This week’s post is about our 2023 fly fishing the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River. It’ the first stop on this year’s fly fishing road trip. We’ve stopped here the last two years and fished in June and July. I had been checking the river flows and temperatures with our hope to find a few Brown and Green Drakes in the Last Chance area and below the Harriman Ranch.
We fished above the billboard in Last Chance on Sunday, July 2. Noticeably, there were not a lot of fly fishers to be seen. Normally that would be a good sign because more water is available to fish. Our experience has been the fewer fly fishers means the fishing is poor.
We noticed a lot of fly fisher’s standing along the riverbank and watching for rising fish.
Arriving mid-day, we watched the river for signs of rising fish while drinking a cup of coffee. It seems we sat for quite a while.
I decided to wader up and blind cast to see if I could coax a fish or two to eat my fly. I noticed several PMDs floating downstream, so I tied on a Sparkle Dun.
On the positive side, gulls could be seen flying over the water and dipping to eat insects. We’ve seen this action before and I had several gulls try to eat Sparkle Dun Green Drakes in prior years.
I finally found a few rising fish.
I cast my PMD imitation, but no fish would rise to it.
Then a few Green Drakes began floating through the run and a fish rose to one.
I immediately tied on a Green Drake Loop Wing Emerger and on the first drift, a Rainbow Trout rose and ate the fly. I was able to get the fish on the reel before it quickly popped off.
Fish only rose about 20 minutes and that was it.
No fish to the net on our first day.
The next day was the same result, but without any hookups.
…and the next day as well.
Hmmm, is it time to leave or should we stay a couple more days and see if our luck changes.
I thought part of our problem was the water level. As you can see from the graph below, the water level had risen around 200 cfs the day we arrived.
I think rising water is never a good sign for catching fish. We decided to stick it out and hope the fish would settle down and our luck might change.
On Wednesday, we did find a few fish. While only three fish came to the net, they were good sized, measuring 17, 18, and 20 inches.
I landed my first fish on a PMD Sparkle Dun #16.
Dancingtrout landed the second, a fat 18” beauty on a Sparkle Dun PED #14.
And a nice release.
I tied on the same fly and a short time later hooked one about 20 inches.
And just that quick, the fishing stopped.
That evening, we drove below the Ranch hoping to find an evening Brown Drake hatch.
The first look at the water upon our arrival wasn’t promising. There were weed beds everywhere and I didn’t think there would be a chance of fish coming to life.
Well, I was wrong.
The bugs started showing themselves and I saw quite a few floating down the river.
The fish began to rise and we quickly donned our waders and tried to find open water to fish.
Just like previous years, the river was full of insects floating downstream. There were Brown Drakes and other large Mayflies for the fish to choose from.
Dancingtrout quickly began to rise fish…but wasn’t able to hook any. All told she rose over a dozen to her fly, hooking at least 6 and breaking one off. Only a small fish was landed.
I must have had 5 or 6 fish to my fly, but never felt any of them.
As the sun began to set, I slowly moved downstream as I continued to see fish rising below me.
I cast down to rising fish hoping one would make a mistake and eat my Sparkle Dun Brown Drake and not a natural.
I was lucky to hook and land this 19 inch Rainbow Trout.
It was my only fish that night.
We left Friday morning after hoping to see rising fish and headed to the Madison River.
Overall, we had a great time even though we experienced what I considered slow fishing.
We saw lots of caddis flitting around most of the week, but the day we left, only a few were seen.
On several evenings, a few rising fish were seen close to shore, but I wasn’t able to find what they were eating.
I tried several colors of small mayflies cripples and spinner patterns, even a midge or two. No fish rose to our flies.
We observed root beer colored spinners (#14), a few Green Drakes (#14), olive stones, and Yellow Sallies (#14). I’m documenting this for a potential return to the river next year.
Lastly, we were surprised how few fly fishers were on the river, just like last year. But the gulls were out in force eating insects.
A fly fisher can certainly find their Zen on the Henry’s Fork!