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Valley Voices with Mike Pepper

This feature is a part of our Valley Voices series, celebrating the folks that make up our community and amplify the importance of the Big Wood River.

Mike Pepper: To say that fly fishing is important to me is an understatement. I was lucky to move to Idaho in the late 70’s and quickly discovered the nearby Big Wood and Silver Creek. With mostly Washington state waters to compare to, it quickly became clear to me, this is what fly fishing is supposed to be like. 

I've been fortunate to fish many famous and not-so-famous rivers, but it was the Big Wood that became my home water. I can truthfully say that every day on the Big Wood is a great day. I love the familiarity of knowing many of its runs, as well as the excitement in relearning the river every year after runoff. Although most days included landing a few beautiful fish, just the opportunity to wade its clear waters in one of the most beautiful places in the world is a special and precious experience.

My connection to the river and the Valley goes beyond fly fishing. It was made even stronger with the acquisition of a second home in the Valley in the late 80’s and my work on a variety of community planning projects in the Valley over the years. 

Most recently, I enjoy honoring the fish and river through my artwork. With a substantial amount of time spent in the Valley, it’s become clear what a critical resource the Big Wood is to the Valley, not only to the fly-fishing community, but environmentally, economically, and visually. It is a key element to the Valley’s identity and sense of place. But it’s also clear that the Big Wood isn’t what it used to be.  In recent years, fish and insect populations have noticeably declined, and the river’s natural flow and riparian areas have been affected. For the sake of the river’s future and its importance to the Valley, this is a trend that must be changed.

Like so many others who care deeply about the Big Wood and the Valley, I’m pleased to support the collaborative efforts of Project Big Wood to understand the causes for the Big Wood’s decline and take action to mend it.

PBW: Favorite hatch on the big wood? 

MP: . My favorite hatch on the wood is a green drake. 

PBW: Dawn, midday or dusk for fishing? 

MP:  Mid day

PBW: If you could only fish one fly on the big wood forever, what fly would it be? 

MP: Grasshopper

Mike took up watercolor painting a couple years ago as a new way to honor these beautiful fish and to create unique memories of special days on the river. More of Mike’s images can be seen at the Saddletree Gallery and Lost River Outfitters in Ketchum, Picabo Angler in Picabo, Idaho Troutfitters in Twin Falls, or his Instagram page @colorsonthefly and his website

Thanks to Mike for sharing his incredible artwork and his personal connection and love for the Big Wood river.


About Valley Voices:

As we embark on restoring and protecting The Big Wood River, we invite you to join us in celebrating the voices that make up our community, amplifying the importance of the Big Wood River, and cultivating a shared commitment to its preservation. Together, we have the power to ensure that future generations will continue to find inspiration, joy, and a connection to nature along its banks.

Have a story of your own to share with us? Shoot us a message at

Read our mission statement here: Discover Project Big Wood


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