Unlike many people who relocate to Sun Valley or become frequent visitors because of our amazing skiing and snowboarding, my family was first drawn to Sun Valley by the area’s world-class fly fishing. Raised by a father who is a consummate fisherman and a mother who also caught the bug, my brother and I were put into waders, handed a fly rod and placed in western trout streams when we no more than eight years old. Fishing was just what we did.
In 1983, the trout streams we waded into were Sun Valley’s. That year, our family’s summer vacation included throwing flies from drift boats in Montana, exploring desolate waters in western Canada and, finally, landing in the Wood River Valley. Before our two-week stay in a Wildflower condo on the Resort property ended, my parents had hired a real estate agent. The fishing, and everything else that comprises a Sun Valley summer, was that good.
So, when the winter runoff begins in earnest, when ski runs begin to transition to hiking and biking trails and when facets of bright sunlight bounce off of the currents of the Big Wood River beneath the bridges on my daily errands, my mind turns to fishing.
With May just around the corner, so is fly fishing season. The Big Wood, the river that wends through Hailey and Ketchum, opens on May 25, as does fabled Silver Creek south of Bellevue. According to Silver Creek Outfitters, the area’s leading fly fishing authority with outposts both in the Sun Valley Village and downtown Ketchum, indicators are pointing to good early fishing. According to the shop’s report, “Our snow pack is currently at about 80 percent of average and the Climate Prediction Center at NOAA is calling for below average precipitation for the next several months in Central and Southern Idaho. For the angler, this means the fishing should be good earlier this year on our freestone rivers due to the lower flows and often when the flows are lower, the hatches, like the Green Drake, will also come off a bit earlier.”
Unlike the past two years, when the Big Wood ran high (making for tenuous wading) until well in the early summer, this year’s conditions may let us get our feet wet much earlier. All signs point to productive fishing on this very accessible and very beautiful river in the not-too-distant future, with wade-ability most likely by the end of June.
For novice anglers or those looking to enhance or refresh their skills as the season begins, Silver Creek Outfitters Fly Fishing 101 Clinics begin on May 4 and continue throughout the summer. These popular two-day classes cover the basics of a sport that may seem intimidating, but really isn’t – from casting to knot tying, bugs to wading. Beginning at the end of June, the shop’s top guides also offer free casting clinics on the lawn in front of the Sun Valley Lodge.
And if May 25 seems like an awfully long time to wait to cast some line into a ripple, you can fish now on the Big Lost River. This tailwater gem (surrounded by some of the most inspiring, stunning views in the state) is about a two-hour drive from Ketchum near the town of Mackay. Again, Silver Creek Outfitter’s fishing guru reports, “Hatches on the Lost this time of year are a combination of Midge and Baetis and on the right day they can be spectacular. Some fish are spawning in the shallow riffles, so please wade with caution and leave them alone.”
Be sure to stop by the Ketchum location of Silver Creek Outfitters for the best advice on early season fishing (the Sun Valley store will open for the season when the season opens).
If you’re dreaming of clear trout streams, spectacular scenery and lazy lunches riverside, your wait is nearly over. Be sure to get your Idaho fishing license (for a day or a season), check your fly line, air out your waders and boots. And if you haven’t done so already, maybe it’s time to check in with a local realtor. You may get hooked, too.