Middle Fork Salmon Fishing

World Class Dry Fly Fishing

Overview

In the heart of central Idaho’s 2.3 million acre Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness flows the legendary Middle Fork of the Salmon River, one of the most pristine and prolific trout fisheries on the planet. This dynamic landscape begins in high, dense forests of Fir and Spruce, passes by majestic Ponderosa Pines on grassy benches, and finally enters the impressive granite gorge of the Impassable Canyon. See this amazing river canyon while experiencing the world-class dry fly fishing of Idaho. We offer a shorter three-day trip that allows you to have an incredible Middle Fork Salmon experience over a long weekend, and also have options for our typical 6 day prime fishing trips later in the season.  

  • 3-6 days; 33-75 miles
  • World-class cutthroat trout fishing
  • Fishing-specific raft setup
  • Amazing side creeks and canyons
  • Professional fishing guides
  • Optional hiking to stunning vistas
  • Learn about pioneers and visit homesteads
  • Rich Native American history and pictographs

When the angle of the sun lengthens and summer begins to wane, the current of the Middle Fork drops and slows. Grass turns gold. The warm, distinct glow of impending Autumn washes over every rock face, each stately lodgepole pine, the sand of the beaches. River water becomes so clear you can see the shadowy silhouette of native cutthroat lurking in the eddies, observing every cautious movement of the trout’s body as it considers your fly perched on the surface of the water.

There just isn’t another fishing experience that compares.

The Middle Fork of the Salmon flows through the interior of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, one of the most pristine and prolific Westslope Cutthroat trout fisheries on the planet. WRO guides are well-versed in navigating our fishing-specific crafts towards the places trout lie in wait—the glassy water pooling behind mid-river rocks, beneath granite walls, along the seam lines of slow, circling back eddies. Guides are ready to assist when it comes to mastering your cast or settling on a fly to use, sharing knowledge that derives only from time spent on the same river, season after season.

Not only are the trout abundant on the Middle Fork, they are hungry and eager, making for a trip that will thrill amateurs and skilled anglers alike!

The Middle Fork River corridor hosts more than just pristine waters and blue ribbon Westslope Cutthroat trout fishing. Bighorn sheep, deer, elk, black bear, wolves, mountain lions, playful river otters and eagles make their home along the river. Explore cascading waterfalls, Native American pictographs, pioneer historic sites, and hermit hideouts before settling in around a roaring campfire and delicious Dutch oven dinners. Relax under the stars with our knowledgeable, kind, and fun-loving guides as you soak in the stillness of a remote mountain wilderness.

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The Stats

Departure Month August, July, September
State / Region
Adventure Level Moderate, Relaxed
Price Range $2000 - $3000, $3000+
Activities Fishing

Logistics

Our late season trips (after August) begin and end in Salmon, Idaho. The 3 day trips we offer occur in September, and our other late season 6 day fishing trips will typically occur in August. 

Before the trip:

For our late season fishing trips. we will fly directly into the river instead of driving into Boundary Creek from Stanley. Fly commercially into Boise, Idaho, then take Gem Air into Salmon, Idaho. We recommend staying at the Stagecoach Inn (208.756.2919) in Salmon or another nearby option the night before the trip. Orientation will be at the Stagecoach at 6 pm the day before your launch date, in which we will answer last minute questions, go over gear, and hand out dry bags and 16 oz Hyrdroflask mugs.

Trips launching in August will fly directly to the river from Salmon, the launch site depending on the length of your trip.

Gem Air Flights

Round trips from Boise, ID to Salmon, ID can be scheduled with Gem Air.

If you choose to drive to Salmon, you will be able to leave your car at the Stagecoach Inn or at our town office while you are on your trip.

After the Trip

We provide transportation to Salmon from Cache Bar take out. It is about a two hour drive. You can either fly out of Salmon to Boise later that day or stay in Salmon and fly out the next morning. We recommend staying overnight in Salmon at the Stagecoach Inn (208.756.2919) in Salmon or if you decide to go to Boise the Best Western Vista (800.727.5006).

Sample Itinerary

Day before the trip: Arrive in Salmon, ID no later than 5:30 pm. We’ll get together in the evening at the Mountain Village Lodge (or Stagecoach Inn in Salmon) to hand out dry bags and go over any last minute details and answer questions.

Day 1: We’ll depart around 8AM and fly in the guests and gear to our designated launch site (Indian Creek for 6 day trips and Bernard for 3 day trips. After a safety talk and orientation we’ll begin our journey. 

Day 2-5: We’ll be relaxing, running rapids, fishing, hiking to beautiful waterfalls, soaking in hot springs, exploring historic sites, and anything else you’d like to do! Our schedule is flexible so we can customize the trip to your interests.

Day 6: We’ll arrive at our takeout at Cache Bar in the afternoon for lunch and have a roughly 2-hour drive to Salmon, Idaho. You can spend the night in Salmon and enjoy a farewell dinner that evening, or catch an evening flight with Gem Air to Boise.

*Our 3 day fishing trips are more focused on the on-water activities and launch lower down the river. The itinerary is similar to the above 6 day trip, only condensed.

FAQs

Fishing/ Miscellaneous

How, where, and when do we get our fishing licences?

An Idaho fishing license is mandatory, and can be purchased just before you arrive if it is an in-person purchase. If you look at Idaho Fish and Game’s website, it will direct you to options for online purchases that can be mailed to you (allow 3-4 weeks for this option), or also in-person vendors in Salmon and around Idaho. Idaho also has the option to purchase a fishing license just for the time you are on the river.

Will I need waders?

The fishing we will do is primarily inside of our fishing rafts, and you will not need waders. With these trips being in the middle of the summer, the temperatures are very pleasant and walk-and-wade fishing from the bank and on side streams can be done without waders.

What fishing gear should I bring versus what WRO provides?

WRO guides bring a spare rod, a handful of popular flies, and leader and tippet, but we recommend guests bring their own 4-5 weight rod (cutthroat) and fly assortment. Early season (Before August) sees large aquatic populations such as stone/ salmon flies and caddisflies, while later in the year terrestrial patterns take over, such as ants, bees, hoppers and dragonflies. Please be sure that hooks are single-hooked and barbless. We recommend checking out the local fly shop in Salmon, ID (the Fly Box) to consult and stock up on what’s biting before your trip.

What are the fishing regulations?

This is dependent on the area you are fishing, but for all rivers you will need single, barbless hooks without bait. The Middle Fork Salmon is catch and release-only for all fish.

How do I book a fishing frame and fishing guide?

Our Fall 3 day trips are exclusively fishing frames, fishing guides, and fishing-focused. If you are interested in a fishing spot on one of our 6 day standard trips, you will need to speak to our office about availability of guides/ fishing frames. There are always opportunities for fishing off of our standard raft set ups and at camp.

How old does my child have to be to participate?

It depends on the time of year, and on the child. We generally suggest 8 years old as a minimum for most Middle Fork trips. Contact us to ask about your child age and river dates.

What if there is a family emergency back home? How will they locate us?

We always carry a satellite communication device for emergency situations and stay in contact with WRO staff in Salmon, who are aware of our location and campsites during the trip. If our office staff is notified of an emergency they will let our crew know, but it is definitely not immediate as we are typically traveling in remote wilderness areas.

What happens if someone gets sick or injured?

All of our trip leaders are certified Wilderness First Responders, along with the majority of our other highly capable guides, several of whom are Wilderness EMTs. All guides are trained in Swiftwater Rescue. Evacuation plans are in place for each trip in case of an emergency, and a satellite communication device is carried at all times.

What is an appropriate gratuity for your guides?

Guides are usually tipped 10-20% of the cost of the trip, more for exceptional service. The guides equally split the total tip amount from each guest. They are most appreciative of receiving this directly from the guest, either at the end of your trip or at the farewell dinner, so we recommend planning ahead to have cash or checks on hand. Please do not make tip checks out to Wilderness River Outfitters. They will need to be made out to the guide or to cash. Most of the guides also use Venmo.

Is there an option for a trip for only my group?

We do offer chartered trips. You often will need to plan these types of trips well in advance, as you will be booking out the entire trip for your group and need the launch date to be empty. Chartered trips must pay for the entire slot to reserve the trip, which minimum number of guests vary depending on the river you are interested in. Ask the office for additional details on chartering a trip with us or check out our "Charter Trips" page.

Camp Life and Meals

Will we be at a new camp every day?

Yes, we do normally change campsites every day. This allows us to cover new scenery, rapids, and side adventures each day at a fun, comfortable pace.

Will there be a campfire every night?

Yes, we almost always have a campfire every evening and morning.

What clothes should I bring for camp?

This will vary slightly depending on what time of the year your trip launches. August trips are typically still dry and hot, but summer storms and cool nights can occur. Later in August and our September trips can cool off, especially at nights and early mornings around camp. Your river and/or hiking clothes can double as camp clothes, but you are welcome to bring something else. Cotton shirts, flannels, dry pants, warm layers, etc. are some examples.

How big are the tents? Do we have to share a tent with someone else?

Most of our tents are high-quality three-person tents, but we only put two people in each tent. If there is an odd number in your group we will not make you share a tent with a stranger. We offer brands like Mountain Hardware, North Face, and Sierra Designs.

Will my tent be set up for me?

In the interest of a more genuine wilderness experience, we encourage people to pick their own sleeping sites and set up their tents (or sleep under the stars, weather permitting!). If you need assistance, we’re happy to help and always show you how the gear works.
For our three-day fishing-specific trips, we offer a “deluxe camping” option, where a gear boat will go ahead of the group to begin camp-set up, and can set tents up if desired.

What kind of food will we be eating?

Wonderful, gourmet backcountry cooking! We are consistently told by guests that we out-do their expectations when it comes to our food’s quality that we can accomplish in the wilderness. Breakfasts consist of a combination of grains, vegetables, eggs, and breakfast meats, and dinners consist of culinary delights such as wild salmon and steak, many of which are cooked over open campfires and dutch ovens. Lunches are a combination of tasty salads, sandwiches, fruits, and assorted snacks. Healthy and nutritious options are always available, and meals always include fruits and vegetables (sourced locally and from our WRO greenhouse when we can). For more information, check out our "Sample Menu" page.

Can WRO accommodate dietary restrictions/ allergies?

WRO will happily do our best to accommodate any dietary restrictions at no additional cost! We have experience working with vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, nut allergies, etc. Please notify us of any dietary restrictions or allergies as early as possible so that we can adjust the menu accordingly. In certain cases, individuals may want to supplement meals and snacks with some items of their own.

Does WRO provide drinks/ snacks?

WRO provides ample snacks as well as plenty of drinking water, fruit juices, and coffee, tea, and cream in the morning. We do not provide soda or alcohol. If you feel you would like to have soda or other canned beverages on the trip, please bring what you wish and we will help keep it cold! You are also welcome to bring your own alcohol (packed in unbreakable containers whenever possible, please).

How does personal hygiene work during the trip?

We need to keep soap out of the rivers (and the hot springs), so if you want to use soap and bathe on the trip, you need to do so above the high water mark. The guides can help carry and heat up some water if needed. Face and body wipes also work well for helping stay clean.

How does the bathroom system work during the trip?

In order to keep these places beautiful for years to come, all rivers are “pack it in, pack it out.” We bring fabulous portable toilets and handwashing stations that we place in a private location away from camp with the best bathroom view you will ever have.

On the River

How long will we be floating on the river each day?

Each trip is tailored to the desires of the guests, but generally we will be on the water a total of 5 or so hours each day (give or take a couple of hours), broken by a lunch stop and any other side adventures. We usually start floating when the sun hits the water each day and arrive in camp late afternoon. Each day will be different, with varying options for hiking, exploring, swimming, fishing, and great lunch stops. Fishing trips typically spend longer on the water, and get to camp slightly later and spend less time on side adventures, but we will cater the trip based on the group’s interests. Your lead guide will give you an overview of the day each morning.

How will I keep my phone/camera/other valuable items safe from the elements?

We discourage bringing any unnecessary valuables on your trip. Phones can be placed in a Ziploc bag or water proof case and put in your day bag if you would like to have it accessible for taking pictures during the day. If you are bringing a large, expensive camera, we recommend you bring a hard waterproof case in which to store it and accessories.

What kind of boat will I be riding in?

For fishing trips, we will bring smaller rafts (12-14 feet) with fishing frames that your guide will be rowing and fishing you from. If you are planning on booking a longer 6 day trip, be sure that you specify that you are interested in this type of boat. It is also possible to fish from a standard raft frame if you do not plan on fishing the entire trip or if fishing frames are not available.

What will temperatures and weather be like? Will it be cold? Will it rain?

Summer and fall temperatures in the Northern Rockies can fluctuate dramatically in a 24-hour period, from freezing at night to 70-80s the next afternoon. Mid summer sunny days can also reach the upper 90s! Storms can also roll in unexpectedly, and it’s best to be prepared for anything. Rain is always possible, but trips earlier in the season are more likely to see precipitation and/or cooler temperatures than mid to late summer trips. Be sure to check out the weather section of the packing list for specific seasonal information and average temperatures for your trip, as well as doing your own research a week prior to your trip, checking anticipated weather at Indian Creek Air Strip (ID) or Flying B Ranch Air Strip, ID (our put-in) as well as at Shoup, ID (close to our takeout).

Clothing, Footwear, and Gear

What kind of footwear should I bring? What shoes will I wear in the boat?

For most trips you will need two pairs of shoes, one to wear in the boats and one to wear hiking and around camp. Most people enjoy wearing water shoes or sturdy sandals with an ankle strap (popular options include Chacos, Tevas, and Keens). Old running sneakers can also work well as river shoes. Flip-flops are great for around camp but you need something that will stay on your feet while we are on the boats. For most trips, sneakers or a lightweight hiking boot will be fine for side hikes.

What clothing should I wear in the boat?

Quick-dry clothing, layers, and sun protection are the most important things to keep in mind. Late season Middle Fork trips are low water, and not typically that splashy, but there are definitely a couple of rapids that could still get you wet. Long sleeved, lightweight sun hoodies, long pants, brimmed hat, eye protection, and possibly sun-gloves are recommended, with layers accessible for changes in weather.

Why do you recommend synthetics instead of cotton?

While on the river you will get wet going through rapids (what fun would it be if you didn’t?!). Synthetic materials are lightweight and dry much quicker than cotton. They also keep you warmer when wet. Comfort is essential to having fun!

What size and type of sleeping pad does WRO provide?

We provide deluxe, self-inflating basecamp “Therm-a-rest” pads. These are very comfortable and fit very nicely in our gear bags.

Can I bring my own sleeping pad/bag/tent/other gear?

You are welcome to bring your own sleeping gear if you wish, but if you do, please bring your own complete sleep kit and let us know ahead of time. Our sleep kits consist of a "Therm-a-rest" pad, a 0 degree sleeping bag, a sheet, a pack-able pillow, and a ground cloth. We can provide an empty dry bag to store your sleep kit in.

How big are the waterproof bags and how much stuff can they hold?

Everyone is issued a waterproof “day bag” to carry items you will need access to during the day while on the river. This day bag is 9 inches in diameter and 20 inches tall. Everyone is also issued a large waterproof bag for your personal gear and clothing. This bag should be plenty large enough for everything listed on our suggested packing list. We recommend limiting your personal gear to 35 pounds.

Logistics

What kind of footwear should I bring? What shoes will I wear in the boat?

For most trips you will need two pairs of shoes, one to wear in the boats and one to wear hiking and around camp. Most people enjoy wearing water shoes or sturdy sandals with an ankle strap (popular options include Chacos, Tevas, and Keens). Old running sneakers can also work well as river shoes. Flip-flops are great for around camp but you need something that will stay on your feet while we are on the boats. For most trips, sneakers or a lightweight hiking boot will be fine for side hikes.

What clothing should I wear in the boat?

Quick-dry clothing, layers, and sun protection are the most important things to keep in mind. Late season Middle Fork trips are low water, and not typically that splashy, but there are definitely a couple of rapids that could still get you wet. Long sleeved, lightweight sun hoodies, long pants, brimmed hat, eye protection, and possibly sun-gloves are recommended, with layers accessible for changes in weather.

Why do you recommend synthetics instead of cotton?

While on the river you will get wet going through rapids (what fun would it be if you didn’t?!). Synthetic materials are lightweight and dry much quicker than cotton. They also keep you warmer when wet. Comfort is essential to having fun!

What size and type of sleeping pad does WRO provide?

We provide deluxe, self-inflating basecamp “Therm-a-rest” pads. These are very comfortable and fit very nicely in our gear bags.

Can I bring my own sleeping pad/bag/tent/other gear?

You are welcome to bring your own sleeping gear if you wish, but if you do, please bring your own complete sleep kit and let us know ahead of time. Our sleep kits consist of a "Therm-a-rest" pad, a 0 degree sleeping bag, a sheet, a pack-able pillow, and a ground cloth. We can provide an empty dry bag to store your sleep kit in.

How big are the waterproof bags and how much stuff can they hold?

Everyone is issued a waterproof “day bag” to carry items you will need access to during the day while on the river. This day bag is 9 inches in diameter and 20 inches tall. Everyone is also issued a large waterproof bag for your personal gear and clothing. This bag should be plenty large enough for everything listed on our suggested packing list. We recommend limiting your personal gear to 35 pounds.

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