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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.