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Opening Day at Silver Creek

Boise Idaho

 

Opening Day on Silver Creek

Silver Creek is known as the “Graduate School of Fly Fishing”.  Crowds of anglers are around every bend.  The trout on Silver Creek are extremely “picky”.  If you are going to Silver Creek you are going to be using 7X tippet.  For heavens’s sake don’t go to Silver Creek on opening day, you won’t find a place to fly fish.  You need to be a good angler to catch trout on Silver Creek.  The “Creek” is too muddy and dangerous to wade.  The hatches on the “Creek” are too complicated to figure out.  Wait until you hear this one; “Go fish the Big Wood River for three years then try Silver Creek”.

I have heard all the excuses and myths about Silver Creek many times over the past 27 years.  Over the last three decades I have developed a love affair with Silver Creek that few anglers can match.  I have seen Silver Creek at it’s best and it’s worst.  I have been on the “Creek” when fly fishing has been so easy almost a blind person could catch trout and have been on the “Creek” when the feeding trout have schooled me like no other fly fisherman.  But then again, I could say that about almost every river and stream I’ve ever fished on a regular basis, including the Boise River through town.  I have learned over the years that Silver Creek is none of those things mentioned above.  Instead the “Creek” that I know is the most beautiful place on earth without trees.  The trout in Silver Creek are just trout, not some mythical creature that out thinks man.  What I know of Silver Creek is there are lots of trout and they are not difficult to catch when you find them feeding.  They are no different than most tailwater trout, they must eat to stay alive.  They have little cognitive thought and are instinctually attracted to the right imitation of what they are feeding on.  All in all, there are few places on the planet that I would prefer to be fly fishing at.

It’s with these thoughts that I began my annual opening day trip to Silver Creek 2019.  My wife Martha and I arrived at Point of Rock Campground on the lower end of Silver Creek and managed to park our trailer in our favorite spot.  It was Friday, the day before the season opener on Saturday.  I imagine Silver Creek is no better or worse than any other place on opening day Memorial Day weekend, in that there of course are plenty of others who want to enjoy the holiday weekend and get out of town too.  There were quite a few folks camped at Point of Rocks that Friday and it didn’t take long for the campground to fill up to compacity.  The weather was, contrary to what many folks who camped there said, very pleasant.  Anticipation for the opener on Saturday was enough to keep me awake in anticipation for the following day.

Saturday morning of the opener was pleasant and surprisingly not that cold.  When I walked out of the trailer Larry had already started a fire and I sat down with a hot cup of coffee to help warm me up.  As I enjoyed our casual conversation we noticed out on the “Creek” something I don’t see very often; no fly anglers at all on the water.  I don’t think I can remember a season opener without at least one angler on the water bending a fly rod.  None the less, we did notice rising trout right out in front of where we were enjoying are morning brew.   Jon, being like a caged up lion, couldn’t wait any longer.  Jon grabbed his fish gun and walked down to the creek and with his second cast, using a black ant #18, brought in a nice 12 inch rainbow to shore.  With that Jon looked up at me and said, “Ok then, that’s it, I’m done. I can go home right now” and chuckled his way back to the fire.

At that moment I knew the fishing was going to be fun and successful.  We watched those fish rise for the next hour or so talking about what must be going on in the heads of those rising trout.  Finally other anglers started appearing on the water and the casting parade began.  Me being more of an inquisitive angler decided to walk the bank and watch how the other anglers were doing.  These trout were not really onto any hatch or any specific bug on the water, their behavior was more of a sporadic rise here and there.  That’s is the perfect scenario for terrestrial flies.  This is when you want to be casting a black ant or beetle but it’s a tad early in the season to be tossing hoppers.  I met up with a few anglers I knew and heard their stories of no fish yet.  I mentioned my guess of using a black ant and repeated Jon’s experience with the ant.  Later in the afternoon I caught up with these guys, you would have thought I was some kind of fly fishing guru among these guys.  They all had eventually switched to the ant pattern and caught some nice trout.  The reality is, I’m no guru, John Huber who is the owner of Picabo Anglers showed me the secret of the black ant on that section of the creek over a decade ago.  Yes, like a good fly fisherman, I gave Picabo Anglers credit for the success of the black ant.

With the fly fishing being decent on the creek I was in no hurry to hit the water.  Instead Martha and I decided to head on into Hailey for lunch.  Lunch in Hailey was worth the 30 minute drive and with a full stomach we got back the creek around 2pm.  Now it was time for me to do some fly fishing.  The weather was thunderstorms or what we in Idaho call boomers, windy and a bit chilly.  Just the challenge for me; with waders, rain slicker and fish gun I proceeded to the creek.  Unfortunately the trout decided it was nap time.  The rain started to dimple the water and the it’s chorus of sound made me smile.  With rain dimpling the water, wind in my face and no hatches, I as you might guess I tied on a black ant.

On my fourth cast I hooked a nice 14 inch brown trout that fought like a 20 inch Owyhee River brown trout.  After his second run I managed to bring him to my hand where I gently removed the hook underwater.  Within about 20 minutes I had landed 2 more trout and lost a couple more to poor hook sets by me.  The black ant was doing its damage and it’s a pattern that I’d recommend for Silver Creek, Rod Emory’s Black Ant.  All the stars were aligned for me and I believed outside of my spotty hook sets I was destined to have a great session on the water.  But Murphy’s Law has a way of nipping you on the butt when you least expect it.  I’m enjoying a wonderful experience on Silver Creek, there is not a sole on the creek as far as I can see from upstream to downstream of me.  But sure enough a lure fisherman shows up with his dog and sets to casting both lures and dogs not 20 feet from where I was wade fishing.

I tried moving up the creek to move him up but short of starting a shouting match I decided to give up the entire stretch of creek to Mr. Murphy.  Overall, it didn’t matter, I had a warm fire and a good woman waiting for me 75 feet away.  As I left the creek the weather picked up and the rain settled in as a new boomer came blowing in.  So a good warm fire under the awning of my trailer was a better decision than fighting over where to fish with a dog.  There is something about sitting around under shelter with family and friends drinking coffee around a fire while mother nature spits down rain that makes a day of fly fishing feel rewarding.  However the day was not over yet.

Sometime between nap time, quiet time and who knows what time, I found myself alone with a half empty cup of coffee watching the rain and the rising trout across from me.  Yes, I said rising trout.  So here I am staring at rising trout and no one around or fishing on the creek.  In my mind there can be no better time to be chasing trout than in the middle of a rise.  So I grabbed my rain slicker, fish gun and flies and walked over to the creek’s edge.  There they were, a full fledge PMD hatch and feeding trout, the only thing missing on the creek was an eager angler.  I have no problem being that guy and proceeded to wade out about mid-stream where I tied on a copper bodied, Klinkhammer PMD emerger size 16.  This is where you love to be as an angler, the trout are 30 feet away, eating PMD emergers and there are lots of feeding trout.  We call it flock shooting.  Just get your fly in a lane and let it float drag free for about 40 feet and hang on.  That’s just what I did and after about my fourth or fifth cast I had my first 18” trout of the day, a nice rainbow.  I know I had my hands full on this guy so I decided to get to shore where I could be a little more mobile.  There, the battle commenced with a ferocity that only a Silver Creek bow can produce.  Eventually I won out and landed one of Gods perfect creatures.  I then fish whispered this guy under water until it rested just about my hand under water allowing me the extra few minutes of time to admire its beauty as a gift for a gentle release and a hard fight.  As a gentle rain continued to play on the creeks surface, I continued to catch both brown trout and rainbows at a good pace.  I noticed Jon had come down to get in on the action downstream, but he was the only other angler on the stream at that time.

  My last and final trout I caught on opening day was a rainbow in the 18 inch class.  As I brought him to shore 3 other fly anglers came down to ask me what I was using.  They had been watching me for over an hour catch fish after fish wondering what fly I was using.  They finally had to come down and ask.  I broke my fly off and handed them the fly and said, “I’ve been lucky enough to be in the middle of a PMD hatch with trout who like my fly”.  I said I was finished for the time being and that they were welcomed to fish my “Spot” if they want.   They walked away, and shortly after I did the same scratching my head.  How could you drive all the way to Silver Creek on opening day to ply your trade at casting to rising trout and not fish the hatch that we all love to be in on?  Some things in life are best left alone.  The good news is I was given the gift and used it with appreciation.

You can call Silver Creek whatever you want; a ditch, The Graduate School of Fly Fishing, a fertile spring creek, the home of educated and picky trout or a difficult creek to fish if you want to.  But for me it’s simply one of the most beautiful places on earth that happens to have hungry trout.  I’m going back to the “Creek” very soon with my brother and I hope that the “Creek” rewards me with another incredible fly fishing experience that it has always shown me before. 

 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 

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Birth of an Idaho Fly Fishing School

Boise Idaho
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Idaho is arguably the best fly fishing state in America. Great destination rivers abound throughout the state of Idaho. The Henry’s Fork, South Fork of the Snake River, the many great rivers of Northern Idaho and the South Fork of the Boise River make Idaho stand out as a Mecca of fly fishing. Because of this, people from all over America come here to fly fish. Many people who have moved to Idaho are intrigued by the sport of fly fishing and soon want to learn. What most have discovered is there are more rivers and streams than they had previously realized and these waters are chalk full of wild trout.

For those want to learn fly fishing, it becomes apparent that there is a lot of confusion surrounding the sport. Every person has an opinion, every fly fishing retail establishment has a system and the internet can be most confusing of all. Eventually it all becomes intimidating and learning how to fly fish is put on the back burner.

As a full time fly fishing instructor who has fly fished for over 48 years I can see how fly fishing can be intimidating. When I first started fly fishing there was very little information available on the sport and most anglers taught themselves how to fly fish. Today fly fishing experts use the internet, social media and mountains of books and magazines to promote their opinions on how to fly fish. Mega fly fishing corporations are telling you if you want to be a successful fly angler you need to use their fly fishing products. Large retail giants selling fly fishing gear are telling you what gear you need to have and others are using your desire to learn fly fishing as a marketing tool to get you to buy their gear and after you have left with an arm full of gear you never hear from them again. When does the insanity stops? The truth is fly fishing is not complicated. In fact, it’s quite simple but being able to cut through all the confusion to see its simplicity can be difficult once you’re immersed in it.

A few years ago I was fly fishing on the Madison River in Montana. It was one of those days when the fishing and the catching were in harmony. Suddenly out of nowhere came a loud voice screaming profanity that would make a sailor cringe. As I rounded a bend in the river I could see downriver a young man sitting on a rock trying to make sense out of a bird nest of knots that made up his leader. Surprised and somewhat embarrassed to see me his profanity was quickly corrected but I could tell from my distance that he was frustrated by what was once his leader.

This poor angler eventually moved down the river and when I finally caught up to him he was sitting on a rock completely soaked after an apparent miscalculation with a rock landed him head over heels in the river. With water dripping off his nose he looked up at me and said “I quit, I just can’t get this fly fishing thing to work for me”. As a formal teacher of fly fishing for over 20 years I had noticed from a distance what the angler was doing wrong. He was simply trying to dry fly fish for trout that were not at the surface of the river but on the bottom. I gave him a quick remedy to try and went on my way. Later when I arrived at my truck I had another opportunity to speak with him. This time his attitude was one of triumph. He told me that after I left he not only caught a fish but spent the rest of his time on the water catching and releasing numerous trout. He thanked me and assured me that he would continue to give fly fishing a try.

The birth of Northwest School of Fly Fishing can be traced back to an accumulation of frustration by many anglers like that one on the Madison River. For many fly anglers fly fishing has become both a passion and a pleasure to be enjoyed for the rest of their lives. It’s the goal of Northwest School of Fly Fishing to open that option to all who have that desire. Many fly fishing schools across America are sponsored by mega fly fishing corporations or have a famous fly angler’s name on the school. I wanted to start a school that welcomed everybody and offered classes at a fair price. I simply want to give all Idahoans the opportunity to fall in love with fly fishing.

Northwest School of Fly Fishing is uniquely Idahoan. I know that we live in arguably the best fly fishing state in America. We are proud of our state and proud of our waters so we are not afraid to teach fly fishing from a leadership role. Because some accomplished angler who fishes a small limestone creek on the East coast believes fly fishing should be done a certain way to be successful doesn’t mean it applies to our big waters here in Idaho. So I see our school as a leader of cutting edge fly fishing and fly fishing instruction for Idaho and the Northwest.

There are many beautiful and wondrous things that surround us in Idaho and we often take these things for granted. What we don’t take for granted at Northwest School of Fly Fishing is the proper way to learn fly fishing. It’s important that you to be successful on the water so we are keenly interested in how you are progressing after learning the basics. The need for a fly fishing school dedicated to the core fundamentals of fly fishing became apparent to me after years of teaching fly fishing to new anglers who themselves had been mislead in some way by the commercial end of fly fishing. Simple things such as learning what flies an angler needs to be successful were always ignored while the necessities of a quality reel took precedence. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a trout always prefers a good dry fly over that of a good fly reel. Examples such as these, positive encouragement from many fly anglers and the desire to make it right took me down the path to creating one of Idaho’s only independent fly fishing school.

The first step in building a credible fly fishing school was to put together a fly fishing curriculum that encompasses every aspect of fly fishing. This means developing a class schedule that is attractive to those who want a beginning fly fishing course and advanced enough to make classes appealing to skilled anglers. The school also supports a seminar program. We bring in fly fishing experts present all fly anglers at every level of skill with continuing fly fishing education.

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To be a creditable fly fishing school it’s important to offer classes that also improve the skills of experienced fly anglers. It’s a given that in fly fishing you never stop learning and in my case I learn something new almost every time I go fishing. So really the bones of the Northwest School of Fly Fishing are in the quality, leading edge information and hands on approach to fly fishing that the curriculum is based on. But that’s not where it all ends.

The future looks bright for Idaho’s own fly fishing school. Plans are on the board to expand the school to a place where anglers can go to study fly fishing. High on the list is building a library of up to date books on fly fishing, a map room, internet access, free fly tying and multiple class rooms. The goal of Northwest School of Fly Fishing is to create an atmosphere where fly fishing is always the topic of conversation and the free flow of information is always current.

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