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
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 – 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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Off on your travels this summer? Whether it’s a dedicated fishing break, or just a rod snuck away on a family holiday, a lot of us will be on the road this summer. But if you want to get the best from your trip, you’ll need to be prepared. We’ve asked Dom Garnett for some timely advice. Here are his top 10 tips for the travelling angler.
Successful fishing abroad just takes a little careful planning. Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.
1. Make a list
Once you’re on the road, you can’t nip home, so be prepared. Make a list of all your basics, from rods and reels to lures and cameras. It’s worth doing just for peace of mind, and you’ll be able to use your list again next time.
2. Protect your neck
There are things that save your neck time and again on long haul fishing trips. I always store a few essentials in the boot and they come with me on any holiday: Bottled water; a hat (wide brim is best); sun block; spare socks and a towel. Get a simple first aid kit too.
Local tackle shops might not be what you expected, so be prepared! Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.
3. Map it out
Mapping out where you’re going will save you time and hassle when you get there. The internet is a great resource for maps, postcodes and so on. I tend to go low tech on holiday and have them written down too – if you’re in the middle of nowhere with a poor signal, a hard copy beats Google every time. Maps and directions can also be screen-shotted on your mobile phone, as can fishing licenses and addresses.
4. Be social
We live in a brilliant age for networking with other anglers. I’ve been on a lot of fishing trips simply through making friends on Facebook, messaging a blogger, or following up a conversation. So be friendly. Ask questions. You may get some great advice, or better still make a new friend.
An American smallmouth bass, from a summer road trip. Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.
5. Bait’s motel
Don’t court disaster by travelling with too much bait, or filthy live stuff. It can smell worse than election expenses in a hot car. If you want to take maggots, worms or other fresh bait, it needs to be put in a cooler bag or box, and well packed! Boilies, pellets and groundbaits are much easier to manage. If you’re flying, get your bait when you arrive.
If time is limited, or you’re juggling fishing with family time, lure fishing is probably my favourite method. A travel rod and a couple of boxes of lures take up little space and you can sneak in short sessions whenever the chance arises.
Fly tackle is similarly light, with a fly box or two weighing next to nothing. Chris Ogborne’s recent blog for Turrall has some great recommendations for hitting wild rivers and the coast this summer.
Invest in some travel kit that won’t take up much space. Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.
7. Rods, bags and customs
Airport staff can be an utter pain when it comes to taking fishing tackle on holiday. They like slapping on extra charges, or going right through your things. Be polite though, and above all be prepared. Lures, scissors and bait can raise their hackles if included in hand luggage. Have everything well organised, smile and they shouldn’t give you too many problems.
Rods need to be well packed, padded and in tubes if you are on a long haul flight. Many airlines will insist that they go in the hold luggage, so do pack well. I swear they play football with some of the cases.
There is no substitute for local knowledge and guides are worth their weight in gold. OK, so you might not fancy paying extra. But a guide can save days of guesswork and put you right on the fish. Furthermore, the new skills and knowledge you pick up will last for more than just a day.
Local guides offer know-how and experiences you’ll never forget. Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.
9. Water-tight packing
Wet gear or water-damaged kit are bad news on any journey. Bring a large zip or plastic bag to store pongy nets and always take a waterproof hike bag for your phone and camera. I always wrap things like cameras in bubble wrap for the long haul.
10. Go boldly forth…
Finally, my last tip is to be brave, try something new and challenge yourself. There are so many amazing countries out there and not all cost the earth to travel to. Look for cheap flights and anything is possible. The same is true in your own country. If you haven’t already, why not try your hand at the Wye Valley and the Norfolk Broads. Or the Scottish Highlands and rugged coast of Cornwall (see last year’s blog on our top UK fishing destinations for five great options closer to home).
Jason Coggins fishes the Isle of Skye. You needn’t travel far to find good fishing.
More from our blogger
Read two-dozen great angling tales from Dom Garnett in his most recent book Crooked Lines. With original illustrations and travels from Arctic Norway and the streets of Manhattan, it makes great summer reading. Find it at www.dgfishing.co.uk or as a £4.99 E-book for your tablet or Kindle at www.amazon.co.uk
As a family holiday destination, Orlando must be one of the most popular in the world – but have you ever considered fishing there? As well as Disney world, great food and alligators, Orlando has some fantastic fishing opportunities, both fresh and saltwater.
Fishing in Orlando – just off international drive.
When you look at Orlando on google maps, or whilst landing at the airport, the first thing you will notice are the lakes. They are literally everywhere – ranging from puddle sized drainage ponds, canals and mid sized waters, all the way up to huge inland seas of many thousands of acres. These lakes look incredibly fishy – because they are. They are literally full of largemouth bass, and their smaller cousins the sunfish. These species are very keen to hit artificial lures and flies.
Lakes in the Orlando area tend to be clear, with prolific weed growth. Many of the larger lakes in the area need to be fished by boat – this is where a guide comes in handy. There are plenty of guides available, including Captain Dean Puller of Gator bass, who can take you on the world famous Lake Toho and supply all the gear you will need.
Orlando is dotted with lakes and canals full of fish.
For a budget option, or if your time is limited, numerous small urban lakes and canals can be easily fished from the shore. Generally, as long as there is access from a bridge crossing or a road you are able to fish with the state license (look out for private property signs!). This license is available for a non-resident at just $30 for 7 days; and is easily available online or at a fishing shop such as Bass Pro. Google maps is the best way to scope out likely looking fishing spots near to where you are staying.
Become a Bass Pro
Largemouth bass are predators that like to patrol marginal areas, weed-lines and drop offs in search of any food item they can fit into their cavernous mouths. They will eat anything – from small fish to ducks, mice and frogs. The bass is a hard fighting sportfish known for leaping clear of the water when hooked and can grow to double figures in weight, with Orlando being home to fish of this caliber in some of it’s lakes. Generally though, fish of a pound or two are what you are likely to encounter, with the odd bigger specimen thrown into the mix.
A good sized Florida largemouth bass, caught in a urban canal.
Bass really like to hit surface lures if they are in the mood – floating plugs and lures can draw fierce, exciting strikes. The surface lures from Savage Gear, such as the 3D rat and 3D suicide duck make for perfect topwater bass fishing lures.
If fly fishing, large deer hair bass bug flies will work well. It is also worth getting hold of some weedless popper patterns. As well as the big bass flies, UK stillwater trout fishing lures can be deadly, especially if the bass have seen it all. For example Minky boobies fished on the surface proved to be a winner on a heavily fished lake.
Bass caught on a surface fly – a minky booby from Fulling Mill!
The key to surface fishing for bass is to hit the edge of thick cover, then twitch your lure violently to entice the bass out of hiding. Then it pays to pause the retrieve, sometimes for a minute or two – bass will often hit while the lure is stationary.
Sinking your lure or fly is the way to fish if the bass are not interested in breaking the surface. Woolly buggers and Clouser minnows are great flies to fish on a floating fly line, whilst rubber ‘Senko worms‘ rigged ‘wacky style‘ can be lethal on a spinning outfit. Allow these to sink to the bottom and twitch them back – the action can be irresistible to bass.
Bass captured with a senko worm.
Sunfish are fun if the bass ain’t biting…
Sunfish can be found in almost any body of water in Florida. There are numerous species, including bluegill, longear, redbreast, warmouth and crappie. What they lack in size they make up for in character, colour and willingness to take lures and flies – provided they are small enough. For example, a size 12 Hares ear nymph or a size 16 jig head/worm combo would be perfect. Allow your lure to sink near structure and you will usually find them eager to bite.
Florida Sunfish caught on fly fishing gear.
What about Saltwater?
Orlando is just under an hours drive from same fantastic saltwater flats fishing – the world famous Indian river and Mosqito lagoon are well known for their tarpon, redfish, snook and sea-trout fishing. Here you can fish in the shadow of NASA off cape Canaveral using flies or lures, with abundant bird life, dolphins and manatees to keep you company. The services of a guide are essential, and many offer a pick up service from Orlando, such as the extremely knowledgeable Capt. Dustin Link of Xtreme Sight Fishing Charters.
A baby Goliath grouper from Mosquito lagoon, Florida.
Watch the wildlife and the weather
The summer weather in Florida is very hot and humid, making daytime fishing very tough. The fishing is always better at dawn and dusk, so as well as being more pleasant to be out in, the chances of you catching are very much improved. This also ties in nicely if you are on a family holiday, allowing you to grab a few hours on the water before the day gets underway.
Dawn on Vista Cay lake – great fishing, with public access.
Wherever you are fishing, it pays to look out for dangerous wildlife. Alligators are present in most lakes and inshore areas of Florida. Generally they are harmless, but take care not to fish near them, or disturb them. Look at for furrows in the weed and banks where they crawl out of the water. While you fish, stand a bit higher up on the bank than usual – so you get a good view of what is in there. Mosquito’s and no-see-ums (midge) are a constant menace so make sure you pack some repellent. Finally avoid walking through high brush and grass – where snakes and ticks like to hang out.
Orlando Alligator – this one lived right outside a holiday apartment block.
What tackle to bring?
For fly fishing, a multi section 9 foot 7 weight should have you covered for both fresh and saltwater action; a fly line such as Airflo’s bass/muskie taper or bonefish tropical will work best in the heat, and for turning over large and heavy flies.
Fly fishing for bass with a 7 weight rod.
For lure fishing a lightweight multi section or telescopic rod (e.g Saveggear Finesse) with a fixed spool or baitcasting reel fitted with 15 or 20lb braid will do the job well. Rubber worms and bass specific surface lures can be purchased in Bass Pro Orlando, or in supermarkets such as Walmart, at very reasonable prices.
In the video above, Fishtec’s Tim Hughes catches a largemouth bass in an Orlando lake using a light baitcasting outfit.
Above all Orlando is a great place to catch fish. Wherever you wet a line, action is sure to come. So next time you are on a family holiday, sneak in a rod.
Summer is a long time coming to the high country, but the wait is always worthwhile.
Despite two snow storms during the month of June, the rivers in most of the Yellowstone region have stabilized after extensive spring runoff and the lakes are at maximum capacity. While mornings are inevitably cool even in July, we have not seen frost in more than a week. With these components in place the blooming of summer hatches is currently underway and the menu can only be described as extravagant.
Reaching For A Rise.
On the Henry’s Fork alone we are currently being treated to Green, Brown and Gray Drakes. Smaller mayflies including Pale Morning Duns, Flavs and Blue Wing Olives are a daily feature on this and other nearby rivers. Summer caddis in assorted sizes and colors adorn both moving and still waters in morning and evening, which are the most comfortable times to be on the water when temperature and wind are considered.
Whether wading or launching a drift boat, I am struck by the number of different fly patterns that may be called into service during a day on the water in early July. With this in mind, my vest holds weight unbecoming a man of my years, but I dare not leave a single fly box behind.
These are the longest days of the year, and a starting time of 7:00 A.M. or earlier is not unusual. A day beginning with PMD Spinners and ending perhaps fourteen hour later with a Brown Drake emergence can be somewhat exhausting but to complain would be a criminal act in the mind of a true fly fisherman.
Well Fed Brown!
With months of far less opportunity only recently left behind, such opulence is like a feast for a starving man. Summer is a season far too short in the mountains and I plan to utilize these treasured days in the most appropriate way.
The latest monthly field report from Rene’ Harrop – American fly fishing guide, author and consultant for Airflo.
Aside from time spent away in the military, I do not recall being anywhere other than the Harriman Ranch on June 15.
Even as a very young boy in the 1950’s, the traditional opening of fishing within the Ranch was a date of supreme importance. What seemed a long journey in those days, the annual family fishing excursion was actually only a 65 mile drive up old U.S. 47 to Island Park. To both my father and grandfather the Ranch, as it is still most commonly known, represented a special fishing opportunity. And that awareness was firmly implanted in the mind of a fledgling angler not yet 10 years old.
On Monday just passed, I was joined by members of two subsequent generations in my son and youngest grandson in a renewal of an annual ritual as important as any in my lifetime. Along with Bonnie, whose time fishing the ranch water extends back nearly 4 decades, we joined a parade of like-minded fly fishers numbering perhaps as many as 60 or 70 individuals on the trail running downstream from the Last Chance Access at around 9:00 A.M.
Within less than an hour, both banks were lined with the year’s first human visitors for as far down river as the eye could see. With at least one fisherman positioned about every 50 yards, just finding an open spot to await the appearance of rising fish was a bit of a challenge along the northern most mile of the Ranch section, but on opening day it doesn’t seem to matter.
At more than 100 yards wide and quite wadeable, this section of the Henry’s Fork is unique in its ability to accommodate the exceptional numbers that will be mostly gone within a few days. And remarkably, this predominantly mannerly gathering seems able to coexist on the water with only minimal conflict.
Slow Water Performance
I think this orderly conduct can be best explained by a sense of reverence that folks seem to possess for the history, tradition, and continuing influence that are represented by the gentle and fertile currents in which they stand. This is not a place for the selfish, greedy, or inconsiderate, and seldom are these characteristics revealed, even at the busiest of times.
On this day, my family and I were just happy to be there as part of something larger than ourselves, and our fishing success was of secondary importance. The reconnection with old friends seen only at this time of year combined with becoming acquainted with new faces that may become so somewhere down the road.
Working The Edge
John McDaniel spoke of the “Ranch Culture” in his excellent book dedicated to the Harriman Ranch portion of the river. I agree with his comments pertaining to the age of those most often observed fishing this water. Most anglers I saw this week would be closer to 60 than 40, and this is somewhat troubling to one who might fear the coming of a new and somewhat indifferent attitude toward what fishing the Ranch has represented going back to when it was purchased by the Harriman Family more than a century ago.
For myself, the highlight of opening day 2015, was watching my 15 year old grandson land a very respectable rainbow hooked on a flawless upstream cast that was preceded by a skillful approach that told me he knew exactly what was needed.
I believe that in our descendants go ourselves and, therefore, we continue beyond mortal existence. Brogan Harrop is the most recent of five generations with whom I have shared the Ranch experience. My oldest great grandchild is 5 years old and with luck, I will live to include a sixth.
For a fly fishermen living at high elevation in Yellowstone country, the arrival of May is like the release date from a prison sentence.
Whether through biological management measures or restrictive climatic influence, many attractive trout waters are not available for fishing until the flowers bloom and migrating birds have returned for nesting.
Henry’s Lake Cutthroat
On the Idaho side of the Park where I live, all but the Harriman Ranch will be relieved of seasonal management restrictions by the end of May and the same applies to any water that remained iced over prior to that time.
Across the border in Montana, opening of the general fishing season occurs about two weeks earlier than Yellowstone, which for most park waters is Memorial Day Weekend.
May – Henry’s Fork
With the road to another summer now clear I can turn full attention to the most serious business of life, which is fishing. With fly boxes fully restocked and all other tackle items ready to go, freedom is obscured only by the move back to Island Park from our winter home on the lower Henry’s Fork. Once completed, I am virtually surrounded by more temptation than even a disciplined man should be expected to withstand, and I have never been especially strong in that regard.
From our cabin, the Henry’s Fork is nearly within casting range and rivers like the Madison or Fire Hole are less than an hour away. Rested still waters like Henry’s, Sheridan, and Hebgen do not make my choice easy on where to spend any given day, and I have been known to hit as many as three of these irresistible fisheries between sunrise and dark.
Nice Loop On The Fire Hole
I spend six months of each year living in this mountainous dream world, and May is just the beginning.
While it is still winter here in the Rocky Mountain west, March is a time when I become serious about getting back on the water.
Whether on still or moving water, icing is the most limiting factor for fly fishing during the months of December through February. And while all of our lakes are still frozen solid, the Henry’s Fork is finally ice free.
Back In The Game.
A stray blizzard or single digit temperatures are only temporary disruptions when the hours of daylight begin to equal those of darkness. However, in 2017 deep snow and tall ice banks along the river’s edge are a lingering impediment to accessing some of the more attractive parts of the river.
Island Park and the upper Henry’s Fork will have to wait for several more weeks but with less than half of the four foot snow depth forty miles upstream, the river near my winter home is providing some much needed relief to a long deprived angler.
A bright, sunny day may not produce the best results in terms of midge or Baetis hatches but it is definitely the most comfortable time to be on the water. A day without overcast skies will usually find me drifting weighted nymphs in the shallower riffles with a six weight rod or swinging a streamer through the deeper runs with a seven weight. However, I look forward most to a day that shows promise of clouds and a temperature above 40ᵒ F. Dry fly fishing with my favorite four-weight is what I think about most through the months of deep winter, and I need these conditions to get back into my favorite game.
Although a rainbow approaching nine pounds in weight came on a March day many years back, most fish taken at this time of year are relatively modest in size. And with trout activity slowed by cold water temperature, a group of crossing whitetail deer may be the most interesting event of the day.
While catching fish is always the primary objective, I am happy to again feel the push of the current on my legs and the presence of a good rod in my hand.
The river holds the smell of a spring not yet arrived but drawing near and the sound of its movement speaks of life.
Most of all, my mind is filled with all that lies ahead in a new season and the comforting knowledge that March is just the beginning.
Testing fly lines for Airflo holds multiple pleasures, not the least of which is the excuse to fish more. However, sampling new technologies always seems to bring added excitement to an otherwise ordinary day on the water.
Admittedly, there are occasions when it takes a little time to warm up to a new design that might be intended to replace something that I have already found to be quite satisfactory. But this was not the case on a summer day spent with Airflo Sales Rep, Brandon Prince.
“Don’t let the name fool you”, he said as we spooled up the River and Stream Taper (aka the ‘lake pro’ in the UK) at the TroutHunter Fly Shop. It was early August and we were headed for Sheridan Lake and a session with its beefy Kamloops rainbows.
Testing on still water.
Rarely am I blown away by the first cast with any item of tackle but there is no better way to describe my response to the River and Stream.
Fishing multiple wet flies on more than twenty feet of leader, I was instantly impressed by the smoothness of the line and its aerial stability as I shot a seventy foot cast with amazing ease toward a big cruising Kamloops.
A Nice Kamloops.
With a hand grip weakened by time and more than forty years of professional fly tying, I appreciated the reduced effort required to push long and accurate casts over a three hour period on the lake.
The versatility of the River and Stream came instantly into effect when the trout began sipping Callibaetis mayflies from the surface at around noon.
In this dry fly situation I was compelled to constantly adjust the casting distance from as close as twenty feet to as far as I could reach as the big cruisers fed erratically about the boat. The River and Stream shifted easily to this contrasting type of fishing as it consistently accommodated every requirement.
Long cast to a rise.
I fished the River and Stream exclusively on still waters that also included Henry’s and Hebgen Lake through mid-October, and my affection only deepened for this impressive line.
It was nearly November when I finally began to apply the line toward its designated purpose. Adjusting the leader to a short, aggressive taper, I found the River and Stream to perform perfectly for streamer fishing on the lower Henry’s Fork, where I finished the season chasing big brown trout.
Test on moving water.
The arrival of February places a return to the water only a few weeks away, when testing of the River and Stream will resume. Midges, Baetis and smaller nymphs will be the name of the game in the beginning, but more diversity on moving water will come as the season advances. Based on experience thus far, I do not expect to be disappointed.
In the interim, I will continue to stock up on still water flies for those days when I know what line I will be fishing. Brandon was right, the River and Stream is more than its descriptive title implies.
The temperature when I arose this morning was nearly twenty degrees below zero. From my second floor studio window I look out at a world buried in snow with the knowledge that it will likely remain this way for at least the next two months.
For many who have not experienced life in this kind of climate it is reasonable to question the judgment if not the sanity of a man whose life largely revolves around fly fishing.
While it is doubtful that any explanation will fully satisfy those skeptics, I believe there are some who can appreciate at least five of the reasons that I make my home in Henry’s Fork country.
Rainbow trout that reside in the Henry’s Fork grow large on a diet consisting mainly of aquatic insects, and I know of no other river where a twenty six incher will take a size 16 or even smaller dry fly.
Henry’s Fork Rainbow trout.
About half the length of the Henry’s Fork holds a healthy population of brown trout. Though I am acquainted with others from similar origin, this European immigrant commands the highest respect and appreciation.
Henry’s Fork Brown
Fishing for smallish brook trout in tributary streams takes me fondly back to my youth, but the brookies of Henry’s Lake can exceed eight pounds. And though I am a nostalgic man at this point in life, I am far more likely to be found on the lake than some tiny creek.
The native trout of this region, Yellowstone Cutthroat have been reduced to a small percentage of their original habitat. The headwaters of the Henry’s Fork host a minor population of these natives but they thrive in Henry’s Lake where they grow especially large.
Native Yellowstone Cutt.
Cut-bows are a mixture of cutthroat and rainbow trout. These hard fighting hybrids are quite common in the Henry’s Fork but it is Henry’s Lake where they have become most prominent. The largest known cut-bow from that amazing still water fishery exceeded seventeen pounds.
Yes, winter can be long in Henry’s Fork country but it will eventually pass. And while a significant separation from fly fishing must be endured as a result, the harshest of seasons provides the source of my happiness.
Snow that piles deep in the high country becomes the water that assures continued existence for the five big reasons for living here.