Yeah, the bad kind. The kind where you get to know a river so well the fish gurgle your name when they see you first thing in the morning. Then, you go and throw it all away with a mistress river.
That was me and Silver Creek. Until last weekend, when I met the Malad River.
I was separated from my precious Silver Creek by a big wall of wildfire smoke. It was 7 a.m., the rising sun was blood red and so were my eyes when I stepped out of the car on U.S. Highway 20. Instant headache. Not a good place to be fishing with the Beaver Creek Fire dancing up trees just an hour away.
Smoked out, I headed south to scout new rivers. Displaced, I realized how vulnerable my fishing habit was. Where else could I go? The Big Wood’s southern portions were bone dry, and I didn’t want to drive through the Wood River Valley to get to the Salmon on a day trip.
So, I drove out to Hagerman to scout areas. Without a map I bounced from visitor center to gas station to wayward sporting goods store asking where, when and with what I could catch fish.
I investigated the Malad Canyon near the highway (good-looking water if you’re Spiderman), Billingsley Creek (need a float tube), the Snake at Thousand Springs (need a boat) and Salmon Falls Creek at Balanced Rock (I’m pretty sure there are bigger irrigation ditches in Twin Falls than this creek). Like Goldilocks sampling porridge all too hot or cold, I was frustrated.
I spent all day driving around the Hagerman area to return with dry waders and an empty gas tank. Fast forward a week: I’m fishing water I previously overlooked, rainbow trout fins slicing the surface left and right, my pheasant tail nymph getting plenty of strikes.
Here’s how I did it:
1) Research – I reached out on social media, shouting that I was frustrated by my inability to find fishable water. I asked for help and it came: the Malad River, Ed Glazar said. I inquired about what section, what to fish and how to fish it.
2) Investigate – On Ed’s suggestion I bought a big map book and an Idaho fly fishing book, both of which gave me tips on areas to access and fish the Malad. If Ed hadn’t have given me the name and promise of a river, I wouldn’t have been bold enough to invest in these. I drove down to the river, found a parking spot, and walked down to the banks watching fishermen cast. I took notes and drove home.
3) Plan – Now I needed a plan. I crowd-sourced my questions asking every person I could think of involved with fishing or trout how and when to fish the Malad. If you are going to rely on other fishermen’s advice, know this: Anglers protective of their favorite waters are more apt to share what they know with you if you have specific questions.
Bad Question: How do you fish the Malad?
Good Question: What time of the day should I fish the Malad?
Bad Question: What flies do you use on the Malad?
Good Question: I’ve heard you can grab ‘em on Parachute Adams, hoppers or a Pheasant Tail … is that right?
Don’t overload another fisherman with questions, just enough so you feel comfortable getting in the water. Then make your plan. I found the best time to fish the Malad was in the evening, so I obeyed.
4) Prepare – Based on my first three steps above, I prepared to fish my new conquest. I tied a few Elk Hairs, a few Parachute Adams, and made sure my nymphs were in order. I set my gear by the door, filled my water bottles, checked the forecast and flexed in the mirror.
5) Adapt – Be open to change. That’s always the biggest hurdle in finding a new fishing area. I had to do some serious bushwhacking to get down to the Malad. I wasn’t used to fishing such deep, cold water. I had not fished a river with such large boulders and obstacles in the water. But, I tempered my whimpers and adapted. Yes, I put a few flies into the trees. Yup, I was almost swept into the river with a misplaced foot. You betcha I would have rather been fishing the familiar Silver Creek.
But when that first rainbow danced in the current and dove under a boulder, it was all worth it. So don’t be afraid to cheat on your river – chances are it won’t even notice you were gone.
And, I found out later, you’ll appreciate that river more the next time you return. The improvisational skills you learned away from it could help your skills back at home.
So, yes, cheat. It’s a good thing.