Monday, September 30, 2019

A Schooling on Silver Creek

The Editorial Trophy Wife has three rules related to her annual birthday trip. I have to take her out of Texas, she has to be in the mountains, and she has to have an adult beverage in her hand on the day of her birth. The astute among you will note that me going fishing is not on her list. However, the good news for me is that she is usually receptive to the idea, as long as she doesn't have to accompany me. She has caught her share of trout in the past but these days she takes a been there done that approach to fly fishing.  So much for 50/50 on the water in our house.  

With that said, you can imagine I was pretty pleased when she selected the Sun Valley area of Idaho as this year's destination.  After all, Papa Hemingway and his son Jack's old haunt had to have some pretty nice trout water close at hand. I did the required internet research, reached out to friends, and got advice from a social media group of which I am a member. To a person, everyone gave the same answer. Yes, I could fish lots of places close to Sun Valley, but whatever I did, I had to fish Silver Creek.  

There was one small problem that kept coming up. To a person, everyone who recommended Silver Creek also added the caveat that it was quite possibly the hardest place on the planet to catch a trout. I was assured to see massive numbers of wild trout, huge Trico hatches, and most likely not be able to catch a single trout. Words like "technical water", "tiny flies", "flat water" and "educated trout" were thrown around carelessly. These are all words that give pause to a southern blue line nymph fisher (usually with a bobber strike indicator). When I expressed my discouragement, my advisers were quick to say that the scenery would more than make up for the lack of catching. Being a risk-taker at heart, I decided to go for it and did the only sensible thing. I shelled out a tidy sum and hired a guide.  After all, you can't take it with you. 

VA Hokie and fly fishing guide Andrew Thomas
Enter Andrew Thomas of Picabo Anglers.  As fortune would have it, Andrew also grew up fishing Southern waters, although I doubt he used a strike indicator.  He quizzed me a bit about where I had fished and tried to gauge my skill level. I mentioned that I had fished for a while but made sure he got the message that fishing the most technical water on the planet worried me.  He seemed confident but also mentioned that the scenery was wonderful and that I would enjoy the day.  Hiring Andrew turned out to be money well spent.

One thing was evident as soon as we arrived at the river.  A massive Trico hatch was already well underway.  The air was thick with tiny bugs and trout were rising all around. I threw on my waders and boots while Andrew rigged up my Orvis H3 five weight for its first real test.  Accurate from anywhere? I guess we would know soon enough.  

Undercut banks and tall grass on Silver Creek

The banks of Silver Creek are deeply undercut and lined with tall, unforgiving grass. This wasn't really a problem during the morning Trico hatch.  Trout were feeding boldly with some even cruising the surface with mouths agape, scooping up as many emerging bugs as possible  Even while feeding with abandon it became very clear that a presentation with any amount of drag would be ignored.  Andrew gave great advice on when to mend and helped me with my reach cast and within a few minutes of entering the water, I had long line released a nice trout.  Andrew, ever the generous guide, assured me that, on Silver Creek, that fish counted.   At this point, I am sure he still had some concerns about my abilities but I felt I was starting to get the hang of things. At least when I got back to the hotel I could say I had hooked fish.   As the hatch continued, we moved from pod to pod of rising trout.  All were eager but none would tolerate a muffed cast or any drag. Any missteps on the part of the angler and the pod was busted and you had best move on.  I managed a few more trout and we actually got them into the net.  While I would call the morning a success, It was clear that for every fish we brought to the net, I had missed or scared away what felt like fifty more.  Technical water?  I'll say.

The hatch was intense and both my guide and I wanted to make the most of it. This meant there was little time for "grip and grins" but I knew I had to have proof. Trust me, I am grinning.

Those undercut banks would come into play after lunch.  The morning hatch had ended so we ate our sandwiches while dodging cows as we drove through the pasture to the river. We tied on hoppers, stepped into float tubes, and got in the water.  With no hatch to be seen, the plan was to cast a hopper as close to the grass as possible and coax fish out from under the bank. When I say close to the bank you should know that meant within one to two inches of the grassy bank.  My biggest nemesis for the rest of the day would be that wall of tall grass on the bank.   I would try to zing a cast up against the bank and, at the last minute, thinking I was going to get hung up, pull back.  My fly would land two to three feet from the bank.  As you can guess the trout weren't in any mood to come three feet from the bank, even in search of a tasty grasshopper.  To Andrew's credit, he stopped me and reminded me that he didn't care if I lost a fly, or got hung up, and to please, for the sake of all that is holy, cast up against the bank (I paraphrased this but you get the idea).   His pep talk must have helped both my confidence and my casting because as long as I didn't overthink it, I started getting casts into the zone and we started catching fish.  Later Andrew would remind me that we didn't lose a single fly all day.

A nice Brown Trout coaxed from the undercut bank.

Silver Creek Rainbow

Silver Creek was definitely a fly fishing education.  I came to Idaho worried that I might not be up to the task and in many ways I was not.   I stacked the deck in my favor by hiring Andrew as my guide and the Orvis H3 was way more accurate than me "from anywhere".  It paid off with a dozen or so trout out of the hundreds I had an opportunity to catch, all on dry flies. I got schooled, but if you really think about it, every day for a fly fisherman should be like a day in school.

Editors Note:  Andrew Thomas is a guide with Picabo Anglers in Picabo, Idaho located on the banks of Silver Creek.  I can definitely recommend him that you hire him like I did.  Whether you fish Silver creek with a guide or on your own, put it on your list of places you must fish. 


Anonymous said...

Nice day, Fish SilverCreek often from Opening day through mid September,
Try to make the Brown Drake hatch in early June. Crazy time.
Great, challenging water.
One question. You mentioned walking through cattle.
We’re you fishing private water?
have never run into cattle over the years.
Enjoy your great memories!

Murdock said...

It was more cow patties than cattle I would have to say.

Murdock said...

I believe the 2nd section we fished via float tube has access controlled by Picabo Anglers.