This pass is located near Sturtevant’s Mountain Outfitters in Ketchum, Idaho where I spoke last night as part of a Simms promotion. The promotion is the baby of Jon Yousko and is called “Simms Night”. Customers of Sturtevant’s had the opportunity to learn about Simms products, try on waders and fishing clothes and even win Simms product as raffle prizes that were drawn every half hour. While this all went on I painted a Snake River Cutthroat while folks watched over cocktails and delicious snacks. Then I gave my PowerPoint presentation “Fly Fishing through Midlife Heaven”. We had a great turnout and everything went very well. This was the second one of these events Jon and I have done and there will be more to come.
Seeing that Jon and I were in the Sun Valley area it only made sense to wet a line on Silver Creek. However, with spring runoff and a surge of rainstorms the last few days, even the famous spring creek isn’t fishing well. Therefore, we were well advised to check out a lesser fished tail water about 60 miles away. Although this river is running high too, the fact that it flows from a dam allows it to always run clear.
Let’s just say it was pouring cats and dogs as we left Sun Valley at about 7:30 AM. Heading up an unpaved mountain pass probably wasn’t the smartest of moves. Especially because we weren’t sure if the road over was open in the first place. We knew the summit of the pass was over 7000 feet in elevation and we were sure it would be snowing up there. However, our dilemma was either get over the pass and be fishing in an hour or drive around the mountains which would take at least two hours. The time was one thing but let’s not forget how important it is to save some gas these days as well.
Once the decision was made to go for it off we went and fortunately the pass was the right choice. The only disruptions we had was navigating around a few rock slides. Indeed it was snowing near the top of the pass, but accumulation wasn’t too bad and we reached the summit with ease. Our climb was followed by a long muddy coast downhill to where we reached the gushing river.
The rain was still falling by the buckets when we arrived. This heavy a rain is unusual for us. There’s no doubt that rivers all over Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are at flood stage. Nonetheless, this particular river was clear enough to give it a try. We wadered up and slipped on all our bomb proof Simms gear and rigged up our rods. I was using my 5-weight Ross Rx rod, F1 reel lined with mySA Textured GPX.
I rigged up for something I haven’t done in ages, Polish Nymphing. Some call it Czech Nymphing. Some call it European Nymphing. But I call it Polish Nymphing. This no-indicator method was taught to me from the 1991 World Champion and long time friend, Vladi Trzebunia. Vladi is from Zakopane, Poland and he introduced this devastating nymphing method to the world when he won the championship. Vladi taught the technique to me while I was competing in Poland in 1998, and although I’ll never take Polish Nymphing near the level he has, I can do it pretty well.
You would think I’d use Polish Nymphing all the time, but the truth is I prefer fishing the dries and streamers. In fact I’ve never been much for nymphing. But today’s river was made for Vladi style fishing. The water was high, fast and we were so early there wasn’t a glimmer of a hatch in sight. Also, when rivers are this high, I don’t mind working a pool for a long time with a nymph. Sometimes it’s easier just to stay in one place than try to wade over slippery rocks on a raging river.
Nymphing was the right choice. In the very first run I fished I landed over a dozen fish. While most fish were rainbows in the 8” to 16” range, I caught one hefty whitefish and to my surprise, two small kokanee salmon – pretty cool!
The rain stopped an hour into the fishing and the fish kept chowing my nymphs. Things were good and every pool fished as well as the first (minus more kokanees). It was fish after fish. I don’t know how many times I thought to myself how proud Vladi will be to hear about my day. Meanwhile, Jon too was having a feast on this cool little river.
That’s about all. I’m sorry that I didn’t mention the name of this river but it’s not one of my haunts, and therefore not mine to mention. I’m just lucky it was pointed out to us. I actually fished it years back and this little secret was excellent then too. The long drive is what has kept me away. Jon and I both had to get home this afternoon so at 1 PM we packed it in. Leaving was especially hard because the March brown hatch was beginning and the rainbows were starting to rise to them.
After my four hour drive back into the heavy rains, I’m absolutely exhausted. You know how those windshield wipers put you to sleep. Tomorrow I plan to lay low and finish up this giant cutty painting and pack for a weekend on Hebgen. Why not? Unless I get booked quick, Sturtevant’s was my last gig for a couple weeks. It’s time to fish.