For the first time in a week it feels like the fire situation is beginning to come under control. Fires are still burning, and some areas are still under evacuation orders, but other areas are now out of harm's way. That includes our home and town, for which we are very grateful.
So it's time to resume my report on my trip to the Henry's Fork in July. We're just getting to the good part of the story.
Friday morning. The four days of fishing with my brother have come to an end. Only one of those days was spent on the Henry's because of a three day dam release that blew out the river.
John takes off. He's going to fish the Henry's today. He's sure it's back in shape, and he can hardly wait. I stay back and break camp. I'm heading to Spokane today.
When I'm all packed up I swing by the Last Chance stretch where John said he would be. I look at the river. It looks good. Then I recognize the figure walking along the bank. It's John. He's striding purposefully, and I'm pretty sure he's decided to hike down to Bonefish Flats, one of his favorite places. I wish I could go with him. Then I wish him luck, and head for the highway.
It's an eight-hour drive to Spokane. I make it in good shape. I meet my wife, Kim, and my son, Isaiah, in a motel. Later my daughter, Lidia, comes with her son, Sebastian. We're all in Spokane for Isaiah's soccer tournament that begins with a 7 AM game on Saturday and will conclude on Sunday.
The first thing I do is take a long, hot shower. Ah. Then we all go out to eat. And then I sleep on a big soft bed for the first time in a week. A beautiful thing.
Saturday morning bright and early we're at the soccer pitch. We're dealing with an unknown. Isaiah had injured himself in practice earlier in the week. He's been icing it and resting it. He wants to play, he thinks he can play, but he won't know until he gets into game conditions.
He doesn't start, but goes in before halftime. It's painfully clear right away that he won't be able to play. The tournament is over for him. We're all disappointed, especially Isaiah.
After the game we meet some friends from the Midwest who are vacationing through the West. We have lunch together. Then it's time to go home.
So I stand there next to the van and think things over. The van is all packed. Along with camping equipment I have groceries and firewood that we never used. I have a few more days off before I really need to get back to my work. I'm already three hours from home on the way to the Henry's Fork. Why not just go back?
I tell Kim what I'm thinking. She says, "OK." I Love her.
I pull into the camping area late. It's Saturday night, so it's crowded. I find an open area on the edge of the field to park in. I get out of the van and stretch. There are people sitting next to campfires, laughing and talking. A canopy of stars glitters overhead. It's good to be back.
I don't mess with the tent. I climb back in the van, recline the seat, close my eyes and go to sleep. I wake up once in the middle of the night. All is quiet, and it's chilly. I pull a sleeping bag over me and go back to sleep.
When I wake up next it's light out. I climb out of the van and see the Tetons in the morning light.
Since it's light I walk to the Forest Service restroom. As early as it is there are already people lining up. I walk back to the van and begin to gear up.
I wade into the river as the sun is breaking out of the clouds. My phone says 7 AM. There is no one else around. I see only one other fisherman all day. Amazingly, it seems that all those other campers came just to camp and hang out by the river.
The first thing I do is text John back in Maine. He had sent me a text on Friday saying that the Henry's had been clear and in good shape, and that he "had shots at 3-4 nice fish but failed." I now send him that photo and tell him where I am. He soon texts back: "Do try the Henry's Fork. It was looking pretty good on Friday. I completely wore myself out walking down to the flats or I would have stayed longer. Have fun."
I decide right then to head back to the Henry's first thing in the morning the next day. I figure I can take Monday and Tuesday to see what I can do there.
But today I have the Teton at my feet. I fish it hard, hitting all the spots we had tried before, and finding some new ones. There are no moose this time, but there are many, many Sunday floaters. Still, there is plenty of space to relax and fish and enjoy the day. I'm still looking for the Big One, but I catch only small, gem-like fish. But each one, whether taking a nymph drifted deep, or flipping into the sunlight to take a PMD or caddis, is a happy interlude in a happy day.
Evening brings another heavy hatch and many rising fish. I hook my best fish of the trip so far. It takes a little PMD on the surface. It fights hard and I get excited. But when I get it close I see that it's a whitefish.
I wade out at twilight and walk back to the campground. Many folks have packed up and gone. I drive the van over to a stone fire ring and sit by the fire until the stars come out. It was another wonderful day. I climb into the van, put the seat back, and drift into a deep sleep.