Monday, September 5, 2011

Henry's Fork: Day Two

Thunder crashed and rumbled during the night, but the heavy rain missed us, and morning dawned bright and beautiful. We got up early, eager to get a jump on the hatch.

We had a plan: to hike down to Bonefish Flats and catch some big fish. We make the pilgrimage to the Flats at least once a trip, and we also wanted Mark to see it. So, once again hopeful and optimistic, we geared up and started out.

It was a gorgeous morning. But we did notice that even that early it was getting a little breezy.

By the time we rounded the big bend the wind was picking up, and by the time we were halfway to Bonefish it was blowing a gale. We went ahead and hiked all the way down, but Bonefish was blown out, a raging, whitecapped  torrent.

So, when life gives you a grasshopper wind, fish hoppers. That's what we did. We started back up the lee bank watching the hoppers we kicked up splat out in the current and flow away downstream. Every once in awhile there would be a big swirl and the hopper would be gone.

We worked that bank pretty good, sometimes having to hold onto our hats--but to no avail. At one point John and Mark were watching a natural hopper drift past a weed mat and saw a big fish calmly come up and engulf it. They went right to it with their flies, but couldn't get a rise. That's also something we were to observe every day: things that should have worked just didn't.

So we sat on the bank out of the wind and thought things out, then went out and tried some more. Once, while we were on the bank, a flock of little shorebirds that had been on a big weed mat upriver came rushing over us peeping in alarm. I looked up and saw the reason for their alarm: a Peregrine was swooping after them, but, maybe because it saw us, it pulled up and hung in the wind for a moment. Then, giving up the chase, it banked and sailed swiftly downstream in search of other prey.

That was lovely.

Inevitably, we ran out of bank before we had caught any fish. We were hot and tired and wind-blown and decided to take a supper break, then come back to see what was happening in the evening.

We made a quick stop at the Mountain Deli, sparked up the fire, and had a good supper.

We went back to the river at Last Chance and parked upstream from the viewing deck. The sunset was superb, and a few caddis were fluttering along the bank.

As John was gearing up to go out and I was watching for rises from the high bank, a big trout came straight up out of the river and fell back with a big splash. I hope I never forget the sight of that fish hanging in midair silhouetted against the sunset water.

John went in and covered a good deal of water trying to find that fish. He drifted a caddis and a small stimulator, and even stripped a streamer. But it was not to be.

So we headed back to camp and did some more strategizing around the campfire.

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