Guys Who Guide

Drift Boat Fishing with the Old-Timers

By Mike McKenna

Photos by Kat Smith

Most of us who like to fish, especially with a fly rod, will occasionally have flights of fancy that we’re going to give it all up, quit our jobs, and head off to a river in some glorious part of the world to work as fishing guides. Of course, reality sets in as soon as the beer runs out, or we remember how much we like our couches, children, spouses, cell phones, local burger joints, and taking regular showers. But that’s one of the best parts about being an outdoor writer. Thanks to the guise of “work,” I get to spend time occasionally with guides of all sorts and peer into the lives of people who let their passions be their focus, not just their weekend excursions like the rest of us.

In the nearly decade and a half I’ve been blessed to write such stories, I’ve never met a group of guides such as those at Solitude River Trips. The guides for the Salmon-based outfitter are not the usual suspects, so to speak. They aren’t the typical twenty-somethings, like I was many moons ago in Oregon when I spent a summer or two getting lost in the wild before returning to the “real world” of regular toilets and jobs requiring outfits more substantial than sandals, bathing suits, and smiles.

Instead, the crew I was lucky enough to have for a six-day trip on the world-famous Middle Fork of the Salmon River last summer was far from a bunch of young bucks. Heck, some of them were old enough to be granddads of the average river guide.

When the other twenty guests and I flew into Indian Creek to begin our late-July journey, I was expecting to be greeted by a bunch of college co-eds, not by a team about as well-seasoned as the massive steaks we would have for dinner later that night. So I was a bit circumspect when I realized the guy behind the oars of the Mackenzie River-style drift boat I was assigned to looked like he should be focusing on finding a retirement home, not on rowing down some of the most famous and remote whitewater on the continent.

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Mike McKenna

About Mike McKenna

Mike McKenna is an award-winning journalist and the managing editor of Sun Valley Magazine. He lives in Hailey with his wife and two young sons. His first book, Angling Around Sun Valley, will be published by Mandala Media this spring. To read more of Mike’s nationally honored work, check out his blog at

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