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Fly Fishing Idaho’s Salmon River

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Day two: A look outside and I saw a sunrise over the mountains that was pulled straight from a calendar featuring inspirational images. The mountains: majestic and covered in snow; and the soft sunlight bathed ‘em in colors reminiscent of molten bronze.

We hopped in the SUV with a trusty guide from Silver Creek Outfitters, and since we were about 60 miles northwest of Ketchum, the home of the great American writer and outdoorsman Ernest Hemingway, I started asking questions about the man who penned Old Man and the Sea. Little did I know, I’d have my own epic battle with a monstrous steelhead that day.

En route to the Salmon River

After a short drive, we pulled off the road to a hidden fishing spot. The trout were biting and soon Matt had his first fish on the line.

Now it was up to me, the only one in my crew who hadn’t landed a fish. My guide couldn’t have worked harder. Giving more positive reinforcement than a life coach, those compliments provided a placebo effect, making me feel like twice the fisherman I will ever be.

But I couldn’t get one to bite, so we waded through the stream and fast moving water, which even took my guide down. Practically on the other side of the wide river, I started casting again. Less than 20 minutes later, I had a big one on my line and he wasn’t happy about it.

The author showing off a 35” steelhead

I slowly reeled him in while letting him wear himself in the fight. Lucky for me, my guide walked me through every move. Patiently, he doled out advice, eventually getting me to walk backwards through the raging river. Staying upright, it took more than 25 minutes to get back to shore, but soon the majestic steelhead was in my hands.

Unlike the fisherman in Old Man and The Sea, after the epic battle and a few photos, we returned the fish to the river. The 35-incher was the largest fish our group landed that week. It was so big that some envy ensued. It even brought out a new, less-life-coach-like side of my guide. In disbelief, he said: “You [expletive], I haven’t even caught a fish that big this spring!”

—Stephen Krcmar retired his fly fishing vest after this catch, figuring it’s better to go out on top. He no longer believes there is an omnipotent fishing lobby.

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