Friday, 29 July 2011

Henry's Fork of the Snake

Gerry back on the Fork after a 45 year absence.

Gerry and I decided a real fishing road-trip would be a good idea in late July and, by dog, we did it.

Gerry flew into Denver and I picked him up and drove us up to Laramie. The next morning we drove from Laramie up to Jackson Hole where we ate dinner on the porch at Calico in Wilson.  The Snake in Jackson was high and muddy. We drove up and over Teton pass into Idaho spending the night in Driggs. 

We were on the Henry's Fork above Harriman State Park the next morning.   Gerry had spent his youth fishing the Yellowstone area rivers with his parents: the Henry's Fork, the Madison and the Firehole was their summer home.  For many years they camped for a month and more along the Madison where Quake lake now is.  The lake was formed by a massive earthquake on July 17, 1959.  After the devastating quake they continued to fish the Yellowstone area for a few years but eventually refocused their fishing efforts to trout in lakes in British Columbia.  Gerry had not been back since.

Even though the reputation of the Henry's Fork is not what it once was, it is still a major destination for an international crowd and even with regular reports of poor fishing it is still crowded.

Instructions for "proper release" in English, Japanese, French and Spanish.

The fishing on the Fork is tough and technical.  We arrived on the water a bit late after a leisurely drive up from Driggs and then spent too much time in Lawson's old shop obtaining Idaho Fishing Licenses and some flies.  There were a few PMD's coming off as we walked down river and it looked promising, there were a few Caddis too. But that action turned off shortly after we arrived and neither of us hooked up, nor did we see anyone else hook up.

For me, fishing is not a competitive sport, at least not the way I practice it.  But even so, when I'm not catching fish and no-one else seems to be either, it provides some evidence that it may not be that I am doing everything wrong -- it may be that the fishing is just tough.  

The author in full fishing regalia.

 The evening hatch was more exciting.  We spotted a very large trout methodically rising behind a rock on the far bank. We waded across the river to work the fish.  There were a few other fish feeding as well. We took turns casting to that large riser for more than an hour.  We did not put him down, but neither could we interest him in any of our offerings.  There were sporadic small flurries of BWO's and Flavs hatching through the evening.  At one point I left Gerry to work the large bank riser. I waded out to try a pod of smaller fish working the main current.  I drifted my fly downstream to them and, with most of a flyline out on the water, I hooked up. I lost what was optimistically a 14" rainbow when it jumped. For me, and for Gerry, this spot and stalk style of dry fly fishing is perhaps the most enjoyable of all  and even though we did not hook up we both had a great evening.  In the fly shop the next day we were told that our large fish was probably taking Flav emergers. We both stocked up on a few.

The next morning we fished a mostly non-existent morning hatch to no avail.   We tried float-tubing Henry's Lake -- Gerry's first time out in a tube -- but the wind came up and we caught nothing.  We tried fishing down river at the takeout above Mesa falls, but caught nothing.

On Henry's Lake before the wind came up.

We did work that same fish for a second evening, this time armed with the magic Flav emergers.  Unfortunately, two oblivious blokes walked down the path along the top of the bank just where we were working the fish and put it down!

 That pretty much did it for us on the Henry's Fork, we'd been skunked and we decided to cut our losses and head to the Madison the next day.

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