Silver Creek - Trout Fishing Profile

Fishery in Idaho

Excerpted from Trout Fishing Sourcebook by Mark D. Williams

Location: South central Idaho.
Section: Three miles of public-use area on Nature Conservancy Preserve, the private water on Purdy Ranch, and the public area of Point of Rocks Fish and Game Public Access.
Maps: USGS Gannett, Picabo, Pagari Well.
Type of stream: High desert, meadow-type spring creek.
Best seasons to fish: Fishable all year round, but the best fishing is usually from June to October. The season is from January 1 to October 15.
Stocking/wild status: Wild trout.
Species to be found: Primarily rainbow trout, a good brown trout population, and a few brook trout. These fish are small-headed, big-shouldered, heavy-bodied trout.

Average sizes: Trout grow big on Silver Creek, and there are trout over 20 inches and up to 28 inches in here. The average-size fish caught will run between 13 and 18 inches. A 20-inch trout is not uncommon, but catching one is.

Regulations: Catch-and-release, with barbless, artificial flies on the Conservancy property. Below Highway 20, anglers can keep two fish, neither between 12 to 16 inches.

Well-known areas and places to fish along the river: Work the banks, the channels between islands, any feeding lanes, and the current edges. Finding the trout won't be a problem; they'll be visible holding or rising. Famous spots along the creek are the Kilpatrick Bridge, the S-Turns, confluences with Grove and Loving Creeks, Purdy Ranch Pond, and the Old Larkin Ranch.

Recommended Equipment

The creek demands light tackle, a 35 weight outfit. A 6-weight outfit can be used under windy conditions. Bring long, thin leaders, 5X to 7X, and sometimes even 8X. You will have to fight the brisk wind that blows across these open fields but you cannot go to heavier line or tippet and expect to catch any fish. That is another reason that catching and landing a fish on Silver Creek is a feat for which the angler should be congratulated.

Top fly patterns: The amazing brown drake hatch occurs in late May and early June. Problem is that it doesn't occur in the headwaters area of the Conservancy—rather it happens in the lower sections of the creek. These big mayflies cause even 5-pound trout to eagerly rise. Anglers can use the dry fly pattern to imitate the duns. Matching the spinner fall can also be effective. Silver Creek supports several rich insect hatches throughout the season. Tricos are the most prolific hatch all along the river, but pale morning duns, blue winged olive, caddis and blue quill also have solid hatches. Grasshopper patterns cause explosive strikes when tossed against the banks in August and September. Patterns commonly used on Silver Creek are Adams (14 to 22), Adams Parachute (14 to 22), Pale Morning Dun (16 to 22), Trico (20 to 22), Baetis (16 to 22), Parachute Baetis (16 to 22), Brown Drake (6 to 12), Brassie (18 to 20), Hopper patterns, spinners in black and white, black beetles, flying ant, no-hackle flies, Pheasant Tail nymph, and Slate Mahogany dun. Streamers are fairly effective at times, and the best is the Woolly Bugger, especially when the browns are spawning in the fall. Black or brown Bunny Leech patterns are also useful.

Recommended Techniques

This is one of the most difficult, challenging trout fisheries anywhere in the world. It can be extremely frustrating to spot large, feeding fish sipping flies right next to your own imitation, but to even get to that point requires a proper fly and proper presentation. The trout are selective, the water clear, and the approach unnecessarily arduous. Ain't this fun? And you'll have to fight the tricky currents, the moss which drapes your line and covers your fly, and best of all, you have to choose a fly to match whatever they happen to be eating. Most vets make long casts upstream, try to get a drag-free float, and then pray.

Best access points: Silver Creek is close to Ketchum, Sun Valley, and Hailey, off I-75. The best public access to the spring creek is through the Conservancy property. All a fisherman needs to do is sign in at the preserve headquarters. The private water of Purdy Ranch holds big trout and must be floatfished by belly boat, but the public may not trespass the high water mark. Other access is at the Highway 20 crossing, the Point of Rocks, and Priest Rapids.

Quality of Angling

Without fail, any time spring creeks are mentioned or written about, Silver Creek's name is always at the top. There are not enough superlatives to describe how eerily beautiful or fertile this clear, cold spring creek truly is. The river snakes through open fields with lush green streamside vegetation. The river meanders, so slowly at times that it seems to be motionless. At other times, it shimmers like a mirror. But this illusion will be shattered when the hopeful angler casts a small dry fly onto the glassy surface; the confounding cross currents will be evident.

The number-one problem for Silver Creek fishermen is keeping the fly from dragging. Silver Creek is one of the best dry fly streams in the country. This is fortunate because it keeps the fisherman from having to fish subsurface and endure cleaning the moss off his fly after every cast. If you are a seasoned veteran and haven't fished Silver Creek, you owe yourself a day of near misses, squishy wading, sunburn, and watching large trout refuse your best casts. But there exists the outside chance you'll beat the river and catch one of its heavy inhabitants. And if not, humility is a valuable lesson for the trout fisher.

Wadeability/floatability: Many float the private section, but floating in a belly boat can also be done below the conservancy cabin at the start of the tubing section where the big pond starts. Floating the pond below Kilpatrick Bridge can be very productive. Wading is the best way to get close to the easily spotted trout. Stalking the banks is another effective method to angle for these large trout. Some float the lower section in a canoe. The river isn't especially deep, but the wading fisherman should be aware that a step could end up being dunked. The spring creek has muck for a bottom in most places, and the water depth near the banks can be unusually deep, deep enough to surprise the unwary wader. Once in the water, wade carefully so you won't spook the trout. Neoprene chest waders are the best choice to wade this cold, deceptively deep water.

Fly Shops, Guides, and Outfitters of Interest

Ultimate Angler, P.O. Box 21, Sun Valley, ID, 208-483-2722
Ultimate Angler, 1033 West Bannock St., Boise, ID 83702, 208-389-9957
Silver Creek Outfitters, 507 North Main, Ketchum, ID, 208-726-5282
Lost River Outfitters, 620 North Main, Ketchum, ID, 208-726-1706; Bill Mason Outfitters, 208-622-9305
Sun Valley Outfitters, 208-622-3400; Silver Creek Outfitters, 208-622-3400

Best Guidebooks

Guide to Flyfishing in Idaho, by Bill Mason, David Communications, 6171 Tollgate, Sisters, OR, 97759, 1994
River Journal, Silver Creek, by David Joye, Frank Amato Publications, 1993
Idaho's Top 30 Fishing Waters, edited by Lewis Watson, Great Rift Publishing Corporation, Rupert, ID
Blue Ribbon Trout Rivers of the Rockies, by Ed Dentry, Denver Publishing Co., 1994


Once you get to the creek, there are few places to grab a bite or rest your weary bones. Lodging, restaurants and groceries are plentiful to the north in Sun Valley and Ketchum, and twenty miles to the south in Wood River Valley. There are campgrounds near Silver Creek at the Sportsman's Access near Picabo.

© Article copyright Menasha Ridge Press and Mark D. Williams. All rights reserved.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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