I've lived in Boise since I was 5 years old. It's over doubled in population since, and back then $20 could buy the nicest birthday gifts I could imagine. In the early 2000s the runs were good and Fish and Game put so many hatchery Steelhead in the river each Fall we just assumed Dad would put one on the table for Thanksgiving and were usually right. In the twenty odd years I've lived in the valley, I've appreciated the river, ignored the river, floated the river, forgotten the river, explored the river, sat and watched the river on days so stressful I thought I'd have to quit my job. Sometimes I feel like I own this river and other times I feel like I barely know it at all.
The river starts up in some mountains that somehow don't seem that high up or far away and yet I've never really spent time in them. I hear dry fly fishing the North Fork in the Summer can be unbelievably fun, even if the fish aren't real big. I caught nice fish on the Middle Fork once, in a place I never expected fish to hold. The road up scared me so much that I've never gone back. I once took a boat up one fork or the other out of Arrowrock Reservoir after pulling an all-nighter, on a friend's advice that there was some crashed plane "just around the next corner", ran out of gas, sat dejectedly in the back of the boat casting a spoon while another friend walked along the shore dragging the boat back towards the main reservoir. That's actually how I caught my first Kokanee, I think. Some nice people with a nicer boat took pity on us and towed us in. Fun memory now but wow did I feel ashamed at the time. I've jumped into ice cold water near campgrounds on the South Fork, then made the quick dash to the neighboring hot spring. Oh, and I've certainly caught some nice Trout and Whitefish in that fork as well. I've driven over the river as it approaches the Snake on road trips out to Oregon and wondered at what point the Trout give way to Smallmouth, and whether there might be a magical place at a magical time where both hard fighting fish could be caught on the same outing.
And then last weekend I jumped on my bike and finally explored a stretch of the river in town I'd never been too. I biked 5 miles each way and won't tell you exactly where I started and ended. Each major intersection or access point I passed was full of other anglers, $20 Albertsons inflatables that are almost certainly bound not to survive the Summer, and adorable old couples who have probably put more miles on the greenbelt than I have on my latest car. But the crowds thinned as I kept peddling and I finally found a place with nobody else in sight. In town. On a Sunday. I caught a beautiful, wild trout no longer than 14 inches but shaped like a football and felt like I'd really achieved something. I made several casts with several flies to a rising fish that could be no longer than 8 inches, was refused repeatedly, and simply shook my head with amusement and gave up. I stood in one riffle and paused to appreciate my surroundings for a moment. As I watched the water more carefully, I realized I was surrounded by dozens actually probably hundreds of Trout fry. The water was crystal clear.
The river is incredible. And I couldn't help but be impressed- as I got back on my bike to head home with plenty of time for dinner and to prepare for another week of work- at how it supports a remarkably diverse set of recreational interests; evidenced by one lone guy in an inner tube floating serenely past my parking spot and over the stubborn rising fish.