New Tricks for an Old Dog By Rene’ Harrop October, 2018

It is no secret that I am a man of rivers. Drawn to their mysteries at a very young age, my identity has been forged on moving water where a fly rod has been a constant companion for more than sixty years.

Stillwater action On Sheridan lake

With dry fly fishing as the primary focus, my profession as a fly tyer hinges upon understanding trout and the organisms that draw them into view as they feed on a fluid surface. Knowledge and skill are the primary components of finding big trout and then overcoming their resistance to an artificial fly. Over the decades, my comfort on the water has evolved in proportion to the confidence gained from a near obsession that demands a solution to every problem encountered. In recent years, however, a growing distraction has pulled me toward a dimension of fly fishing that forces a level of humility that I sometimes struggle to accept.

Henry’s Lake Prize

The mental exercise of probing the depths of still water has become a stimulating factor that now accounts for perhaps fifteen or twenty percent of my attention. The steep learning curve installed by such a late start in an already long life might have compelled an early withdrawal were it not for a mentor several decades younger than I.

Gareth Jones with Sheridan’s best

Gareth Jones is a still water master of international acclaim, and we fished together again just last week. Every visit from this friend of more than a dozen years has been an opportunity to learn, and his latest was no exception.

Fishing two distinctly different lakes over the four day visit, Gareth again proved an uncommon ability to quickly ascertain the requirements of getting fish in constantly changing weather conditions varying from near disastrous to ideal.

It mattered little to Gareth that cold, strong wind and discolored water wreaked havoc on Henry’s Lake, a splendid public fishery of notable reputation. He had a solution for the problems that drove nearly everyone else from the water, and the day ended with more than a dozen respectable trout.

Another Big One

On privately owned Sheridan Lake, Gareth’s still water prowess kicked into high gear in fall weather that could not have been more pleasant. For an observer, it was like watching Houdini perform magic tricks as fish after fish succumbed to his mastery.

Through each impressive demonstration, Gareth provided detailed explanation of technique along with generous access to his impressive fly boxes. At days end my brain was swimming with new information that will keep me busy on the water and at the tying bench for at least a year. I know too that the learning will continue on Gareth’s next visit, which I hope is soon.

A Good Ride

 

Big Flies – Big Trout by Rene’ Harrop

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.

Green Drake Brown

Green Drake Brown

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.

Green Drake And A Beer

Green Drake And A Beer

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.

Gray Drake Spinner

Gray Drake Spinner

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.

A Net Full Of Rainbow

A Net Full Of Rainbow

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.

 

Return to Still Water By Rene’ Harrop

For a trout fisherman, it would be difficult to picture a region with more choices of water than Yellowstone country. Flowing from its hub, which is the National park, are the Yellowstone, Snake, and Madison, and the Henry’s Fork lies just outside its boundaries. Smaller but no less attractive are the Fire Hole, Gallatin, and a host of diminutive spring creeks.

Hauling On Henry's

Hauling On Henry’s lake

Through the decades I have left boot prints on some of the world’s finest trout streams and my professional identity has been shaped mostly by moving water. But in recent years a different type of fishing has begun to challenge a dedication to the rivers and streams that have historically dominated my attention.

Because of elevation that rises well over a mile above sea level, the lakes and reservoirs that lie within convenient distance can remain ice-covered well into May. With most rivers open and spring hatches well underway, I do not suffer for lack of fishing opportunity but I confess to a sense of anticipation as the time draws near for a return to still water.

Sheridan Kamloops

Sheridan lake Kamloops trout

I’m not sure if the influence of my friend, Gareth Jones is a curse or a blessing, but it is certain that he is largely responsible for the distraction represented by Henry’s, Hebgen, and Sheridan Lakes. From this point forward, at least thirty percent of my fishing days will be occupied by the mysteries of still water, and this will end only when the lakes are again frozen over in late fall.

Following a master’s lead to considerable extent, a sizable portion of the flies tied in winter for my personal use are still water patterns, and I am excited to test the new ideas that come during the season of contemplation.

Why Still Water?

Why Still Water?

Though the mind state of fishing still water is in contrast to the more familiar mental requirement of fishing a river, it is no less satisfying or rewarding. I view my time on the lakes as a companion rather than competition to my loyalty to moving water and my life as a fisherman is made richer by having such a wide diversity of choice. How lucky can a man be?

Light at the End of the Tunnel – Rene’ Harrop

Airflo blogger Rene’ Harrop muses on the spring fishing that lies ahead….

Through much of a winter that seems to stretch endlessly in some years, May can exist like a distant light at the end of a tunnel.

Twenty eighteen has been one of those years when temperatures have remained consistently below normal through the months of March and April. As a result, precipitation has arrived in the form of snow at least as often as the rain that typically separates the storms of spring from the season just passed.

There are many reasons to look forward with great anticipation to the arrival of May and most if not all are related to weather conditions. Beyond Baetis and midges, spring hatches on the Henry’s Fork are dependent upon stable water and air temperatures that are consistently above freezing. This includes nearly every aquatic insect above size sixteen and there is no exception to this hard rule.

Fortunately, the lower Fork has finally moved passed the time when snow is not an impediment to accessing the water and bundling against the cold is no longer a constant requirement. It is a different story in the high country, however.

Early May is the traditional time to change my residence from five thousand feet elevation to a location nearly two thousand feet higher. In most years I have succeeded in meeting that long awaited target but this year that may not be the case.

Soon To Be Occupied

Soon To Be Occupied

As recent as late April nearly three feet of snow surrounded our summer cabin and nighttime temperatures were still dropping into the low double digits. Comparing this to the green lawn and early blooming flowers in our yard at St. Anthony is a description of two different worlds that lie less than fifty miles apart.

Trading caddis and March Brown hatches in sixty degree weather for a return to conditions left more than a month behind is tough to consider as the calendar turns to the fifth month of the year.

Early Rainbow

Early Rainbow

Right now I am thinking it will be at least two weeks until our annual move back to Island Park can be justified. In the interim, my fishing at Last Chance will continue to be a one hour commute, although recently it has been well worth the drive.

And while I stand in the river with snow still lining the banks and fishing a size twenty Baetis rather than a caddis two sizes larger, I am compelled to remember that this will change at some near point.

Spring Brown

May has arrived and before month’s end an extra-long winter will become only a memory as it is replaced by another new season that holds no bounds for a fly fisherman.

And I plan to be there for it all.

Fly Fishing Slovenia by Alps Fly Fish

Soča valley in Slovenia is considered one of the most spectacular destinations in the world for fly fishing. In its emerald waters live the mysterious Marble Trout. ALPS FLY FISH invites you to know it!

Slovenia is known to many of us by Ernest Hemingway’s famous book “A Farewell to Arms” or for being the home country of Melania Trump, the wife of the current president of the United States. But what not all fishermen know is that this small country in Europe is one of the best destinations in the world for the practice of fly fishing.

Despite the small size of this country located on the sunny side of the Alps, there are thousands of kilometers of rivers for fishing. In a radius less than two hours we can fish on alpine streams, lakes or clear chalkstream.

Some of the most beautiful are:

The Soča: Emerald waters of Soča River.

Sava Bohinjka: One of the most beautiful rivers situated next to the famed Bled Castle.

Radovna River: A wild river that goes through the Triglav National Park.

Idrijca River: Excellent river for trophy Marble Trout.

Lepena River: Pretty alpine stream of turquoise waters.

The fisherman who visits Slovenia can enjoy fishing for different species such as:

Marble trout: It is a unique salmonid in the world that is located in countries of the Adriatic Sea basin such as Croatia, Italy, Slovenia … It is characterized by its great aggressiveness.

Rainbow trout: It is an allochthonous trout that comes from hatchery. The waters of many rivers in Slovenia are repopulated continuously by these fish existing excellent populations already naturalized.

Adriatic Grayling: Are a kind of Grayling whose populations are extraordinary in some lowland rivers like Unec. Grayling fishing is spectacular in the months when there are May fly hatches.

Also is possible to fish for Brown trout and Taimen.

The Taímen is fished from November to March and the trout fishing season begins in March and ends in October. The variety of rivers to fish in Slovenia is very large so it is very difficult to determine which are the best months of the year.

Bovec town is located in the upper part of the Soča River Valley, is considered the capital of fishing in Slovenia and one of the points used for a lot of anglers as a center of operations on his fishing holiday in Slovenia.

If you want a more information about the destination you can visit the ALPS FLY FISH Facebook page or email alpsflyfish@gmail.com

Should you need some guidance on tackle for destination fishing, make sure you check out this blog post by experienced global angler Chris Ogborne!

Urgings of a Short Month By Rene’ Harrop

The latest musings from respected American fly fishing author Rene’ Harrop.

The days of deep winter in Henry’s Fork country do not necessarily end with January. But while February can feature equally cold temperatures and even more snowfall, the notion of a coming spring can begin to accelerate with its arrival.

February On The Fork

February On The Fork

With daylight hours noticeably longer and the potential for ice free water an increasing likelihood, the state of progress on winter projects can become a source of discomfort if distractions cause me to fall behind.

For me, few things are more stressful than losing a day of prime fishing to an indoor task that must be completed before spring. This was not a problem during the big winter last year, but 2018 is shaping up to be somewhat different.

Rene’ in action on the fork!

The severely cold temperatures, deep snow, and low winter flows of 2017 have yet to materialize and much of the river is ice free as of this writing. With more water flowing in the Henry’s Fork than I have seen in recent times, I am anticipating some of the best late winter and early spring fishing we have experienced in several years.

In the absence of extreme winter hardship, past experience has shown a healthier and more active trout population and aquatic insect life has displayed similar effect as well. If I am correct and the weather pattern we have seen thus far continues, there is no question that my personal discipline will be severely tested in the weeks that lie ahead.

March looms just beyond a month that carries only twenty eight days of relatively distraction free opportunity to finish restocking depleted fly boxes in advance of a new season and to complete household chores assigned at the beginning of winter. If neglected, some of those chores can carry a penalty administered by a stern enforcer.

While a mild winter and early spring cannot be assured at this point, there are signs that could indicate the arrival of Baetis hatches as early as the end of the month and strong midge action could arrive considerably earlier. But this leaves me with a dilemma.

February Distraction

February Distraction….

It is almost unnatural for a fisherman to hope for weather that would discourage time on the water with a fly rod, but that is what I am facing right now. Reviewing a checklist, I am finding enough unfinished projects to bring urgency into the need for more time.

Being forced to remain indoors by blizzard conditions or subzero temperatures is something I have never particularly enjoyed, but I also know my weakness in resisting a pleasant February day that holds the potential for rising trout. Shirking my responsibilities at home for the sake of fishing is a character-flaw my wife has accepted for more than fifty years. The resumption of real winter weather is probably all that could prevent further testing of her patience, but I am not getting carried away in this regard. I’m ready for spring.

Rene’ Harrop is a big fan of the Airflo Super Dri Elite fly line – his ‘go to’ all purpose taper line for the Henry’s Fork and many other venues. Check them out here.

REVEALED – The best places in Scotland to chase early season silver!

If you are looking forward to the salmon season starting there is no better place to begin your campaign than Scotland! This guest blog post by Salmon Fishing Holidays Scotland explores the best spring salmon rivers north of the border.

A beautiful River Tay spring salmon

A beautiful River Tay spring salmon

As a salmon angler, the highlight of any season has to be if you are lucky enough to catch an early season spring salmon on the fly.

These magnificent fish are highly prized among the salmon fishing fraternity and rightly so. The salmon caught at this time of year are usually large in size and put up a terrific fight.

As our salmon fishing season in Scotland starts in mid- January, you could probably classify early season spring fishing as being from January through to the end of March.

So, is it all about luck at this time of year, or are there some ways in which you can tilt the odds of catching an early springer in your favour?

As with any salmon fishing, a lot does have to do with luck, but by making some informed decisions, and choosing your fishing locations carefully, you certainly stand a better chance.

It is a bit of a misnomer to refer to salmon fishing in Scotland as “spring fishing” from January through to March. Often, at this time of year, river levels are high, and the water is cold.

As anglers we are regularly dodging bitterly cold winds and snow showers. So, conditions are far from spring like and regularly more akin to winter. In such testing conditions, you want to maximise your chances, as often because of the weather and the limited hours of daylight, you have a short window of opportunity through the course of the day in which to fish.

When you are considering salmon fishing locations so early in the season, you need to take a few factors into account. Firstly, fresh spring salmon can be quite aggressive and can often readily take a fly. So, the difficult part is trying to locate the fish. This is much easier to do on a smaller river. In the Scottish Highlands, many of the rivers are much smaller compared to their central and southern counterparts, and with the season opening early in this region of Scotland, there are some excellent opportunities to bag some early season silver.

The Thurso river opens on the 11th of January. Over the years, the Thurso has consistently produced decent numbers of fish during the early part of the season. Each year is different, and much can depend on water heights and temperature but usually the first fresh fish is caught from the river towards the end January or at the beginning of February. From mid-February onwards, a steady stream of fish are caught and catches build through March. With the Thurso being a relatively small river, it can be easily covered with a fly rod. So as an angler, you can be reasonably confident that if there is a fresh fish in the pool, it will most likely see your fly. This can be such an advantage when the fish are few and far between.

Chasing springers in the Scottish Highlands

Chasing springers in the Scottish Highlands

Another river in the Highlands that has an excellent pedigree for producing early fish is the Helmsdale. The Helmsdale river in recent years has produced fresh fish on a number of occasions in mid-January. The Helmsdale is slightly bigger in size compared to the Thurso but most of the pools are still easily covered with a fly rod. Each year, the Helmsdale River Board offers locals and visitors the chance to fish the river free of charge from opening day onwards for a few days. This is a fantastic opportunity for hardy fishers to wet a line on one of Scotland’s most famous salmon rivers, and also to have a realistic chance of catching an early fresh fish.

The River Morrsiton makes up part of the Ness system. It flows into Loch Ness at Fort Augustus. It is another river in the Scottish Highlands which has a good reputation for producing early season salmon. The river opens its banks to anglers in mid-January and fresh fish can be caught from opening week onwards. The River Morriston is similar in size to the Thurso, making it a perfect location to ambush a springer. Catches on the river improve through February and into March, and given adequate water this is one Highland river well worth considering.

Over the past two seasons, anglers on the River Spey have enjoyed some terrific early season sport. Indeed, last year there were decent numbers of fish caught from the river in February and March. The Spey opens in early February and much depends on the water temperature and height, as to where the best sport is likely to be had. If both the water temperature and height is low, then the beats between Craigellachie and Fochabers are likely to produce the best sport. However, as we move into March and the water gets warmer, the fish tend to run upstream in greater numbers, and anywhere between Grantown and Aberlour can be well worth a cast. The Spey is such a magnificent river, that for most anglers, it does not matter if they are catching fish, as it is such a joy just to wet a line on.

Spring fishing on the River Spey

Spring fishing on the River Spey

For many years, the River Dee has been one of the most prolific early season salmon rivers in Scotland. The river opens in early February and consistently produces fish from opening day onwards. In recent years, the early spring fishing has not been quite as good, but last year there were still some lovely fish caught in February In March. Most of the pools on the river can be quite comfortably covered and some of the water is just made for fly fishing. Just like the Spey the best places to fish on the River Dee are dictated by water temperature. Usually in February, it is the beats below Banchory that seem to perform the most consistently. As we move into March, anywhere from Aboyne Bridge downstream can be well worth a cast. If it has been an especially mild early spring, then even beats further upstream can be quite productive.

Spring on the River Dee

Spring on the River Dee

Finally, we come to the mighty River Tay, which opens on the 15th of January. The Tay produces fresh fish from opening day onwards. Usually, at this time of year the majority of the fish caught are heading for Loch Tay and the headwaters of this vast river system. However, as we move through February and into March, fish destined for the River Tummel (one of the rivers main tributaries) start entering the system. This usually coincides with an increase in catches especially for the beats located on the middle river. As well all know, the River Tay is anything but small, so it can make finding that early spring salmon a little more difficult. However, if the water is at a reasonable height, the Tay can also produce some good numbers of salmon early in the season. In January and February, if the water temperature is low it is often the beats on the lower river which can perform the best. There are a couple of temperature barriers in this area of the river like the famous Linn Pool and Catholes Weir which the fish have to negotiate prior to heading further upstream. As water temperatures rise, the beats on the middle river usually come into their own. At this time of year, the Tay has some excellent salmon fishing opportunities to offer, at a very reasonable cost.

There is no denying the fact that fishing early in the season can be tough, with fresh fish often being few and far between. The Scottish weather can be inclement, and river levels unpredictable. If, however, you carefully consider your options and make informed decisions about where you are going to fish, you can certainly improve your chances of making contact with some early season silver!

About the author: Salmon Fishing Holidays Scotland (SFHS) are a bespoke holiday tour operator offering the most immersive, inspiring fly fishing holidays in Scotland. So if you need a perfect start to your season then get in touch with SFHS here.

Should you need further inspiration, be sure to give them a follow on Facebook, or check out the free SSFS ezine, which is simply jam packed with fantastic salmon fishing imagery, stories and tactical tips.

Thirty One Days of Distraction By Rene’ Harrop

As a man well beyond the prime working years, I do not typically complain about a schedule completely compatible with my age. However, there comes a time when nearly anything other than fishing becomes a source of resentment.

The thirty one days between the end of September and the beginning of November represent the most enticing diversity of fly fishing opportunity that Yellowstone country will offer during the entire year.

Henry's Lake Distraction

Henry’s Lake Distraction.

Almost without exception, every lake and river in this region becomes a worthwhile destination during the month of October, and some are absolutely irresistible.

In the low, clear flows of the Henry’s Fork, big rainbows lift lazily to the small autumn Baetis in a daily feeding event that never fails to hold my interest. But at some point my mind will shift to Henry’s Lake where every cast holds the potential for the trout of a lifetime.

Baetis Memory

Baetis Memory.

The same type of distraction exists when I am fishing Sheridan Creek with the extraordinary lake of the same name situated close by. In either instance I am known to become a little frantic in trying to race from one place to another in order to make the most of every day that remains before winter’s arrival.

Cold Feet On Sheridan Creek

Cold Feet On Sheridan Creek

Fortunately many of the most tempting waters are not separated by prohibitive distance nor are they far from my Idaho home. North into Montana, Hebgen Lake beckons from thirty miles away and another thirty miles will take me to its source. Although now in Yellowstone Park, the Madison River becomes loaded in fall with migrating trout from Hebgen, which gives the sensation at times that I am fishing to old friends. And if time and ambition allow I can be on the Fire Hole in less than another half hour.

Late October will find me at our winter home in St. Anthony where the lower Henry’s Fork offers its own brand of fly fishing magic. A bigger river for much of the year, I will now wade a friendlier flow where the general emphasis is upon streamer fishing for large resident browns. It is at about this point that midges will become the primary source of dry fly fishing, and the month will often end with ice along the water’s edge and several inches of snow on the banks.

October Objective

October Objective.

It is good that the pressure of my work is close to its lowest annual point because I am not a very responsible man in October.

Autumn’s Test By Rene’ Harrop

It is not difficult to understand why some fly fishermen choose to avoid rivers like the Henry’s Fork after the month of August.

With low, clear water and currents complicated by aquatic vegetation near the surface, approaching and fooling a big trout with a dry fly is never more daunting than at summer’s end.

Passing The Test

Passing The Test

As the days become shorter and cooler fishing a fly larger than size eighteen and a tippet stronger than 6X becomes a luxury, and only the most precise presentation has any chance of yielding a positive result.

Adding to the difficulty of achieving complete success are extra wary trout that seem to understand that powering into a heavy weed bed will all but guarantee quick redemption from the mistake of accepting a fraudulent fly. Yet despite these many obstacles, this is the time I enjoy most.

Extraction

Extraction – a bend in the fly fishing rod

In fly fishing, like many other of life’s undertakings, the significance of any accomplishment is measured by the difficulty presented by the objective, and we are only tested by that which is difficult.

Prevailing in an unforgiving situation is mainly dependent upon patience and concentration. Certainly, only advanced presentation skill will enable a realistic possibility that the fly will be accepted, but I will never be more prepared than in September.

Working A Weed Bed

Working A Weed Bed

Precision honed by more than one hundred days on the water during the preceding months permits a sense that I can make the cast that will place the fly where it needs to be in most conditions, but being defeated by a trout is something that I accept, however grudgingly.

While the challenge seems great with the arrival of autumn hatches that are mostly very small it will only intensify in the days remaining before winter’s arrival, but I will treasure every one.

Making The Grade

Making the grade with Airflo fishing tackle

Cultural Exchange By Rene’ Harrop

The ability to attract visitors is a notable component in the reputation of one of the world’s premier trout streams.

Although varying in volume, the months of June through October will find that the Henry’s Fork will be occupied by far fewer residents than those from somewhere else.

Henry's Fork Treasure

Henry’s Fork Treasure

As one who calls this place home, I am constantly stimulated by new introductions or reunion with visitors whom I consider friends.

In nearly every instance I find initial commonality regardless of the distance they have traveled or the culture that separates us. In fishing the Henry’s Fork we are looking for the same thing, which is to test ourselves against the defiant trout for which this river is so well known. And remarkably, those who might seem most removed from the details of dealing with a big Henry’s Fork rainbow are those who impress me most.

Sweet Success

Sweet Success

Nearly all are considerably younger than I am but their intellectual and physical abilities serve to elevate them beyond even some of the world’s most capable fly fishers, and most come from foreign continents that lay thousands of miles from Idaho.

With passion that matches my own combining with reverence for what the Henry’s Fork experience represents, these adventurous emissaries from afar become my teachers in terms of understanding the power of a special place and how far its influence can travel.

With their assistance, I have learned that the ability to think and observe is not owned by any one culture and that fly fishing experience can come from virtually anywhere.

Upstream Lie

Upstream Lie

With the awareness that true talent travels well, I fish in the company of men who apply uncommon discipline and determination that inspire even an old river rat with more than sixty years of history on the Henry’s Fork.

While sharing time on the water is most important, the value of my long distance friendships is not limited to just fishing. Through conversation I learn that we are not that different as human beings and the things we truly care about are nearly identical.

A Smile Tells It All

A Smile Tells It All

And in a time when it is most needed, such international harmony and good will paints a better picture for the future of our planet.