The precipitation delivered to the Sun Valley — Ketchum area consists of some profoundly lucky water molecules. Fluttering from the heavens in their snow-born phase, they arrive on pristine mountains and have the fortune of creating some of the best ski runs on the planet. As they morph into their liquid phase in the growing sunshine of spring and summer, their stay becomes no less spectacular, trickling into some of the most charming streams on earth, where they share the company of a myriad of species of iconic trout.
To anyone with any inclination to fool a fish with a well-drifted fly, this realm—the rivers of Central Idaho—could not be any more inviting.
Perhaps the most alluring aspect of fishing in the area is the remarkable diversity of our fisheries. Each watershed is vastly different from the next and offers exciting new challenges for every level of angler. Here is where to fly-fish in Sun Valley.
The Big Wood River, named for the towering, Black Cottonwood trees that line its banks, is ground-zero for your fly-fishing exploits. Winding right through Ketchum, and on down to Hailey and Bellevue, access points are simple and ample, and the Rainbows are typically eager to eat a reasonable presentation.
A classic mountain freestone river, the Wood offers an endless playground for the novice fly-caster to hone their skills, and the more advanced will still find plenty of technical drifts to attempt.
Thirty miles southeast of Ketchum, down in the desert, lies one of the most fabled trout streams in the world: Silver Creek.
A gin-clear, spring-fed watershed, “The Creek” can challenge even the most experienced fly fishers with its mellow flows, ample sun exposure, and wary rainbow and brown trout. With that said, the novice or intermediate angler should not be deterred—the abundance of waterborne bugs can put even the smartest of fish into a frenzy that can lead to success.
Besides, the creek itself is worth the visit, if nothing more than just to bask in the wildlife and sunshine of this unique desert oasis.
Fifty miles North of Ketchum lies the headwaters of the Salmon River, which cascades through steep canyons, bumps into the continental divide, winds back to the West and dumps into the Snake River Canyon.
From the fly-fisher’s perspective, the most appealing aspect of this freestone is that it hosts runs of Steelhead, King Salmon, and Sockeye Salmon, all the way from the Pacific Ocean.
The Steelhead make their way to our neck of the woods usually by late March, while the Salmon Species arrive in summer.
While the prospect of getting a rod bent by any of these sea-run fish is remarkably exciting, the Upper Salmon is also a vastly under-rated trout fishery, hosting a grand diversity of “resident” species. Rainbow trout, Mountain Whitefish, Northern Pikeminnows, native Westslope Cutthroat, and the coveted Bull Trout all call this watershed home and populate it with respectable numbers.
Day floats aboard a bouncing drift boat are a passage through euphoria that will leave any level of angler grinning through dinner.
While these rivers will fill anyone’s stay in the area with fishing bliss, they are but a mere scratch of the surface for what is available to charm the willing fly-fisher.
Contact Silver Creek Outfitters or Lost River Outfitters in Ketchum to book a guide or acquire more immediate information, and start planning your delve into the luckiest water on Earth. Oh, and by the way, given the isolated nature of Central Idaho, you’ll likely have plenty of it, all to yourself.
If you’re planning to stay in Sun Valley, book a room at the Limelight Hotel.