The section we were floating would be primarily small mouth.
The structure provided in this section of the Snake can be incredible. Earlier in the 70’s and 80’s the Snake was locally known as a dumping ground for unwanted or non-running vehicles, so there are a LOT of submerged cars, tractors, and trucks. Some of these are held in place by cables grounded to the shoreline to keep them from floating further down the river during high water. This was something that we had to keep in mind when paddling down the river. No need to snag our new-to-us Fish Hunter raft!
Overall, we caught some decent sized small mouth and what a fun fight they were!
Probably the most memorable part of our trip included our gear and the weather. As you probably noticed from the pictures, our rafts were a bit dated and well-loved before they came to us. But they held their own!
Our “tent” on the other hand wasn’t really a tent, and as our first summer in southern Idaho presented to us: there is a short monsoon season. During the day the heat easily reached the 90’s and at night the temperature would drop to about 75 before it would start raining. If you haven’t experienced a monsoon season or rain in the desert, it’s hard to describe and compare to any other type of weather in the world. It’s warm and humid. The rain drops are fat and hit the ground with a loud “thwat” instead of a soft “pitter patter.” The thunder rumbles and rolls instead of clapping, and the lightning strikes the ground and splits the sky instead of flashing above in the distant clouds.
Our “tent” wasn’t much coverage from the downpour at night.
Our route for the float was from C.J. Strike Dam to Swan Falls Damn, a span of roughly 30 miles of river for three days of fishing and camping. Consistently catching fish made it a bit easier to bare the rain at night, and brought us through the first 25 miles of water without too much consequence. Our one bout with potential heat sickness came and went with the proper medication, hydration, sun screen, and rest/shade time.
That brought us to the Swan Falls canyon section and the wind.
It’s not uncommon for the southern Idaho flats and canyons to get windy. We consistently see 10-15 mile an hour winds with weather warnings of winds up to 50mph. One of the most dangerous things to experience out on the water in the area is getting caught in a wind storm with a water craft that isn’t up to the task.
In the last five miles of our journey, that’s exactly what happened.
We had been watching the weather closely all weekend, and with dismay noticed the weather warning jumped from the usual consistent breeze to full-on 30mph gusts as we inched closer to our destination at Swan Falls. With not much else to do, we kept paddling until we couldn’t paddle anymore. When you realize the wind is basically blowing you back up river, it’s time to stop, re-evaluate, and ask for help.
We can’t be thankful enough to the couple who towed us in their boat to the take-out at Swan Falls.
I don’t think the weather or mother nature will ever stop teaching us valuable lessons to look back on and learn from.
For more information on the Snake river and the Morley Nelson area please visit:
Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey Conservation Area: https://www.blm.gov/programs/national-conservation-lands/idaho/morley-nelson-snake-river-birds-of-prey
C.J. Strike Lake & Dam: https://www.idahopower.com/recreation/parks-and-campgrounds/c-j-strike/