The rattlesnake infested Canyon of the Teton River keeps even the most adventurous fly fishers from casting there. Not only are there snakes, but the hike down in is treacherous. Loose rocks and gravel and slippery grasses can all cause you to lose your footing and you could bounce more than 750 feet down cliffs. If you make it down safely and enjoy a rattlesnake free day, you still need to get back out. The hike up puts you back face to face with all the dangers you experienced going in and it’s an exhausting climb.
When I was younger none of the above stopped me. I slipped and fell only a few times. Luckily I never slid or bounced far. And I only had one close call stepping on a Western rattlesnake. My foot set inches in front of his head. My luck was that he’d just swum the river and his cold blooded body was temporarily shut down.
One way to avoid rattlesnakes and the hike out is to float the Canyon. Sounds simple but trust me, it’s not. There’s no boat launch but rather only a 750 foot slide. And the float through the canyon consists of continuous rapids. Bottom line is you need to know what you’re doing, own a raft you don’t care about (because the chance of popping it on the slide and the float is high) and you need to be an expert in rowing whitewater.
Not long after sunrise today Mike Dawes of WorldCast Anglers and I were cinching down our gear for the intimidating launch of his two man raft. I’d never floated Teton Canyon before however for Dawes it’s a routine. In fact it’s such a routine that when I offered to help lower the raft he simply said stay back and don’t get run over.
For the next 35 minutes I watched Dawes finagled his boat down the most precarious boat launch I’ve ever seen. It was a spectacular sight. He had a long rope attached that he used for steering. Often times he’d hold on slightly too tight and get dragged to the ground. Fortunately he never tumbled and slid more than a few feet. Other times he’s lose his grip on the rope altogether and the raft would disappear in a cloud of dust. We’d helplessly watch, catch up to it again and hope the rubber ducky would be in one piece. Usually we’d find it stuck against some trees or wedged between some rocks.
The final leg of this incredible launch ended perfectly. Mike dislodged his raft from some rocks and with gravity it took off on its own one last time. It slid magically right down to the edge of the river and stopped no differently than if we put in at a normal boat launch. Dawes smiled and asked if it was time for a breakfast beer. How could it not be?
As for our fishing it was no less than incredible, that is if you like catching tons and tons of fish. For the most part they’re not big however we caught plenty like the one Dawes is holding in this picture.
Our fishing day was superb but honestly for here it was an ok day. I’ll bet we caught 40 fish and this included one double on a streamer. 40 fish in six hours that is. We both had to be off the river at 3.
A day in Teton Canyon is a must for every fly fisher. But seriously, have your act together. Everything I mentioned in the first paragraph is accurate. If wading the Canyon is your plan please be careful. Wear the best hiking tread you own and watch out for snakes. If you think you’re going to float the canyon then think again. The slide is not only hard to locate but the 750 foot drop is real. You can not just do it on your own. If you miraculously made it to the river in one piece making it down the river is the next obstacle. In all my years of fishing I’ve found more chunks from destroyed rafts in Teton Canyon then any other location!
The best way to do the Canyon is to float it with WorldCast Anglers. You won’t get Dawes but several of his guides specialize in the Canyon. Because of low water its likely there will be only a week more of float fishing here. Just keep it in mind for next year and plan to target June and July.
Today was likely my last fishing day till I get to Bolivia next week. I have more work to get done than I’ve had in years. But Bolivia will more than make up for it. Stay tuned!