It has been an odd winter for sure here in Idaho. And what that means usually is that people end up talking about rafting, due to predictions on how much water will be in the Idaho rivers. Second they start speculating about the fire season. Which affects us rafting and fishing outfitters as well. This rafting and fishing blog post is to combat the naysayers once again provide correct information about water levels and what they mean for Salmon River rafting and Snake River fishing and rafting this season!!!
To start with, and early spring does NOT mean that the rivers will all dry up or that the rafting season will be poor. Especially for the Idaho rivers we run here at North Star River Expeditions, the Snake River and Salmon River. The Snake River in Hells Canyon is dam controlled and managed by the Core of Engineers. They set the standards on the minimum level of water that will be let through the dam. The water is stored behind at least 3 reservoirs that service the Hells Canyon National Rec Area, and provide power for Idaho and the north west. That lowest level still allows for plenty of water for rafting in Hells Canyon.
Matter of fact, as the water gets lower many more rapids emerge, and the river gets even more exciting!! The technical difficulty may change and this generally means that fewer people will be on the water, and that means less traffic. Awesome rapids. Less traffic. More time on the water. And the perfect reason to do your trip with an experienced outfitter!
North Star runs the Lower Main section of the Salmon River. This is the last section of the Salmon River and it has the benefit of 100’s of miles of river behind as well as tributaries that pour into the Salmon River as it makes its journey across central Idaho. This section of the Salmon has the benefit of all that water, and will have the most water of any river section of the Salmon. Plenty of water for fun rapids and beautifully made miles in the sun.
The Snake River in Hells Canyon and the Lower Main Salmon are both large volume rivers, comparable the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon in volume.
Snow pack levels in Idaho this winter as of January 2015 looked pretty good. The Salmon Basin was at 94% of the 30 year median. Payette Basin at 84%, and Weiser Basin at 70%, and Boise Basin at 94%. Those basins supply the water that runs into the Snake and the Salmon Rivers. The map as of March 30th this year shows that our snowpack was less by 10-20% of the snowpack at the same in years 2012-14. We have less now, but the January snowpack was good. Its been melting slow and steady. See the Idaho Dept of Water Resources site for more information!
We are looking forward to a great season on the river this year. Great rapids being just one part of the incredible multi-day rafting experience!!! Join us for floating, swimming, fishing, hiking, camping, stargazing, and delicious fresh cooked food till you bust.
Posted in Hells Canyon Rafting, Hells Canyon/Snake River Wildlife, Salmon River Rafting, Salmon River Water Levels, Snake River Water Levels
It may be snowing now. Raining. Sleeting. Blowing. Or just downright cold. I relish those hours shoveling my walk and my deck, over and over. The brisk air. Flocked trees. Snapping into my skis on the trail or at the lift. But when it comes right down to it, I still yearn for those hot summer days and the sand between my toes. Every beach looks bigger and better on the Salmon River, especially after a great day on the water–rafting, floating, fishing, swimming, basking. Don’t miss your chance for some Salmon River “sand between your toes time.” That shovel handle feels good in my hands….but those oars feel better.
The Lower Main Salmon River rafting experience is one that combines solitude with excitement. Big white beaches with funky columnar basalt formations. Dinner with your toes not only in the sand but in the cool green waters as well!! Don’t wait. Jump on in!
Life is a River, Prepare to Get Wet!
This hunting and fishing season has been incredible. Unlike last year, the weather held for us and we didn’t get much rain late summer and in early September. It set us up for great access to the birds along the Snake River and even though we saw some sprinkles and some overnight rain in October we barely needed a rain coat. We saw and heard birds right on the water nearly every day and did plenty of hiking after coveys on the benches and above. “The virgin flocks” as North Star guide Brad Abbott has dubbed them have now had a taste of humans. Todd, JR, and Rod, now you know what he and Jake Warren have been talking about all this time.
Our 5 day Cast & Blast along the river is so unique and well run you will find nothing else like it. Our guides are stellar people and work incredibly hard to take care of our clients. Finding chukar and advising on the best gear for bass fishing verses trout fishing, taking care of game, rowing boats, cooking amazing food—the North Star crew manages to do it all and enjoy every minute. Read on to find out about trips this year so that you can plan for next season. We are having a great fall steelhead and salmon run back to Idaho this year and that just adds to general excitement while in Hells Canyon. Not only is the scenery and setting incredible, but hooking into big fish just makes everyone happy by the end of the day.
Chukar Hunters From Near and Far This year’s groups brought us guys from Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Idaho, and Nevada. A great group of sportsmen who have been all over and done all kinds of hunting, bird and big game, and fishing as well. According to guide Glenn Mabey , our Texas guys Larry, Don, and Willie could hit a dime with their special southern bass gear from 60 feet away and generally harassed each other while happily reeling in over 100 fish a day.
Bird Dogs—English Pointers, German Shorthairs, and Labs…oh MY! Six dogs on one trip this year and they were all so well behaved we hardly knew they were there in camp. We had our first ever English Pointer on a trip, Bella. She was a very serious hunter with the sweetest personality and it was fun to see her tail in the air! JR returned with his red lab Ruby, even after she popped out a litter of pups last fall. Also had a host of German Shorthair Pointers of all colors, including North Star RE guide Brad Abbott’s dog Kizer—our seasoned Hells Canyon bird dog—and Jake’s and my new dog Captain (bird dog in training). All the dogs had a great time out as well, pointed, retrieved, and generally wore themselves out. I think Jay’s girl GSP named Dot didn’t miss a single bird that went down and just worked tirelessly checking every hackberry bush and pile of rocks we walked past. She may have had the most points and retrieves of any dog on the trip. Captain found and pointed his first ever covey of chukar and held great even when they got up. He found some downed birds and did very well, considering his Mom was not carrying a shotgun and it was his first time out in Hells Canyon. I was just happy he listened and did what I told him!!! We have high hopes that he might follow in Kizer’s footsteps.
Chukar Hunting Highlights and Tall Tales So many fun, crazy, amazing, and sometimes slightly scary things happen on Cast & Blast trips each year that it would be hard to chronicle them all. I hope to get some perspectives and stories from the rest of the guide crew as well, since all I can really tell are stories that I hear related in camp at the end of the day, or things that happen just to the group I am hunting or fishing with on any given day. One such laughable event occurred after a nice little hunt back upriver in Oregon, we’d just rowed across from our camp and set off upriver along the trails and benches after a covey we had heard earlier that morning. After doing a good little hike with not much sign myself and Jay and our GSP’s did a mountain goat style hike up tandem side canyons to look for any hiding birds. The covey was hiding but just one more crag up river. We were lucky because instead of holding tight they spooked (we never would have found them) but then circled around and landed right down in the boulders along the river below us. We made a loop on them and got the dogs out in front, but those wily rascals of course just ran through the boulders away from dogs and hunters alike. They are much more agile boulderers than the rest of us!! When they finally did jump up no one was in a good position, and they flew across the river. Some shots were taken and we managed to knock one or two down into the water. We returned back downriver toward the boat, all of us resigned that the opportunity was definitely behind us. Time to scout back downriver. Most of us being literally 20 feet or less from the boat, everyone unstrapping gear and unloading guns and chatting, we hadn’t noticed that both Captain and Dot had gone into some tall standing mullein and weeds below the hackberries not 5 feet from where the boat was tied off. Surprising us all a small covey of chukar came blowing out of the brush and flew just down and around the corner. The dogs, who were likely on point in the brush while none of us were paying attention, came walking back out of the brush, eyes on the birds, then eyes on the hunters and you can just imagine the looks on their faces. We all just laughed, shook our heads, re-strapped gear, reloaded guns and took off on a merry chase on the trail down river.
Make sure to visit our North Star RE Facebook page for many more photos and fun anecdotes from these trips and others. Call our office for more information about chukar hunting in Idaho and Oregon, the amazing fishery Hells Canyon has to offer and the fishing and hunting combination featured by our Cast & Blast trips.
Posted in Chukar Hunting, Hunting and Fishing Trips, North Star Rafting Tagged Cast & Blast, Hells Canyon chukar hunting, Idaho bass fishing, Snake River trout fishing, steelhead fishing
We get fishermen and women of all abilities on our Snake River fly fishing trips. One of the great things about fishing Hells Canyon is that we can get right on top of the fishy water from the boat, on a river that is so big that the hazard of getting tangled is mostly from your fellow fisherman in the boat or your Chaco strap. Now there might be an occasional rock or bush snag, but not often.
No matter our ability it is good to remember the basics and take a look at our cast with a critical eye. I am definitely a “thrower” and am plagued constantly by knots caused by my tailing loop. (And that’s just the short list.) I definitely aspire to cast more like Pete Kutzer from the Orvis Fly Fishing school in Vermont. He addresses these two issues in this video covering the 5 most common casting mistakes.
Copying from Tom Rosenbauer on the Orvis blog here are those common mistakes:
- starting with the rod too high off the water;
- not stopping the rod at the end of each forward and backcast;
- going too far back with the rod on the backcast;
- trying to “throw” the fly; and
- tailing loops.
“For the most part, these errors are pretty easy to correct, and if you pay attention to the solutions Pete offers here, your casting will jump immediately to the next level. You’ll find that you can cast longer, more accurately, and without the frustrating tangles that can waste a lot of time.”
After watching this video, I bet that I am flicking to early on my forward cast rather than waiting for the “stop and pop”. I am wishing there wasn’t snow on the ground in my yard–I’d be out there in a heart beat trying this out!
Post your comments on the link on the Facebook page! What are you common casting mistakes and has Pete’s instruction given you any new incite?
Posted in Hells Canyon Rafting
Opening weekend of the Idaho chukar season had our small group getting on the water in Hells Canyon under cloudy skies. After a summer of really hot, really dry weather and chukar coveys right on the Snake River under every bush the weather finally went crazy in September. Hot days still, but thunderstorms EVERY night, especially in the mountains! That trend turned slowly into a host of days of pouring rain. Most bird hunters agree that type of weather changes the scope of what to expect for your hunt. That was the topic of conversation the first day of our 5 day hunt trip when we saw no birds at all on the water. The guys had to take to the bank and use the dogs to search out the birds’ eating grounds.
Given the dry, arid climate of Hells Canyon, chukar coveys will typically stay near the Snake River for the water they need. This is just one part of why this Hell Canyon Cast and Blast trip makes for incredible hunting. Hells Canyon is accessible only by boat or by foot from one or two access points over 32 miles of river corridor. The access being as it is, to truly see and hunt this canyon you have to do it over a number of days. But the one thing you can’t control is the weather. And the weather this fall brought so much crazy rain that the birds didn’t need to come down to the river!
JR, his 17 year old son Weston, and their long time hunting partner and friend Bob took to the hillsides with North Star guide Brad Abbott and two dogs–JR’s red lab Ruby and Brad’s shorthair Keizer. 2nd guide Mike Hicks tracked them from the water and listened for birds—that weren’t talking! For their efforts they managed to jump a couple coveys and got some shots. Hoping for the sun to come out and warmer weather, everyone was anticipating the hunt over the next few days as the terrain opened up and became more easily accessible.
Second day’s hunt brought lots of hiking incredible country! Our gear boat guides (myself, Travis & Kori) moved the camp down river and the hunters hiked nearly that entire section, covering all kinds of elevation, and probably more than 10 miles. The weather stayed cloudy with brief bits of sun and an afternoon thunderstorm that brought out the rain jackets and washed out the bird scent. That day resulted in nearly every scrap of salmon dinner being consumed and Weston being trumped into a 7 minute freezing water soak-down in Sheep Creek (if Brad could do it, he could do it), a tributary of the Snake River that comes all the way from the peaks of the Seven Devils Mountains.
Though Day 2 still didn’t find the numbers of birds we were expecting and more rain came down overnight, crew and hunters alike were up early the next morning with a new plan. Determined to not be outdone, the hunters took off early—guides convinced that we’d find birds on Day 3 in a couple places where we know they hang out. Although we had to compete with a few hunters we caught up to downriver, our efforts proved fruitful and the guys and dogs chased birds all over the mountain that day. The sun came out and everyone’s spirits were high! We decided to lay over and further hunt that particular area the next day as well—ate steak dinner that night with down-river Dutch oven spuds and enjoyed fresh baked apple pie by lantern light under a starry sky! Life was good……
…..as our blog denotes, life is good but is like a river. Unexpected. Up and down. And definitely a little out of control. Our early morning start the next day was thwarted by a downpour starting at 5am. Everyone got up, ate breakfast, and went back to their tents for a morning nap! When the rain lifted at about 11am, five of us headed up the mountain. The dogs worked every draw and bush for about an hour when Keizer pointed on a covey sitting right on a rock bluff above us. Brad and Wes moved into position and when the birds flushed they got their shots. Shortly after that the rain started in and didn’t stop again. The clouds settled in, and we finished our loop. We could hear chukar up above us but no one wanted to keep climbing in the slippery conditions! We returned to camp for some warmed wine and appetizers, small mouth bass poppers (Brad’s secret recipe) and some time by the camp fire.
Whether you spend your time hunting or fishing, or enjoying the evenings over the fire with a plate of dinner from our fabulous menu, this Snake River in Hells Canyon Cast N Blast trip will make memories you and your family/hunting buddies will remember for a life time! We enjoyed getting know these guys and are planning a trip again next year!
For more pictures and commentary from the trip make sure to visit our Facebook page at the link below!
Posted in Chukar Hunting, Hells Canyon Rafting, Hells Canyon/Snake River Wildlife, Hunting and Fishing Trips
August 18th & 19th we had the pleasure of spending a couple of beautifully hot, perfect days on the Lower Main Salmon River rafting with the women of the Boise State University volleyball team, and their coaching staff!! Their fall season had just begun, and after a week of tough practice we provided a quick hiatus from on court workouts for some on the river team bonding—Salmon River style.
In a way this was a trip down memory lane for Jake and I. As I talked with these gals, it was hard to believe I was in their shoes 18 years ago (and he in the bleachers supporting me every game). That sounds like SUCH a long time ago, and at the same time the blink of an eye. In those days we were spending our summers guiding Snake River and Salmon River trips for our mentor outfitter Jerry Hughes. I worked out on and off the river every spare second attempting to get ready for the season to start full-fledged in early August. I did a LOT of jumping drills over side boxes and onto boats, intervals up trails with armfuls of gear bags, and an occasional wagered race to the top of this Hells Canyon peak or that. But no matter what I did, nothing could prepare me for 6+ hours a day of volleyball come August.
These girls said the same, even though they are playing and working out even more than we did preseason in the 90’s, you just can’t prepare yourself for that much volleyball except by playing that much volleyball! Now most returning players go to summer school and spend their time working with strength and conditioning coaches in order to prepare for the season. That way they stay in shape, and they don’t have to carry as many credits during the main season while they are traveling or practicing 4+ hours a day.
In my college days, I thought many a time how perfect the huge Lower Salmon sand beaches would be for a sand volleyball court set. And how perfect a river trip would be for both some out of gym training, and general time away from pressures and serious mind set of school and college athletics. Talk about team building!!!
So, 18 years after my time on court in Bronco Gym, that idea was realized. Coach Shawn Garus and I talked, he was sold on the idea as well, and after a little bit of planning they headed first to McCall for one night at Quaker Hill organized by camp director (and BSU alumni) Jon Walker; then the group of 20 players, coaches and a trainer (T-Money!) joined an all BSU alumni North Star crew on the Salmon River. Jake, Chris Browne, Glenn Mabey and I ran boats, and Gracie, Claire, and Cole acted as water fight coaches and sand castle instructors. Not that the gals needed much help.
We were very impressed by all these players. They were friendly, easy going, kind to the kids, and ready to try anything—the paddle boats, the inflatable kayaks, paddle jousting, super soaker manning, “aquaneering”, and happily jumped in to help with everything from lunch prep and hauling gear to dishes. They had the system so nailed after one night, I even got stopped putting my plate in the wrong bowl. Apparently Brittany would not allow me to skip the prewash. She was much taller than me, so I didn’t argue. These girls are focused, serious about making a stellar showing on the court for BSU this fall, and off to incredible starts on their careers. Aspiring to careers in a wide range of fields from social science to athletics to business—even being a mom. Glenn mentioned that getting to know them all is what made him a huge fan, even though this was the first time he has ever been pushed out of a raft—nice job ladies! Although to his credit, I noticed it took some trickery on athletes’ part. We were impressed by their athletic prowess and their ability to fuel!!!! We can’t wait to see them in action on the court this fall.
The coaching staff is one I would have loved to play under. Serious about the sport, no nonsense, but serious about taking care of their players and coaching the absolute best out of them. Visiting with Shawn, Candy and Breann was a treat, and it was a fascinating look into their coaching styles, and how they break down the game, and what is important to them.
I became a volleyball player in the 7th grade. I treasure that time of focus in my life and absolutely loved playing volleyball, and am thankful for the opportunity to compete as a Division I student athlete. But my time at BSU helped prepare me for much more. I left BSU with a College of Business—Small Business Management degree. Just a few years later, Jake and I started North Star River Expeditions. Since then I have survived as a small business owner (14 years) and a full time Mom of 3 (11 years). I told the players that those are two of the hardest jobs I could have ever taken on. But I had to admit as we went around the raft, person to person listing our majors, job plans, and dream jobs–that as hard as it is, I got lucky. I got my dream job. And I told them they are all off to a good start to do the same! I will always be a volleyball player at heart. Thanks for spending time on the river with us ladies (and Sean)! Go Broncos!
Posted in Salmon River Rafting
Idaho’s spring salmon season may be limited due to numbers of fish coming back up river, and the broodstock needs of various fish hatcheries. Clearwater drainage seems to be the most restrictive, based on projections and current numbers of fish being counted coming over the dams.
Largest share of harvest numbers is projected for the Rapid Rapid run, with Hells Canyon being second with possibly only 400 fish total and Clearwater drainage at 200 fish.
Sounds like for the Hells Canyon chinook salmon return, they will be starting with a 4 fish daily limit with no more than 1 adult (and 3 jacks). Season will be 7 days a week ending on further notice.
Rapid River return will start with a 4 fish daily limit with no more than 2 adults (2 jacks). 7 days a week season.
Clearwater chinook salmon return will start with 4 fish daily limit, 1 being an adult, but only Friday to Monday (4 day a week) season and many restricted fishing areas.
Season has not been opened yet and we are estimating the fish may be here by mid-May at the earliest.
Biologist Joe DuPont explains that the projected harvest is still bouncing around from day to day as it seems one day a group of tagged fish destined for a certain area will pass over Bonneville Dam, then the next day there may be none. This is resulting in some uncertainty on the timing of the 2013 spring Chinook salmon run.
Planned Idaho opening day for chukar hunting 2013 in Hells Canyon is Saturday, September 21st.
Planned Oregon opening day for chukar hunting 2013 along the Snake River in Hells Canyon is Saturday, October 5th.
Deposits are rolling in for weekend starts on these dates for our Hells Canyon Cast and Blast trips! Starting in September we will be hunting the Idaho side of the river in Hells Canyon, as the Snake River is the border between Idaho and Oregon in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. This country along the Snake River is some of the best chukar hunting in the US, and is accessible by boat or a very long walk. North Star RE Cast and Blast trips focus on hunting the river corridor from the water up. We fish incidentally as we float and drop hunters and dogs at the best spots along the way. Even when just the Idaho side of the river is open there are plenty of birds, plenty of terrain to cover, and very little traffic.
When the Oregon side of the river opens for chukar two weeks after the Idaho side, we can hunt chukar on both sides of the river, or just OR or ID.
We will be planning Saturday launches for these trips starting Saturday September 21st. Other launches are: September 28th, October 5th, and October 12th. Other dates can be added as needed. Call our office for more details and talk to Tricia or Jacob. 877-610-3200.
Posted in Chukar Hunting, Hunting and Fishing Trips
This Idaho rafting season seems to have been the summer of the River Otter, and has been an all-around great summer for wildlife viewing!! The river otter family we saw multiple times didn’t get too close, but were curious as is usual and spent some time bobbing about giving us a funny! We were amazed at how huge some of the adults were!!! We saw a lot of Big Horn Sheep families as well. The little lambs are incredibly cute, their coats and ears look fluffy, and they seem to have 2 speeds–perfectly still and 100 mph over any kind of terrain, rock screes, cliffs, boulders or grass! We got up close and personal many times floating by them as they drank from the river. Saw some brown bears on the bank this year as we floated along, and plenty of bald and golden eagles and other birds–herons, fishers, ducks, and other birds of prey, as well as LOT of chukars. Chukars seem to be the first bird our Hells Canyon rafting guests can identify by their call (or cackle as we call it)—right up there with the canyon wren. Even with the hot temps this summer, the Hells Canyon wildlife viewing was excellent. We feel very blessed to have experienced another great season on the river, and are confident that the wildlife will continue to thrive in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. You can expect to keep seeing a diverse group of wildlife rafting on the Snake River with North Star in the future!
“The river is always kind to Boy Scouts and drunk people,” our long time mentor and friend Jerry Hughes was fond of saying as he shook his head. And we’ve witnessed that a number of times. Well, not always to drunk people who don’t wear their pfd’s, but seemingly always to the Boy Scouts!!
We will see if that holds true this week as 14 Boy Scouts from a New Plymouth troop hit the Snake River with North Star to try their hands at Hells Canyon rafting at it’s finest. Well, not just paddling rafts and kayaks, but also sturgeon fishing and every other type of fishing they find time for, some Dutch oven cooking instruction, and don’t forget the kp. I believe you missed a spot on that plate boys–back to the start of the dish line!!
Our guides love having Boy Scouts out since they are well known for being hardworking, and listen eagerly to instruction! Hopefully they all earn their badges, and maybe some awards for best tent set, lightest bag, and maybe to the boy who best exhibits their motto: always be prepared. Back in April a small group of Boy Scouts backpacking in Hells Canyon earned badges for helping to rescue a woman who had fallen from the trail near Sheep Creek. Whether they are on the Snake River rafting, or backpacking among the cliffs of Hells Canyon, it seems the Boy Scouts of America are eager to help others.
Sounds like on this Hells Canyon trip the only mishap our office has heard of so far is that the Boy Scouts needs some work on their knots–they managed to lose one of our paddle boats from the ramp, but Jake Warren and the Leyland rescued it before it got to Cliffside and Travis Ribordy did a solo paddle demonstration back up the eddie to the ramp! All in a days work!
We’ve had some cooling temperatures and thunderstorms, so it will be interesting to see how the trip went. Regardless, I am sure it isn’t anything a group of Boy Scouts can’t handle!! We’ll post an update when they get back!