Monday, June 1, 2020
Fishing Season? Don’t Forget the Chain Saw
Gretchen Dale, Bob Knoebel, Alex Klokke, Dave Spaulding and Alan Richardson prepare to head into the woods at Flying Heart. PHOTO: Ed Northen
Tuesday, May 19, 2020



Another three days remain until the Big Wood River fishing season opens on May 23. But some of the more avid fishermen in the valley have been trudging along the public access paths bordering the river for the past couple weeks.

Board members of the Hemingway Chapter of Trout Unlimited have been cutting away downed trees, stripping away brush and replacing fishing signs on some 25 to 40 fishing trails from the Sawtooth National Recreation Area headquarters seven miles north of Ketchum to Stanton Crossing near the junction of U.S. Highway 20 and Highway 75 at Timmerman Hill.

Dave Spaulding hammers new signs advising anglers of regulations on a tree in Flying Heart subdivision. PHOTO: Karen Bossick

“We also pick up garbage. But we rarely find any garbage,” said David Spaulding.

On Friday several of the board members ignored a 15-minute rain and hailstorm to clear two public access trails to the Big Wood River in the Flying Heart Ranch subdivision.

Wearing face masks and practicing social distancing, they carried chainsaws and ladders as they cleared winter debris and spring growth from the public access easements allowing access to the rainbow, brook and brown trout in the river.

“We will continue to maintain the Flying Heart trails, even though the Homeowner’s Association has tried to prohibit parking at the trailheads,” said Alan Richardson, the current board president. “Their action is opposed by the Blaine County Board of Commissioners and is now in litigation. The Chapter supports the commissioners and will work to ensure public access here and elsewhere is not restricted by unreasonable parking restrictions.”

This cut opposite the Flying Heart neighborhood shows the power of the river when it floods. PHOTO: Karen Bossick

Spaulding, who like so many came to Sun Valley for skiing and stayed for the scenic beauty and wildlife out his back door, goes ahead of the work crews surveying what needs to be done at each trail. Usually Zinc Spur’s access trail is one of the most difficult to maintain, he said, but this year the homeowners seemed to have done a remarkable job of maintaining the trail.

“Local and visiting anglers and others are very fortunate to have public access to this beautiful river,” Spaulding said. “We try to walk, clean and clearly mark the trailheads for every trail. We want to ensure that anglers and others know where the trails are and, as important, that they respect the interests of private property owners on either side of the trails.”

Spaulding noted that fishing on the Big Wood River and Silver Creek is an important part of Sun Valley’s tourist economy. There are 30 fishing guides, including himself working out of Silver Creek Outfitters. And that store is just one of five stores in the valley supplying fishing guides.

“A lot of people come here to fly fish—Big Wood is quite well known. And one of the beauties of fishing the Big Wood is that it’s wadable during fish season—you don’t need a boat,” he said. “It’s also extremely picturesque, which makes it all that more enjoyable.”

The river provides good habitat for trout, which need a pristine environment, Spaulding added. If it’s too warm or too polluted, they won’t survive.

“Every few years Idaho Fish and Game shocks the river to look at the health of the fish. There’s 2,500 fish per mile,” he said. “Silver Creek is double that, but the fish are smart there—harder to catch.”


The Hemingway Chapter of Trout Unlimited hopes to join hands with the Wood River Land Trust to pave the trails at Boxcar Bend with wood chips at a date to be determined. The trail is one of the most popular fishing access trails in the valley, according to Board Member Dave Spaulding.

Volunteers are welcome and will be rewarded with a picnic lunch.


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