Tuesday, 18 August 2015

A Fitting End - USA 2015

My circumnavigation of the globe has come to an end as I write this upon my return to the UK. The fishing part of my trip ceased a few weeks ago. I had designs of exploring and fishing the state of Colorado in much the same comprehensive way that I did in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho but somewhere along the way - in central Idaho - I met a beautiful woman and my trip, at least the fishing part of it, came grinding to a halt. The constant itch to explore trout streams over the horizon, an itch that I have had for the best part of a year now, dissipated as quickly as instant coffee powder in boiling water. I discovered that perhaps the only thing I find more captivating than fly fishing is a beautiful woman.

I was in the general vicinity of Sun Valley, Idaho, perhaps best known for its most notable of past residents, Ernest Hemingway, who through his writing did much to popularise fly fishing in America in the early to mid 20th century. Hemingway retired to Ketchum, a delightful little town on the banks of a trout river, but he was a deeply troubled man and he committed suicide here. I paid homage to his grave in the town cemetery, a simple slab of stone shaded by a fir tree. I picked up a copy of his book "The Sun Also Rises" which I will read on the road somewhere for I have decided that whilst my return to the UK was meant to be the end of the road for me, I liked travelling far too much to stop at this point. I now plan to visit New Zealand again for the upcoming trout season.

I headed to the hills above Ketchum and spent four nights camping on the banks of several trout rivers - the North and East Forks of the Big Lost River, Wild Horse Creek and the main stem of the Big Lost River itself. This river drainage was collectively the clearest of any river I have fished in the American West and sight fishing was possible at times. The Big Lost River is interesting because it sinks into the ground and disappears completely once it leaves the mountains, following a subterranean course to eventually join up with the Snake River. I caught several cutthroats and rainbows from these streams. The nights were cold up in the mountains though. As dusk fell on Wild Horse Creek a large bull moose with impressive antlers emerged from the tree line on the hill behind me to drink from the creek not far from my tent. When I woke the next morning the mountain tops had been covered by a light snow.

A North Fork cutthroat

The largest of the North Fork cutthroats
Hail storm on the East Fork

Wild Horse Creek - snow fell overnight on the peaks 

Fishing was difficult in the cold, gin-clear waters of Wildhorse Creek

The following week I made a trip to the upper Salmon River. I had an idea it would be my final fishing trip so I was hoping for a memorable and fitting end. There was to be no disappointment. While expecting to catch trout and mountain whitefish something else took my fly. I had seen the fish in the water and couldn't make out what it was, I just knew it was large. When it took my fly and started stripping line off the reel like it was nothing more than a casual irritation, I thought I had hooked one of the river's famous steelhead. The fish came to the net - a curious mixture of green and pale pink spots - unlike any fish I had seen before and for a second or two I wondered if it was a brook trout. A trophy of a brook trout well over 20 inches long. I hoped not because a brook trout this size was surely a stocked fish reared to this proportion in a pond and released for sport. I wondered if this was a bull trout but the fact that it had taken a #16 Prince nymph seemed to fly in the face of everything I had read about these aggressive eaters of fish. Whatever it was, and I later had it identified as a bull trout, at the moment I released it back into the water I was ecstatic and conscious that it was unlikely to be topped by any other fish in the States. I packed my rod away a final time and my epic fishing trip of 2015 came to an end.

The impressive Upper Salmon River valley

The sun sets on my last night in a tent in the USA

Only temporarily mind. New Zealand awaits.