CUTTHROAT AND ZEN

South Fork of the Snake River in autumn

Author’s Note: I did two full days of fly fishing with REEL WOMEN when I was in Idaho. What an incredible experience! The photographs are not mine.

July 11, 2005: This morning I met my guide Leslie Dal Lago at the Three Rivers Fly Shop in Driggs, Idaho. Leslie selected my flies for the day’s fishing, and then we stopped to get my Idaho fishing license and lunch before heading to the South Fork of the Snake River. Leslie and I started to talk like old buddies, discovering commonalities as well as diversities.

Leslie Dal Lago

The weather was exquisitiely perfect — clear blue sky, no humidity, indescribable. Leslie set the drift boat into the river and spent a few minutes giving me pointers on fishing wet, not one of my better fishing skills. For those of you not versed in fly fishing terminology, wet refers to fishing under the surface. Dry is fishing on the surface of the water. Much of the time I was fishing two lures tied to the tippet. I didn’t have to do anything. Leslie tied on all the flies and replaced leaders ripped off by stones and branches.

The Snake River is clear, cold, and gorgeous — the water temperature was around 52 degrees. The water flows fast, and Leslie was expert at handling the drift boat. We started the morning fishing nymphs, and I caught two white fish. Leslie explained that white fish were a predictor of stream health — where there are white fish, there are trout. The trout in these waters are native and wild. We varied the fishing — at times I fished as the boat drifted, and other times I fished one spot, both from the boat or while wading.

Eventually, I hooked my first trout, a cutthroat, easily identified by the red slash on the trout’s throat. All trout I hooked were cutthroat; the first two were both about 17 inches — beautiful fish!

cutthroat trout

We ate lunch in the boat under the shade of a big tree — feeding ourselves and hoping to finish our lunch before the trout started to feed on the surface. There was a stonefly hatch on, and the trout started to feed actively on the surface from about 1 until 4pm. I missed many strikes, and hooked two that escaped before we were able to net them. In all, I caught six; four were cutthroat.

Along with the fantastic fishing, I was also privileged to see my first bald eagle — not one, but three! What magnificent birds — just awe inspiring. We also saw ospreys, a peregrine falcon, a mother merganser duck with her babies, magpies, ravens, and fresh water pelicans.

There was so much more about the day which was intangible and cannot be described. At times Leslie and I were seemingly the only people on a wildly, beautiful river, surrounded by an unblemished environment which restored my soul and replenished the sense of balance we tend to lose living in this frenzied, often senseless world.

When we returned to Driggs, I stopped at the grocery store and bought food so I could eat in my cottage. I even bought a bottle of Chardonnay! I had a microwave oven and a small refrigerator, so I stocked up for my 4 day stay in Driggs.

When I got out of my car back at the lodge, right at my feet was a black and white magpie feather, just for me! Certainly a magical and symbolic ending to an unbelievable day.

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