So, the date finally came, and we headed up to eastern Idaho to fish the famous Henry’s Fork of the Snake. I must say, I’ve never seen a river like this. Long meandering river flowing south with hatches of PMDs, Caddis, Stoneflies, and Midges all at once. Despite the challenges with bugs and weather, we seemed to do pretty well. Here’s a recap of the days I documented.
I met my father at Denver International Airport awaiting our flight into Jackson, WY. Upon our arrival, storms were already brewing. Jackson Hole Airport is probably one of the smallest airports I’ve seen, but it was nestled against the Teton range with beautiful views. We grabbed our rental car, and after a quick stop in Jackson, we headed over the pass into Victor, Idaho where our ‘cabin’ awaited. It really wasn’t much of a cabin, but a ginormous house, provided by the Fly Fishing Frenzy contest I won last October. We unloaded all our gear, etc., and I had to rig up and try some of the ponds on the grounds for some Yellowstone cutthroat. These ponds would be the bane of my trip, as I could see large cutts coming to the edge, and then turning out into the dark middle. Stripping streamers was our best bet, but they wouldn’t have any of them – as if they knew I was a greenhorn to the area. The week was young, and we were hitting the Henry’s Fork for the first time the next day, so we turned in early for our 6am waking.
I beat the alarm on Sunday excited to hit the Henry’s. We drove north to meet our guide, Nick Minor, at Premier Fly Fishing in Ashton. The rain was falling at a steady pace, but we geared up, jumped in Nick’s truck—which was towing an X-13 skiff—and headed to Oar Bridge to float down to Chester for the first part of the day. The morning was slow, fishing double nymph rigs. A few hits, but nothing landed. The rain picked up, so after we pulled the skiff in, we headed up river to Warm River to float back down to Ashton.
It seemed that we were the only boat on the water for this float. And while it kept raining, I moved to some bright streamers and began hitting the banks in hopes a brown would strike. Sure enough, after only a few casts, I hooked a nice brown and landed him within a few minutes. Probably around 18 inches, the colors were amazing and this trout just about made my entire trip. Keeping with a dry-dropper rig, my father landed a few nice rainbows, when WHAM, he hooked a very large bow that took us up river about 30 yards. Doing all he could to keep the fish on, Nick got his workout for the day rowing up river and finally hopping out to pull the boat further. The bow had wrapped himself around a large rock, but was still hooked. Unfortunately, there was no budging the leader from the rock, so we had to break the line and let him run. We landed a few more nice rainbows from there, but by the time we got a mile or so from the Ashton take-out, our arms and backs were blown. The Henry’s Fork had lived up to its name.
I woke to rain pounding against the window, which made it a little hard to get out of bed. Nevertheless, we were on the road by 7:30. After a quick stop in Ashton to pick up some flies that had worked the previous day, we headed north to Island Park. With the rain still coming down hard, we kept driving to go check out West Yellowstone near the Madison River. As we pulled in, the rain began to clear, but the river was completely blown. With no success from the banks we just kept driving towards the Firehole in Yellowstone. A long delay for a Bison herd and some jackass in a camper driving off the road pretty much sealed our day. We kept driving down through Yellowstone and into Teton National Park. With the views and attractions, we took the rest of the day simply site-seeing. Beautiful mountains surrounded by massive lakes. Large geysers and cauldrons were amazing. I’d never been to Yellowstone, so taking a day to rest and view the beautiful forest was just the right thing. We finally made it back to Jackson, had a quick bite to eat, and then headed back over the pass to our place in Victor. It was time to try my hand at the cutt that had been mocking me. Of course, it was pretty dark by then, so I stripped some mouse patters across the top, but to no avail. That bastard cutt was getting on my nerves.
We woke to a sunny morning and again headed north to Ashton, then on to Island Park. From there, we geared up to fish Box Canyon. With the flows up, it was tough going near Last Chance. Had a few hits, but nothing landed, so we headed a little north to Island Park reservoir. Just below the damn we started throwing large rubber leg stones. It was tough fishing, but a beautiful place. I landed a nice rainbow, but that was about it. We drove back south with stops in Ashton, Driggs, and Victor before finally settling at the Knotty Pine where we had a great meal of meatloaf and beers. From there, it was back to the cabin, and to stalk my cutthroat. Again, circling the pond armed with streamers and mouse patterns, I caught a glimpse and started launching. That bastard took off into the middle of the lake and I looked like Smethurst in “Running Down the Man” chasing him around the pond – again to no avail.
Our fifth and final day fishing the famous water of eastern Idaho. We woke again early because there was a chance of rain by noon. Heading north again, we got a tip that there may be good fishing just north of Ashton near Oarton Bridge – just south of Harriman Park. We took a small road off the bridge and then across the second cattle grade, we hung a left on Wood road. Here, we ran into muddy deep holes and were wondering if we were off-course. Finally, we circled around and started following the river. There were fence posts, but no fence, so we took our chances and began fishing on the river with dry-droppers. Prince nymphs quickly started landing fish, so we kept with it. All kinds of bugs were popping, but we knew the fish were keying in on the princes. After a while, some older gentlemen drove up and were confused about why we were nymphing, since apparently 99% of the anglers there would go with dries.
I eventually rounded a cliff corner into what is known as ‘Piney Point’. As I continued to fish the dry-dropper, all of a sudden fish were rising everywhere! With four types of bugs in the air, I had no idea what they were feeding on, so I tied on a double dry rig with caddis trailing a PMD. Within ten minutes I had landed two bows on the PMD and switched out the caddis for another PMD. Thirty minutes in, I must have landed over six fish, but didn’t pull a double. Still, it was so fun catching those small bows on dries one after another.
The day ended and we headed back into Ashton with one last stop at Premier Fly Fishing. The salesman at the counter said Royce was in a meeting, but I quickly figured out he was in the office with Marc Crapo and Aaron Peterson. I asked him to just poke his head in and tell him I was there. The three came out and I was happy to see all of them at once. I had met Marc at the F3T in Denver in January and we were staying at Aaron’s place in Victor. We talked a little fly-fishing, I gave my thanks for all their hospitality, and then we headed back to Victor to start packing. But before packing, I had to try one last time at the cutthroat that had been avoiding my flies all week. I didn’t see a thing, but kept throwing streamers and mouse patterns until dark. Nothing.
The next day we cleaned up and headed for home. Although we could have landed many more fish, it was an epic trip I’ll never forget. Oh, and Mr. Cutthroat – I’ll be back. Next time, your ass is mine.