Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wind, Wind and More Wind

The month that starts cold, rainy and sometimes snowy but ends with summer is nearly in the books. I’m sad it’s over because it’s the month of the Henry’s Fork, my favorite river. Sure I could keep fishing the Henry’s all season and indeed I’ll get back several times, but June is the best.

June is best not just because of the fishing but because it’s the month when the culture of the
Henry’s Fork is strongest. The hardcore dry fly anglers from all over come in June and then migrate home after. We fish together. We camp together. We eat together and often drink too much together. Today I said goodbye to these friends both old and new. It seems strange that I won’t see most of them again until next June, but that’s the Fork.

I rolled solo into the gravel pits last night and camped. Granny took a week off from camping and fishing. Many of the regulars whom you’ve met in earlier blogs were there, but most stayed tight to their campers because the mosquitoes were so bad. Even though it was hot I made a campfire and smoked up my clothes to help keep the mosies at bay.

Sleep didn’t come easy for me. There was a family of
great horned owls around my truck. I think the owlets were learning to fly. I saw them just before I snuffed out my fire and then they hung in the trees yakking it up all night. I was glad to see the sunrise so their noise could be replaced by the singing of other birds.

Kelly Oikawa whom you met last week joined me this morning to do a long hike from the gravel pits down towards a place called Pine Haven. It’s a distance of about 5 miles round trip. We left my camp at about 8 AM. The sky was cloudless and there wasn’t an ounce of wind. We saw nothing but the random rise the first hour but then I found a nice fish rising aggressively. I moved into place and tossed the same fly I had on during the Marathon last week. Fishing was so spectacular last week I just assumed this fish would munch down my fly but instead he refused it and backed off at the last second leaving nothing but a big boil. I cast the fly his way a few more times but he ignored it and kept feeding on natural foods.

The water was covered with spent
Pale Morning Duns. It’s not an easy fly to imitate and when a fish is really focused on them, they can be very hard to fool. I tested my eyes for an hour switching and rotating through about 8 flies.

Kelly was watching and offered me one of his special
rusty spinners that he tied. They are absolutely gorgeous and as I tied the size 16 on the trout continuing to feed just 20 feet away. I was confident that it was only a matter of seconds before Kelly’s fly would be in his mouth. Well, I was right about that. I made three casts and then the rainbow ate. But, I missed him. It was one of those deals where I watched the massive mouth close down on the spinner and I lifted my rod and there was nothing. *******!

That fish was gone. He didn’t hang around. There was no second chance. It was over. Fish 1 Currier 0. Kelly and I thought we’d just walk down stream a little further and find another but that was not the case. Despite plenty of food on the water, rising fish were scarce. Then the wind started. Then the wind got stronger. And one hour after I flossed my fish, the
Henry’s Fork turned to a frothy-white-capped-sea and our chances at finding a feeding trout on top were next to nothing.

The next 7 hours went slow. Kelly fished his way back to camp and I went for a walk, a long walk all the way to Pine Haven and back to camp. The wind was deafening and I never made another cast. The only entertainment I had was getting attacked by
red-winged black birds, willets and phalaropes. Great fun I tell ya! At 7 PM I was at camp drinking a beer and planning my next move.

I decided to head up the road and park behind the
TroutHunter. A good friend Eddie Pinkston was in town and it would be fun to visit with him over a beer. I got parked up there along the river and started cooking up a dog. In the process I spotted a riser on the far bank of the river. I was totally out of my waders and it was 8:30 PM. I wasn’t feeling like wadering up again. But then the trout rose consistently. I put out my grill and said heck with the dog and wadered up. This move proved to be my best of the day. I caught that fish on the first cast and he was at least 19 inches. While I was fighting him I spotted another and I went on to catch him. Then when the sun set we had a caddis hatch to remember and I caught a total of 5 hefty rainbows before 10:30 when I couldn’t see anything anymore.

As planned I ended the night at the
TroutHunter. Most the regulars of the Fork were out like it was meant to be. I had a great visit with Eddie and final beers with the rest of the characters of June. It was a great night, a great day and it has been an absolutely fantastic June on the Fork!

Sorry for no fish pics. After 12 hours of no fish I really didn’t expect to catch 5 pigs after 8:30! Sometimes leaving the camera in the car helps.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Jenny Lake

Rick Schreiber has lived in Jackson Hole, Wyoming since the 70’s. Despite our 20 year age difference, we’ve been friends since about when I moved to Jackson in 1987. We competed against each other in pool tournaments, then he guided out of the fly shop I managed and we even have a mutual friend that takes us to Wisconsin every year to fish. Furthermore, Rick fly fishes the lakes in and around Jackson more so than anyone I can think of. You already know I enjoy the lakes too and today Rick had a seat in his boat for an afternoon up at Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park.

Jenny is a lake that I used to fish a bunch. In fact, I ice fished the lake a lot back in the day. I once caught a 24lb lake trout out of there during a terrible snow storm through more than 3 feet of ice. Now that I’m over in Idaho, I rarely get to Jenny anymore. So when I got the email invite from Rick I jumped on the chance.

If you looked at the weather for this entire week, today was probably the worst day to be out on Jenny Lake in a drift boat with a tiny outboard. The forecast simply said strong wind, 75% chance of thunderstorms and possible hail. But we didn’t talk about that. We both were anxious to fish, especially because Rick said fishing was on fire!

When we launched his boat there were already a couple old timers pulling out. They’d had enough getting tossed around in the white caps of the lake. Furthermore, they said fishing was slow. They landed one small lake trout. At that moment Jenny wasn’t looking so bad. Rick also had confidence in a particular area he’d been fishing and knew the old timers didn’t know the place. Soon enough we were moving across the lake.

I always forget how gorgeous Jenny Lake is. No matter how many times you’ve been on Jenny Lake, the Tetons impress you. They are literally right over the top of you. The only bad thing is you can’t see the weather coming until it’s upon you.

By the time we got to Ricks location the wind was honking. There was no mistake in this part of the forecast. In fact it was so windy that we really couldn’t fish Ricks spot. So for about two hours we tried some slightly sheltered areas. I fished my three nymph train on my Scientific Angler Stillwater and Rick dredged a single streamer on a very fast sinking line, but nothing for either of us.

At about 3 PM the wind calmed slightly and Rick suggested we try again to anchor in his secret spot. We motored over and sure enough the wind was much more manageable. At first I rowed Rick around the area while he prowled with a big spin lure. We were desperate. On the first cast he nailed a small laker but that was it. Finally I dropped anchor and began fishing too. On my first cast with the nymphs I nailed a lake trout on a red English buzzer.

Often times, once you get that first fish in the boat, you start catching a few. But today was one for the record books. I caught a fish on my next four casts. The fish consisted of three more lakers and a mountain whitefish. Neither Rick nor I had ever caught a whitefish out of Jenny. Meanwhile Rick was back to his streamer set up but it wasn’t producing nearly as well as the nymphs. He rigged up a prince and started catching them too. One hour later we had caught at least 20 fish!

We fished until about 5 PM. We fully intended to fish later but I kid you not, we caught well over 50 fish. Amongst our lakers and one whitefish, I landed several nice cutthroats and Rick caught another “Jenny Lake surprise”, a sucker. About the only fish we didn’t catch that occasionally do show up on Jenny was a rainbow or a brook trout.

Of course the other reason we left at 5 instead of later was a change in weather. Between 4 and 5 we saw high wind, rain and scary black clouds. Then the first massive thunder head came over the top of us. That was it. We pulled that anchor and headed for the boat ramp. The rain picked up and the wind got dangerous at times. The one thing you always do on our lakes is hug the shoreline. We stayed within 20 feet all the way back and made it fine.

It was a fantastic day on Jenny! Two great days this week already. . . I wonder what’s next?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Marathon 2011 - Revenge

Today my favorite tradition lived on, I did my annual Marathon. The “Marathon” is my way of celebrating the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. I’ve been doing it for 25 years. We’re not talking running 26 miles. I could never do that. Basically my Marathon is that I utilize every minute of the longest day of the year for fishing. I (and whoever else wants to join in) walk and fish the Harriman Ranch on the Henry’s Fork from the Last Chance parking lot all the way down to the Osborne Bridge and back. This is a distance of over ten miles and takes nearly fifteen hours.

To really appreciate what I’m about to write, you must read about my 2010 Marathon. Although Marathon 2010 was a magnificent day on the water and memorable to say the least, it was my first fishless Marathon ever. The skunking was tough to absorb not only in the following weeks, but it often had me shaking my head during the long winter.

That’s why today I set out to make 2011 the best Marathon of all time.

Conditions on the Henry’s Fork up through this past weekend indicated another difficult Marathon was in store. Like all rivers in our area, the Henry’s Fork through the Ranch is high and slightly off-color from our massive snowpack. The temperature of the water is nearly ten degrees below normal for this time of year and hatches have been poor. In fact conditions have been so bad that I feared another possible blank could happen!

Nonetheless, I wasn’t going to back off and end a tradition, so I started focusing on the event three days ago. I literally set up my 4-weight Ross rig with leader and fly at the house the other night and carefully packed it up to be ready for today. I made sure everything was perfect from the knots in my leader to the hairs on my fly. Then last night I got mentally prepared. There was no wild night at the TroutHunter Bar but rather a very tame night around the campfire at the gravel pits and a good night sleep.
Granny always comes to the Henry’s Fork with me for the Marathon but she has never done the full deal. She dabbles in it. She leaves the parking lot around 11 and catches up to me later in the day, fishes a few hours then goes in early. She’s done that for all these years. But to my surprise, a few days ago she said she was doing the whole thing with me. Cool!

We broke down camp in the gravel pits at about 5:45 AM then drove up to the Last Chance lot and brewed some coffee. We loaded my Simms backpack with plenty of food and water and a minimal amount of flies. Early season on the Ranch is more about presentation than pattern. If you’re in the ballpark and present the pattern to your rising fish well, you usually get them. For years I have started this the Marathon with a size 18 parachute Adams and today I did the same.

At 6:30 the water in my kettle started to boil and Kelly Oikawa from Canada pulled in the lot. I met Kelly last week at the TroutHunter and somehow my Marathon came into the conversation. Kelly loved the sounds of the adventure. As far as I’m concerned, the more you have to celebrate the solstice the merrier and I invited him along. Honestly, I invite a lot of people to the Marathon but very few make it. I was really happy to see him.

Minutes before 8 AM, Granny, Kelly and I set off. Granny and I opted crossing the high river at the parking lot and Kelly stayed on the east side. We all walked slowly downstream with heavy backpacks and saw nothing in the first mile. Then at about 9, I saw Kelly wade into the Henry’s Fork like a heron ready to thrash a school of shiners. He got into position and stared. Then he began to cast.

It was obvious he was on to a rising fish. By now a few Pale Morning Duns were starting to hatch. Granny and I strolled down to a bank where I frequently find pigs and grabbed a seat in the tall grass. Just as I sunk my teeth into a bite of fried chicken, Kelly hooted and was hooked up. I’m short of fish pics in recent blogs so even though he was far from us, I charged across the river and upstream to him. Just as I got there he landed the first nice Harriman Ranch rainbow of the day. On a river where one nice fish a day is considered good, Kelly was in the money early in the morning.

Granny and I opted to stay on the east bank and meander down to another favorite haunt. Again we got comfy along the bank and finished our fried chicken brunch. Then I heard a fish. I quickly shot a look in the direction of the gulp sound and sure enough, the rings of a rise were fading on the surface. It was five minutes before he rose again, but that’s typical on the Ranch. And that’s the reason fishing on the Ranch can be so difficult. In my brain I marked the exact location of the rise. This is critical as you want to put your fly in this exact spot. Also, when my fly is in this exact spot, I want to be ready for the eat so I can set the hook. If you’re not ready, these fish are easy to screw up.

Naturally I offered the fish (he now rose three times) to Granny. But she was deep in her chicken and moving on to some desert and said she was chillin. Wasting no time, I made my move into position. Just as I got to the spot the rainbow rose again. I stripped my SA DT4F line off the reel and dropped my fly 6-feet above where I knew the trout was looking and fed the fly to him. As expected, he munched my fly. It was a big head and he ate facing towards me. I struck; the trout thrashed, zipped downstream, jumped and came unbuttoned. I couldn’t believe it - trout 1 and Currier 0 – on came a flash back of 2010. At least I hooked him. My presentation was good. My fly was the right choice. The day was still young so there was plenty of time to get a big fish.

Kelly had joined us on the bank and by now another good size trout rose. Granny and I left this one to Kelly and we wandered to the famous part of the Ranch called “Bonefish Flats”. I’d have to say the “Flats” is my favorite ¼ mile piece of trout water on the planet. And when I saw a large fish rising in dead center of the run I thought I’d died and gone to Heaven. This fish was for Granny.

Granny is a great angler. She doesn’t think so but she is. Nonetheless, I walked out to the fish with her and stood by her side. This guy was a little tougher as she made a couple good presentations but he wouldn’t eat. The real problem here was that her fish was moving around, a common behavior that makes the “Bonefish Flats” fish more challenging than others.

Meanwhile, another fish rose in my sights and rather than wait for him to move away, I launched my parachute Adams and wham! I had this one on. He leaped immediately and Granny turned my way and playfully called me a scumbag. Minutes later I slipped my barbless hook from the first 18 incher of the day.

That was the beginning of what became my best day ever on the Marathon and one of the best days I have EVER had on the Ranch. I went on to land eight rainbows over 18 inches. And one of these was a monster over 20 inches!

Bringing a monster to hand is always a thrill. But when you catch it like I did this one, it’s even more exciting. It was about 6 PM and we were only half way through the Marathon as far as distance. We’d just left Osborne Bridge and began our five mile upstream back to the parking lot trek. We were going through some gorgeous looking water however it is the deepest and siltiest area of the Ranch. It’s very difficult to wade because your feet stick in the silt and you often sink over the top of your waders – not fun at all. I always expect to see a rising fish here but hardly ever do. Sure enough, today I did.

By now I already had five big fish under my belt. If this trout was out of range or difficult to wade to, passing him up wasn’t a big deal. I knew Granny wasn’t going after him and although I kind of hoped Kelly would, he didn’t. I watched the trout rise several more times. He didn’t appear to be a giant, just a respectable 18 inch rainbow. Then as we all started to pass him up, I got hit with that predator instinct and began the risky wade. Two minutes later I was slipping on the river bottom only an inch from going over the top of my waders. But I had the now aggressively rising fish in range and fired a cast. My drift looked good, but this fish was moving around so I had no idea where his exact location was or if he’d eat my fly. Then when I least expected it, his lips broke the surface and he ate my fly. He was much bigger than I had thought and I panicked and set too soon. I missed him!

The good news however, is that I didn’t sting him at all. I didn’t even feel my fly knick his lips. Regardless, usually all fish on the Henry’s Fork swim for the hills when this event happens. They know the scenario and realize they almost made a major mistake. However, regardless of the fact that they almost always spook after a missed strike, I always fire a cast back their way. I don’t wait to see them rise again and never give up. I just cast. And I have a theory behind this. I’ve come to the conclusion over the years that it takes these big fish a minute to sort out there mistake. And if you can present your fly to them again before they sort it out, they drop their train of thought and try to eat it again. On this monster it worked.

None of the three of us could believe this big trout gave me a second chance, but he was on. My first move was to get tight on him then wade to more stable ground. I back tracked towards the bank while in battle. At this point the trout had thrashed on the surface but had not cleared the water to show us his true size. I just knew he was big. Two minutes into the fight he realized what was going on and he smoked me and jumped. Oh yea, this was a good one!

Granny and Kelly didn’t miss this jump. Granny broke out the camera and Kelly waded out to me to net him. There was no messing around as these fish don’t get hooked often. And after a few more good runs and another jump, Kelly made one of the finest net scoopings I’ve ever seen. We waded to the bank to admire the big-boy. His tail was sticking well out of the net. We snapped a few pics then I turned the still very spunky fish into the current and he bolted back to his home.

Granny called it a Marathon at about 8:30 and took a short cut from Cattleman’s Bridge back to the Last Chance parking lot. Kelly and I, although exhausted, got on opposite banks and hunted for risers all the way back till after 10. My day continued to surpass my wildest dreams and I landed three more great fish. The last fish was a bank feeder that ate my fly at 9:30. His last jump silhouetted against sunset of the longest day of the year. And by the time I released him the sun was gone. The greatest Marathon thus far was in the books.

The longest day of the year and my tradition of the Marathon is my favorite event of the year. I love a great day from the boat when 40 fish are caught. My heart pumps when I board an airplane to fly to some exotic location for huge hard fighting fish. But I can’t sleep on the night of June 20th because I’m always so damn excited for the earliest sunrise of the year in Idaho. Remember what I said in the beginning of this blog, “the more the merrier”. If you want to make the next solstice a memorable one, be in the Last Chance parking lot at 7 AM 2012. Bring your own coffee!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Fathers Day

Happy Fathers Day everyone! I should have posted this last week because these Cliff Fly Boxes with my art on them make great gifts. For years I have drawn fish on them with sharpies and charged $25. Well, that price is now $35 due to recent demand. More importantly, I have recently done some scenes on these boxes. They seem to be coming out well and are becoming a real hit. The price for scenes is $75.

The scene pictured here is for Tim Schilling of Colorado. Tim had a great day of largemouth bass fishing with muddler minnows. He was just about to finish up when the pond began to explode. Cicadas that were literally deafening all day were falling to the water. It wasn’t the bass that were eating them but rather huge bluegills. Tim wrote me an awesome note describing the feeding bluegill. And to help him remember the unique fishing experience, this is the box I did for him.

I never made it to the Henry’s Fork yesterday as planned. It was time to catch up on things. My decision was not that hard because I’ll be heading over Monday night and on Tuesday is my annual Henry’s Fork Marathon. I will be walking most of the Harriman Ranch, basically from the Last Chance parking lot to Osborne Bridge and back. It’s the longest day of the year and I plan to leave the lot at 7 AM and don’t expect to be back until 10 PM. Any fellow maniacs in the area are welcome to join. To give you an idea what spending the longest day of the year on the HF Ranch can be like, read my story about the 2010 Marathon. This year I need to catch a monster!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

There's Nothing Like Opening Day

June 15

For Granny and I, opening day on the Harriman Ranch of the Henry’s Fork isn’t just about the fishing. We especially like seeing old friends. Our hardcore fishing will come next week when the opener crowds shrink and the fishing gets better.

We arrived at the Last Chance parking lot at the upper end of the Ranch last night at about 7 PM. Friends Victor and Sandy Colvard were relaxing outside their camper along with several others. Granny and I pulled up next to them, jumped out of our rig and set up our lounge chairs to join the group. We were really stoked about winning 2nd place in the bass tourney and now it was time to celebrate. We popped a couple beers and started catching up with everyone. From there we walked up to the TroutHunter pig roast and partied down with everyone into the wee hours of the morning.

Despite the big night, Granny and were up and chowing on breakfast at 7 AM sharp. From there it was back to the parking lot where at some point today we would make a walk down into the Ranch. Although sunny, it was a cool morning and the wind was already starting to blow. Not good because it was only 8. Typically, these sunny, cool windy days of June aren’t the best for hatches. To make conditions worse, the water level is about as high for a Ranch opener as I can remember, furthermore threatening the chances of a good hatch. And when there are no hatches in the Ranch there are few risers and few fish caught.

With that in mind, we really took our time to get ready. The visiting with friends started all over again and we didn’t wader up until about 11. Granny knows the deal too and she opted not to fish at all. So I headed down into the Ranch with my friend Rob Parkins.

Rob and I walked about a mile in to an area I refer to as the big turn. The entire walk Rob and I scanned the water for risers but found nothing. We also visited numerous anglers that had been out all morning and not one person had seen or caught a fish. Rob and I got comfortable on a bank that’s been reliable for me even on tough days like today and we kicked back and waited for a fish to appear. One hour, two hours, maybe it was three hours before finally a trout rose. Then five minutes later the trout rose again. We had a chance. Today is Rob’s birthday so he waded into position.

From judging the rise, this was a standard big rainbow of the Ranch. He would likely go 18 inches or better. He rose again and Rob carefully laid down his first cast. Everything looked good to me. His fly drifted right over where the fish just rose but nothing. Fifteen minutes later Rob was still making nice casts but the fish hadn’t risen again. It had been windy all day, but now that we actually saw a fish, the wind got worse. Hurricane-like bursts of wind had arrived. I mean it must have been gusting over 30mph. It was absolutely brutal. Rob stared in the direction he last saw his fish and the area turned to whitecaps. Rob reeled in and said “I’m out a here”.

A glutton for punishment, I actually stayed at this spot for another hour. I took a nap hoping I’d wake up to no more wind and a rising rainbow in front of me. But I wasn’t so lucky. At 4 PM I too packed it in. It was a rare opener for me, not only did I not catch a fish, but I never made a cast.

At the parking lot it was evident the Harriman Ranch of the Henry’s Fork had taken its toll on almost everyone. It wasn’t even 5 and everyone was out of their waders plopped in lawn chairs drinking beer and wine. The wind was still cranking and there was no indication it would stop in time for an evening hatch. When you can’t beat them, join them and that’s what I did.

It was a great night in the old Last Chance parking lot. The Colvards started up their grill and the food never stopped coming. We had steaks, chicken, corn, asparagus, salad and the list goes on. It was a special night with some special friends.

Every Ranch opener is memorable. Most often it’s because of the good fishing but today it will be the wind and the biggest parking lot party ever. It doesn’t blow like it did today but once a summer – I hope. But I know the fish are here and I plan to return Saturday morning for Henry’s Fork Day. Perhaps I’ll get a few hours on the water and the big boys will be rising.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bass on a Fly Tourney

The 4th annual “Bass on the Fly” tournament took place today at Ririe Reservoir in Ririe, Idaho. There were 14 teams and we left the docks promptly at 8 AM. My team consisted of my usual teammates, Weldon Jones and my wife Granny. Weldon and I did most of the fishing while Granny rowed us around the rocks.

It’s been raining for a week and the lake was slightly off color. While some anglers were concerned I wasn’t. I’ve done plenty of smallmouth bass fishing in both clear and off colored water and must say sometimes I do better when its off.
Weldon and I simply put on our usual, chartreuse Clouser Minnows and started chucking and ducking. The way we like to fish is to cast the heavy flies tight to the bank, make a couple strips then just let the flies sink down into the rocks. You really must pay close attention because the smallies will grab your fly so soft that you hardly feel them. Any suspicious feel on my fly and I strip set hard. When it’s a fish great but if not I simply did another strip and let the fly sink some more.

The way the tourney scores is that you can weigh in five bass 12” or bigger. All fish are required to be kept in a live well and must be healthy for release after the tourney in order to count. I use my cooler and insert a battery operated aerator. We got off to a roaring start with two bass of 13” in the first hour. Although these aren’t big smallmouth bass compared to what you often catch in the Midwest or Canada, these are good ones for Ririe. Our day remained steady and by noon we had five respectable smallies. Then, all in about a 15 minute period, I landed two 14” smallies and
Weldon got a 15”. We replaced our smaller fish with these nice ones. We were styling!

At 4 PM we had the weigh in. Weldon’s bass was 1.74lbs and was the third largest caught. Our five fish weight was 6.4lbs which captured us 2nd place. We ended up with a nice little check that covered all our expenses today from entry fee, gas and even food.

If you ever want to learn more about fly fishing for bass or other warmwater species for that matter, don’t forget
I have a book on the topic. You can order your book from my site and I’d be glad to autograph it and remarque it with a fly.

Off to the Henrys Fork party to catch opening day at the Harriman Ranch tomorrow! Living the dream!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Artists on the Water

I fished with a couple good guys today that I’ve never hung out with before, Ryan of the TroutHunter Fly Shop and Derek DeYoung, fellow fish artist. Although I didn’t know Ryan, Derek and I have been in contact many times, we just haven’t fished together because he lives up in Livingston, Montana. That’s about five hours away from Victor, Idaho. But this weekend he was in the area and contacted me about fishing. Derek even towed down his lake boat so I met him up at Island Park Reservoir.

Derek has been painting his entire life and his talent is clear in his work. He’s is not only a fellow Simms T-shirt artist but also one of the top artists of the sport. His art appears everywhere from on fly boxes and water bottles to decals and you name it. He also sells his originals on his website and like most fish artists, takes custom commission orders. Although Derek and I both have work with Simms, sell originals and take custom orders, our art is very different. Derek works in oil paints while I work in watercolors. And Derek’s fish paintings are very contemporary while I tend to go more realistic. We complement each other very well, so much that we will be doing an art show together August 5th at Wyoming Gallery in Jackson, Wyoming.

The sun shined, the clouds thickened, and then the skies dumped sleet and rain on Island Park Reservoir. At times the lake was like glass, then a breeze came through and minutes later you feared for your life when the surface turned to a frothing sea of whitecaps. Fishing was tough to say the least. We managed just two fish. I landed a small rainbow on about the second cast of the day and Derek scarfed up another as we were getting wind swept down a structured bank just before the first pelting of ice pellets.

The three of us only fished for about four hours; however that was enough time for us to get to know each other a little better. I’ll see Ryan again next week when I’m over at the Henry’s Fork and Derek and I plan to meet at Island Park Reservoir yet again when the weather finally calms down and gets more predictable.

Next on the agenda is the “Bass on the Fly” tournament on Ririe Reservoir Tuesday June 14th. Granny, Weldon Jones and I will compete and try to do better than last year. After scoring a 3rd place then 2nd place in the two previous years we dropped out of sight last year and hope to get back near the top.

Then after the weigh in at 4 PM, we’ll head north to the Ranch Opener Party at the TroutHunter. If we can survive the bash we will fish the Harriman Ranch for a few hours the next morning. This will be my 25th year at the opening of the Ranch! Stoked!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


In this neck of the woods we changed the name of this month from June to June-uary. The weather this spring has simply been more like winter. Simms Rep Jon Yousko and I had to take the helm over this snowy pass first thing this morning in order to find clear water to fish.

This pass is located near Sturtevant’s Mountain Outfitters in Ketchum, Idaho where I spoke last night as part of a Simms promotion. The promotion is the baby of Jon Yousko and is called “Simms Night”. Customers of Sturtevant’s had the opportunity to learn about Simms products, try on waders and fishing clothes and even win Simms product as raffle prizes that were drawn every half hour. While this all went on I painted a Snake River Cutthroat while folks watched over cocktails and delicious snacks. Then I gave my PowerPoint presentation “Fly Fishing through Midlife Heaven”. We had a great turnout and everything went very well. This was the second one of these events Jon and I have done and there will be more to come.

Seeing that Jon and I were in the Sun Valley area it only made sense to wet a line on Silver Creek. However, with spring runoff and a surge of rainstorms the last few days, even the famous spring creek isn’t fishing well. Therefore, we were well advised to check out a lesser fished tail water about 60 miles away. Although this river is running high too, the fact that it flows from a dam allows it to always run clear.

Let’s just say it was pouring cats and dogs as we left Sun Valley at about 7:30 AM. Heading up an unpaved mountain pass probably wasn’t the smartest of moves. Especially because we weren’t sure if the road over was open in the first place. We knew the summit of the pass was over 7000 feet in elevation and we were sure it would be snowing up there. However, our dilemma was either get over the pass and be fishing in an hour or drive around the mountains which would take at least two hours. The time was one thing but let’s not forget how important it is to save some gas these days as well.

Once the decision was made to go for it off we went and fortunately the pass was the right choice. The only disruptions we had was navigating around a few rock slides. Indeed it was snowing near the top of the pass, but accumulation wasn’t too bad and we reached the summit with ease. Our climb was followed by a long muddy coast downhill to where we reached the gushing river.

The rain was still falling by the buckets when we arrived. This heavy a rain is unusual for us. There’s no doubt that rivers all over Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are at flood stage. Nonetheless, this particular river was clear enough to give it a try. We wadered up and slipped on all our bomb proof Simms gear and rigged up our rods. I was using my 5-weight Ross Rx rod, F1 reel lined with my
SA Textured GPX.

I rigged up for something I haven’t done in ages, Polish Nymphing. Some call it Czech Nymphing. Some call it European Nymphing. But I call it Polish Nymphing. This no-indicator method was taught to me from the 1991 World Champion and long time friend, Vladi Trzebunia. Vladi is from Zakopane, Poland and he introduced this devastating nymphing method to the world when he won the championship. Vladi taught the technique to me while I was competing in Poland in 1998, and although I’ll never take Polish Nymphing near the level he has, I can do it pretty well.

You would think I’d use Polish Nymphing all the time, but the truth is I prefer fishing the dries and streamers. In fact I’ve never been much for nymphing. But today’s river was made for Vladi style fishing. The water was high, fast and we were so early there wasn’t a glimmer of a hatch in sight. Also, when rivers are this high, I don’t mind working a pool for a long time with a nymph. Sometimes it’s easier just to stay in one place than try to wade over slippery rocks on a raging river.

Nymphing was the right choice. In the very first run I fished I landed over a dozen fish. While most fish were rainbows in the 8” to 16” range, I caught one hefty whitefish and to my surprise, two small kokanee salmon – pretty cool!

The rain stopped an hour into the fishing and the fish kept chowing my nymphs. Things were good and every pool fished as well as the first (minus more kokanees). It was fish after fish. I don’t know how many times I thought to myself how proud Vladi will be to hear about my day. Meanwhile, Jon too was having a feast on this cool little river.

That’s about all. I’m sorry that I didn’t mention the name of this river but it’s not one of my haunts, and therefore not mine to mention. I’m just lucky it was pointed out to us. I actually fished it years back and this little secret was excellent then too. The long drive is what has kept me away. Jon and I both had to get home this afternoon so at 1 PM we packed it in. Leaving was especially hard because the March brown hatch was beginning and the rainbows were starting to rise to them.

After my four hour drive back into the heavy rains, I’m absolutely exhausted. You know how those windshield wipers put you to sleep. Tomorrow I plan to lay low and finish up this giant cutty painting and pack for a weekend on Hebgen. Why not? Unless I get booked quick, Sturtevant’s was my last gig for a couple weeks. It’s time to fish.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

HF - What a Morning!

It was a cold winter day in January 1988 when Mike Braghini walked into a meager fly fishing department at the Jack Dennis Outdoor Shop in Jackson, Wyoming. As with any Rocky Mountain fly shop those days, there was very little inventory during the cold winter months. Furthermore, every one of these fly shops had a guy behind the counter tying flies. I happened to be that guy.

Mike just moved to town. He’d left the east coast to start a new life with heavy emphasis on fishing. I should have asked him today if he was fly fishing back then. I can’t remember that far back. But what I do remember is that he helped that work day go fast because he spent about five hours chatting. He went on to spend many a day visiting the shop soaking me for information about every fishing detail one could think of about his new home. Mike went on to join our fly shop staff for awhile before becoming a highly skilled electrician and a phenomenal fly fisherman. And he’s been a good friend for 25 years.

Mike and I had a pretty fun evening at the TroutHunter last night. Yet that didn’t stop us from being on the upper Henry’s Fork around Last Chance, Idaho before 7:30 AM. We mulled that 25 years as friends thing over a number of times as we drank coffee and waited for the first big fish to rise. We found it hard to believe that we’re both approaching 50. We joked about getting this old when were in our twenties but never thought it would happen. Well, time flies and here we are. The good news is we’re still hitting the bars of Last Chance, camping on the ground by the river and fishing together on the Henry’s Fork - just like we were back in the summer of 1988. In fact, I’m proud to say I think we’re still fishing bums.

Before 8 a couple of huge rainbows swirled just below the surface. When we were in our twenties we both would have dropped the coffees to make the cast. Now we observe. We never cast at a feeding fish until we study the situation. A little observation and you can often see what the fish is feeding on and pick up on the feeding pattern. How often is the fish rising? Is he moving around? Important things like that. There was no rush. These were happy rainbows and as long as they were unmolested they would continue feeding. And continue they did until finally Mike went into action.

I watched patiently. The fact that neither trout broke the surface made it evident that the trout were feeding on emergers. Mike wisely put on a Pale Morning Dun emerger. I watched his pursuit for about ten minutes then went on to find my own quarry.

We probably won’t have more than five mornings all summer as nice as today. There was no wind and the temperature was about 70ยบ. That’s rare up on the Henry’s early in the morning. As I slowly stalked fish along the bank I watched all the animals and birds enjoy the start to the day as much as I. In particular was this
short tailed weasel that was hunting voles and gophers. We have plenty of weasels around but you rarely see them. I was lucky to enjoy him from as close as a few feet for fifteen minutes.

I never found a fish downstream so I made my way back up to where the fish were. Sure enough, Mike was standing and battling a nice fish. “This is number two”, he said. You need to take the next one”. I made my way to him and clicked a few pics and then he showed me his set up. He had a small dry and below it about 12 inches was a small nymph. It was one of his custom ties so I won’t disclose his secret. But I did reach in his box and take one.

Mike took a break and I moved into his spot and patiently waited. He caught the two we saw but I knew there were plenty more around. Sure enough, about twenty feet upstream a trout swirled. I crawled into perfect position and three casts later I was hooked up.

Upper Henry’s Fork rainbows are known for several things. They are big. They fight hard and jump like crazy. And they normally outsmart even the best fly fishers. Today the later was not true. Mike and I have had many fishless days on the Henry’s and could tell you of at least a dozen trout we could never crack the code on over the last 25 years. So today was payback. We landed five great fish before 10 AM. At 10 AM, the wind started, more anglers appeared and the trout stopped feeding. Mike and I called it a day. And what a day it was!