We spent most of yesterday on the lower Smith, below the 101 bridge, on a stretch of water so different from the fast-moving stuff of the main stem in front of the bnb — different as well from the frothy water that runs through gorges of the middle and south forks — you’d hardly know these were sections of the same river.
It was a sunny day, just hours after a howling storm had blown through. Josh, Meg and I were fishing for salmon; throwing plugs, back-trolling roe, praying for a bite and not giving a damn when there were none, merely enjoying the endless floating and meandering chit-chat with other fishermen when their boats neared ours.
The day was dry that morning and by the looks of the full parking lot, fifteen or twenty pick-ups and boat trailers, parked tight together like sardines in a tin, we were clearly last on the river (but we were probably better fed and more highly caffeinated than any other boaters, so really, who cared if we’d thrown the advantage to the fish by our late arrival).
Meg and I were on a new stretch of the Smith, riding along with Josh our pal and defacto guide for the day. He’d set up some rigs, we’d packed coffee and bread and we were off to the races.
I’ll save you the torment and say we caught no fish, not even a nibble, but we had an epic float on this lesser known stretch of the Smith. The Smith we came to terms with today was different. In spite of being so much slower and wider than the upper river it occasionally it felt wilder, like stretches of the Zambezi. And it sometimes felt surprisingly connected to the real world, with a stench from the nearby cattle lands that no one dares admit to.
All in all we had a hell of a day, learning some new techniques, getting to know parts of a river I’d never imagined, and just wasting a day with friends.
IF YOU GO:
See the upper river first — float the Smith from the forks of Hiouchi to the Society Hole if you can. That’s the Smith you see in magazines and on postcards. But on you third or fourth trip to Hiouchi, float the lower river. Don’t be too hard on your guide or yourself — maybe you’ll catch a fish, maybe not. But you’ll see a river no one talks about.