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Fly Fishing Top Hats at the Silver Creek Preserve

August 5, 2010
Fishing adventures at Silver Creek await!

A perspective of our Idaho fishing hole from the trail above.

If you’re a fly fishing hobbyist, then you probably know about Silver Creek, Idaho.  For many anglers, it’s considered sacred ground.  It’s also one of the most challenging fishing grounds in the country…my conversations with various anglers suggest catching a trout at the locale is about as easy as splitting your archery partner’s arrow down the middle in the bull’s eye.

I was fortunate enough to try my novice skills at Silver Creek in late July, a little over a week ago. It’s all part of this hobby that an old buddy has turned me onto, which I wrote about a few posts back in the early summer.

The fortunate — and yet unfortunate part — is that I got spoiled very early in my fly fishing career.  While I seem to be catching on rather quickly, I’m still a novice.  Let’s put it this way; I was up at the Sun Valley Lodge the night before honing my skills through a free casting clinic that one of the local bait shops puts on during high season.

The point I’m making is that I’m new enough to the sport that I probably couldn’t fully appreciate the gravity of the situation I was in, a bit like the unaware rookie in his first at-bat at the bottom of the ninth against a pitcher throwing a perfect game…or like seeing your first ever opera at La Scala in Milan, and not understanding a single word they’re saying because it’s in, umm, Italian (been there, done that).

I know there’s plenty of experienced fly fishing anglers out there who would kill for a day like the one we had at Silver Creek — and some experts who sadly may never get to experience the place.

The Necessary Preparations

Despite my experience shortcomings, I came as prepared as I could.  I picked up some gear beforehand; a $40 wader/boot unit purchased on sale at Cabela’s at the beginning of summer, in addition to an angler’s utility vest and my righteous fly fishing top hat (otherwise known as a Simms technical long-billed cap with a neck drape for sun protection, sorry to disappoint — I might be nuts, but I’m not that nuts — at least not yet…check back with me next summer).  A long-sleeved breathable navy blue technical button down from REI provided sun protection (no surprise, I live in REI gear anyway) along with fishing gloves with the optional thumb & forefinger peep holes (which probably aren’t necessary, but with keyboarding serving as my livelihood I go the extra distance to protect my hands).  A base layer shirt and tights, similar to thermal underwear (but much thinner, quick-dry, and more breathable to maintain body temperature) also prevented the rubber waders from pinching hairy legs.  I hate it when that happens…seriously, ouch!

My buddy flew into Boise a few days earlier from Seattle, and brought with him the rest of the gear.  He provided the poles, which he claims are lower end versions, but I’m too new to things to know the difference.  As far as I can tell, they’re excellent starter poles.  He brought a set of flies he’d ordered online, but the night before we picked up several at Silver Creek Outfitters in Ketchum to mimic the morning hatch, which apparently involved three phases of flies…don’t ask me the names of them all, but my buddy (who is considerably more experienced than I) mentioned that we were using versions he’d never heard of.

In the fly fishing world, flies are typically unique to every fishing location, so the science of creating them (or “tying one”) represents an art form that can serve as a steady income for an expert who knows what they’re doing.  Apparently the flies we were using from Silver Creek Outfitters were hand-tied by local Idahoan “fly fishing artisans,” which is what I guess I’ll call them now.  At $2.50 a pop, they should be doing pretty well…sometimes it amazes me what niches folks can fall into to make a living.  I guess those talented fly fishing artisans would probably say the same thing about my indexing, lol.

Slow & Steady

So after about a 45 minute drive south of Ketchum, we entered the Silver Creek Preserve, protected (and established I believe?) by The Nature Conservancy (if you’re a nature lover, consider membership to support this org – they do GREAT work).  Judging the distance, it’s about four miles of twisting creek waterways through a riparian area rich with wildlife.  After parking at the preserve’s HQ building, we changed into our gear, signed in, and took a dedicated path down a gradual hillside to the creek.  There were some stagnant spots to avoid, so once we spotted an area of slow and steady-moving water, we made our way through the buffer of reeds and down the muddy bank into the water, making sure we moved slow and steady.

In this place, you need to know what you’re doing, as your fly fishing weaknesses are quickly exposed.  The fish at Silver Creek are as smart as any in the country, and they have the benefit of crystal clear water, so they can see you.  Assuming your movements in the water don’t spook them, only a very decent rhythm with your line will result in bringing attention to your fly when you cast; that’s assuming the final release of your line is gentle enough to give a “soft presentation,” essentially imitating a real fly landing on the surface…and that’s only the cast.

My issue involved what to do if I got a bite; and low and behold, I felt a nibble on the end of the line about 20 minutes into the morning.  Unfortunately that’s where I blew it…when I felt the tug on the other end, I should have delayed my reaction by letting the fish get the fly in its mouth, then tugged to get the hook in.  Instead, excitement took over and I yanked too hard on the line — and lost the trout.  I guess with a little more experience, better luck next time.

Hey, at least I got a nibble…which I guess is a better day than others might experience there…rookie’s luck, I’m sure!

Heaven is a Nature Haven

To say Silver Creek is a fishing wonderland would be putting it lightly, but forget the fishing; the natural beauty is enough to leave an eco-minded naturalist breathless.  Like waves crashing on the Oregon’s rugged coastline near Humbug Mountain, the timeless Sequoia giants of California, or a sunrise in Arizona’s Organ Pipe National Monument, the Silver Creek Preserve south of Sun Valley, Idaho is yet another version of nature lover’s heaven…with it’s own unique features and a natural vibe all of it own.

I’ve never seen water as clear as Silver Creek’s.  It’s literally like looking through a polished glass window.  The creek is enveloped by a expansive buffer of marshes and reeds; part of a vast ecosystem for all kinds of wildlife.  About an hour into the morning I was knee deep in water casting my line, and I looked over my shoulder to see how my buddy was coming along — only to see a fawn taking a long leisurely drink from the bank upriver.  If you know me and understand my deep connection with nature, it was one of those moments that’s forever burned on my brain.  The steady babble of the creek, in addition to our earth-tone gear, probably prevented us from being spotted by the thirsty creature and spooking it.

I watched it for about five minutes, and it stopped drinking to look upriver for at least a couple more minutes; facing away from me, so that I had a perfect profile of it…it was as if it was taking in the scenery too, appreciating the majesty of the place as much as we were at that moment.  I’ve never seen an animal convey such peaceful confidence with its surroundings.  It then slowly turned and faded into the brush.  The event lasted long enough to catch the whole thing on hi-def video (most likely to be posted online this fall).

As the morning wore on and heated up, it was obvious the hatch had subsided and the fish were probably off napping somewhere.  I kept up with a jumper down an expanse of the north bank, but threw in the towel after awhile.  We headed back up the trail to the Nature Conservancy check-in HQ, but not before getting stuck knee-deep in a mud hole in the reeds that involved a ten minute spectacle of tugging, pulling, and statements like “I, uh, don’t think I can get out” and other expletives such as “shucky darns, this confounded hole is so annoying!”  Of course that’s what I said.

I picked up some gear and a small poster suitable for framing on the way out.  In the meantime I’ll practice my casting a bit more back home…and I’ll be certain to be back to Silver Creek Preserve, the Taj Mahal of fly fishing…as I still need to catch that big-brained, elusive trout long enough for a photo op before releasing her back into her crystal clear home.

Check it out, it's the Top Hat Indexer's top hat!

  1. August 6, 2010 9:21 am

    The fly water (Rock Creek to Soda Springs Dam) is normally very productive this time of year.


  2. August 7, 2010 3:13 pm


    What a rich post. You brought me there…and that deer…I can see it.

    And a question: is this an example of your fine technical writing skills?

    “shucky darns, this confounded hole is so annoying!”

    If so you are so hired…(smile) and (giggle) and THANK YOU for sharing what took you away from us this summer.

    Questions, so if you were to find/add meaning for business in this very personal parable you have artfully handcrafted, what strike you? Preparation and patience and persistence strikes me. When to wait and when to assume the fish took the bait deep enough to be hooked…a nice metaphor for crafting and executing on business development I say!

    But then I can find inter-relatedness between any two items, I believe.

    See you soon, me hopes.

    Deborah Drake
    **Authentic Writing Provokes**


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