A Big Winter for the Henry’s Fork – By Rene’ Harrop

Every month Fishtec presents a blog post written by American guide and author Rene’ Harrop. They get ‘proper’ winters across the pond – check out the images below!

With unusually warm temperatures and modest snowfall, I became spoiled during the past two winters on the Henry’s fork. In 2015, conditions reasonable for fishing were common throughout the month of January on the lower river, and by mid-February I was making the drive to Last Chance almost weekly to fish Baetis hatches at an elevation of nearly 7,000 feet.

Brave winter souls.

Brave winter souls.

At St. Anthony, 2,000 feet lower, spring arrived about 5 weeks earlier than usual and hatches such as March Browns, caddis, and Salmon flies were proportionately early as well. But there was a penalty to be paid for the absence of snowfall and frigid temperatures through a time when both weather features would be considered typical.

With reservoir storage well below normal, water flows in the Henry’s Fork were alarmingly low through late spring and early summer. However, the reverse was true in mid-summer when flows were increased to a level that became actually hazardous for wading and brought considerable disruption to the timing and volume of hatches.

Henry's Fork at Last Chance.

Henry’s Fork at Last Chance.

Fortunately, timely rain brought reduction of irrigation demands downstream, and river flows became considerably more stable from late summer into early fall.
With both Henry’s Lake and Island Park Reservoir depleted to seriously low levels, flows in the Henry’s Fork were reduced to well below what is considered ideal for the fishery in late October and would see only a minor increase as the year came to an end.

It is now a month into the new year and I have not fished since early December. In most years I would be suffering separation issues, but that is not the case in 2016.
Beginning in mid-December 2015, weather on the Henry’s Fork has been exactly what is needed to restore the necessary components of an outstanding fishery. With prolonged snow storms alternating with periods of extremely cold temperatures, winter is progressing in a mode that has refilled Henry’s Lake and Island Park Reservoir to 85% and 70% respectively. A current snowpack of 100% of average could even increase if weather forecasts for the coming 2 months are correct.

Our summer home in winter.

Our summer home in winter.

 

If there is light at the end of the tunnel with respect to fishing it is that most of the river is now ice free and temperatures have begun to climb above the freezing level on some days.

Deep snow even along the lower river will continue to complicate access to the water, but I am convinced that the first day of fishing in the new year is not too distant. Meanwhile, I will celebrate each new storm that continues to pile snow deep in the high country. This is like money in the bank for anyone who understands the importance of a big winter in sustaining the sport we love and the elements that support it. Spring will eventually come and all discomfort of winter will be quickly forgotten.

Winter Hibernation.

Winter Hibernation.

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Rene Harrop

About Rene Harrop

Yellowstone is a trout fishing paradise, and it’s here, just outside its eastern boundary, that you’ll find lifelong fly fisherman and fly tier Rene Harrop. An old school fishing pro’, Rene still runs the family guided fishing and fly tying business he set up with his partner Bonnie. Home is Henry’s Fork which lies close to the confluence of legendary rivers like the Madison, FireHole, Beaverhead, Missouri, Big Hole, Yellowstone, and the Snake. A fly fisherman from the age of nine, Rene is also an artist and fly fishing author of renown.