Fly fishing the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River was the last stop on our fly fishing road trip. We only fished an afternoon, evening and the following morning. Even though it was a quick stop, it certainly was memorable.
I’ve only fished the Henry’s Fork a handful of times and still consider myself a novice fishing here.
We look forward to having breakfast or lunch at the Last Chance Bar & Grill at Trouthunters on our way to and from Yellowstone Park or the Madison River. We’ve had great meals there on the patio out back overlooking the river. And you can’t beat the CDC feathers. These are the best I’ve tied with. I might stop and purchase a few feathers myself from time to time.
Rene’ Harrop started his Trouthunter’s fly shop many years ago. He has created some beautiful flies utilizing CDC feathers. If you’d like to see some of his flies, I recommend his book Learning from the Water where he discusses tactics and fly designs for water like the Henry’s Fork.
A stop at Mike Lawson’s Henry’s Fork Anglers is recommended as well. Just like Rene’, Mike is an expert on these waters and shares his knowledge through his shop and in the books he writes. They’re located just across the street. I picked up a couple of Mike’s flies you’ll see soon as a TBT fly.
A little helpful information about what insects to expect was obtained from the shop guys and we proceeded to the Bing Lempke North Gate Access on Harriman’s Ranch a short distance away.
I met Bing in the late 1970’s or early ’80’s on my first trip to the Henry’s Fork and Yellowstone Country with a good friend of mine. I purchased Fishing Yellowstone Waters (1984) by Charles E. Brooks in anticipation of this road trip and poured over those pages in preparation for fishing these fabled waters. Bing’s picture is on page 117 of that book. Somehow, I was able to get him to inscribe – “To John Kreft, A friend from Henry’s Fork…Best wishes, “Bing” Lempke.” You might recall his Extended Body Green Drake I featured in a Throw Back Thursday Fly post awhile ago.
I really enjoy fishing this section of the Henry’s Fork, but it’s not easy fishing at all. Let’s see…spooky fish, slow micro-currents, and multiple types of grass and weeds grabbing your fly line along the shore.
And then there’s the wind.
Add those factors together at one time and you’ll understand how difficult it is to catch fish on the Henry’s Fork.
The afternoon we arrived found us walking downstream hoping to find a few rising trout.
The river was in good shape, running around 890 cfs. I guess with the late snow and wet summer, the reservoir was at 82 percent full. That was quite a bit higher than the average of 54 percent.
We were looking for a few rising fish eating hoppers close to shore.
It had been a couple of years since we fished the river and this stretch in particular. We walked slowly down river trying to remember where the trout were holding. It didn’t take long to find an occasional fish rising to a hopper floating in the water.
I always say, pay attention and the river will speak to you.
Casting from shore was difficult as the line would catch on the grass and weeds. I finally decided to wade and cast back to shore where we had seen a few fish rising and eating live hoppers.
Here I am playing a fish after adjusting my strategy.
Here’s my fishing partner casting upstream with a hopper pattern trying to tempt a trout.
Most of the fish I was able to raise, miss, and/or break off were on a Club Sandwich hopper fly pattern.
The fish I landed that afternoon were only small rainbows. I had my chances for several nice fish that rose to my fly. I missed 5 fish and broke off another. For some reason, I couldn’t hook them. I either pulled the fly out early, broke it off, or…I don’t really know. Either way, I missed some nice fish.
Late in the afternoon, we decided to give it up for awhile and head down river and do a little exploring.
Since we were fishing out of our RAM Promaster, we were able to camp next to the river between Harriman State Park and the Pinehaven summer homes.
Here is an image of sunrise the next morning.
That morning, we drove back to the upper end of Harriman’s Ranch to try our luck again. A few fish were rising to the small Trico’s that were on the water. But boy, they were spooky! Try controlling your line all the while attempting to watch a size 22 or 24 fly among natural bugs! It’s almost impossible.
A couple of times, I thought a fish selected my fly and set the hook…but it wasn’t mine and the fish were long gone.
I selected a small size 20 BWO No Hackle fly to see if I could watch my fly drift in the current. That helped as I was able to land a couple small but strong fighting fish.
This is a spot I was able to fool a trout twice. Each day the fish was sitting in front of the rock above the little riffle on the right-hand side of the image below and rose to my fly. I broke him off twice. Using 4X tippet. Grrrrrr!
But I was able to land a couple of nice fish in the 13 to 15 inch range.
We decided to head back and go down the road. I’d had my chance at several nice fish, but either pulled the fly out of their mouth or missed them some other way.
There was one last chance to catch a nice fish. We slowly walked upstream to an area where a small creek entered the river. We had scared a large trout each time we walked past. I located the fish and put a couple of casts over the fish…and it slowly moved to deeper water.
I thought that was it. I cast farther upstream hoping for a last minute trout. All of a sudden, there was a massive boil. I’d hooked another large fish we hadn’t seen.
After a strong fight, the fish came to hand. It was a 19 inch rainbow.
And here’s a closeup of the fish
This fish is what makes me return to fish the Henry’s Fork!