The Lessons of Silver Creek
I wasn’t ready for it. I can see that now. Not just the beauty of the place, but the place itself.
In fly fishing, some waters are that of lore; Henry’s Fork, the Yellowstone, the Colorado, the Platte, the Madison, the Beaverkill, the Deschutes, the Kenai, the Holy waters of the Au Sable. Silver Creek certainly has a place on that list – probably pretty close to the top. This is hallowed ground where Ernest Hemingway, Bud and Nick Purdy, and countless other famous die-hard fly anglers cut their teeth.
While I became a disciple of fly fishing later in life, I’ve had the opportunity to fish several of these sacred places. Others are still on the bucket list. Silver Creek was, until three weeks ago when I had my opportunity.
Flowing at the base of the Picabo Hills, this high-desert spring-fed creek attracts an abundance of wildlife including eagles, waterfowl, coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, deer and elk. Silver Creek's globally unique aquatic ecosystem features one of the highest densities of stream insects in North America, which supports the world-class fishery. It’s a place where you can immediately feel the presence of your predecessors.
Known not only for its predictable hatches of dainty Mayflies and glorious light, but also for its large, smart and spooky fish that laze in clear slow water and a maze of micro currents, this intimate river is not a place for those without battle scars, unending patience and a little gray hair. I was warned.
In hindsight, the silver around my temples and the success I’ve had in other places perhaps made me a little too confident. Despite my age I still fly fish like a young dog hunts. I can’t help it. The adrenaline gets the best of me. I’m always too eager, too aggressive. I favor streamers, large terrestrials and mice. I don’t think the 6x tippet has ever left the spool. Like a teenage boy on a first date, I came to Silver Creek clumsy, unsure and filled with desire. I learned the hard way.
But like all special people and special places, they change you. Silver Creek isn’t a cheap beer willing to be chugged, it’s a complex Bordeaux meant to be savored, appreciated, taken slowly. It’s a good lesson for fishing and an even greater lesson for life.
I’ll be back to Silver to be sure, when I have a few more gray hairs and battle scars. When I’m able to hunt like a more seasoned dog. When I’ve learned to better manage my fish lust. In the meantime, it’s good for men my age to have things that are still unattainable. Things that challenge you. That give you something to look forward to. Things that are still unspoiled and left to the imagination...