Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Henry's Fork of the Snake

Day 2 of our Eastern Idaho trip started early. Camron wanted to hit a diversion dam on the Henry's Fork early in the morning when the browns are most active. The sun was just reaching the horizon by the time we were rigged up and wading into the river.

Camron had built up the hype; brown trout with massive size potential, pre-spawn aggressive nature, gorgeous yellow-orange colors and all congregated below the diversion dam with nowhere else to go. I was focused and in the zone as I stripped my streamers through the fast, oxygenated water. I was quickly rewarded with a small brown that fought like a 24 incher.   

I continued downstream after releasing the little brown, while Camron worked his way closer to the churned up whitewater directly below the diversion. A fish rose within range and I bombed out a cast, hoping to intercept the fish. Strip, strip, strip, BOOM! The rod nearly jolted out of my hands as I tried to freeze up and let the fish set the hook by itself. Once I felt the weight of the fish, I lifted the rod and the battle was on. The fish made a screaming run and I couldn't help but wonder if I had hooked a monster. After taking me within sight of my backing, my 6 weight muscled the bruiser back in. Camron must have noticed how excited I was and came down with the net. I worked the fish within sight and my excitement fell a bit; I had snagged a fatty rainbow with my bottom streamer. This is a fairly common occurrence when fishing tandem streamers. The fish takes the top fly, and if you don't get a good hook-set, the bottom fly snags them. Regardless, I was still happy to have a nice fish on my line. Camron scooped the pig in the net. As I grabbed the fat rainbow and my fingers squished into her soft belly, I couldn't help but conclude that rainbows are the true gluttons of the trout world; they clearly don't know when to stop eating.

I released her and she waddled away into the depths of the river. We fished awhile longer without any success before deciding it was time to go float the Henry's Fork from Warm River to Ashton.
We left Camron's car at the take-out and drove up to the put-in. There were already 4 trucks in front of us, waiting to launch their boats.
"Welcome to the Henry's Fork!" Camron exclaimed with sarcasm.
"Dang. But we have a raft!" I said triumphantly. "And... we still have to pump it up."
"Oh man, I hope we can do it faster than yesterday." Camron replied, with a tone of dread.
As we rigged up the boat, guides and their clients shot us looks and chuckled amongst themselves. I imagine them saying things like, 'I'm sure glad we have this nice comfortable drift boat that floats without all that work' or 'I'm not envious of them'. Camron and I made good time this morning pumping up the raft by hand and the boat was now ready. However, all the boats that were waiting had now launched, and 5 more were in line now.
"Let's sneak in now," Camron said, as we each grabbed a side of the boat and drug it into the water.
I jumped on the oars and Camron was fishing immediately.
"There's usually some pigs right here at the put in that no one fishes for." Camron said, as he stripped his streamers through the dark, deep water.
BAM! Camron set the hook.
"OOOHHHHHH, Hawg Johnson! Dude, I've got a monster here! Did you see it flash down there?" Camron shouted, as he tried to muscle the big fish out of the deep.
"No, I didn't see it. Hawg Johnson?" I chuckled, as I tried to hold the boat in position.
"Yeah dude, he's a monster. Oh no, I think he's stuck now." Camron pulled on the line and it was solid. The fish was clearly wrapped around something. "I can still feel him pulling down there, he must be hung up on a rock or a stick."
I held the boat in position as Camron tried different angles with the rod. I then let us slide downstream and across the river, hoping to back the line around the obstacle and free it. The line was still stuck as Camron pulled.
"Come on! Dang it, I had Hawg Johnson!"
"Sorry man. I'm trying."
I pulled as much upstream as I could but Camron no long felt the fish. I slowly let the boat slide downstream in a last ditch effort. Camron pulled until the fly broke off. Camron sulked as he tied on another large streamer.
"Get another one man!" I said, as I put us back into the main river and Camron got back in the game.
"There's one!" Camron said, setting the hook on a decent brown.
We pulled over and netted the 17 inch male and snapped a picture. 
Camron jumped on the oars and it was my turn. I worked the water and managed to grab a small brown. 

We continued down the river, splashing streamers into every nook and cranny that might hold a meat-eating trout.
We pulled over at a nice run and decided to nymph for awhile. I was quickly rewarded with the most handsome fish species in the Henry's Fork; a Large Scale Sucker fish.  

The run only produced another small whitefish, so we continued downstream. Fishing slowed the further downstream we went. We grabbed a fish here and there, but overall, both streamers and nymphs were not producing like we had hoped. After talking to guides as they passed, we discovered they weren't doing very well either.
It wasn't until we approached the take-out that we found a few small fish rising. We switched up flies and quickly hooked into a few. They were indeed small and one of them even slipped through a hole in the net.
We made it to the take-out and rushed to pack things up. Camron had a plan for the evening and we didn't want to waste anymore time. Once the boat was loaded up, we headed downstream to one of Camron's favorite evening streamer spots. Dark clouds began to roll in as we pulled up and grabbed our gear for nighttime "hawg hunting". We waded into the river just as it started to sprinkle rain a little. From my experience, a light rain dramatically improves streamer fishing. BAM! My line stopped as I was retrieving my 3rd cast. A small brown came thrashing to the surface. 

We continued casting and slowly working our way out into the river. Camron missed a few fish as darkness approached. I made a cast towards some cover and began stripping the streamer back towards me. I was stripping the fly as fast as I could to keep up with the current when one took. Immediately I felt the weight and power of the fish. He took off and my fly reel played that sweet song we all love. He fought hard, but in a few minutes we had him in the net.
I was more than thrilled to land a great Henry's Fork brown.

We continued fishing into the rainy night without as much as another sniff from a fish. When we were completely drenched from the rain, we finally called it a night. As happy as I was to have caught a great Henry's Fork brown, I was even more thrilled because we were going to fish the famous Teton River tomorrow. The trip could only get better!     


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