by Christopher Claunch
HAGERMAN, Idaho — Since taking over day-to-day operations of the local gun and tackle shop in Hagerman it’s been a yeoman’s task to remodel the store and restock the inventory. My time in the shop is like a hobbled horse grazing in a prairie pasture — not unpleasant, but rather limiting.
It doesn’t happen often, but when I do get a chance to slip away I retreat to one my favorite haunts not too far away — Billingsley Creek. Now there are local anglers that have forgotten more than I’ll ever know about the nearby streams and rivers, but as the proprietor of the local mercantile I need to know as much about the local fields and streams as possible so I ask simple questions and listen.
On the flip side of that scenario I’ll bet a silver dollar that the most often asked question by visiting anglers that walk into the shop looking the latest fishing reports is: “Are there huge brown trout in Billingsley Creek still?” and the answer is a resounding yes. They are there and thriving in the creek, but if you want to actually catch them, you should seek advice elsewhere as this is the chronicle of a beaten-down angler.
An early exit denied
I got to the shop at 3:55 a.m. one starlit morning in order to get an early start on my afternoon fishing excursion because I knew it was going to be 80 degrees and no wind in the Hagerman Valley later in the day. This type of weather brings a Chuck-A-Rama style feeding frenzy to all five local rivers and streams.
Well, I lost track of time and walked outside at about 3:30 in the afternoon and saw midges, callibaetis, baetis and two different species of caddis mulling about, teasing me. Oh crap, I forgot to order the Dan Bailey rental waders – so I pop back into the merc for a quick task.
Two hours later, I arrive on Billingsley Creek and see several 20-inch trout sipping and cruising and I am prepared with my float tube and wheelbarrow for the upcoming onslaught. I settle in and watch the silky stream closely. What are these monsters eating?
At this point I realize my cell phone only has three percent battery and no one will believe me if I don’t have a picture so I call Cory Glauner from gothunts.com (and yes he does fly fishing trips too) who dutifully loads up the kids and camera and comes down to document the battle ahead.
Bugs, bugs everywhere, but not a brown on the bite
After trying the obvious blue winged olive, midge and caddis patterns without any takes, I used the remainder of my battery to seek suggestions from Idaho angling guru, Wesley Atkinson (see the exchange on his Facebook) and other members of the local fly fishing community.
Dry dropper? Suspended midge? Oh wait, how about the blue damsel fly? (By the way Wes, the suspended midge did result in a very nice 16-inch rainbow that I contend was protecting his larger warrior friends.)
There were bugs everywhere and I just kept fishing dry flies from above like I would on Silver Creek.
I changes tactics and fished from below with a 14-foot leader with the ole trusty Hagerman juggernaut – the renegade.
Cory’s kids were having a blast playing in the mud and water and darkness loomed — what a trooper I thought to myself. Cory will be administering bath’s until midnight.
So away went the light and I still had no prize. And with the light went my visitors.
Into the heart of darkness
After dark, I tied on several mouse patterns casting into the pitch-black night bringing up exciting, splashy attacks, but no fish. It must have been around midnight when I hung my head and walked away tired, chilled and defeated – but the truth of the matter is, not disappointed. The reason I love fly fishing is the challenge, the friendship and the people willing to help.
As Thoreau so eloquently stated, “Woe is the fisher that doesn’t realize until late in life that it is not the fish he seeks” (grossly paraphrased).
So thanks to you who reached out and helped, and in conclusion, I walked by several big browns on Billingsley the other day and saw them dash and tuck themselves neatly under a log. I waved and smiled then drove over to Riley Creek about a mile away and caught 15 fish that obviously spent too much time away from their school.