Remembering the rivers

Denny Wagenman

Active Member
A couple of years ago I thought I better write down the rivers I had fished before my memory fails I continue to fish several of them . I haven' fished any new rivers since 2016,

It is difficult to explain the joy I receive in fishing rivers for the elusive trout. I have fished many and remember them all in some small detail. The tranquility and the scenic beauty remains with me as if it were yesterday. I have either waded or floated the following rivers

The Rivers of Washington State
I start with the Washington rivers because the Yakima was my very first river that I ever fished. It was the start of a long and joyous journey. I arrived at the river with a pair of nylon waders and a pair of tennis shoes for wading. I found out very quickly that tennis shoes in a river do not fare well with a slick bottom. The water was cold as I took my first fall. The fishing? Don’t remember!! I have fished it many times since and those felt soled boots work wonders. I bought a 12’ raft as I was told that was the best for fishing the Yakima versus a drift boat. The maiden voyage was with my fishing mentor and , to say the least, it was an experience. With a rope around the perimeter of the raft my friend constantly was getting his fly hooked on the rope and to top it off one of his casts caught his sunglasses and went flying off into the water. Enough said
I found the Green River to have limited access but have managed to pick up a few small fish over the years. Some say they could be steelhead smolt. I wouldn’t know the difference. Once had a kid shoot at me with a pellet gun. Someday I am threatening to float the river along with the tubers, except I will be fishing.
The Little Deschutes River is just that. Small and held small fish. I haven’t given it much of a chance as I only fished it one time. Near Olympia I should do more fishing on the river.
The Naches River is a beautiful river with lots of access. I have caught some very large cutthroat in that wonderful river. As of 2016 it now has miles of catch and release regulations. I also found that this is a river the locals like to swim in. Fishing a nice hole once and here comes a family of five to swim. Ruined my day!!
Middle Fork and South Fork of the Snoqualamie are close to home yet I haven’t fished them very much. I have managed to catch a few dinks. I found that one must hike a bit to get to good water. Must put them on my to do list. The fear of my vehicle getting broken into has been the main reason I haven’t fished it more.
The Cedar River reopened some years ago and everyone thought it would be full of fish. It has a three month window to fish each year. I was successful a few times but too many fishermen and the threat of a car break-in has limited my fishing the river.
The mighty upper Columbia River was an experience one can’t forget. As a retirement gift from a company I had done sales for many years Rose and I had the luxury to do a 3 day, two night trip, with guide Jack Mitchell. Fishing late evening and in the dark for large rainbows with dries will be etched in my mind forever. If you have never heard a slurping fish hit your dry fly in dead darkness you need to take this trip. One of the few times my wife out fished me? Nope, it has happened a few more times.
The Kettle River was fished early in the day while waiting to fish the Columbia. Few fish were taken. It is a smaller river with ample access.

The Rivers of Montana
How do I start to describe the rivers of Montana. Some of the most scenic, crowded rivers I have fished. They also hold, on average, some of the largest fish I have encountered.

The Missouri river was the first I fished in Montana. I flew into Great Falls, hired a guide and fished two days. The guide I had for the first day was a fighter pilot in Vietnam so we had a little in common. He put me in fish right away and I managed to line them quite badly and got the look of what the hell are you doing from the guide. We went on to have a wonderful day with lots of fish on small dries. The guide on the second day was the worst I have encountered to date. I learned a lot from that experience. I have continued to fish this river almost every year. I have floated 26 miles of the Missouri
One trip Rose and I took to Montana we fished the Madison outside of Ennis. At that time we had a 12’ raft . A thunderstorm that blew us into the bank and had us hunkered down with lightning cracking around us will never be forgotten. This was the first time I had put Rose on the oars. I soon found out she didn’t know how to row. She has since become a very good rower. They are right when they describe the river as one big riffle! I have floated 19 miles of the Madison.
On that trip it was on to the Bighorn river. Too many memories to list but some of the best fishing I have ever had. The crowds are very large as well as the fish. The biggest rainbow trout I have ever caught was on that river on a size #18 sparkle dun. I have fished that river probably over 35 days. I have floated 21 miles of the Bighorn.
Many floats on the Clark Fork produced an abundance of fish and memories. A fairly uncrowned river it produces some very large trout. Easy to float. One lasting memory was I was floating it alone. Went to shore to wade fish an area and walked in front of a beaver hut thinking it was vacant. To my surprise it was occupied and the sucker charged me and knocked me in the river. Not sure if I have been that scared before but afterwards thinking that if he bit me, and me being alone, I probably would have bled to death. I have floated 38 mile of the Clark Fork
The Stillwater river lays South of Columbus. I found one must go quite a ways to get access. The flows were low when I fished it. Fishing was slow.
The Boulder lays South of Big Timber. Access was reasonable. If you like to fish pocket water this is a good river to do that.
Rose and I floated two days outside of Livingston on the Yellowstone river. Easy float and decent fishing. I continue to fish the Yellowstone on my way to the Bighorn at a place I found to wade off the interstate.
I have waded the Gallatin river outside of Bozeman. Found access to several islands and fished those. Did catch fish but not remembering size or quantity.
The East Gallatin River was more like a small spring Creek. No fish. The one thing I remember was it was fairly close to the Bozeman airport and planes kept coming in and out. Not much of a serene fishing adventure.
A stop on the Blackfoot river a couple of days didn’t bring much luck as far as catching. It is a pretty river if you go to the upper part away from the main roads.
The North Fork of the Flathead river outside of Glacier Park was gorgeous place to fish. The fishing was slow but with Rose, Steve and Susie Rowe as company it was a great day.
Rose and I took a guide for 2 half day floats on the Kootinai river. Caught a few fish on Caddis, but best memory was a bull moose in the river.
Several days I have fished Rock Creek. I found the higher up one goes the better the fishing. Love this creek. Plenty of access and lots of fish can be had on dries. The last few years the road can be quite rough.
I had always wanted to fish the Bitteroot. I was able to do that in 2014 as I found several places to wade. The fly shop in Hamilton gave me some public access information. Did pretty good. Would love to float this river but with all the islands would be hard to know where to go.
Ended up fishing the West Fort of the Bitteroot because the fishing on other rivers was so bad. Not to much improvement on catching but is an interesting river. Access is very limited due to private property.
The same day as we fished the West Fork we also fished the East Fork of the Bitteroot. Caught a few in the very short time we had to fish it. Access was good as far up the river that we went. Would love to fish it again.

The Rivers of Idaho
Oh my goodness. Here it is mid 2016 and the count on the Idaho rivers I have fished is now 19. How does it compare to Montana? My two favorite rivers are located in Idaho if that says anything. The beauty of most of those rivers is beyond any in any other state. Brings peace and calmness to the mind.
My number one river to fish is the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene. On my many trips t Montana I always blew by this river not knowing much about it. I was talking to a guy at the now closed Morning Hatch Fly Shop in Tacoma and he mentioned he had fished the river and how good it was. So my next trip to Montana I fished it and had to agree. It has everything one would want in a river, scenic and full of fish, BIG fish. Many, many memories and not enough time to list them all. One experience that I will share happened a couple of years ago. I was fishing alone and saw a place that I had always wanted to fish. Stopped and put on my gear, strung my rod and off through the waist high grass to the river. About 15 yards from the river I hear a rustling in the grass ahead of me. Up popped a baby moose, then up popped another baby moose. Holy shit what I have got myself into. After running a record sprint to the car I turned around and here comes Mama moose crossing the river. I went on that day to have one of the best fishing days ever.
An article in Northwest Fly Fishing magazine led me to Teepee Creek. A decent sized creek that flows into the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene. No fish, but didn’t give it much of a chance. Will fish it again
The St. Joe has to be the second best river on my list. Fished it many days and pretty much always had great fishing. Recently I fished it and looked at some of the banks that I had climbed down to the river and wondered what the heck was I thinking. My days of climbing down those banks are over. There are still plenty of places to fish. I had the best day of fishing ever on that river one day. Many, many , many, I repeat, many cutthroat all over 17” Never had a day since being close to that day. The river is beautiful and plenty of access.
The Lochsa River was pretty good fishing. Clear water and a hoot seeing cuts coming from deep pools to snag a dry fly. It is a tough river to wade. Lots of big boulders that one has to climb over to get to a decent fishing spot.
The Henry’s Fork of the Snake is a world renowned river. People come from all over the world to fish it. It was not crowded when Rose and I fished it. We waded several sections of the river. Another day Rose out fished me !!!!!!!! Fished in September and stayed at a great little lodge right on the river which was really inexpensive. Would love to float it someday.
Rose and I have spent several weeks near Sun Valley in the fall golfing and fishing. The rivers fished in that area are Big Wood, North Fork of Big Wood, East Fork of Big Wood, Big Lost, East Fork Big Lost. North Fork of Big Lost, Trail Creek, Summit Creek and the famous Silver Creek.
I will touch on just a few. The Big Wood runs both North and South of Ketchum. I have found South of Ketchum has been the best fishing. Have a few spots that have produced a number of large fish.

The Big Lost I fish out of the town of Mackay. Again, have had some great days on the river with some very, very large cuts. Public access is somewhat limited but from those accesses it is a short hike to really good water.
Now the famous Silver Creek. I have met fishermen from Spain, Germany, Norway and Japan on the river. That proves it is world famous and for me is the most technical river I have fished. Put in a lot of hours on the creek and caught few fish. There is a large body of still water that flows into the creek that I have done very, very well with big fish the norm.
So that will be all on the rivers around Sun Valley that I will comment on.
One day I ventured out of Sun Valley to Stanley and had the chance to fish the Salmon River. That river had some of the most fishy looking water of any river I have fished, but good water doesn’t always produce fish as was the case on the Salmon. It did live up to its name with lots of dead salmon carcuses that had spawned.
I fished the North Fork of the Clearwater on my way to Kelly Creek. Lots of access and I stopped to fish and it was so good I didn’t get to Kelly Creek for two days. Great water.
Kelly Creek. I was disappointed as I had read many articles about the great fishing on that creek. Very few people when I fished it. The water wasn’t to my liking. Maybe I will give it another chance.
Along the road to Kelly Creek there is Orogrande Creek. I had drove by the creek for two days and seeing some decent water fished it for a couple of hours. Lots of smaller fish but fun to fish.
I will end the Idaho rivers with fishing the South Fork of the Snake. It is a river that should be floated. I didn’t have the boat with me so wading was the only option. This river is noted for large fish. No fish, but not the river’s fault.

So this ends the rivers in Idaho for now.

The Rivers of Oregon
Love some of the rivers in Oregon. Have had some great days fishing these rivers and all but one have given me fish.
The Owyhee River reminds me of the Crooked River when it comes to the color of the water. The water is almost rust color and vision is very limited. It is amazing how fish can see a dry fly in that water. The river is known for large browns which I did catch a few but also I found a pod of large rainbows and fun was had for some time.
The Crooked River is also that rust colored water. One of the slickest rivers I have ever waded. Don’t go without a wade staff on that river. Have had some great days on the river. Fish aren’t extremely large but plentiful
On the Deschutes River one can’t fish from a boat while floating. Wade only. Clayton Wright and myself floated from Warm Springs to Trout Creek once and will never do that again. Had to buy an Indian fishing permit to fish one side of the river, plus a launch fee. I bitched about the price of the shuttle until I realized how far they had to shuttle my rig. Fishing was lousy, company was good.
The Wallowa River was pretty small. Didn’t fish to much and didn’t catch any fish.
The Fall River is kind of unique to me. There is a hatchery and they release fish into the river close by. If one hits it right it could be good. I didn’t hit it right.
Now the Metolius River. Darn that river. It gives me fits everytime I fish it. Some really fishy water and beautiful area, but it has been a fishless river for me. If given another chance I will fish it.

The Rivers of British Columbia Canada
The St Mary River trip was a great memory. We found a great deal for a guide and bed and breakfast for 2 days. Public access is extremely hard to find. We caught lots of fish. It got to the point that I broke the hook part of my fly off just to see the rises and not hook the fish. Saw the first Golden Eagle on that river. Not seen one since.
The Bow River outside of Calgary was on my bucket list. We had a guide for two days. Fishing was slow, but the guide was a great guy. He indicated the river would be busy one day and took us to a spring creek on a widow’s private property. It was a hoot. Six feet wide and caught BIG browns.

The Rivers of California
Read about Hat Creek in a magazine. We were close to there so fished it one morning. Caught a few but nothing to write to much about.

The Rivers of Colorado
Rose and I stayed in Durango, Co for a few days. Our plan was to drive into New Mexico and fish the San Juan River. The problem was heavy rains trashed the San Juan so fished the Animas for a half day. Small fish.

The Rivers of Wyoming
The Snake River is huge. To be honest I don’t remember to much about the fishing. Must not have been very good.

Flat Creek is just outside of Jackson Hole. It gets hit pretty hard. I could see fish but they were spooky. I would crawl on my knees trying to get a shot at some. No luck.
The Gros Verte was a pretty nice river. Lots of access. Caught a few cuts but not a river that I would fish again.

The Rivers of Utah
The Green River is one of the prettiest rivers I have fished. Rose and I floated a half day and picked up few fish on hoppers. Rented a drift boat one day and floated from A to B. Think I will stick with wading !! We waded the next two days and did as well as floating. I love this river. Yes, I would fish it again and again and again.

The Rivers of Vermont
Dave Higgins and myself fished the Lamoille, Dog and Brewster Rivers. I can’t remember if we caught fish or not. I remember running into an angry property owner as we were getting our waders on. We made peace (veteran to veteran) as we said we weren’t fishing just putting our waders on.

So this is it folks for now as of August, 2016.

ing the San Juan in October

Old Man

A very Old Man
WFF Supporter
Name dropper whew. I did most of my fly fishing in Washington. Since about 12 or 13 years ago I moved to Montana. But I have since kept my mouth shut on where I go. Just because there are a lot of trout in Montana you don't want to tell about the river.

Denny Wagenman

Active Member
Lue, a few

820flyfish I started to take the Northwest Fly Fishing Magazine from the first issue. Every Washington, Idaho and Montana had an article written up fishing those rivers. Without those article I had no idea where to go. So none of the mentioned rivers are a secret.

Denny Wagenman

Active Member
802flyfish: The Northwest edition of that magazine covered Washington, Idaho, Montana. British Columbia and even some in Alaska and Wyoming. Example of some of the rivers in the Winter 2003 edition were Big Wood River, MT, Big Spring Creek, MT and Kanektok River in ,AK, More examples November/December edition 2011 Teepee Creek, Lamar River,WY, January/February 2010 Big Lost River, ID, Lower Sacramento River, CA I have over fifty of these magazines and are my encyclopedia for fishing rivers and lakes. These rivers were fished over a 33 year period

Old Man

A very Old Man
WFF Supporter
I have never ever read that magazine. I usually find spots by my lonesome by exploring. It's more fun that way. Why spend money on last months reports.. This sounds almost like "Fishing and Hunting Lies.":rolleyes::rolleyes:

Denny Wagenman

Active Member
Not pushing the Northwest Fly Fishing magazine. I cancelled my subscription when they were repeating articles on the same fishing waters from precious issues. I would have loved to explore as OMJ but having my own business and raising a family left me little time to seek new rivers, That magazine was my bible and I still look back on the old issues for lakes and rivers to explore.

I Apologize if I have offended anyone

Greg Armstrong

WFF Supporter
And the point I think you are trying to make would be better made if you included the circulation of Northwest Fly Fishing magazine. Betting it >55K.
No... not unless the OP actually penned the articles himself in NWFF magazine.
He named the waters here.

I understand somewhat the innocent desire to recollect the great fisheries we've experienced as individuals through the years/decades. I'm just of the opinion that with as many people that are competing for space on our public waters these days, it's probably best not to broadcast them blatantly on the internet. I say this because most of the waters I fished for the first three or four decades of my life (granted, most of those are here in WA) are no longer worthwhile.

Steve Vaughn

WFF Supporter
No... not unless the OP actually penned the articles himself in NWFF magazine.
He named the waters here.

I understand somewhat the innocent desire to recollect the great fisheries we've experienced as individuals through the years/decades. I'm just of the opinion that with as many people that are competing for space on our public waters these days, it's probably best not to broadcast them blatantly on the internet. I say this because most of the waters I fished for the first three or four decades of my life (granted, most of those are here in WA) are no longer worthwhile.

Guess I am just not seeing the significance of writing about larger rivers with relatively good access and that have been the subject of regional/national articles. My perspective is coming from a easterner who moved here later in my fly fishing life with no knowledge of Washington waters. When I pour over maps and Google earth I still discover a lot of blue lines that I can find no readily available info about, so it would seem there are still some secrets. However, when I do explore them I never expect to find lights out fishing or big fish because I would have expected others to have found them and made them known. Call me pessimistic but I just don't think there are any/many secret gems in the PNW. Qualify that with, "secret gems that don't take a two day hike into the backcountry."

Old Man

A very Old Man
WFF Supporter
When I was a lot younger I did a lot of pouring over maps because the internet wasn't there yet. Us old farts had to use them and do a lot of exploring. I've crawled through Devil's club, Nettles over and under logs have had my body damaged from all of that. But if I could still do it I would. Now I'm beyond what I did in my youth. I try to find places close to the roads so I don't have to go through all of what I did. It is funny because I have found places where I can step out of my truck and walk 5 paces and fish and still catch fish. And since I'm not after big fish. The 14" and 16" I catch make me happy.

It's getting out there which is the drug.

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