Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Henry's Fork Report: First Day

Monday morning dawned bright with anticipation. I had rolled into the campground the night before and set up camp in "our" site. C-17 was the place we camped on our first trip to the Henry's, and the place we have camped ever since. It has been the site of lots of good times over the years with brothers and friends. By now it feels like sacred ground.

Brother John had stayed in Idaho Falls the night before. He drove in shortly after the coffee was ready and we geared up and got organized for the first day.

A quick stop at Henry's Fork Anglers confronted us with the big news of the week.

In my research a few days before the trip I had discovered that the river level had been up the week before and had just come down. I had also seen a notice of a release from the Island Park dam that was supposed to happen on the 22nd and 23rd. This new information moved the "flush" up a day.

The consensus among guides was that the fishing would definitely be off "for a few days." We only had four days to fish, and had to wonder if our whole trip was on the verge of getting flushed. We began to think of alternatives right away. But the first order of business was to fish the heck out of our first day, which was to be the last day before the river went to hell.

We headed to the sacred waters of the Ranch.

We waded across to the big island and followed the path along what we call the Back Channel.

We set up where the channel widens out, near some small islands. This has been a magical place. This is where I caught my first decent Henry's Fork Rainbow, on a greased caddis pupa in the film as the evening advanced and the light waned. This is where I finally caught my first twenty-incher, and some even bigger, on a cinnamon ant after an ant fall that came like manna from heaven. Every inch of this stretch is filled with memories.

We were looking for bugs on the water, first, and then fish--hopefully big fish--rising to them. Nothing much was happening when we arrived. John caught a small fish, the only riser to be seen at that moment. Mainly we waited and wandered, looking for rises, and blind-casting to likely looking places to pass the time.

Then we climbed out and went on up the path to the head of the island and the main channel to see what was happening there.

And we talked things over, theorized and strategized, and simply caught up with each other's life.

Then we went back down the path to see what was happening back there.

Then back up the path. And then we did it all over again.

The fact was, things were slow. The hatches we did see weren't the right kind.

We'd wade in and look and then wade out and take a break on the bank.

All along, we weighed our options and discussed the pros and cons of staying here or going to some other stretch of the river. But when all was said and done we stayed, because we're loyal to this place, and because we know--we've seen it happen--that things could change any minute. There could be a good evening rise--and memories of magical evening rises filled our minds, when the river was covered and the air was filled with bugs, and the rises made the water boil....

So we stayed. But nothing happened. And our first day was over.

We made the decision to drive to Pond's Resort for a cheeseburger. That can always make you feel better after a slow day on the river. And there in the glow of five screens covering five different baseball games we planned our next move: we would strike out for the Teton River bright and early.

We went out to the car and were amazed to see a Christmas tree glittering in the July night. We figured it must have been a hard job to string all those lights. Why not leave them up and lit all year?

Back at camp we soon were nestled all snug in our beds while visions of Teton trout danced in our heads.


  1. Fish are just an added bonus when you're spending time in a place as hallowed and beautiful as that, especially when you're spending it with family. That piece of water looks like some technical and tough water to fish, clear slow moving water with nothing to break up the flat surface. I'm guessing it takes the right fly...the perfect cast...and a dragless drift to even think about fooling one of those fish. But that's what keeps us coming back isn't it, the perfect challenge.

  2. It's interesting how, when we find a "good" spot at a camp ground, we tend to come back to the same place. We do that at Hendy Woods, Hope Valley, and Upper Lake. Same spot every year. Waiting for the next post.