Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Fishing Days: Silver Creek
Second in an occasional series on memorable fishing days
By the fall of 1986 I had been fly fishing for more than four years and had developed a certain level of proficiency, having caught decent fish in a number of famous trout streams: Armstrong’s Spring Creek, Hat Creek, Firehole River, Fall River, Henry’s Fork, among others.
In October of that year Linda and I took a week-long vacation to Sun Valley, Idaho. It was the rump season there — the summer crowd had gone and the snows had not yet come to bring on the ski crowd. We stayed at the Sun Valley Lodge, got a good rate, and had the place almost entirely to ourselves.
As fate would have it, we caught a beautiful Indian summer week. Early morning temperatures were in the low 30s or high 20s, but they gave way to sunny, cloudless days in the 70s. We took a couple of day trips from Sun Valley, one to the Sawtooth Mountains and another to Craters of the Moon National Monument. And of course there was some fishing.
Alone on a Legendary Stream
A couple of afternoons I went out on the Big Wood River near the town of Ketchum, pulling off the road at a turnout and fishing my way upstream or downstream. I caught a few good fish there, but it wasn’t my real destination. The reason for going to Sun Valley was to fish Silver Creek.
Silver Creek is a desert spring creek that rolls slowly and gently through the more arid regions south of Sun Valley. The Nature Conservancy has acquired a considerable parcel of land surrounding it and maintains it as a sanctuary for fly fishermen, bird watchers and nature lovers in general. It is full of large native trout who play hard to get.
In the years since its fame has grown and it is no doubt more heavily fished now than it was then. But that October I just about had it all to myself. Linda and I went out there two days, and during that time there was only one other fisherman working on the stream. He stayed out of my way and I stayed out of his.
A Fish to Remember
On Friday, our last day in Sun Valley, we went down there for a final day of fishing. We got sandwiches from the grocery store for lunch and left early in the day. I caught and released two trout, but I remember them well, because I had to work for them and do everything right to get them to take my fly.
The first fish took a nymph, Hare’s Ear of Pheasant Tail, under the surface. I was working with a nymph most of the day because there was no regular insect hatch taking place on the surface.
Late in the afternoon I was wading the creek. It was hard work because of the weeds, but the cool water provided some relief from the relentless sun. I had a nymph on the line when I noticed a fish rising to flies downstream from me. Standing in waist-deep water, I snipped off the nymph and put on a #16 dry fly that seemed to match what was in the air at the time.
I made two bad casts without spooking the fish, but on the third one, I put the fly right over him on a clean drift. He was a lovely rainbow, and he took it. After a good fight, I had him to net — all 16 inches. I took a quick photo then released him, but to this day that fish holds a unique distinction in my angling career.
He’s the only trout I’ve ever caught using a Quill Gordon fly.