For a fly fisherman living at high elevation, mood is generally dictated by distinct seasons. The pleasant days of early fall seem created for still water, and I am constantly distracted by what might be happening at Henry’s Lake.
As the days begin to cool and precipitation arrives more frequently, Baetis hatches and rising trout will occupy my mind well into October. But when the days are shortened by a south sliding sun and temperature dips nightly to below freezing, my passion for streamer fishing and big browns can border on obsession.
Made gentle by the lower flows of autumn, the lower Henry’s Fork becomes as accessible to the wading angler as at any point in the year, and brown trout activity becomes ignited by the spawning urge.
On any day of reasonable weather, I will be found somewhere above or below Ashton Reservoir where brown trout will migrate toward prime spawning water much like steelhead.
With a history of producing browns approaching 30 lbs, I fish an oversize streamer on a sturdy 7 weight fly fishing rod in constant anticipation of something larger than I have ever encountered near my home in Idaho.
As is nearly always the case when the objective is the biggest fish in the river, the action is seldom fast. Though there are times when I come up empty, I expect to tangle with at least one brown of 24 inches or better on any given day.
My favorite water type is a long run of moderate depth and current speed. A floating line allows a systematic probing of likely holding water with a variety of presentation techniques, which vary from dead drift to a rapid retrieve of the streamer. Generally, however, the best results are derived from a pulsing motion administered mainly with the rod tip and aided by a series of mends that will keep the fly swimming throughout the drift. And there is no setting the hook with this type of fishing – the fish is just on.
While I am sometimes joined by wife Bonnie, son Shayne or another family member, I often find myself alone on water that is usually deserted at this time of year. As shadows engulf the canyon at day’s end and the line begins to ice in the guides, I think of a winter that can arrive at any time. But it is the fever for brown trout that keeps me internally warmed and looking forward to just one more day.