The old lady pulled up next to me in her shiny BMW as I sauntered down the neighborhood street fully wadered and 5 weight poking out behind me like a magpie’s tail feathers. “Hey there!” she said as she idled to a stop. “Howdy”, said I. “You catch any fish today?” I nodded and replied that I sure had, right next to the chair lift on the Big Wood River just down the street. “Well that’s really great,” she said genuinely. “Have you tried Silver Creek?”, she asked. I said that I hadn’t but planned on driving out there in the morning to check it out. “Which outfit are you going with?” I told her I didn’t have a guide and that I’d have to figure it out myself. “Well, you better have a guide, otherwise you are wasting your time.” Challenge accepted.
Two things here. Finding a guide on a few hours notice in late June would have been a joke. Second of all, our family was half way though a three week road trip in which we camped seventeen nights, with our three kids. I was pinching pennies. The next morning, I sprung out of bed way before sunup and not-so-quietly loaded the truck. We were staying in a very large cabin with my wife’s older cousin who was battling Parkinson’s disease. He was up and reading the paper and said he hadn’t slept all night. This is one of the horrific symptoms of this particular disease. The body won’t be still and therefore it can be impossible to go to sleep without heavy medication. He sent me out the door with a book about Ketchum, Idaho fishing in hand. I put the hammer down through the well-groomed mountain town and out into the farmlands around Hailey and Bellevue hoping to find access.
I made a few wrong turns which is what I do, then came to a dead end on a gravel farm road between two enormous irrigation circles. But I could tell by the flora there was water here. As I parked, I noticed three farmers were doing farmer things about 200 yards away in their field. It was obvious they would use this road I had parked on so to avoid conflict or a bullet I tried to place the pickup as out of the way as possible. After all, they were working, and I was playing. I didn’t want to piss the locals off. Especially since I wasn’t even sure I was allowed to fish here yet.
Worse yet, nature called and I almost ruined my waders with a mud pie. An open field is not somewhere you want to be overtaken with a panic stricken toilet episode, but here I was. Exposed and probably trespassing, all I could do was use the truck as a shield and soon the touch and go situation was resolved. There are a few things that I keep in the vehicle that, should the zombie apocalypse ever happen, would keep me feeling prepared. Not a pistol or a bat with nails in it, but a healthy roll of toilet paper. On a long drive through a wasteland strewn with ash and corpses this is the item that would come in most handy.
After avoiding that disaster, I finished rigging up what I hoped would be a good streamer rod and a delicate dry fly rod and walked to the creek. A foot bridge led me to the other side where there was a noticeable trail in both directions along the cramped bank. This could be one of the worst places I’ve been to if one were to bank fish. The sumac grows high and thick so the only option is to use a cow trail and make the plunge.
Once in the water I truly began to notice what makes this spring creek so special. The water is crystal clear and there are fish everywhere. Suckers, Brown Trout, and Rainbows for sure but it felt like there were others as well, but the blasted away as I made movement against the current. The surface is glass so seeing rises was easy, but making a cast and not spooking everything would be tough. It was spring and the streamer hatch was all I’d been fishing in other rivers on this trip, so naturally I broke out a small grey one I had tied and started dredging a deeper pool.
These fish weren’t starving idiots so I dropped the 5 wt. and streamer on the bank and started rigging up the 4 wt. Back in town the day before, I had spent way too much time in Silver Creek Outfitters staring at their wide selection of perfectly tied flies and wing shooting basement. This is one of the most fly shoppy fly shops I’ve ever set foot in. There isn’t any extra junk in here. No Idaho t-shirts, or tacky nick-knacks common to a fly shop that serves the average Joe. No, Ketchum is a tad more upscale than what I’m used to. This is where the rich and famous come to play in the snow and watch the solar eclipse with their other millionaire friends.
I’d asked the guy with grey hair what flies I’d need on the Creek, and he pointed me to a few nymphs at which point I asked which dry flies I’d need. He said that hatches weren’t coming off very well right now and pointed me towards a couple of patterns. I picked them up and then some split tail numbers that looked too beautiful not to buy. I threw in a hat and was on my way.
At about 9:45 the hatch that wasn’t supposed to happen decided to come off like a fog. The yellow sally looking flies swarmed the creek and noses dimpled the surface as far as I could see. I tied on the pretty little fly and started catching fish like I knew what I was doing. The trout here aren’t huge, but they are wild and beautiful, and many; and I had the whole place to myself. I saw only one other person that morning and she was letting her big yellow lab play in the water near the foot bridge on my way back to the truck.
As I pulled back into my cousin-in-law’s neighborhood smelling like creek mud and fish, I drove slowly, hoping to run into an old lady in a BMW.