As almost everyone knows, Ernest Hemingway took his own life--by shooting himself in the mouth with both barrels of a shotgun, in 1961--in the little town of Ketchum, in the Sun Valley area of Idaho. Sun Valley had been, and continues to be today, a posh watering-hole for the well-to-do (and in some cases famous), to indulge in skiing or horseback riding or hunting and fishing.
I visited the area in the 1970's, exploring notorious fly-fishing venues for the first time. The Nature Conservancy had bought up much of the land surrounding Silver Creek, in the lower valley near Picabo (pronounced by the locals "peek-a-boo"). I've been back several times, and this time I spent 10 days fishing Silver, the Big Wood River, and the Big Lost River over the mountains to the East. The weather this time was fairly uncooperative, and I spent much of the time at Silver sitting on the bank watching dead water, as the insect hatches (and the fish) failed to show much activity.
Nevertheless, I did catch some lovely Rainbow and Brown trout, using 6x leader and flies smaller than size 16. Much of the time, the fish were sipping midge emergers--about a foot to an inch below the surface, at about size 20 or 22--which made tempting them nearly impossible. There were very limited hatches of the larger pale yellow or olive mayflies in size 16 or 18, and this meant most of the anglers were frustrated, or even skunked. The seasonal imbalance, which we had seen in California this year as our Spring was one of the wettest in recent record, was also affecting the Northern Rocky Mountains. Storm after storm rumbled into the valley, whereas just 50 miles to the South, there was no precipitation at all.
On one of the off-days, we visited the Ernest Hemingway grave in Ketchum, in a graveyard right beside the main highway through town. Beside Hemingway's stone, are identical flat plinths for Mary, EH's widow, and his son John (the "Bumby" of A Moveable Feast). The plainness of the stone--with no inscription or other decoration--struck me as a bit dry.
Sun Valley's reputation was certainly enhanced by Hemingway's having chosen the place to live in for part of each year. According to local legend, he spent a lot of time drinking in the taverns and bars--no surprise since he was a confirmed alcoholic for most of his life. There are a lot of photos of EH shooting game-birds in the Valley, but not too many of him fishing Silver Creek. It was actually the presence of his son John Hemingway, and his efforts on behalf of the Nature Conservancy to secure the area for public access and protection from private development, that has attached the family name and notoriety to the Preserve. The Silver Creek Preserve now hosts tens of thousands of anglers each year, and is famous the world over for its rich stocks of wild trout, and tantalizingly placid spring creek flows.
I had two very good days on the Creek, and one wet rainy morning float-tubing just below the bridge, catching an 18" Rainbow who jumped four times high in the air. I got drenched for my trouble, but these dark, roily days are often exciting, especially when there are few anglers on the water. There's a curiously strong sense of satisfaction following a successful day on the water when the weather's rough. It also doesn't hurt to follow this up with a nice shot of Talisker around a roaring fire.
My companion Keith Mosier--a friend from several years back--is a self-taught fishing genius, and has parlayed his amateur's knowledge and experience into a genuine expertise. He routinely out-fishes the waves of self-appointed fishing sophisticates who visit his home water, and with only half the investment in expensive equipment. As my unofficial local guide, he enables me to perform with the best of the brigade of professional anglers who frequent the Silver Creek Preserve.
With any luck, we'll have another crack at Henry's Fork of the Snake, some two hundred plus miles away from Sun Valley. Maybe later in the Summer--?
Here's a photo of Keith near the access point to the "S-curves" section of Silver Creek, munching on some trail mix following the mid-day hatch. Here's to a great trip, and many more in the years to come!