Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Sweet Combination

Spring and spring creeks. Now that's a sweet combination. My brother John and I are already making plans for this season's expedition to the Henry's Fork. Then, while browsing through the digital stacks at the Internet Archive on the first night of Spring, I came upon this book by John Shewey. Again, sweet.

Here's a Henry's Fork yarn from the book for your entertainment and edification. (Ah, the good memories of those near-death experiences!) May it help ensure that your own hopes for the new season will spring eternal.

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That same year I hooked the largest trout I've ever encountered on the Harriman Ranch on the Henry's Fork. In the process, I overcame plenty of adversity. Big black flying ants and a smattering of Callibaetis were on the menu that day. I located two large trout feeding vigorously in a slick on the far side of the river and just upstream from one of the deepest parts of the Harriman section.

I would have preferred to cross the river and approach from that side, but I couldn't risk doing so with several other anglers in the area, any one of whom might wade in on those fish before I could position myself. Besides, I would have had to go well out of my way to find a suitable crossing.

Knowing the river deepened over there and knowing I would be in for a tough wade, I started well upstream from the trout. I waded 40 or 50 yards before getting anywhere close to effective range. By that time I was up to the bottom of my shorty vest and the river bed steepened exponentially from there.

Twenty-five feet away, the trout continued feeding rapaciously on the ants, patrolling feeding lanes about 18 inches wide. Between me and the fish sprouted a large weed bed. Normally that weed bed would have been a blessing, providing me enough cover to sneak up on the fish, which occupied a rather fast slick comprised of myriad swirls and seams.

That was my intention--to use the wall of aquatic weeds as cover and to sneak within 12 feet or so of those trout. Child's play. The next two steps put an end to that strategy, however, with the first taking me to wader-top depth and the second plunging me to my collar bone in cold spring creek water.

Thoroughly soaked now, I had to back off a step because the current nearly swept me down river. So the weed bed now became a problem. My line would land on top of the mat of weeds when I cast to those fish, leaving me with only a couple feet of drag-free drift.

I was only slightly upstream of the trout and I knew that a steep downstream presentation would eliminate the weed bed as an obstacle, but would leave me with a 45 or 50 foot cast. No matter, though--unless I wanted to start the whole wade over again--because I could barely budge upstream in the deep, fast water. I had no intention of wading back toward shore and painstakingly beginning my approach anew, especially since I knew those good flying ant hatches could be rather fleeting affairs.

So I decided on a big-time pile cast with an upstream mend. First I added five more feet of tippet, freshly coiled from its spool. Then dug my feet into the gravel and carefully false cast well away from the fish to measure the amount of line I would need. I drew a deep breath then shot a wide loop across and slightly upstream, aiming the cast skyward to bring the leader and line down in something of a heap. As the line settled, I reached as far upstream and out as I could and then threw a second upstream mend after the line hit the water. The line came to a standstill on the mat of weeds, but that extra five feet of tippet landed in perfect coils on the current seam just beyond, some four feet above the nearest trout.

All I could do now was wait as the fly drifted downstream, hoping I had provided enough slack line and leader to allow the ant imitation to reach the trout before drag set in. Under no tension, the fly drifted to within inches of dragging when the lead trout rose confidently. And a good thing because I could have never made a second such presentation without spooking those trout on the pick-up.

Landing that trout was a different matter. Suffice it to say that I successfully waded downstream through one of the deepest pools on the Ranch (floated through or flailed through might be more accurate). I even found my hat down by Osborne Bridge later that day.
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  1. Read it well my friend. I'll be waiting for that trip report.