Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Very High on the Big Hole

June 27-28, 2010

blog_June_27-28_2010_1[3] The summer is only a week old and seems to be absolutely screaming past. My Henry’s Fork Marathon is history and this past weekend, a trip I’ve awaited nine months, came and went so fast I can’t believe it. The trip was to the Big Hole River in Montana with friend Scott Sanchez (Chez). Chez and I were the hosts for a group of four anglers. This was a trip thought up and sponsored by Jeff Walker of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Jeff generously donated this trip for four to the Jackson Hole One Fly Foundation to be blog_June_27-28_2010_2[1]used as a live auction item for their fundraising dinner 2009. The One Fly Foundation is famous for carefully using its funding for various stream restoration projects throughout the Rocky Mountains. Jeff’s donation included three nights lodging at the spectacular Big Hole Ranch (BHR) and two days guided fishing through the Sunrise Fly Shop of Melrose, MT. To spice it up, Jeff asked Chez and I if we would donate our time and be the hosts of this great trip. Being that neither of us is as dumb as we look, we answered blog_June_27-28_2010_3[1]without much thought, “Absolutely!”

The lucky purchasers of this fun trip were Peter and Ellen Saphire of Washington DC. As you may have guessed the Saphires' are long time customer/friends of mine and Scott’s. We were excited when we found out they got the trip because although we’ve been talking fishing with them for almost twenty years, we’ve never actually wet a line together. They brought along their twenty-six year old son Jesse, whom I’ve known since he was ten and Peters brother Andy whom we met for the first time.

We all arrived for dinner on Saturday night. For Chez and I it was a four hour drive from the Jackson area. I’ve been to the BHR before but it’s been at least eight or nine years. It was just as blog_June_27-28_2010_4[1]beautiful as I remembered it. Jeff Walker himself awaited us and our great weekend started off with  some wine tasting followed by a fantastic dinner. After dinner, Andy broke out some mean cigars so we sat on the porch till 11 pm and talked.

Morning came fast with sunrise at 5:45. We had a delicious breakfast and off to the Sunrise Fly Shop we went. We had three guides waiting for us. I was excited to see that two of were old friends of mine, Chuck Page and Rick blog_June_27-28_2010_5[2]Rossi. The way the day sorted out, Ellen and I fished together with Chuck. Chez and Peter went with Rick and Jesse and Andy went with a guide named Chris. In MT, outfitters are not   allowed three boats on the same stretch of the Big Hole River so Chris, Andy and Jesse went on a different stretch than the rest of us.

The weather doesn’t get much better. As if the Big Hole River isn’t beautiful enough, skies were a rich blue without a cloud in sight. The temperature was a blog_June_27-28_2010_6[1]comfortable 70 degrees with highs expected near 80. Even the mosquitoes weren’t as bad as they can be. The only hardship we faced was high water. With a huge thunderstorm that  dropped heaps of rain on Friday and the first high temperatures of the year melting high country snow at an alarming rate, the Big Hole was swollen well above its banks. However, trips like this are planned far in advance so even though we knew fishing would be challenging to say the least off we went to give it our best shot.

blog_June_27-28_2010_7[2]The guides of the Sunrise Fly Shop have a longtime reputation as some of the best in the business. Chuck and Rick have been guiding the Big Hole for as  long as I can remember. I knew that even under the difficult conditions everyone would get into some fish. Chuck rigged Ellen with a stonefly dry and dropped a nymph below it. Chuck would rather I did the same but I’m not much of a nympher and with the high water conditions; I was all about casting streamers. Chuck recommended his favorite bugs and I rigged them on blog_June_27-28_2010_8[2]my Ross 6-weight and my favorite streamer line, the RIO Aqualux.

Man did fishing start slow. I rolled a fish  in the first minute and then we went two hours before seeing another. Chuck was in awe at the increased water levels. All the places his clients caught fish on previous days were deep underwater and our day was quickly becoming a “You should have been here yesterday event”. Finally, Ellen actually missed a take on her dry fly only to recast and catch a gorgeous blog_June_27-28_2010_9[1]brook trout on her nymph. The skunk was out of the boat!

Getting the skunk out is usually all it takes to improve the day. Sure enough, Ellen caught three more fish on her  nymph. It seems what we really needed was some hot sun to get the insect life and the fish moving. I finally broke down and started nymphing from the back of the boat. I don’t use an indicator and was a little rusty at first. Then, just before the lunch spot I nailed a hefty 18” brown.

In the afternoon Ellen put on a show. While I managed to catch five fish total for the day, Ellen managed to catch at least ten. Under unbelievably tough fishing conditions she kept her fly in the water and took advantage of the very few opportunities. Just to give you an idea how tough the fishing was, our other two boats together landed a total of four fish!

On day two my fishing partner was Jesse. Jesse and I were the odd boat out and while the rest of our group went on the same stretch with Chuck and Rick, Jesse and I went with guide whom I’d never met before, Ryan Barba. Ryan moved to Melrose from Vermont and bought the Sunrise Fly Shop five years ago with his friend and business partner Eric. He’s young and enthusiastic and an excellent hard working guide. We floated from Divide through the Big Hole Canyon to Melrose. Although the water levels stabilized, the river was roaring. You had to be quick with your casting or you would miss the prime spots fast. Ryan rigged up Jesse with a salmon fly dry and no dropper. He encouraged me to use a streamer so I set up my usual double streamer rig like I’ve described in past blogs.

I could see the river was roaring, but when we pushed off it was apparent there was more water in the river than meets the eye. Ryan had to back-row his butt off just to keep us anywhere in the game of pounding our flies to the bank. Miraculously, in the first ten minutes I nailed a scrappy rainbow that not only fought hard but in his last attempt to escape jumped in the boat. Luckily I released him unharmed.

Fishing remained steady for me. I followed up the rainbow with three nice browns including one so beautiful that we stopped for several pictures. Naturally with me, anytime I see a fantastic trout I photograph it for a future painting. Things were going a little slow for Jesse so Ryan took off his dry fly and set up an indicator and two nymphs. Minutes later Jesse started landing some fish. Jesse has been fishing as long as I’ve known him so he can get the fly where it belongs. Once he got the hang of the nymph he started nailing some fish. He caught several nice browns and some trophy whitefish. We were getting it done in the difficult conditions.

The river was cranking so fast that we did the normally full day float in five hours. That was way too short for a day of fishing so Ryan took us back up river for a second float. We decided to give the dry flies a second chance and this time they worked. We weren’t exactly crushing the fish, but both Jesse and I managed to catch several more nice fish.

I waited far too long since my last visit to the Big Hole River. The Big Hole is one the great western rivers and truly one of my all-time favorites. Its scenic beauty and high population of quality trout is what makes it for me. Best of all I got to fish with old friends and new friends which is what this year is becoming all about. For now its rest up and slow this summer down. I have to finish a cutthroat painting then take Granny fishing on Wednesday.

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing web site

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Time to Make Fish

June 26, 2010

blog_June_25_2010[2] I took a couple week hiatus from painting when the Henry’s Fork opened up. However, the last few days I’ve been back at it. I worked up this watercolor brown trout for customer Dan Beistel of Florida. He caught the beauty below the Flaming Gorge Dam on the Green River in April. I'll be doing a lot of painting this summer, but today it's off to the Big Hole in Montana . . . .

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing web site

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The HF Marathon

June 22, 2010

blog_June_22_2010_1[1] There’s nothing like the longest days of the year. Being able to spend fifteen hours or more outdoors in daylight can’t be beat. That’s why twenty-four years ago I came up with the “Marathon”. The Marathon is basically my longest day of fishing of the year. What I mean is actual hours on the water. The Marathon always takes place in the Harriman Ranch of the Henry’s Fork River and I always fish and hike my way from the Last Chance parking lot all the way down to Osborne Bridge on Highway 20 and then back. It’s a total distance of about eight river miles.

For all these years the Marathon has taken place on the first Tuesday after the Summer Solstice because that’s been my day off for twenty-three years. On the very first one I was a young buck with young friends and we left the parking lot at 5 a.m. and fished blog_June_22_2010_2[1]until 11:15 p.m.! We never stopped for anything other than snacks and cigars. In fact, at that age I remember our snacks consisted of chips and warm beer. Such long hours went on for many of the early
Marathons, but the  last five or so years the hours have been more civilized with parking lot departures of 7 a.m. and returns of 10 p.m. – still plenty of fishing. Some years there have been as many as ten of us while others had a mere three or four. Regardless of who came over the years, the end result is one of my most enjoyable fishing days of the year.

I’ve also kept pretty good track of catch rates and river conditions. The best Marathon was about fifteen
years ago. The Ranch was full of fish that were transplanted from Island Park Reservoir when it was drained to kill Utah Chubs. On that Marathon I landed a remarkable twenty-three truly big fish. A fish is not even noted during the Marathon blog_June_22_2010_3[2]unless it tops eighteen inches. Unfortunately like the steroid years in Major League Baseball, that year definitely has an asterisk. On a normal year, the average catch on the Marathon is three fish. Last year was my toughest in recent history with one twenty-incher of which I did not catch until 9:30 p.m.

Yesterday Granny and I arrived at the Last Chance parking lot at 7:30 a.m. Although a few friends planned to be there for Marathon 2010, it was just Granny and I. Granny normally does about a half Marathon so I suggested she relax in the morning and track me down later. I’d never done a Marathon solo and was pretty excited for it. I left the lot at 7:50 am and immediately crossed the river and walked down the far bank. It was cold and cloudy. The river was void of a hatch so conditions weren’t ideal for finding rising fish but things would blog_June_22_2010_4[2]improve as the day warmed up. Naturally I watched for rising fish as I walked anyway but I was really getting myself deep into the Harriman Ranch so I could make it all the way to Osborne Bridge and back before dark.

By 10 a.m. I was two miles in and hadn’t made a cast. There were no fish rising and in the Ranch you don’t blind fish. Finally, I saw my first rise at 10:15, much later than normal for
June 22 on the Ranch. I waited fifteen minutes or so but the fish never rose again. I hoofed it another twenty minutes to the center of the Ranch where you find Cattleman’s Bridge. Another thirty minutes walk downstream of Cattleman’s Bridge is the famous Millionaire’s Pool. Between Cattleman’s Bridge and Millionaire’s Pool is one of the least fished sections of the Ranch. I walked downstream for about ten minutes then got comfortable on a high bank that has held fish in years past. Sure enough, I barely dug my water bottle from my pack when out in front of me blog_June_22_2010_5[1]a nice rainbow sipped down one of the first insects of the day. I chomped down some chicken and observed. This was by no means a feeding frenzy, but about every five or so minutes the fish rose gently, barely breaking the surface of the slow moving river.

I had the same ant on that caught me a nice fish in the Ranch on Saturday morning. I figured if it worked on Saturday why not start with it today. I waded near the
trout to make my presentation. On the Henry’s Fork, I prefer to cast down-and-across to the fish. What this means is I stand upstream and away from the fish. Then I land my fly upstream of him and past him. Then I slide my dry fly into his feeding lane by raising my rod. Once I think it’s just right, I lower my rod and feed my fly to the fish. I do this blog_June_22_2010_6[1]repeatedly until I’m sure the rainbow gets a few good looks. A couple good drifts without an eat and I change my fly.

When fishing to trout with PHD’s in entomology, make your first cast count. Make the cast as perfectly as you can and be ready to set the hook. I got my cast right, but with my aging eyesight, I couldn’t see my ant. Sure enough the trout rose in the vicinity of my fly. On my sharper fishing days I would have immediately set the hook, but for some reason I hesitated. Big mistake, the fish did eat my ant and by the time I set the hook he’d tasted metal and spit it. I was too late and the huge fish was gone.
blog_June_22_2010_7[1]It was trout one, Currier nothing. Not the way I wanted to start my Marathon, but that’s the Ranch. By now there was a full blown hatch of Pale Morning Duns, March Browns, Baetis and a spattering of caddis. Theoretically it should have been easy to stumble upon another rising fish but it took at least hour of walking downstream. This next fish had a body guard. Body guards are small trout feeding ridiculously close to the larger trout that you want to catch. The fear here is that when you present your fly to the big fish,  the smaller fish will beat him to it and when you hook him he will scare away the fish you want to catch. The strategy is don’t set the hook on the smaller fish. Let him swat at it till he realizes it isn’t real and doesn’t eat it again. Then you have a chance at the big guy. Sure enough, despite knowing what to do, on my first cast the blog_June_22_2010_8[1]dink ate my fly and I stupidly set the hook and caught the ten inch rainbow. And sure enough while fighting the body guard I spooked the larger trout.
At 3 Granny met up with me just
above the Millionaires Pool, just when I found my next sizable rising fish. I set her up with a PMD and had her cast to him. On her third cast the trout ate her fly and she set the hook and missed him. That was that. We had lunch and a beer then she headed back. The hatch was over and there weren’t even small trout to cast too. I continued my walk downstream to a favorite area just above the Osborne Bridge and miraculously found some small trout to cast to. They were feeding on left over cripples and spent mayflies that hatched earlier in the day. I landed several of them and at 6 began my long four mile hike back.

blog_June_22_2010_9[1]The Ranch on a summer night is one of the most incredible places on Earth. Remarkably, I walked most of it tonight without seeing another single angler. That made it even better than usual. The only problem was there were no feeding fish. Usually the famous Bonefish Flats section always has at least a few rising monsters even when there’s no hatch. But tonight there were none.

At 9 p.m. I was a mile from finished and I still hadn’t caught a big fish. In all the years of doing the Marathon I’ve always got at least one big fish. I had to get one. Last year I blog_June_22_2010_10[1]was in the very same position and one of my favorite little nooks in the Ranch saved me. So all business, I headed to my spot.

I think there was a mere two anglers in the entire Ranch tonight and sure enough, they were both staked out in my promising location. From the distance I could see both dudes were casting to actively rising fish. Darn! I was too late. You might think if the trout are rising here, they must be everywhere, but that’s not always a guarantee. My little honey hole is like a gigantic back eddy where insect debris accumulates throughout the day. Big lazy hawgs like to swim into the area late at night and clean up what insects are left.

At 9:45 I was starved. I was exhausted and my legs were shot. Walking in waders and straining your eyes for fifteen hours takes its toll. I knew Granny was patiently waiting at the parking lot. I was sure she was starved too and she’d kill me if we missed dinner blog_June_22_2010_12[1]at Trout Hunter that stops serving at 11. There was also a massive thunderstorm brewing and headed our way. A skunk on the Marathon was a tough thing to swallow. I had about a ten minute walk left. As I covered the ground I scanned every inch of the bank, every rock and every slick where I’ve caught big fish before. But it was over. The fish had gone to bed, the thunder was overhead and the rain started to fall.

When I hobbled into the lot, sure enough, Granny was waiting. It was nearly dark and the rain fell harder. As I handed her my rod to put away she asked me if I finally landed blog_June_22_2010_11[1]a pig. When I told her I hadn’t she replied, “You were out there for nearly fifteen hours you crazy ****. I’ll bet you’re about done with this “Marathon” thing.”

“Ha”, I responded, “not a chance. Today was the best day I’ve had in a year.” And I meant it. The Ranch of the Henry’s Fork is a serious sickness and although most fly fisherman don’t understand it, getting an ass-kicking on the Ranch is what I live for. I’ll admit, a blank on the Marathon is a disappointment, but I knew I wouldn’t make it through life without one. It’s time for a few days to catch up on my art and then be ready for a report from the Big Hole. It will be nice to sit in a boat for a few days, cast big dry flies to the bank and day dream about walking the Ranch.
blog_June_22_2010_13[1]Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing web site

Monday, June 21, 2010

Close Call!

blog_June_21_2010_1[1] Nearly thirty years ago I was fishing with my dad on the Madison River at Reynolds Pass Bridge. When we were done I set my rod on the roof of our van and proceeded to get out of my cold wet jeans because I was freezing from wet wading (I didn’t have waders). Dad told me not to do that and always put my rod away first thing. In fact, he said don’t put anything on the roof of the car because eventually you will forget it’s there. Although I took his advice, I didn’t always follow through and eventually lost some wading shoes. Unfortunately I was on my own by then. It was a time when what little money I had was dedicated entirely to rent, ramen noodles and beer. Purchasing a new pair of wading shoes hurt bad. It never happened to me again.

That is till Saturday. I overdressed for the Ranch so when I returned to my car, I was sweating and desperate to get out of my waders. Knowing I was breaking a longtime rule, I put my rigged rod and reel on the roof and took off the waders. Man it was great to be out of those waders. I was starved, and sure enough without remembering my rod, I jumped in the car and made the short drive to the famous Grub Steak Grocery and got a sandwich to go.

Highway 20 has a lot of traffic, so in leaving the Grub Steak parking lot you need to be a little aggressive. I sped up to the edge of the highway and there was a car coming. I hit my brakes just hard enough for my complete outfit to slide forward. I heard the funny noise and there poking over my windshield was the tip of my Ross rod attached to my brand new Evolution LT. Make that a lesson folks!

Jeff Currier Global Flyfishing web site

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Henry's Fork Day

blog_June_19_2010_1[1] I rolled into Last Chance on the Henry’s Fork last night just in time for sunset and a visit with some friends at the parking lot after the fun float trip. Then friends Mike Braghini and Sam Clapp got off the river and we headed to Trout Hunter for dinner and beers. After we indulged we slipped up to Box Canyon where these guys and about ten other friends have been camped since the Ranch opened on Tuesday. We sat around the campfire till midnight then I slid in the back of the Explorer for a good night sleep. blog_June_19_2010_2[2] Tomorrow is Henry’s Fork day.

Henry’s Fork day is a fundraising event and celebration of this great river put on by the Henry’s Fork Foundation (HFF). For over twenty-five years the HFF has protected the watershed keeping the Henry’s Fork the magnificent fishery that it is today. HFF does a lot of great things for the health of the river from simple things like build electric fences to keep cattle off the banks to balancing major water issues between anglers and blog_June_19_2010_3[2] ranchers. If you’re a fan of the Henry’s Fork than you should definitely be a supporter of this great organization.

We went to bed under a brilliant starry night but woke up to drizzle. Rain was not in the forecast for today so I was surprised when I woke up to it bouncing off the Explorer. With or without rain, I was bound for the Last Chance parking lot where Henry’s Fork Day takes place. This involves a series of events starting with $5 breakfast then raffles, silent auctions, casting competitions and more. I had to be home by 4 pm today because Granny and I have to attend Rob Parkins 40th birthday party tonight. (Rob is fishing buddy and has been featured on this blog several times). With that in mind, I wanted to see as many friends as possible that are here for Henry’s Fork blog_June_19_2010_4[2] Day over the $5 breakfast and get in a few hours fishing before leaving.

Breakfast was delicious and an enjoyable visit with friends. One friend, an amazing character, “Whitefish Ed”, always fishes in fluorescent clothes and whatever else he can get his hands on that is glowing in color. Most of his gear is even in bright colors including his rods, reels and fly lines. However, Ed’s never been able to nail down a pair of fluorescent waders. So he came up with a clever idea to raise the HFF a few bucks. He purchased a pair of new waders and bought a set of fluorescent paints. Then he charged folks a 1$ to sign the waders. He now has a gaudy pair of waders with several hundred fluorescent signatures on it. I wish I could explain Ed for you but all I can say he’s a great guy and blog_June_19_2010_5[1]don’t be scared if you see him on  the river.

After breakfast the drizzle stopped but it was cold. I headed into the Ranch wearing layers of clothes. I walked all the way to a place we call Bonefish Flats and got comfortable on the bank to wait for some hatches and rising fish. The walk to Bonefish takes about 45 minutes and during that time the clouds burnt off completely and now I was hot. By the time I reorganized I spotted a huge rainbow rising behind blog_June_19_2010_6[1] an island. The river was dead calm and I could see this fishes huge head breaking the surface just munching on something. Excited, I stealthily worked my way across the river and into casting range. By now the rainbow had travelled upstream about 100ft from where I spotted him feeding. Occasionally these feeding hawgs will move all over the place while you try to present your fly to them. You think you’re to him and land your fly only to see him rise ten feet further away from you. It ends up that I chased this particular fish up and down Bonefish Flats and around an area of islands while he continued to feed and move. I never got more than a couple casts to him. My unsuccessful chase lasted four hours before the annoying fish finally stopped feeding!

Humiliated, I began the long walk back to the car. Along the way a few friends who observed my lengthy unsuccessful battle joked with me about it. We’ve all been there a time or two and it’s trout like that that makes the Ranch of the Henry’s Fork a place we love. There’s no guarantee you’re going to catch a fish no matter how good you are and any given day can be a humbling experience. Personally, I love such a fishing challenge and that’s why I go back over and over.

Just as fast as you get your butt absolutely kicked by a fish you miraculously find a cooperative one. When I was half way back to the parking lot I saw a head. There were no bugs on the water that I could see, but perhaps this fish saw something I didn’t. I watched and sure enough, I had a decent fish rising before me. I knew it was a gift from the fish Gods and got into place to present my fly. It wasn’t a complete gift. I had to change flies and the fish stopped rising for a few minutes. But, I waited him out in a desperate plea to not get skunked. Miraculously I got him to eat a flying ant pattern. He was a burly 18”er that made my morning – you got to love the Fork!

Friday, June 18, 2010

First Float of the Year

blog_June_18_2010_1[1] I planned to head to the Henry's Fork today but not until about 4 pm. I wanted to get some work done beforehand. That was until Jon Yusko (JY), the Simms Fishing Products rep for Montana, Idaho and Wyoming and Mike Dawes, a managing owner of Worldcast Anglers Fly Shop and Guide Service called me. They invited me to do an exploratory float fishing trip to see if there might be some salmon flies (our largest stonefly) hatching on an undisclosed river. Naturally I said yes, so instead of leaving for the Fork at 4, I headed for the Nunya River at noon. I’d love to tell you where the Nunya River is, but like most anglers; there are some places I just don’t share. What I can tell you is that our day was fantastic!

The Nunya is a difficult river to float. First of all there are few places to launch a boat and most launches aren’t boat launches at all. They are simply roadside pull offs with steep banks to the river. While launching, your boat it could easily escape you and literally catapult off a cliff or slide down a ravine, hit a rock and splinter into a million pieces. Luckily, today neither happened to us.

blog_June_18_2010_2[1] It’s peak runoff right now. That means that most the rivers in our area are high and muddy from snow melt. However, the unique thing about the Nunya is that although extremely high, it nearly always flows clear. High barely described it today. The river was roaring and at least two feet swollen above its banks. Dawes, a veteran oarsman with years of guiding experience, thankfully took the oars first. Dawes navigated us through a gnarly rock garden to start things and although I’m sure I’d of made it through, I was glad I didn’t have too. I just threw out two salmon fly dries and mended them like a mad fly fisherman. JY was in the front of the boat doing the same. Even keeping your fly close to the bank where fish will likely hold in such conditions was difficult.

It didn’t take us long to realize that we weren’t going to see much in the way of a salmon fly hatch. There were no big bugs flying around and few nymph shucks along the bank. We hoped that perhaps as we travelled downstream we might run into them but never did. What we did find were heaps of salmon fly nymphs. Every single rock you turned over had at least one salmon fly nymph crawling on it. The hatch is just about to occur.

blog_June_18_2010_3[1] The three of us remained too stubborn to put on a stonefly nymph. All we could do was dream about the fish hitting our two-inch long dry flies as we drifted them along the banks. Fortunately a few fish did eat them. In fact, just enough to keep us entertained. Perhaps they remember these large insects from last year or maybe they have seen a few that hatched in the last few days. Either way, it was enough action to keep us trying and we caught a surprisingly good bunch of rainbows including some nice ones.

Though we were catching some fish on the dries, Dawes couldn’t resist just seeing how well a nymph would do. The truth of the matter is that when the Nunya is truly on, you can’t keep the fish off your fly. Dawes dropped a nymph called the turd below his big dry and made a cast. Literally on his first drift he landed a small rainbow. The nymph was the ticket. Dawes and JY fished out the turd for the last mile of our float and absolutely crushed the fish.

blog_June_18_2010_4[2] Neither of us were disappointed that we didn’t’ fish a nymph sooner. We caught plenty of rainbows. Not only that, it was a gorgeous day. It has rained almost every day for over a month. Today was in the 70s and not a cloud in the sky. Best of all, we left the waders behind and although the river was icy cold, it was our first day of wet-wading. What a great first float of the year!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Ranch Opener

blog_June_16_2010_1[1] Granny and I are just home from our holiest fly  fishing weekend of the year, the opener  of the Harriman Ranch section on the Henry’s Fork.  For those unfamiliar with the Ranch of  the Henry’s Fork, this is considered the  finest and most sacred dry fly fishery in  the world. It opens on June 15 every  year and many of the worlds best dry fly anglers converge upon the river on this day. Best of all its only fifty miles from our house!

Normally opening days are something I try to avoid because I hate crowds, but the Ranch opener is different from all others. First of all, it is difficult to catch fish on the Ranch; therefore, it’s rarely crowded. Second, it’s a place where I can always count on seeing many of my long time friends. Some of whom I see often and others that I see only in June when the Henry’s Fork
blog_June_16_2010_2[1]fishes its best.

This year did not disappoint. Granny and I arrived to the Last Chance parking lot around 8 pm Monday night. Sure enough campers and minivans surrounded by occupied lounge chairs we strewn everywhere. Grills were smoking and cocktail hour was in full swing under one of our first warm sunny evenings of the year. We couldn’t wait to park the truck, dig beers out of the cooler and get out our own chairs.
Our first stop was to visit with longtime Fork anglers Victor and Sandy Colvard and their crew. My first Ranch opener was 1982, but Victor and Sandy have been doing it a lot longer than that. They have a really cool old camper and it’s always the hangout for many of the true Henry’s Fork veterans. Many of these anglers have not missed a Ranch opener since the early 70’s! Sandy and Victor are like hosts at home. Victor always makes sure you have a drink and Sandy has a table loaded with chips and salsa. This year she really surprised us when she served the entire gang an incredible dinner right there in the lot!

We had a great visit but when the sun set the mosquitoes got hungry. The Colvards and their friends were ready to call it a night, however
Granny and I and some of thblog_June_16_2010_4[1]e younger generation of Fork anglers decided it was time to head to the Ranch Opener party at the Trout Hunter. The Trout Hunter bar, restaurant, fly shop and guide service throws a heck of a party including an excellent live band, beer specials and a pig roast on the banks of the river. The place was absolutely packed and the fun was flowing. Everyone was celebrating at full thrust. Once again we met up with many friends and you guessed it, we closed the place. Like many party attendees, we parked our rig right by the party in advance and blog_June_16_2010_5[1]Granny and I climbed in the back of the truck to get a few hours of sleep before sunrise. It was a struggle, but we got up by 7 and got a good Trout Hunter breakfast in us for the long day of fishing ahead.

Although there are several places to access the Ranch, I prefer to walk in from the Last Chance parking lot on opening day. Most my friends do the same and we basically spend the day fishing together. You could walk from
here downstream all day and still be in blog_June_16_2010_6[1]the Ranch. There are miles of water to fish and if the hatch is good, plenty of rising fish to go around. I never stop walking. It’s not uncommon for me to cover five miles in a day in the Ranch and next week when I get serious, I’ll top ten.. I hunt down the biggest fish and visit with friends as I come upon them. Yesterday when fishing was slow I ran into several friends and we sat on a high bank and relaxed and caught up for at least an hour. That’s truly what the opener is all about.

blog_June_16_2010_7[1]Even though I fished hard from 8 am until 7 pm, fishing was superb for only about ten minutes. I know that may sound ridiculous, but that’s the Ranch. It was around 10 am when an excellent hatch of Pale Morning Duns and March Browns got the fish in a frenzy. Granny and I were about a mile in and I spotted the first nose of a riser. As I observed him, seeing if he was a worthy target, several other rainbows began to rise. Within minutes there were two decent fish in our sight and a handful of little guys. Granny and I blog_June_16_2010_8[1]each took after one of the larger fish and I was fortunate to hookup on my second cast. The great thing about these fish is that they put up a tremendous battle. They nearly always get acrobatic and make some pretty drag-testing runs. My fish did all the above before I brought him to hand. It was great to be back on the Fork again.

Unfortunately our ten minutes of greatness ended abruptly when a strong wind started from the south. This wind would never let up all day and delivered continuous thunderheads and rain. Although the hatches continued to trickle off, most of the bugs got literally blown off the water. Granny headed in at about noon while I stayed out all day. I managed a few casts to rising fish amongst white caps but all I could catch were a few dinks. Nonetheless, it was a great day just being back on the Fork.

We would love to have spent today on the Fork. Granny and I camped again last night and were awoken several times to the sound of heavy rain bouncing off the roof of our Explorer. It was drizzling when we got up at around 7 and I know the hatches will be pouring off for at least another ten minutes. Ha! However, we have a long list of errands to do in preparation for summer.

I will be returning solo on Friday afternoon to camp and fish the evening hatch. Saturday is Henry’s Fork day, a fantastic fundraiser put on by the Henry’s Fork Foundation. I have never been to one before because I did not have weekends off for the last 23 years. Now self employed, I’m taking it off. One can never have enough of the Henry’s Fork in June.

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing web site

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bass on the Fly Tournament

June 10, 2010

blog_June_10_2010_1[2] Today Granny and I teamed up for the annual Bass on the Fly tournament at Ririe Reservoir near Idaho Falls, Idaho. This is a really fun fly fishing only contest for smallmouth bass. I have been in all three previous contests with my regular teammate, Weldon Jones. Weldon is out of town so I was glad to bring along the wife who can certainly sling a bass bug as good as anyone.

The weather predictions were less than perfect. We expected heavy rain and strong winds. I’m sure this kept a few teams from showing up. I wouldn’t think of missing the event for weather as all anglers are on the same playing field no matter what. We actually lucked out and it was warm sunny and calm till about 11. Then, overall it was cool not cold and mostly cloudy with only a light rain shower in the afternoon. The wind became an issue at times, but I brought along a deadly lake fishing tool, my windsock, which slowed down our drifts substantially. We also took turns rowing in order to keep within casting range of the rocky banks.

blog_June_10_2010_2[1] The way this contest works is, each team is allowed to bring in five smallies 12” or over for the end of the day weigh in. They must be alive in and well for weigh in or weight is deducted from your score. To win, you must have the heaviest healthiest five bass. Things started off fantastic for Granny and me. Within ten casts I put a 12”er in the livewell. For those who chase smallies regularly, 12” doesn’t sound like much. But in Ririe, Idaho, the growing season for these non-natives is so short that they rarely pass the 16” mark. It is actually difficult to catch five smallies over 12” for the weigh in.

By noon Granny and I had four fish in the livewell including two that were 13”. Things were looking very good. We were fishing deep throwing my
Ross 7-weight and a Rio Deep 7 line. Dredging down deep is often the recipe for catching smallies during cool temps. Smallmouth can be very fly color oriented so I change flies constantly until I find the magic bug. There was no doubt that most the bass we caught were on the streamer called the Screamer. Although we fished Screamers in black, yellow and olive, it was the badger hackled Screamer with a gold cone head in a size 4 that was best.

Fishing got tough in the afternoon because of high winds. I was saving a couple favorite spots for last where I planned to catch a few fish of size, but these places are exactly where the wind was strongest creating the biggest whitecaps. We tried our best to hit the locations but even with the windsock and oars in the water we could not fish the areas effectively.

blog_June_10_2010_3[1] Exploring new water is not advised in a tournament but that’s exactly what we did the last hour of the contest because the wind drove us from my usual haunts. To our disbelief, Granny and I could not get that fifth12”er even though we had the first four by noon. We ended up releasing three bass of 11½”. We had some excitement turned disappointment four times. We basically had on quality fish that three times ended up being nice cutthroats. I know many of you would love to catch three nice cuttys, but when it’s a bass competition they just don’t make me happy. Our most disappointing moment was when I fought what felt like a huge bass for several minutes down deep only to net a huge sucker that I snagged in the side. Man did he fight and man did I think we had the big fish pot. Normally I’m one of the rare anglers who loves to catch a sucker, but not today.

blog_June_10_2010_4[2] Weigh in took place at 4 pm. There were at least five teams that had their five bass. That knocked Granny and I out of contention immediately. Our four fish weighed 4.98 lbs and the winning team of John Gendall and Curt Hamby had at least 8lbs. Curt also caught the big fish which was over 3lbs – a trophy on Ririe Reservoir.

As expected, the 2010 Bass on Fly Tournament was great fun. Many thanks to the host and originator of the event, Kevin Brazell. Kevin is one of the few hardcore bass anglers from the Yellowstone region. The event was well organized and I look forward to next year. As for the near fishing future - the Ranch section of the Henry’s Fork opens on Tuesday June 15th.

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing web site

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Big Lake Big Pike

June 6, 2010

blog_June_6_2010_1[1] Morning came rather quickly in Saskatchewan, Canada. We did not get to bed until after 2 am last night. We fished till midnight then we were so keyed up after catching our biggest pike of the trip that we couldn’t stop talking about it. At 6 am lodge manager Phil woke us up with hot coffees in hand. I could barley see straight. I was already tired from Pagato, but now having less than four hours of sleep – I was hurting bad. But I heaved myself from the bed and chugged the coffee. Then we had a great blog_June_6_2010_2[1]breakfast and met our guides at the dock at 8. 

Today is the first day of the season for
Lawrence Bay Lodge. The ice left Reindeer Lake only two weeks ago. Chris and I fished with a guide named Nelson. Nelson is an Indian that was born and raised on Reindeer Lake. His grandfather, a man that lived to an astonishing ninety-eight, guided here for sixty-seven years! You could tell Nelson was going to be excellent right from the get go. We pushed off from the blog_June_6_2010_3[1]dock and he informed us we had an eighteen minute drive to his first spot. He was talkative and gave us info on this huge lake and about growing up in the remote area. I enjoy getting the rundown on more than just the fishing. 

Once again the weather was incredible. Here we are this far north and it’s nicer than it’s been back home. If you look at Reindeer Lake on the map you will see that it is enormous. I would expect such a monster lake this far north to be
blog_June_6_2010_4[2]windy at all times. This morning it was so calm it was like glass. However, although the sun shined bright, the ice cold water of the lake made for a cold ride and I couldn’t wait for our speedy run to be over. When we got to the place I stood on the bow and looked around. It was a shallow bay and I could barely see bottom. As we drifted further in it shallowed up nicely and I could see weeds. The back of the bay was ridden with lily pads and sunken trees. This had high potential. 

blog_June_6_2010_5[1]On my fourth cast with a huge chartreuse bunny streamer I got jolted. I was so used to the Pagoto Lake hammer handle pike that when this fish started peeling line I barely remembered what to do. When I was able to hoist back on the brute I was delighted to see a fish of at least 36”s! About then Chris shouted he had one also and a few minutes later we were both releasing pike larger than we’d seen the entire trip.

We probably landed ten pike from
blog_June_6_2010_6[1]that first spot. Most of them were about 33” – 35”s long. Generally, a 35” pike is close to 10lbs. This was incredible fishing! Nelson took us from bay to bay and we caught at least several pike over 30” each time. 

As the sun got higher we began to see the pike. I saw a gargantuan pike slowly swimming along the bottom. He was aware of us and would have nothing to do with my fly. A minute later I spotted another big boy. This pike was pointed towards the bank as if waiting for a frog, bird or small mammal to make a mistake. I made a decent cast into the grass where he was facing and I could see him turn ever so slightly. Sure enough he slowly stalked my fly before picking up speed and devouring it. Landing a big pike with this many submerged trees in the water is a challenge. Luckily, when you fish on Reindeer Lake you fish heavy tippet with a foot of wire. My exact rig was a stout 30lb tippet attached to
40lb Rio Knottable wire. With my 9-weight Ross fly rod in hand I bullied the pike to the boat and avoided all the logs. Nelson (who forgot his net) reached over and wrestled the pike to where we both could lift him into the boat. It was a magnificent 39” monster! 

This may sound insane, but by days end Chris and I landed at least twenty-five pike over 30”s. Many of these were better than 36”s and Chris boated a 43”er! I love pike fishing anywhere I go, but after today, it will never be the same again. We ended our fishing promptly at 5 pm. It was tough to quit but the fishing hours at the lodge are from 8 am to 5 pm. Worse than that, it was the end of our trip. At 6 pm we got picked up by the float plane and enjoyed a bouncy twenty minute ride to Southend where we left the truck a week ago. Without wasting a minute we started our twenty-six hour drive. It’s now 3 am and we just left Saskatoon. I’m exhausted but I’m helping Chris spot the whitetail deer crossing the road. To the south it is dark like it is supposed to be at 3 am, but behind us to the north is the glow of the midnight sun. What an incredible trip! I already miss it but it’s time to go home. I have a bass fly fishing tournament on Thursday!

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing web site