Sunday, August 27, 2023

Hallowed Water

After almost a quarter century of fly fishing, you inevitably develop a "bucket" list of rivers that you want to wade into and species that you want to shake hands with. Idaho's Silver Creek has always graced the pages of the catalogs, magazines, and the books I perused as a young teen. It is famous for its brown drake hatch in the early portion of the summer, but the images that captured my attention weren't of storming mayflies. They were of anglers in float tubes fishing a relatively small, meandering meadow stream, with high grassed banks. Held aloft in their hands, arms extended, were the most beautiful, and massive, hook jawed brown trout you'd ever lay eyes on. Before the days of the internet, these types of images etched themselves into my long term memory never to be forgotten. After a lovely day floating a blown out Snake River, I decided to head further west to fish Silver Creek. With a day and a half before catching a flight in Boise, I bypassed the famed Henry's Fork to head to the horseshoe bend...

I arrived in the late evening as the sun began to make its descent in the sky. It was magic hour. I parked the van in a designated fishing lot, that also allows overnight camping, where I geared up and made my way to the water's edge. In my haste, I forgot to think about the bug situation. I hiked about a quarter mile from the car in shorts and a t-shirt where it didn't take long before they began extracting their toll. At that point, I was pot committed and maintained a steely gaze on the waters surface looking for any activity. My resolve slowly began to crumble as the minutes passed without any risers. An endless swarm of bloodsuckers worked me on all areas of my exposed skin. It was brutal. I stayed until last light and never saw a rising fish.

In the morning, I geared up the water master to float through the lower section of Silver Creek. I decided to do a bike shuttle, and to layer up, despite the high temperatures for the day. On this section, the banks are mostly private and you aren't allowed out of the water. I ended up anchoring the raft on a glassy flat where I awaited the morning trico hatch. It took longer to begin than I expected. When the eggs started to drop, and the spinners followed, the noses finally started to appear. My target was a large brown that ate on the first drift into his lane. I set the hook from a seated position, got one stout thrashing, and he was off. It would have been too good to be true if I landed that fish. My next few casts targeted a riser in the middle of the river that was using a thick vegetation mat to conceal his lair. This one also readily ate the trico pattern from my homewater. This fish was around 18 inches and I was darn pleased to have landed him on 6x after he dug into those weeds. After that, the action slowed considerably. I was honestly perplexed by the sheer amount of tricos in the air and the lack of rising targets on the river's surface. 

Further downriver, I ran into a pod of risers and a situation that got my blood pumping. Near a farm, there is a certain low hanging bridge. Below that, there was a large brown trout rising along the bank. I stealthily got into position to make a down and across cast. The first drift was dead and the brown slowly rose to eat my trico. I pricked him and let out an audible moan. In the grassy knoll directly behind the brown trout, a young moose slowly rose and shook off the morning dew. It began calling for mom. I waited carefully, not wanting to get any closer, before the calf decided to cross the creek directly below me. Now on my side, I started to get a little worried. I decided to lift my anchor and began floating downstream. As I was doing that, mom emerged with another young calf right where I had been sitting. She was giving me the stink eye as I slowly floated in the opposite direction. 

The rest of the float was mostly uneventful (for me) and super hot. There simply wasn't any activity and I was in a "dry or die" mode unwilling to switch things up. I was able to get a few shots at one riser near and old irrigation bridge, but I spooked that fish. What angered me, was that there was an epic damsel hatch and I didn't have any damsel patterns. I could just picture the big browns eating damsel nymphs just below the surface between all those weed beds. By the end of the float, I was exhausted, parched, and tired. Multiple layers of clothing, waders, and almost triple digit heat had me on the edge. Then, I had to bike back to the put in. That evening was spent cleaning the van, breaking down the raft, and preparing some of my gear for a trip to the salt. 

In the early morning, I made my way to the "Preserve," a special section of Silver Creek, that features numbered entrance points and plenty of other fishermen. I had a few hours before booking it to Boise to catch my flight. On my arrival, the trico hatch was in full swing and I found an open area where I could cast down and across to active risers. You could pick and choose your targets and the action was fast and furious. These trout were not pushovers. However, the Al's Trico tied on an old Waterwisp hook, fooled plenty of them. The trico hatch eventually gave way to blue winged olives and some PMDs. I headed to a long slow stretch of water and waited for pods of risers to work their way into my casting lane. These were mostly rainbows and they were acrobatic. An older angler upstream of my location was also having some fun, while a younger angler across from us, was not. Frustrated, he eventually asked the older man, "what is your secret?!". He replied, "I've been fishing here for thirty years". I thought to myself, I've been fishing here for one day...

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