One of the absolute wonders of the world is the Smith River float trip and is about as finicky as rivers come. It blows out at a moments notice and snows in july sometime. It is by no means without merit as you float through 800ft. canyon walls of spectacular beauty and healthy browns rising to dry flies. Usually i have tried to float it right before runoff and most of the time it's chocolate milk with maybe five fish in as many days. Been having lot's of folks coming into the shop in the last few days gearing up for their early season float and i am reminded of my float last year down the mighty Smith.
It can go from heaven to hell very quick and last year we got a true taste of that. We launched April 25th and aside from muddy waters and average 1-2 fish per day the first four days of the trip were georgous. It was waking up to 18" of snow on the morning of what was supposed to be the last day that dampened my spirit. We tried to push on the last 18 miles to the take out and made it about 6 miles downriver when the winds picked up to around 40mph with snow coming in sideways it was decided to pull over and make an emergency camp till the storm passed through. The rest of that night we were entertained by the wind ripping through the canyon like a freight train and knocking 100ft tall trees over, one of them landing mere inches from our wall tent, and bean bag sized boulders tumbling off the cliff. Sleep finally came for me and when i woke up the wind had subsided but the river was now full of football sized chunks of ice floating downstream to the nearest downed tree causing ice dams. Thank god for the fellow in the raft who brought the chainsaw so we could portage the obstructions. Made it to the takeout late that afternoon and was finally able to laugh about how we conquered the river that tried to conquer us.
Would i do it again, in a heartbeat, however i would prefer maybe later in the season. Let's just say i wasn't shedding tears when i didn't draw a permit for this season. This may be a very extreme scenario from the Smith and please don't let it deter you from floating it in fact i highly recommend it as something that any person should do at least once before you die but warm clothes, a wall tent, and a propane heater will always be in my raft from that point on for any river trip I go on. As Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard says "When everything goes wrong that's when the real adventure begins."