Friday, June 29, 2012

There's Big Browns in Texas

June 28 & 29, 2012

Like any wise angler I don’t advertise where I’m going fishing when its one of my sneaky favorites. If I get caught on the way and someone asks where I’m headed I usually make up something fast.  But at 6 AM yesterday when on the way an acquaintance yelled out, “Hey Currier where you going?"  My mind was short on coffee and I spouted out – “Texas.  We’re headed to Texas”.  I guess I’ve been traveling too much of late because he simply responded, “Nice!  Good luck.  Hope you catch some big bass.  See you when you get back.”

Michigan Mike (my buddy who’s now from Oregon), Trey Scharp (Carp Tourney partner) and I actually fished in Wyoming on water that holds few fish but big fish.  Its one of those places that just as you get discouraged about not catching a fish you catch a big one.  We fished yesterday and today and caught a total of about ten nice rainbows, browns and even some Bonneville cutthroats.  One particular brown trout was one of the nicest trout I’ve caught in years!

Just as exciting as the fishing was our camping.  It was hot and cloudless so I spread my sleeping bag out on the ground and skipped the tent.  It’s a good thing I was tired because all night long a family of great horned owls hopped around me screeching, hooting and climbing up and down the cottonwood trees next to me.  The highlight was when a mouse tried to steal a granola bar from the boat.  Let’s just say he didn’t get far before one of the baby great horned owls nailed him.  In addition to the owls, raccoons went through the entire camp and searched every corner of the boat looking for scraps.

I should add we fished out of Treys new boat.  It’s an Adipose and what’s cool about this boat is that it’s very much like the famous old South Fork Skiff boats.  Adipose made a few adjustments that make if very easy to move around in.  This boat rows easy and takes you to the fish!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Henry's Fork Marathon 2012

Only the craziest hardcore dry fly anglers in the world would fish the Harriman Ranch of the Henry’s Fork on a day like today.  Winds were steady at 25 mph with gusts up to 40 mph.  There were times when your 16 foot leader and dry fly would lift off the water.  For ten hours of the day the Fork was completely covered in whitecaps.  Yet at the same time, today was my 26th annual Henry’s Fork Marathon.  My longest fishing day of the year.  My favorite fishing day of the year.  The day when me, Granny and many friends leave the Last Chance parking lot on the Henry’s Fork before 8 AM and fish through a major portion of the Harriman Ranch all the way to Osborne Bridge and back.  No one stops fishing for more than the occasional beer or cigar until after 9 PM.  Then we end the great fishing day with beers and a feast at the TroutHunter.

Granny and I did our first Henry’s Fork Marathon on June 21, 1986.  I thought it would be cool to fish from sunrise to sunset on the longest day of the year.  Around 1992 it occurred that every year we did the same thing and soon we had a tradition.  Over the years friends have joined us on the fun day.  As we got older and more sensible sunrise gave way to a 6 AM parking lot departure, then 7 and now we leave just before 8.  The start time won’t get any later because to keep calling this the Marathon we must fish at least 14 hours straight. 

These days the exact Marathon day is not necessarily the longest day of the year but rather the Tuesday closest to the summer solstice.  That’s Granny’s day off.  We pick the date way in advance and no matter what the weather we go for it and have a great time.  Anyone who wants to join us is welcome.

When you do something for 26 years straight you see all kinds of fishing and all kinds of weather (See blogs for 2010 & 2011).  Today’s forecast of gale force winds with clear sunny skies was as bad as a weather prediction can be for fishing the Ranch of the Henry’s Fork.  It was obvious to the 11 of us “Marathoners” that fishing would stink.  But none of us chickened out and we left the parking lot at 7:45.  By 7:50 it was windy.  And by 9 it was an Idaho hurricane!

At 9 AM several of us were about two miles deep in the Ranch, just hitting the famous area called Bonefish Flats.  The minute we arrived the already strong winds went from about 20 mph to 30.  If you stuck around a minute you were bound to experience one of the 40 mph gusts – they were awesome.  The Henry’s Fork turned into an ocean of whitecaps and during some big gusts the crests of the waves literally left the river and flew off and watered the bordering forest.  If this makes any sense at all, it was so impressively windy that it was actually kind of fun to watch. 

The actual fishing wasn’t fun.  No insect could possibly float down the river for a fish to eat and you could hardly cast.  This led to a lot of down time sitting in the tall grass on the banks of the Fork sharing time with friends.  I must say this can be as fun as the fishing itself - smoking cigars and drinking with pals.

After nearly 12 hours of howling wind, at 8 PM the wind dropped to about 10 mph.  This actually seemed calm in comparison to our day, not only to us, but every other living thing on the Henry’s Fork.  This is about when the first brown drake mayfly hatched in a small channel Granny and I were prowling in search of at least one big rainbow we could catch to avoid a skunk on the Marathon.  Ten minutes after that first drake we had thousands fluttering around us and drifting down the river.  It didn’t take the trout long to start feeding and soon I was coaching Granny into position to cast to a respectable rainbow.

Granny is good with the dry fly rod.  The only thing she had going against her was there were so many natural brown drakes that she had to make a bunch of repetitive cast until finally this scrappy 17 incher took her fly and then ripped her up and down the river on my Ross 4-weight.

For the next hour Granny and I took turns casting to some fantastic rising rainbows.  Although we both were a little sloppy and missed a few, we also caught a few.  We also enjoyed the brown drakes.  The drakes are the largest mayflies of the Yellowstone Region and they will last less than a week here on the Henry’s Fork.  The patience through the brutal windy day finally paid off and the Henry’s Fork Marathon 2012 will be one for the memory banks!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Last Day of Roosterfishing

Grant and I had a blast fishing together today but our fishing was lousy with only a couple casts to roosters all day.  It was a fabulous trip however and here's a few more pics to look at as I fly home to Idaho to return to the Henry's Fork.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Another Grande Rooster!

June 22, 2012

I’m very limited on time for writing so today will be short and sweet.  We got a nice early start.  Along the way Grant spotted a dead rattlesnake in the road so I took this close up of his diamond pattern – kind of cool.  We’re always careful when cutting through the bush for the beaches because there are a ton of rattlers around here.

On the first beach Sammy and I destroyed the ladyfish.  We caught one literally every cast.  Ladyfish don’t get much credit but I can attest they are a great fun fish to catch on the fly.  I always pack a 7-weight to Baja and I used it this morning.  I had an absolute blast!

I ended the session on our first beach by casting to a disturbance on the edge of a mud line created from waves breaking on the beach.  I expected another ladyfish.  Luckily I was back to using my 10-weight because first strip through that mud and up came the cone of a 25lb plus roosterfish.  My heart jumped a beat and I hit the deck and picked up the speed of my fly.  Wham!  I had him and fifteen minutes later I landed this awesome fish.  Glad we got him – that was about it for our day.

Unfortunately today was Sammy’s last day and he flies home in the morning.  As for me, I’m flying Sunday so Grant and I will fish tomorrow.  

What a week!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fly Fishing Baja for Snappers

Roosterfishing off the beach down here in Baja is incredible.  I love the hunt.  I love the difficulty.  I love everything about chasing this exotic looking saltwater fish.  But nothing excites me more than tossing flies over coral heads and rocks through frothing surf for big snappers and grouper – nothing!  These fish will rip line from you more viciously than any other fish on the planet.  Then they will bust you off so fast you can’t see straight.  If you miraculously hold on long enough, then it’s likely your fish will burry and tangle you in deep water around the rocks they live in.  Any time you hook one (even if it’s only a 5 pounder!); you have a very slim chance of getting him to hand.  But when the stars line up and the fish Gods are on your side and you do land one, you may have one of the most spectacular looking fish of your life. 

Grant, Sammy and I have a favorite rocky area we go to almost every year to target snapper.  We generally loose a lot of flies here, damage a fly line or two but after all the hardships, we usually land one good fish.  When we got to this location today the wind was blowing extra hard out of the north.  From this particular place, that means the wind was in our face.  Casting was a chore and the shorelines near beaches were churned from the big waves.  All this sounds intimidating and it certainly is, but it’s exactly what brings out the feeding snappers.

Sammy and Grant aren’t into this day like I am.  They work an area hard for about and hour then seek out a short beach where they might find a rooster.   Today that gave Sammy just enough time to land a flag cabrilla and this gorgeous little Panamic Grasby.  If you want to get a true nice snapper you need to work all day.  I never stop working it.  I walk one direction all day and take the terrain nature gives me. 

The best snapper locations are the rocks.  Snappers live in the rocks.  The way this works, you cast near the rocks.  The better the rock looks the bigger the snapper you might expect.  He leaves the rock to eat your fly then he grabs it and returns to the rocks.  Rocks suck for tippet and fly lines and if you can’t stop his retreat you get broke off almost every time.  If your snapper is heftier than about 5lbs, good luck.  These gangsters are so strong it’s mind-boggling!

To fish for snapper with the fly I recommend a 10-weight.  Today I was using my new Ross Rx 9’ for a 10.  This rod has the needed backbone to potentially stop a good size snapper.  You don’t need a reel with lots of backing capacity because if a snapper gets that far from you you’re likely to lose him anyhow, but I do like a good drag to crank down.  I use Ross Momentums or their new F1 #5.  It would be nice to fish down deep at the base of the rocks, but the deeper you go the more likely the chance you will get snagged and frustrated.  I use the Scientific Angler saltwater floating line with the intermediate sink tip – WF10F/I.  I cheat on the leader.  Rather than worry about catching an IGFA record on 20lb class tippet or less, I put on a straight 4ft length of 60lb shock tippet.  Straight 60lb is risky because if not handled right you could shatter a rod or snap a fly line.  But it’s this strength that gives me a good chance of surviving the first couple runs into the rocks and actually landing the fish.  That is if he’s not too much bigger than 10lbs.  If you hook a 20lber, your 60lb tippet may as well be 7X!

My day started challenging.  Even with my stout rod the wind and big waves were causing me grief.  My casts were shortened not only because of the wind by also my excess line was constantly stuck in the rocks.  I’m not much for the stripping basket roosterfishing off the beach but today the tool may have been perfect.  I went about an hour before getting my rhythm and finally landing this beautiful flag cabrilla

Once you catch that first fish, things generally improve.  I picked up a few more cabrilla and then this gorgeous little yellow snapper.  Even though this snapper is the size of a 2lb smallmouth bass, it was a good pull on the 10-weight

I was really getting into a grove by early afternoon.  Only problem however was that the wind subsided and that usually starts the downslide of the fishing.  I had to concentrate on the prime locations so I dropped my big fly near a rock about 50 ft out.  For some reason I wasn’t paying full attention and was rather looking around at my beautiful surroundings and enjoying the diminishing winds (I was casting a lot better now).  On about the third strip I got rocked and exactly like I warned earlier, my fly line got stripped away from me.  Luckily I reacted fast and using not just my stripping finger but rather three fingers, I clamped with all my might.  Soon I was tight on my fish and pulling on him so hard my rod felt like it was going to break (this is what you need to do!).

For about thirty seconds I considered my rod in danger.  Then it was definitely about to explode.  I had to give in a little or there would be graphite flying everywhere.  So I dropped my rod tip slightly and then just before my fly line was likely to break I let a very small amount of line slide out before clamping again.  This tug war went on for a good two minutes when finally I started to feel my unseen fish tire.  The one thing you do have going with snapper and grouper is that if you can survive the big surges for a minute or two they give up completely.  That’s exactly what happened and from then on I horsed my snapper to the beach.  I landed a spectacular barred pargo!

This was the second barred pargo of my life yet this one was equally as exciting as the first.  These fish are striking looking with there deep round body and bright white stripes.  They also have the most amazing mouth full of teeth including two big canine like teeth in their top jaws.  For both pargo I’ve been by myself and had to pull off some self timer photography.  Considering the surf, size of the fish and making sure I didn’t hurt him I think the photo came out ok.

During a rest on a high beach where I hung out with a medium sized iguana and soaked in my snapper victory the wind started up again.  Only now it switched and came from the south.  The gale got fierce and although I fished my butt off for another three hours, it was more difficult than this morning.  And this change in weather put a stop to the snapper feed. 

Sammy and Grant searched for roosters most of the day with no luck.  I admire them for their determination for an even bigger rooster.  But me, I was glad I stuck to my plan and enjoyed another great day in Baja.  Between Sammy and me we’ve now landed three great fish and there’s still two days left.  Stay tuned. . . . 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fly Fishing for Roosterfish - Day 3

Now that Sammy and I both have big roosters for the week we have very little pressure on us. Grant Hartman drove us a long way today to some unknown beach as kind of an exploratory day. The dirt tracks were beyond rough and the roadsides showed just how hostile this Mexican Baja desert can be.

When we got to Grants spot we scanned the shallows off the beach for cruising roosters from a high vantage point. A 20lb speedster caught my eye immediately and rather than charge down the hill after him I watched. He busted two different bait balls then ran into another smaller roosterfish. That was enough. I strategically crept down to a spot where I expected their next ambush and sure enough they came. In one confident cast I laid my fly in the zone and the smaller fish devoured my fly. After a couple smoking runs I landed him, a respectable 10lber.

You’d’ think the day would be unreal based on the way it started but Sammy and I had only a couple more casts all day. The coolest thing was however that I spotted one from the truck while driving up the beach. Sammy and Grant ran down to cast and by the time they got near the waters edge they couldn't see him. I still could and from the roof of the truck with beer in hand I directed Sammy and his cast right on the money. Fifteen minutes later he landed this 15lber.

We’ve had some awesome fishing so far. It’s been a lot of years and trips coming. Remember our last trip back in March to Ecuador was a complete bust. This is good payback to the fishes!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Baja Trip to Remember

With my hawg rooster behind me I stayed low today in hopes Sammy would get his. I didn’t want to do anything to lessen his opportunity. At 2 PM after a very slow windy morning on the beach, Sammy got his fly right in front of a dandy. 30 minutes later, I shot this photo of Sammy with a tank roosterfish of his own. We can officially say this is our best trip to Baja together! A special thanks to Grant Hartman who takes us to the fish and points us in the right direction.

Monday, June 18, 2012


I’ve been coming to Baja for almost twenty years now. I love to catch all kinds of cool fish, but the main target is generally roosterfish. I take roosterfishing a step further and go for my roosters off the beach – sight casting only. It took me eleven days to catch my first quality rooster off the beach back in 1996. When I say quality, at that time quality was a rooster over 15lbs.

Back then was a learn as you go process. Roosterfishing was just getting popular and there wasn’t a lot of info on how to catch them on fly. Knowledge of roosters and strategies to catch them have improved greatly and 15lbers are now common. My friend and guide for the week, Grant Hartman, happens to have developed many of these techniques. Grant says it’s catching a 30lb plus fish off the beach that puts you in the elite club these days.

I have about 60 days of roosterfishing under my belt now. I’ve walked well over 100 miles of Baja beaches. Catching small roosters is easy and I’ve caught a lot more 15lbers. But for the last few years I’ve been in search of the monster. This pursuit hasn’t been easy. You don’t see the big guys often. When I have, I’ve screwed up plenty of casts. I’ve pulled the fly away from a few, spooked a bunch and the list of “why I didn’t connect” goes on.

When I woke up today I knew something was different. Often times there’s a “here we go again” lack of confidence feeling. But that wasn’t my thought today. When Sammy, Grant and I arrived on the first beach it was breezy and scorching hot. I was calm and cool. I immediately spotted four big roosters working just outside the surf and I knew I was going to catch one.

I was throwing my 9-weight Ross Rx rod. Normally I’m armed with a 10 however I stupidly broke that rod earlier in the morning trying to photograph ladyfish by myself. The ladyfish freaked out and took off at a bad angle with my rod laying in the sand and snap! My reel was an old standard Ross Momentum #6. This reel has been all over the world with me and caught a lot of good fish. Ross makes numerous improved reels these days but I’m attached to this one. And my line was a Scientific Anglers Saltwater Clear tip WF10F/S.

These roosters were patrolling about 100 feet out from the beach. Every once in awhile they turned in and swam within 60 feet of the beach. I can cast that far even with a huge fly so I tied on the biggest fly in my box, a 5/0 fly tied by my friend Mark Kuhn (milkfish). On my first few opportunities I landed short with my cast. Then on my fourth shot I landed my fly five feet in front of two of the roosters. When they got three feet away I gave three hard strips. Then stopped and three more. To my delight one fish raised his comb and turned on my fly.

I’ve had followers many times. Roosters are finicky but I kept stripping. Then just when my fly was getting too close to me the fish inhaled it. I strip set but felt nothing. I could see the rooster however and I knew he was coasting towards me likely tasting the hook. I stripped again and jabbed my rod to his opposite side. The rooster was on!

I bolted backwards up the beach to get high for a good angle. I wanted to see as much as I could to control the first run. It was a massive run peeling at least 100 yards into my 30lb backing. Then the fish stopped and swam parallel to the beach in the direction of Sammy and Grant.

Ten major drag testing runs and 30 minutes later I was still fighting my fish. By now Sammy and Grant were at my side cheering. Sammy, Grant and I have been together for the big rooster quest the last few years. I wouldn’t want to catch my first monster without them.

Like landing any monster fish, the final seconds are the toughest. It was a chore getting the hefty rooster up on the beach in the heavy surf. Scariest of all, several times he faced me directly and jumped all while head shaking violently. I was very afraid my fly was about to fly back at me and I’d lose him. After several tries I finally surfed him up and Grant grabbed him by the tail.

Roosters are one of those fish that actually look smaller in the water than out. I knew I hooked a good one but I was not expecting him to come out of the water this big. The striking looking fish was so big he was tough to handle. My first hold was nothing more than a bear hug. I couldn’t believe I had my monster. Then I got a good grip and after a pile of photos I released the long awaited fish.

As far as I’m concerned, my trip is complete even though it’s the first day. I can live with this roosterfish the rest of my life. I don’t care if I cast again the rest of the week. The only thing I want now is for Sammy to get a monster as well. Then this would truly be an incredible trip!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Baja 2012

Well known guide Grant Hartman of Baja Anglers picked up Sammy Vigneri and me at the Los Cabos airport in Baja Mexico amongst heavy security this afternoon. The G20 meetings are taking place here. President Obama and other leaders from all over the world have come to discuss Global Economics. Lucky for us our flights arrived just before Air Force 1 and we were in and out of Los Cabos San Lucas airport heading north to our fishing waters without any security hassles.

June is not the normal time for Sammy and me to be doing our annual roosterfishing trip to Baja. We normally go in May. In fact we originally scheduled this beach hunt for May, but Sammy got booked up with work and we had to change it. The change was a tough one for me. As you could probably tell from all of last weeks blogs, I love the Henry’s Fork in June. It was tough to leave there. But just like on the Henry’s, I’m here in paradise with great friends, and fly fishing the salt for the next six days. I think I’ll live. And plus I’ll be heading back to the Henry’s next Monday night.

We are presently drinking beer by the pool watching Grant tie up some flies. Life is good!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Goal Accomplished!

I left home around 7 AM in order to get a couple hours of fishing in on the Henry’s Fork before I did my presentation at Henry’s Fork Day.  When I arrived the weather was calm and warm and I walked about a mile into the Harriman Ranch before spotting two quality risers.  With limited time I knew I had to get one of them to keep my “streak” of a nice big rainbow everyday this week.  Sure enough, I fed the first one my Pale Morning Dun.  The massive fish ate the roughed up imitation and I set but nothing.  I missed him.  That made the other riser extremely important.  I regrouped and after about ten minutes of working him with my PMD I hooked and landed the gorgeous 18” trout.  I met my goal for the week!

It’s been a fantastic week on the Last Chance and Ranch section of the Henry’s Fork.  A lot of huge rainbows on tiny dry flies – not sure life could be any better.

Tomorrow it’s off to Baja to fish with my pals Sam Vigneri and Grant Hartman for roosterfish.  I’ll do my best to keep the blog rocking.  As always, if I fall behind I’ll catch up. 

When I get home next Sunday its right back to the Henry's Fork for my fishing Marathon – the longest fishing day of the year.  In case you’re not sure what I’m talking about, check out the previous years:

Stay tuned. . . .

Friday, June 15, 2012

Henry's Fork Streak Continues

Thursday June 14, 2012

I arrived at Last Chance on the Henry's Fork at 4 PM and before 4:30 I caught this awesome rainbow on a Pale Morning Dun.  It’s not easy to take a pic of a huge fish by yourself but you can see he was fantastic.  Thursday’s fish was on the board.  Then it was a Ranch Party filled night.

The parking lot party with a bunch of long time old friends.  Might I add, these long time Henry’s Fork anglers are of some of the finest dry fly fishers in the world!

After sunset I had the honor of kicking off the TroutHunter Ranch Party and introducing the band “Plum Tuckered Out”.  They played into the wee hours of the morning – and yes – I was there for all of it.

Wednesday June 15, 2012

This morning came ridiculously early.  Nonetheless, I rallied some friends and after a great TroutHunter breakfast we were hiking into the Harriman Ranch on opening day before 8 AM.  I didn’t have my best game to offer the fish and only till noon to keep the streak going.  There were tons of smaller fish rising.  Finally at 11 I spotted this big boy rising and I got him to eat the same Pale Morning Dun that’s been working all week.  The streak continues!

Tonight I’m home doing some final packing for Baja and tuning up my presentation, “Fly Fishing Through Midlife Heaven” for Henry’s Fork Day tomorrow.  My show is at 2 PM which means if I can leave my house early in the morning I should get about 3 hours of fishing and a chance to complete my challenge of at least one big fish a day on the Henry’s Fork.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Henry's Fork Challenge

I’ve set a borderline unfeasible challenge for myself this week of catching one big fish on the Last Chance section of the Henry’s Fork every day this week that I’m there.  That’s Tuesday through Saturday on one of the most exciting yet difficult dry fly fishing places on earth.  And all but one of these days will be far from full days of fishing.  With this in mind, my writing will be minimal because fishing for these brutes and getting ready to leave for Baja Sunday takes priority.

Let’s just say that Tuesday was one of the great days on the Last Chance section.  The weather was a heck of a lot better than last week.  I caught eight big rainbows ranging from 18” to 21”.  Just a couple fish 18” or better on this section is a good day.  The Pale Morning Dun hatch and the caddis hatch were unbelievable!

Today was the complete opposite.  Fish and hatches were far and few between.  The day was colder and windy and plenty more anglers have arrived for the famous opener of the Harriman Ranch on Friday.  This is the cool thing about fishing the Last Chance section of the Henry’s Fork – one day you think you have it dialed the next day you’re scratching your head.  This place definitely tests you.  Granny and I walked endlessly only to see about six big rainbows rising between 8 AM and 2 PM.  After the heartbreak of fighting and losing two hawgs only slightly more than a rod length away I landed a miracle 19 incher to keep the streak from being lost on only the second day.  We had to be home this afternoon so seriously, this fish was very very lucky!

I’m home now catching up on things and plan to return to the Fork tomorrow evening.  I’ll have about three hours to land the big fish of Thursday.  This short session won’t be easy to produce; however Friday’s fish could even be harder.  Friday morning comes after the Trout Hunter Ranch Opener Party.  Who knows how fast I’ll be moving.  Also, I’ll only have about three hours to fish on Friday morning before returning home again to work and pack.

Stay tuned. . . . . .