I’ve been to Silver Creek twice in the last two weeks with friends, although it involves a two-hour drive to reach the creek on the far side of Show Low.
The fishing’s that good!
Silver Creek is a spring-fed creek that maintains an ideal temperature for trout all year. From Oct. 1 through March 31 it is only open to catch-and-release fishing; single barbless hook, artificial lures and flies only.
On April 1 it opens up to bait fishing and your catch may be kept.
Here’s the kicker: Most of the trout in the creek during the catch-and-release season are between 18-24 inches; and there are a lot of trout!
Most trips, I catch two to four fish in that range. These rainbows are great fighters on a fly rod in this unusual stream.
Actually, it is more like a canal than a stream for much of its length. It is a narrow creek with mostly slow-moving water, and high banks with many reeds along the edge. It is the perfect place to take a friend fishing; especially a friend who has never caught a big fish.
Unlike most streams where it is hard to effectively fish near your fishing partner, Silver Creek provides many opportunities to do just that. In fact, having a friend nearby comes in quite handy when you have to land a 20-inch trout.
All fishing is done from the bank, and because the creek has long stretches of slow moving, deep water, it is possible to fish within 40 feet of your friend and carry on a conversation while fishing. Most anglers are using fly rods and drifting flies under an indicator looking for any signs of a subtle take from a trout.
When one of you hooks a fish, a long-handled net is an important piece of equipment to have with you due to the steepness of the banks in most places.
This creek requires an unusual consideration that most of us never have to think much about. You have to plan for the possibility of catching a very large fish from several feet above the water, netting it, and quickly releasing it unharmed. For me, that means that there are places that I don’t even bother casting on Silver Creek even though I could get my fly in the water quite easily. The problem in those situations is that the bank might be 10 feet from the water and I can’t get down to the fish and release it unharmed.
Large trout on a fly rod usually take a bit of time to get into the net. The quicker, the better for the sake of the fish.
Once you get a fish in, the barbless hook generally comes out very quickly, but the fish may be exhausted. It is important for you to take time to make sure the fish is fully revived before releasing it. Often this is done by gently cradling the fish in the water with your hands, but because of the steep banks, that may not be possible.
Do not release a fish that is belly up!
Moving the upright fish in the net forward and back to get water through the gills and seeing it actively try to swim away while in the net is a great sign that the fish is ready to be released. A friend can be a big help in these situations. If your friend can net the fish at the water and release it that is much better than having to bring it up on the bank.
Traveling to Silver Creek is a day-long commitment. It is outside of Show Low and about a two-hour drive from Payson. There actually is a great benefit to that drive that we don’t often get the opportunity for in our busy lives. When is the last time you had a chance to have four hours to talk with your friend?
For the first month or so of the catch-and-release season, the Payson Flycasters’ Club organizes a carpool once a week to head up to the creek. These past two weeks I’ve headed up the carpool and had the pleasure of taking three anglers to Silver Creek for their first trip. As much as I like to catch fish, I really enjoy watching others catch fish; especially their first really big fish!
I’ve written about Silver Creek before. It can be a humbling experience as these fish will often reject fly after fly. There have been days that I have changed flies 20 times, while others are bringing in fish all around me! On one of those days, a successful fisherman hollered across the stream to tell me what he was catching them on. It is not uncommon on Silver Creek for fly fishermen to share that kind of information. But then, that’s not unusual for fly fishermen.
I thoroughly enjoy returning the favor and helping others be successful catching fish on the fly.
I hope to see you on Silver Creek in the near future.