The Last Lost River rises from waning glaciers, snowmelt, and springs in the Deception Mountains of Montana and drops precipitously and swiftly, with an anger and fury that only the most avid fishermen dare challenge, into the valley that shares its name. There it slowly changes character becoming first a rugged swift stream. Then, just after it bluffs the Liar’s Gold River into joining it, it becomes a deceptive placid meander that flows into Teller’s Lake. The outlet to Teller’s Lake , a class 5 rapid known as False Falls, drops the water into the Last Lost River Canyon where it loses its placid artifice and shows once again its true furiousity and anger, arrowing and muscling several class 4 and 5 rapids through the Fake Granite Mountains and into the ancient lava plains of Idaho. It joins the Snake River east of Boise near the little town of Fibber, Idaho.
The Last Lost River is noted, like upper Snake, the Madison and the tributaries of the Clarks Fork, for its sports fishery. From May to October an armada of flat-bottom boats raft its gentler and deeper sections carrying men and women who toss lies and lures across the deceptively calm water in search of the Last Lost River cutthroat trout. Unlike most cutthroat this fish grows to some size. There have been reports of fish with cetacean proportions. Though no fish landed nears dolphin size, some have told of fish that comfortably measure the span of a man’s arm, fingertip to elbow.
And there is the specimen over the bar at Marva Dean’s Tavern that might have been significantly larger. Unfortunately, all that is left of it—the only thing mounted over the bar—is the head. This head is mounted on a rather large platter, something that one might use to carve a twenty-pound turkey on Thanksgiving Day, and this head fills the platter completely. A Royal Wulf lure snagged in the lip lends poignancy and a sense of authenticity. The story of the fish head, printed on the plates and coasters of Marva Dean’s with a Royal Wulf decoration, is that the rest of the fish was chomped by an even larger fish before it could be landed by internationally known sports writer/artist/taxidermist, Arty Rawls. Needless to say, Marva Dean’s Tavern advertises itself as the headwaters of American Sports Fishery.
People, fishermen and otherwise, come from as far away as Switzerland and Beijing to have a beer, a glass of wine, or a whiskey and ponder the head and hear Dawn Britt, Marva Dean’s bartender/waitress tell the story of its landing.
But like all sports fishing rivers the Last Lost River is a river of lies. And Arty Rawls is known more for the color than for the accuracy of his stories and paintings. As for Dawn, she was married to Arty once. She is that gullible.