The Path to Fly Fishing Heaven is Steep and Rocky — the West’s Most Gnarly Boat Ramp

February 1, 2024
7 min read

The Path to Fly Fishing Heaven is Steep and Rocky — the West’s Most Gnarly Boat Ramp

February 1, 2024
7 min read
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Looking out the front window of the truck all I could see were endless rolling hills lined with potato fields. Chris, my intrepid guide, pulled off the paved road and we drove down a rough two track until we reached an open area. No water was in sight as Chris swung the truck and trailer around and started backing up. We came to a stop and he opened his door.

As we were driving to our destination, I looked around and thought to myself: “where in the hell is there a river around here?”

“I guess this is where we’re getting out,” I thought to myself, opened my door and walked around to the back of the trailer. Then it became evident what was about to happen.

I was now standing on a precipice of a dramatic canyon, which had been completely hidden from view just a few moments earlier. As I peered over the edge, I could see the blue glimmer of a river deep on the canyon floor.

I turned to Chris and asked, “how the f*#k are we gonna get down there?”

This precipice high above the river is where our journey began. A journey down the gnarliest boat ramp to fly fishing heaven.

With over 100 feet of belay rope, high traction shoes, a strong back and much younger knees than mine, Chris lowered our raft down a near-vertical boulder trail for nearly 2,000 feet. The trail was so narrow that two of us trying to lower the raft was fruitless most of the way.

“Take your time and watch out for rattlesnakes,” Chris said. “There’s plenty of rattlers here.”

As I navigated my way down a mountain goat trail with two ski poles, trying to avoid falling to my death or being bit by a rattlesnake, Chris wrestled the raft down the trail.

“There better be plenty of trout in that river, too.” I said to myself before I had to put my thoughts back to the scrambling down the steep trail.

Dragging the raft over these sharp granite points took its toll. About half-way down a hole was torn in one of the tubes. Using his repair kit Chris fixed the hole and we were on our way.

He admitted to me later that a raft puncture is a common occurrence here.

As the promise of cool, clear water become closer, the last 50 feet to the canyon floor were the toughest. We pulled the raft over several large boulders, requiring both of us to heave and push with all our strength. It felt great to help to Chris, otherwise I would have spent the whole day feeling guilty and cursing the fact that I’m getting too old any more to be of much use in these kinds of adventures.

When we finally got to the bottom it was time to rig up the rods, select the flies, get things organized in the boat and prepare to fish. As we pushed-off it struck me as this place being completely unfamiliar to many rivers—we had not seen another human all day. Here we were in this stunning fly fishing venue, not far from some several good-sized towns and we were it…not another soul…nada.

Just a few casts—I think three to be exact--and it was game on. Big dry flies, 3X tippet and plenty of hungry and eager native Snake River cutthroat trout. It went on like this the whole day and I never had to change my fly.

As the afternoon faded into evening and the end of the day was near, we spotted the take-out. I could see a road had been cut down to a small gravel boat ramp.

“Chris,” I said, “does this mean we don’t have to climb out of this place.”

“We don’t have to climb out,” he said, “the truck’s right there.”

I leaned back, looked up at the canyon walls lit golden in the evening sun and said, “Now this is fly fishing heaven.”

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