Smallmouth Fishing on the Salmon River in Idaho

Daily Guided Trips — For Fly or Spin Fishing

For more information call Tim Holschlag at 612-781-3912 or use our Contact Form.

Why Idaho? Why the Salmon River?

For smallie fans who live in the eastern half of the country, Idaho is definitely off their radar. But it shouldn’t be. Over the past 30 years the adaptable smallmouth bass has moved into numerous lakes and rivers across the West. And in many of those places the species has prospered, yet is still widely overlooked because local anglers continue to fixate on coldwater species.

The wild and beautiful Salmon River running through central Idaho is one of those overlooked hotspots. Smallmouth numbers are very good, but angling pressure is minimal throughout much of the river. This leaves mile after mile of clear clean river for you to enjoy. And you will be able to experience a river that is dramatically unlike ones in the east. Deep canyons, dramatic bluffs, towering hillsides, pristine sand beaches, Class III rapids and sunny, warm, bug free weather is the angling environment.

The Guide Service

H2O Rafting and Guide Service has very experienced river guides who know the Salmon River well.  They offer both guided smallmouth trips and whitewater raft trips. And for those who worry about the safety of trips on the Salmon, rest assured floats by either large drift boats or rafts are very safe and require no paddling skills on your part. Many smaller children and older adults splash down the river every day.

Of course, there is good trout fishing in other rivers nearby, so combination cold and warmwater trips can be organized. And because the Salmon is a whitewater rafting paradise, short or long raft trips can be easily organized that non-fishing family members will enjoy. And with little summer rain and air temps in the 80s or 90s in midsummer, shorts and sandal fishing or rafting is the way to go.

Riggins, Idaho

If there was ever a authentic river town, Riggins is it.  Right on the river bank, it is nestled between the mountains and the Salmon, with just 400 year around residents.  Grizzled ranchers and young rafters mix on the streets and trailers loaded with rafts slow up for the multitude of mule deer that populate the town.   There is a tackle shop that carries some trout and fall steelhead flies, but since smallies are so overlooked that type of tackle is in short supply.

Being in central Idaho, there is also good trout fishing in other rivers nearby, so combination cold and warmwater trips can be easily organized. And because the Salmon is such a whitewater rafting paradise, short or long raft trips can be easily organized that non-fishing family members will really enjoy.  And with air temps almost always in the 80s or 90s in midsummer, there’s no need to bundle up.

Why So Far?

Sure you can probably find some smallies closer to home, but all the anglers who trek to Alaska, Argentina and New Zealand can also find trout much closer to home. However, the allure of new waters, new fish and new experiences are powerful draws and that’s why I believe the beautiful Salmon is such an attractive destination. I’ve long felt smallmouth anglers should start exploring beyond their local streams and an Idaho Adventure is the perfect place to start.  Bring the family, bring a friend, see the Mountain West, do some rafting, try for trout, but also take a couple days to battle smallies in a spectacular setting.

Fall “Cast and Blast”

In September, “cast and blast” trips are another option– fishing smallies in the river and hunting plentiful chucker partridge along the banks. Also in September, steelhead are possible catches, so you can do a combo trip for both smallmouth and steelhead.  Weather is still good then with the hottest days of summer ending but still very pleasant.  For eastern bird hunters used to seeing just a few grouse or pheasants a day, the numbers of chuckers will impress you.  They are challenging quarry, but the local guides really know their birds.  While steelhead numbers aren’t what they once were on the Salmon River, big powerful fish are still caught every season.

Pre-trip Assistance and Tackle Advice

Tim Holschlag, a nationally known smallmouth bass expert, will provide unlimited pre-trip assistance, to make your Western river smallmouth fishing experience the best it can be.

He can tell you what’s needed for a trip and what you should expect. He’ll be happy to answer all your questions and help you deal with whatever issues that may arise to make the trip a memorable experience you’ll really enjoy.

And because currents are substantial on the Salmon, even 12 inchers offer fights that often amaze a person. Longer spinning rods of  6 ½ feet or more and rated light-medium or medium power are best for these currents and powerful fish. And the same with fly tackle, a 5-wt rod will get you by, but a fast action 6 or 7 wt is more appropriate. During earlier mornings or evenings quiet topwaters can produce, but in the clear water of midday, a variety of subsurface lures like a jig and grub or 4 inch finesse worms are excellent. Rabbit strip flies used on a sinking line, along with Clouser Minnow style patterns also produce well.

Lodging, Dining and Travel

There are two good places to stay in Riggins.  The Salmon River Lodge and the Riverview Motel, both have beautiful riverside views. (If you get up some days by 7AM, you’ll likely see mule deer grazing right out your window. Riggins has many mulies right in town and the bucks sport impressive racks.) There are also some good restaurants in town, along with a small, but well stocked grocery store.

Of course, driving to Riggins is possible and those who have the time will see some very impressive mountain scenery getting there. And flying to a larger town like Boise to the south or Spokane to the north and renting a car is a quicker way.

Catch Smallmouth from a Drift Boat on the Famed Salmon River

Guiding Rates & Booking

Daily Rates:
— $390 for one or two people

— Book early, July thru September dates are limited
— $125. Deposit Required

Smallmouth Angler
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H2O Guides and Drift Boat

Tim with a Fine Salmon Smallie

Rafting on the River

Rafting on the River

Guide and Smallie

Patrick the guide with Smallmouth