Monthly escapism to the land of the free, where the fishing is fantastic and the fly life just as good. Here Airflo fly line consultant Rene’ Harrop talks about the extraordinary fly hatches of his local Henry’s Fork.
Nature provides numerous ways to measure seasonal progress in the mountains. For a fly fisherman, however, no indicator is more reliable than the size of aquatic insects that emerge only in response to actual climatic conditions rather than a calendar date.
It is common to find freezing conditions and even snow as late as June and into July when the elevation exceeds five thousand feet. This level also describes habitat suitable for the biggest insect events when individual size of stoneflies and mayflies is considered.
On the Henry’s Fork, the giant salmon flies and golden stones are measured in inches and their appearance can ignite the interest of the largest trout in the river. But like the big mayflies known as drakes, emergence at the wrong time will cause the hatch to wither if the temperature is too cold. For this reason, we know that summer has arrived when the smallest fly we tie on is likely to be size ten or larger.
While salmon flies have run their course for another year and the golden stones are only recently beginning to show, we are currently in the heart of drake season. Though notably smaller than the size four and six stoneflies, Green, Brown, and Gray Drakes will dwarf any of the other mayflies we will see in the entire year.
Whether wading or floating, the big flies create a level of excitement that has the ability to cancel the discipline of even the most responsible adult. Succumbing to this annual temptation will almost always put me a week or two behind on most obligations and I will spend the rest of the summer trying to catch up.
The pace of drake time can be exhausting when a spinner fall of Gray Drakes can appear before eight A.M., and that is only the beginning. Green Drake spinners usually arrive a bit later in the morning and emergence can stretch well into the afternoon. Brown Drakes usually favor the last two hours of daylight and that can mean staying on the water beyond ten P.M. at this time of year. A break in the heat of the day can mean missing out on golden stone action, and when all possibilities are included, fourteen hours on the water become almost the norm.
To make matters even more interesting, a half dozen or more minor insect happenings can be added to the big flies on any given day, and this is on the Henry’s Fork alone.
With other great waters close by and all holding their own respective magic, a fly fisher could be driven to madness by all the choices, but what a way to go.