American fly fishing expert and author Rene’ Harrop shares his latest diary entry on the Fishtec blog. This month he talks about the legendary green drake hatch on the Henry’s fork – a large mayfly quite similar to our own ephemera species, and loved by trout as a food source.
From a distance of more than 100 yards from the river, I knew they were hatching. Gulls seem to know the timing of a Green Drake hatch better than any human. This is why the excitement level soared upward the instant I spotted the flock of sizable gray birds as they raced above the water near the upper boundary of the Harriman Ranch. At 8:30 a.m, their target would be size 10 or 12 spinners, which are a prelude to an emergence that would begin within 3 hours.
While weather conditions can alter the timing, Green Drakes will generally make a daily appearance at some location on the Henry’s Fork for upwards of a month. The first of the big mayflies are always spotted at around 5,000 feet elevation in early June. At 1,500 feet higher, the fly fishing gear only water will see the legendary hatch within a week of its seasonal opening, which is June 15.
While other attractive hatches including Gray and Brown Drakes will be occurring during the same time frame, it is the Green variety that will always garner the greatest attention. Perhaps it is a known reliability or simply a decades’ long reputation for bringing big trout to the surface that inspires the largest gathering of expectant visitors we will see here during the entire year. And the river is never busier.
Fortunately, much of the Henry’s Fork is an accessible trout stream that is quite wide and mostly fishable with waders. This creates an ability to accommodate a great number of anglers that can fish in reasonable harmony without creating damage to the resource. With miles of open water available, one need only be willing to walk a bit farther than most in order to escape the greatest angler concentration near the access points to Harriman Ranch and the water directly outside its boundary.
The lower Henry’s Fork near Ashton, Idaho is a larger river that flows through mostly private property. Public access is comparatively limited, and wade fishing will require greater caution than on the gentler flows 30 miles upstream. For this reason, many will choose a drift boat to access the more isolated water.
For most that target this period for visiting the Henry’s Fork, the quality of fishing will more than compensate for the absence of solitude that accompanies drake time. With behavior uncharacteristic of the Henry’s Fork, the big rainbows and browns can seem willing to reward even the most humble effort of anglers whom would probably not find success here at any other time.
By early July, the great river has returned to its normal pattern of exacting excellence from its visitors, and humility rather than expectation becomes the byword. But the thirty days of green are not forgotten by those who are certain to return next year. It is a very special time.