Thursday, September 30, 2010

Henry's Fork: Epilogue

Click on photos for full size image.
Hard to let go of a trip to the Henry's Fork. Just a few more random thoughts.

In years past we've camped primarily in the C Loop of Riverside Campground. It's set back away from the big RV's and their generators, and it's more, well, rustic than A and B loops. Key concept: no concrete.

But when you get there in September, C Loop is closed for the season. So we settled into a site on B Loop. Had our own patio. I suppose that was nice after the rain, but I missed the mud a little bit.

That late in the season, though, we were still pretty much on our own. And B10 got to be home pretty quick.

We did miss the lodgepole pines of C Loop. They're thick around our favorite campsite, and they stretch up to the sky. At night around the campfire it's a soul filling sight to look up past the orange glow of the fire as the long, straight trunks fade to black and become silhouetted against the swirling glitter of stars. Somehow those lodgepoles make the universe seem bigger, and your cozy place in the middle of it more secure.

One of the really fun things about this trip was pulling out some flies that I had tied years ago for the Fork. It might even have been that very first trip, because there were some attempts at a Pink Albert, the hot fly on the South Fork of the Boise then.

These are not well-tied flies, though they reflect my earnest efforts to improve at the craft in those days. Among other problems, they have poor quality, oversized hackle. I'm sure I used them then, but I don't remember having any measure of success with them.

I had actually retired them some time ago, as not worth using, but in organizing flies for this trip I found them and decided to throw them into the mix. Why not?

On our first day, which turned out to be one of the best days of the trip, when some PMD's began drifting by, I tied on one of these rejects.

It killed. Those fish that broke me off that afternoon all hit one of those flies. This fish, caught early in the evening, and others of its size, also found it to its liking.

Maybe it was the silhouette. I had taken the time when I tied them up to include upright and divided hackle tip wings, just as the book said. Some would say those wings are the trigger for a strike.

Whatever the trigger was, it was that very fly in the above photo, an old, rejected fly tied poorly by a beginner fly tier, that took one of the Fork's Finest, and one of the best fish I've taken on that river. It's what I was dreaming of as I tied it up on my little desk on the third floor of an apartment building in Chicago. It took years to happen, but it finally took a big fish.

Just goes to show you...something. Maybe the lesson is to keep all your flies. Probably the real lesson is this: the fly may not have improved over time, but I have. I now have enough experience and--dare I say it--skill, to present a fly in a way that will catch fish.

Mike Lawson says it over and over in his book Spring Creeks, which deals a lot with the Henry's Fork: the fly, if it's a reasonable imitation, isn't as important as presentation, presentation, presentation. I would have to say I'm a believer.

Speaking of flies, if you go to the Fork, make sure you have some cinnamon ants. The ones I used were also old ties, but proven effective. This very fly may have caught another beauty or two in years past.

Finally, on the morning I packed up and left for home, John got up early and went out for one more morning of fishing. He went back to Bonefish Flats. He called me when he got to Idaho Falls that evening, and I was already home. He reported a good morning's fishing, and said he caught several good fish including one that went a solid 19 inches.

I'm going to say that, as in years past, the Harrier caught the most fish. But the Redtail caught the biggest. Of course, John had the disadvantage of actually measuring his fish.

I close with this photo of that sweet run where I spent a lot of time and picked up my best fish. You can't see it, but I can: that big fish I didn't catch porpoising just to the right of center about ten feet off the bank. I know he's still there as I write this.

Don't go anywhere, fish. I'll be right back.

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